Gypsy guilds (esnafs) on the Balkans

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Unlike Central and Western Europe, where the access of Gypsies to the professional guilds of the local population was denied for centuries, in the conditions of Ottoman Empire the participation in guilds of Gypsies, who were full-fledged subjects of the Empire, was perceived as something completely acceptable and normal. Formally the Ottoman Empire regulated legally the activities of the guilds only in 1773, the historical data shows that many Gypsies living in Constantinople/Istanbul, were members of different guilds already in previous centuries. Although the guilds in principle should not be detached ethnically, in the 19th c., along with the development of national movements among the Balkan nations, a process of separation of guilds along ethnic lines started. In the general context of these processes at the end of the 19th c. were already registered separate Gypsy guilds in the Ottoman Empire, and later in the new independent Balkan states too. The article introduces three flags of Gypsy craftsmen gilds (blacksmith in Prizren and Resen, and potters in Kyustendil), preserved until now. The history of the Gypsy guilds is reconstructed primarily on base of materials from oral history of Gypsy (Roma and Balkan Egyptians) communities. It is show the place of the guild’s flags in the overall life of the respective communities and their use in various calendar and family celebrations, customs and rituals, including nowadays, and presented also the development of some of the traditions of Gypsy guilds for regulation of relations in the local Gypsy communities. During the last two decades the historical heritage of the Gypsy guilds acquires again new forms and functions. Festivities themselves and used flags are seen already not only and not so much as an event connected to given occupation but as an expression of preservation and demonstration of community traditions, as a manifestation of the ethnic identity (Roma and Balkan Egyptians).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoma
Subtitle of host publicationPast, Present, Future
EditorsHristo Kyuchukov, Elena Marushiakova, Vesselin Popov
Place of PublicationMuenchen
PublisherLincom Europa
ISBN (Print)9783862887361
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2016
Event2015 Annual Meeting of the Gypsy Lore Society and Conference on Gypsy Studies - Institute of Cultural Heritage of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova , Chișinău, Moldova, Republic of
Duration: 10 Sept 201512 Sept 2015

Publication series

PublisherLincom Academic Publishers


Conference2015 Annual Meeting of the Gypsy Lore Society and Conference on Gypsy Studies
Country/TerritoryMoldova, Republic of


  • Gypsy Guilds
  • Flags
  • Roma
  • Balkan Egyptians
  • Ethnic Identities


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