Saturday, June 27, 2015


In Europe, for many centuries, three groups of people have been the specific target of communal hatred, based on detailed negative stereotyping and a tendency towards nomadism, both of which are less the culture of the people themselves than the effect of the racial and ethnic hatred – which is to say, they have become nomads, and they have come to fit the stereotypes, because both have been forced on them. Best known of the three groups are the Jews and the gypsies (Jews came originally from Israel; gypsies, as the name should make obvious though it is little known, from Egypt). The third group are the Roma, though they are now also known as the Tigan, because their compatriots in Romania do not wish to be identified with them, and have previously been known as the Sinti, or Sindhi, or Kale, pronounced Kali, or simply Romani.

The Roma probably originated in northern India, and arrived in Europe with the Mongol invaders in the 13th century, only to find themselves enslaved or expelled. There were never more than about 200,000 of them, and when slavery was abolished in 1856, finding themselves totally unwelcome in what was by then their native land, they took to the roads. Of those who stayed behind, another 25,000 were deported as “unwanteds” in the early 1940s, and another 36,000 were exterminated during the Nazi era. Today they are the butt of everybody's hatred wherever they go, especially in France, where they live in camps that are regularly vandalised by the police, who then deport them in numbers despite having no grounds to do so.

So much for the history of the Roma; now for modern Romania itself, which ironically took its name from the Roma people, before turning against them and throwing them out, or murdering them. For centuries it formed two parts of the Ottoman Empire: Wallachia and Moldavia. Today, when we speak of Romanians, we really mean Wallachians and Moldavians. This usurpation of title is one of the methods by which people perform, or in this case attempt to perform, genocide against another.

Among the European despots, dictators, autocrats and general monsters of the 20th century, the names of Hitler and Stalin stand out, but not far behind them come Italy’s Mussolini, Spain’s Franco, Portugal’s Salazar and especially Romania’s Nicolae Ceausescu, who led the Communist government as General Secretary, and then as Head of State, from 1965 until the fall of Communism in 1989, and who was shot by firing squad in 1989, after being found guilty of genocide and sabotage of the Romanian economy by the post-Soviet era authorities. Genocide is a very precise statement, and the brutality of the Securitate, Romania’s version of the KGB, was unquestionably one of the most brutal anywhere. Sabotage of the economy is a rather more vague statement, but was intended to describe his decision, in 1982, to require that all of the country’s product, agricultural and industrial, be exported, to pay off the vast national debt accrued by his penchant for building, of which the apogee was the People’s Palace in Bucharest, probably the most extravagantly pointless and narcissistic building project in human history. The export of all goods left the country impoverished, even without electricity for six days in every week, and might even have led to a coup against him, except that the soldiers designated to carry out the coup were sent to harvest maize, and were therefore unavailable.

When Communism fell, Ion Iliescu’s National Salvation Front took power, until it became clear that nothing had changed – the NSF was almost entirely constituted of former Securitate and Communist Party members. In June 1990 the people rose up and threw them out, after which democratic coalitions worked with President Iliescu, until he lost power in 1996 to Emil Constantinescu, regained it in 2000, then lost it again, and again to Constantinescu, in 2004. Romania joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007, though it is hard to understand, from Europe's point of view, why it would want the failed state of Romania in, and even harder to understand, from Romania's point of view, why it would want to be in the failed economic community of Europe.


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