Innovationen und Reproduktionen in Kulturen und Gesellschaften (IRICS) Wien, 9. bis 11. Dezember 2005

<< Identitätsmanagement von Minderheiten im Alpen-Donau-Adria-Raum / Minorities’ Identity Management in the Alpine-Danube-Adriatic Region

Banyash Romanians in Serbia - The Case of Ethnic Mimicry or Hidden Minority?

Biljana Sikimić (Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti (SANU), Balkanološki Institut Beograd (SCG)


Banyash Romanians is a scientific (constructed) term aimed to refer to the Romanian language speaking Gypsies in Serbia and Montenegro, although in contemporary Bulgaria - the term Rudari is common. Among South Slavs for this specific Gypsy group the names Karavlasi or Romanian Gypsies were also used. The majority of Banyash Romanians in Serbia today live along the big rivers: Danube, Sava, Tisa and Morava, but they can also be found in some remote mountain villages living together with Romanian language speaking Vlachs (now recognized as a minority). From the linguistic point of view they speak different Romanian dialects.

In the province of Vojvodina, different Banyash groups (basically Roman Catholics of Ardeal dialect speaking group, living along the river Danube, near the border with Croatia and Hungary), use the term Banyash as a self-designation.

The members of other Banyash groups in Serbia, all of them Christian Orthodox, consider themselves Romanians, but, when speaking the Romanian language they use the term Ţigan (Gypsy).

The results of the 2002 census rendered the situation even more complicated. Due to the fact that there is no official possibility for the declaration of Banyash Romanian ethnicity, they were scattered into four different nationalities: Serbs (the majority on the South of the river Danube), Romanians (in the province of Vojvodina), Vlachs (in several settlements in central Serbia), and Roma (especially in very poor communities, but also some among some Banyash political leaders). The figure of declared Romanians is very high among the Roman Catholic Banyash settlements of Apatin (967), Sonta (211), Bački Monoštor (179), Bogojevo (163) and Vajska (569), where they live in the Croat Roman Catholic surroundings and do not declare themselves as (always Christian Orthodox) Serbs.

The situation is completely different in the South of the river Danube. During our 2002-2004 fieldwork, in the researched settlements in central Serbia and Belgrade environs all the interviewed Banyash always insisted on their Romanian ethnicity. On the other hand, the 2002 census data show that in large Banyash settlements in Belgrade environs they all declared themselves as Serbs: e.g. in the villages of Mala Ivanča (no Romanians), Vrčin (3 Romanians), Ripanj (2 Romanians). The number of Banyash declared as Roma is significantly high in the very poor settlement near the town of Nish - Prćilovica (271 Roma and 1 Romanian). This fact can be explained by the influence of Roma NGOs and the possibility of financial or other help that are assigned only to Roma. The self-declaration as Vlach in some central Serbia villages (Naupare, Sezemča, e.g.) could be explained by some local movement. A similar individual ethnic development is the Berber (Arab) origin of Banyash in the close village of Osaonica.

The situation of Banyash Romanians in some Central European countries is completely different. This is the case in Hungary and Croatia where Boyash / Bejaši, officially considered a Roma group, having the right for education in their own Romanian dialect.

Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9. - 11. december 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-07-29