Roma Community in Bulgaria

The third largest ethnic and cultural group in the country is the Gypsies (or Roma). According to the last census, their number is 313,396. Analysts insist that these figures should be handled carefully because, as they say, 30% of the Gypsies prefer to declare external ethnic self-identification. Their larger part is from the Muslim Gypsy circles that present themselves as Turks; a part of the Christian Gypsies identify themselves as Bulgarians, and a third small part – as Wallachs (Romanian origin). The variety of empirical references of self-identification is manifested in regard to both the ethnic adherence and denomination, and to the language. Most Gypsies speak more than one language at home, the most used being the Gypsy language (67%), followed by Bulgarian (51%), and Turkish (34%). The situation of the Roma population in the country is extremely complicated. Their living conditions are more than poor. Despite the fact the at the end of 1970’s about 15,000 Roma families obtained long-term, low-interest loans to construct homes, a lot of them are still living in poor quarters resembling ghettos. The Roma child mortality rate is much higher than that of the Bulgarians: 240 per 1,000 versus 40 per 1,000, and some diseases like tuberculosis is three times more frequent. The degree of unemployment is three times higher than the national average. The Roma community is characterized by a lower level of education, which makes its representatives less competitive. There are strong prejudices against the Gypsies shared by the Bulgarian majority and other major minority groups. Unfortunately, the media and especially some nationalistic-oriented newspapers play a considerable role in reproducing and expanding these negative attitudes by emphasizing that Gypsies have a higher crime rate than other groups.