Roma in Ukraine between a Eurasian Past and a Euro-Atlantic Future

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Lecture given at Centre for European Studies at the University of British Columbia in frames of speakers series Multicultural Ukraine.
(abstract) The presentation is devoted to the processes of formation and development of civic national identity among the Roma in Ukraine during the various historical epochs, including contemporary manifestations.
Nowhere in the world do Roma live in isolation from the turbulence of historical epochs that their surrounding societies go through, and of which they are an integral part (in one form or another). The history of the Roma in Ukraine is also inseparable from the region’s history in particular historical periods. We are using a new research paradigm developed in our previous research and in frames of work on the recent ERC advanced grant. This paradigm requires that the Roma are perceived and studied as an ethnic community and simultaneously as an integral part and constituent element of the societies they live in (their respective civic nations).
The history of the Roma in Ukraine is a tangible manifestation of the more general patterns in the history of the Roma (formerly known as ‘Gypsies’) in the region of Central, South-Eastern and Eastern Europe, so a comprehensive new reading of this history is needed. The main difficulty is posed by the two predetermined discourses in which Roma history was and still is articulated by researchers. In the past, beginning with the emergence of Romani Studies as a specific field of study, the Roma have been researched mainly from the point of view of ‘solving’ the ‘problems’ they seem to pose to the modern state. In the aftermath of WWII, the paradigm gradually shifted and often focused on Roma’s grim experiences in past and present, including repressive state policies that created the situation. What is missing here is Roma’s own perception of their own history and an acknowledgement of their own agency in creating it. To fill in this gap, a new research paradigm is needed through which Ukrainian Roma are studied as actors of their history in a longue durée perspective.
Thus, in our presentation, we will consider the history of Roma in Ukraine in three main historical periods:
1/ Until the First World War, in the composition of multiple states (Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, Russian Kingdom, Russian Empire, Crimean Khanate, Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire.
2/ After the First World War, in the composition of the USSR, Czechoslovakia, Hungary.
3/ After the breakdown of the USSR and the emergence of a new, independent Ukraine (to this day).
In our presentation, we will also present the main Roma groups in the composition of Ukraine. We will outline their different communities’ identities as well as the transformations of their civic identities. We will pay special attention to their Identification with the new Ukrainian state and their transformation into an integral part of the modern Ukrainian civil nation, which finds its expression, including in the current military situation. In the end, we will address the issue of contemporary Roma refugees in Europe.

Period30 Nov 2022
Held atThe University of British Columbia, Canada, British Columbia
Degree of RecognitionInternational