On 8 April, the international day of the rights of Roma representatives are included in this minority 80 ethnic groups celebrate their national holiday. On this day in the Studio RFI came Stefania Kulaeva, head of the anti-discrimination centre “memorial”, which for nearly twenty years has been documenting violations of the rights of Roma in the former Soviet Union and in drafting the human rights reports. The International day of the Roma anti-discrimination center “memorial” has released a graphic story about a girl that was not allowed in school.
RFI: Let’s start with a linguistic question: how to call Gypsies? There are Gypsies, there are Roma, there is manushi, gitane and finally, just a name “people of the road”.
Stephania Kulaeva: In Russia, Romania, Spain and other countries there are other names. There is a self with which most of these groups refer to each other in their own language “, Romanes”. In Russian it is usually called the Romani language, we have the Russian Gypsy vocabularies, translations into Roma, in the courts for example. The people of this self — “ромà”. Thus the world will be divided into Roma and those whom Gypsies called “Haji”.
Some of the names the Roma themselves perceive as an insult?
When people are discriminated against, when they start a specific word to insult, discrimination can associate it with the word, although it is clear that the problem is much deeper. We can remember that in many West Slavic countries there is a reading of the word “Jew” a “Jew”, and in Russia it is an unpronounceable word, which is considered a terrible insult. Meanwhile in Poland, the Czech Republic, it can be used respectfully and can even be written on the memorials to the victims of the Holocaust. It happened with the word “Gypsy”. In Russia Gypsies quite romantic Association in connection with Pushkin’s poem. But this romantic image in many countries. When I speak to the Ukrainian audience, I try to say Roma, not to offend anyone, because there is now the society was divided in opinion regarding the word “Gypsy”.
On what areas we are going to discuss today? About Russia?
Now we’ve got a study the situation of Roma people in Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and even Central Asia. Everywhere there are similar problems, partly associated with the fact that in Soviet times was taken quite rigid legislation, and they greatly influenced the entire population of the then Soviet Union. It seems to me that in conversation, we can sometimes extend beyond the Russian territory, when they deal with this problem. But most of all I know about the situation in the Russian Federation.
In Russia there are areas of settlement of Roma?
Roscoe the population of Russia lives everywhere. Another thing is that we also have a division into separate ethnic groups: the so-called “Ruska Roma” as they call themselves, is a distant relatives of manusa. They walked from West to East, in Germany called “Sinti”, in Poland — “Polska Roma”. There is another wave which went to Russia a very different way — through the Balkans, some from Romania, for example, lovari and keldarari — people who speak with a strong mixture of Romanian, sometimes even Greek, West and South Slavonic words. They hardly understand each other with the “Ruska Roma” and switching to Russian when talking to each other.
And they are different looks. Kelderari women, fortune-tellers, often travel in trains in large groups, colourful scarves, bright aprons, and long skirts. And the “Ruska Roma” usually dressed in black and live in small groups. That is, in the Russian village of, say, the Novgorod, the Pskov region may be two such Gypsy house, three of the yard. Keep horses, cattle, farm-related herding, whereas calderari completely alien to agriculture, they are engaged in the metal, all sorts of welding. Historically, hence the name of this group — calderas, or in Russian — Kotlyar, from the word “pot”, they once cooked the boilers.
We know that the Russian Gypsies often Orthodox. There are other religions?
Yes, all religions that have with communities. The religious aspect is not important. That is to say, for the Jewish population of Eastern Europe, in General for Europe, Judaism was the main bonding Foundation and distinction, here it just doesn’t. In Macedonia, Roma of Albania are Muslims, in the neighbouring Serbia — Orthodox. In Russia basically all Orthodox in Ukraine, which is now quite a strong influence of the Protestant churches, especially in Transcarpathia, — the Protestants. May be it is me not everyone will agree, but in my experience, from one faith move to another quite easily, in the order of one or two generations this is all about to change.
And holds it rite?
Bond language. This is what remains of it, is really what it is. In the XIX century, people realized that the Roma brings together Indian origin? Language. This is the first. Secondly, there is traditional singing and dancing, and the notion that we should stay apart. Some idea that “there’s us and everyone else.” It is transmitted at the level of tradition. The traditions themselves may change, can change and suit, but it’s important that he’s not like that at all.
And the tradition of travel, the road exists?
There is a view, and I tend to agree with him, although there is no complete unity of views, it’s likely that the ancestors of the Roma were a nomadic people in India. In Northern India there are still people who migrate, lead a nomadic life. Interestingly, the word “Haji”, “alien” means “farmer”. That is, apparently, the ancestors of the Roma were not farmers back in those days. And they have kept this idea — to wander and to live with some crafts that are most convenient for those who do not live permanently in one place. What is this? Of course, the music, the spectacle — it can be a circus, often some form of training animals. And this trade and crafts. And there are still. One who is engaged in metal, he engaged in the craft. The one who deals with horses, this heritage of Baryshnikova.
Gypsies usually have citizenship of the countries in which they live, and should therefore enjoy all civil rights. What does it do?
Rights the problem lies in discrimination. People often perceived as not quite equal, often as representatives of some other culture and even as a source of risk to others. Common all sorts of completely false myths. For example, the idea that Gypsies steal children is not based on any reality. I did a lot of, no confirmation of this. But, for example, every trade on the verge is allowed beyond permitted — this is a common thing. Who remembers Soviet life — any cotton candy or cosmetics under the counter to sell. Then other things were forbidden, and there are situations with criminal prosecution in these border areas.
But all this, of course, there is the General vytesneniya this population from the rest, so to speak, a normal, legitimate life. We perceive as a structural discrimination — that is, when people are discriminated against in many fields, and one with the other structurally related. Children very badly taught in schools or hardly teach. The result — almost complete ignorance, it is impossible at all desire, to receive a full education. These children are unable to find a normal job. Impossibility of employment inevitably leads to extreme poverty is a feature of discriminated groups in General and this in particular. And then what is left? There are some illegal actions to survive, and often it all ends in arrest. Ours, for example, a report on the situation of Roma in Belarus and is called “From poverty up to prison”. Therefore it generates in the future even more negative attitude and greater exclusion.
With all the structural nature of discrimination, in what areas are mostly concentrated the problem?
Huge topic, of which we are engaged is the problem of housing. People roamed more or less until 1956. In 1956 there was a decree signed by Klim Voroshilov, the prohibition of pastures and the introduction for him of criminal responsibility. Anyone who watched the popular in Soviet times, the TV series “Gypsy”, he remembers: there is this situation reflected. I talked with old people who remember the arrests and links for Kocevje. People were forbidden to roam and said “start building!” But where to build? Showed a place. And they were built in some suburbs, outside the city, and private ownership of land did not exist. Then came urbanization, and all tried to live in cities. Then the process is reversed, any private property, and people began rapidly buying land around cities to live in cottages. And there were these Roma settlements, moreover, built without much money. This one is not particularly engaged in, and private ownership of land illiterate people find it difficult to make out.
We are very much struggled with it. As a rule, economic calculation and the desire to become this desirable land was accompanied by racist baiting and baseless accusations. It was in many Russian regions, the last event was in Ust-Abakansk. People demolished private land purchase is unrealistic. That is, they depart, again built on some kind of no man’s land until the next time. And what about school? With the integration? How to build social connections? Everything is falling apart and leads to greater poverty, unemployment and the loss of everything, including schooling.
You say that kids not going to school. We are talking about those children who change their place of residence or settled Gypsies?
Unfortunately, we’re talking about sedentary families who have five generations living in one place. Most often we are talking about numerous groups. But even there, where only a few Roma families, the schools are trying to create a separate Roma classes to come up with home schooling, to not take in the common schools. And these schools, we traveled for half a decade very much. To change something in education even harder than with demolitions. Almost never are given to convince the school administration and officials that they violate the school education law, which categorically prohibits any discrimination and guarantees education for all children. This applies to all living in Russia children — and even more so, to the Russian citizens, which they are.
However, in Leningrad region — a huge problem, in the Tambov region, too, in Tula, a very big problem. We have gathered a conference of teachers and Directors, trying to explain to them that they behave properly when you do not take children into regular schools and do not give them standard education as everyone else. We listened to a teacher from the town of Troitsk, Chelyabinsk region, after a year she came back and said: “We lit Roma children in ordinary classes”. That is, it can be done, it’s easy to do. In Penza also teach children to high school. We go the other Directors were taken on a tour. Why in the Penza children, the so-called “Michael’s” (many Gypsies Caldarari such a name), sitting in high school, pass the state examinations, and in other places they are even in fifth grade do not take?
I understand that some difficulty has. School education is largely focused on helping parents. And these children cannot give such a big job to do at home with their parents. To do so they did it in school.
Because parents are often illiterate?
Yes, parents are illiterate. For the same reason, by the way. They also went to this same school. In the Leningrad region, in the same school, which I have already said, in the Vsevolozhsky district, studied and parents and even grandparents of present students. But classes are separated. Roma children comes about 120, and the other children — a maximum of 50. Roma children are in an addition of two small adjacent areas on the former joiner’s workshop. And learn there in two shifts. And the rest are studying in the building with special classes, with the English stands, physical devices, physical and computer rooms, a dining room and library. Simply because they do not want to see together. Same with teachers — more than twenty are in regular school, and three or four teachers to the Gypsy children.
Under enormous pressure, after a letter to the district Board and the Prosecutor’s office of the school begin to resort to fiction. Come up with some “home-based” classes. That is fifth grade like there is, but children come twice a week in some office for the head teacher, which is something to check. And then the kids can’t even name the capital of the Russian Federation.
In Tula the Commission indiscriminately writes a diagnosis of “social deprivation”, which to these kids is irrelevant (social deprivation — reducing cultural and functionalities to interact with the public — RFI). These children are the first thing to greet, communicate. Or they put another diagnosis — “bilingualism”. That is the fact that their native language is Romani, is the diagnosis. Moreover, other bilingual children with this diagnosis do not put. As a result, children who have completed this remedial fourth grade, decided to come there in the fifth, — with flowers, bows, white shirts. School in front of them slammed shut and bolted. Children began to shout under the Windows. The principal called the police, and all taken away.
Followed if for that any legal action?
We invited parents to sue. Very interesting was the reaction of the judges. She said, “Is that Gypsies? They complain that they are not taught? What nonsense! I even statement will not accept”. And here is one dad started screaming: “And I have a little boy in Russian!”. It turned out that the boy is adopted, an ethnic Russian. This Valera grew up in the same environment as all the other Gypsy children, and also completed four remedial classes. But when the judge realized that we are talking about ethnic Russian, when she simply saw that he had blue eyes, she is the one the application was accepted. This is racism in its purest form.
Unfortunately, this father took his statement because he was threatened with demolition. Such stories have a lot. School, compared with housing in the background. And we are in the XXI century we get a generation of illiterate people who cannot read and has no understanding of foreign languages.
Very sadly to see these children eager to learn. Some of them are ready to go to school. I’ll never forget how one of camp for me two kilometers away ran the child and shouted: “Take me anywhere where there’s school!”
We are convinced that this segregation separation violates international human rights standards and Russian laws, from the Constitution to law on education. At the same time, it is clear that the system is bad at the level of decision-makers, at the level of the Ministry of education and the Prosecutor’s office. I wish people learned more and understood. Including those people whose rights are violated, they must contend with the vicious circle faced by their children, the future adults. I would like to protect their rights. So we came up with a graphic story published on our website. It tells about a girl Alyona — we chose the name of the real girl, which, incidentally, is very well studied and read to us poems by Tsvetaeva. But this story is not one of Alena, and many other kids who want to learn and which are not allowed in school. We are releasing the story immediately in Russian, English and Romanes, including people who do not read well in Russian. It is published in the form of an audio file. We need people to understand — it is their right, which they not only can, but must make for their children.