Romani people in Croatia
Romi u Hrvatskoj
Romani women wearing traditional dresses and their children near Zagreb in 1941
Total population
  • 17,980 (2021 census)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Međimurje, Osijek-Baranja, Sisak-Moslavina County and Zagreb
Croatian, Romanian (Boyash dialect)
Balkan Romani
Catholicism (49%)
Sunni Islam (30%)
Eastern Orthodoxy (14%)
Related ethnic groups
Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Roma in Serbia and Roma in Hungary

There have been Romani people in Croatia for more than 600 years and they are concentrated mostly in the northern regions of the country.

A considerable number of Romani refugees in Croatia are from the ethnic conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina.[2]

There are more than 120 Romani minority NGOs in Croatia.[3] One of the most prominent is Croatian Roma Union and Alliance of Roma in the Republic of Croatia "Kali Sara".



The Romani people originally came to Europe from Northern India,[4][5][6][7][8][9] presumably from the northwestern Indian states of Rajasthan[8][9] and Punjab.[8]

The linguistic evidence has indisputably shown that roots of the Romani language lie in India: the language has grammatical characteristics of Indian languages and shares with them a big part of the basic lexicon, for example, body parts or daily routines.[10]

More exactly, Romani shares the basic lexicon with Hindi and Punjabi. It shares many phonetic features with Marwari, while its grammar is closest to Bengali.[11]

Genetic findings in 2012 suggest the Romani originated in northwestern India and migrated as a group.[5][6][12] According to a genetic study in 2012, the ancestors of present scheduled tribes and scheduled caste populations of northern India, traditionally referred to collectively as the Ḍoma, are the likely ancestral populations of the modern European Roma.[13]

In February 2016, during the International Roma Conference, the Indian Minister of External Affairs stated that the people of the Roma community were children of India. The conference ended with a recommendation to the Government of India to recognize the Roma community spread across 30 countries as a part of the Indian diaspora.[14]

Migration to Croatia

Romani people were mentioned for the first time in the Republic of Ragusa in 1362 in some commercial records.[2] Ten years later, Romani were recorded as being in Zagreb, where they were merchants, tailors and butchers.[2]

Various Romani groups have lived in Croatia since the 14th century.[15] In the second half of the 14th century, They settled in places like Dubrovnik, Zagreb, Pula, and Sibenik and worked as traders, craftsmen and entertainers.[16]

In the Middle Ages Roma living in cities lived together with rest of the population. According to litteras promotorias, nomad Romani groups also had the authority to resolve independently all intragroup conflicts.[17]

Maria Theresa and Joseph II, in regulations issued in 1761, 1767 and 1783, outlawed the Romani nomadic lifestyle, forced them to accept local clothing codes and languages, made regulations regarding personal and family names and limited their choice of professions.[17]

Large groups of Roma arrived in Croatia in the 19th century from Romania after the abolition of Romani slavery there in 1855.[17]

World War II

Further information: Porajmos

Further information: Jasenovac concentration camp

Between about 20,000[18] and about 30,000 Croatian Romani were executed by Ustasha police officers in Independent State of Croatia during World War II.[19]


Romani by municipality, according to the 2011 Croatian census

The 2011 Croatian census found 16,675 Romani in Croatia or 0.4% of the population.[20] In 2001, more than half of the Romani population was located in the Međimurje County and the City of Zagreb.[21][22]

In the 2011 census, the largest religious groups among the Romani were Catholics (8,299 or 49.77% of them), Muslims (5,039 or 30.22% of them) and Eastern Orthodox (2,381 or 14.02% of them).[23]

Surnames of Romani origin Oršoš and Oršuš are the third and fourth most common surnames in the Međimurje County.[24]


Main article: Romani society and culture


The majority of the Romani people in Croatia speak the Boyash dialect of the Romanian language. It is estimated that around 80 percent of the Romani people in Croatia speak this variety of Romanian. There are also minor groups that speak the Romani language which originates from present-day India, and the Albanian language.[25]

The Romani population in the counties of Međimurje, Osijek-Baranja and Brod Posavina speaks the Boyash dialect of the Romanian language, while the Romani language is more present amongst the recent Romani immigrants who live in major urban centres.[25]

The European Charter on Minority Languages is a very important document of the Council of Europe that promotes the use and protection of minority languages, and the Government of Croatia has for a long time placed a reservation on the part of the Romani language in order to exclude it from the protection of the Charter. The reason for that is that a majority of the Romani populace in Croatia speaks the Boyash dialect of the Romanian language and not the Romani language, and the reservation serves to protect the Boyash dialect of the Romanian language from the imposition of the Romani language.[25]

The official representative of the Romani people in the Parliament of Croatia Veljko Kajtazi enforced and tried to impose the Romani language, which encountered resistance from the Boyash majority. An official in the Ministry of Education Nada Jakir commented on his efforts stating that Kajtazi wants the Romani people of Croatia to learn the Romani language, which is not their mother tongue, but a foreign one. After Jakir retired, Kajtazi pushed his efforts to implement the Romani language for the Romani minority in schools.[25]

Moreover, the Romani-speaking minority doesn't consider the Boyash majority to be the real Romanis and considers them to be Romanians. On the other hand, the Boyash community scolds the Romanis that arrived from Kosovo for their lack of "Croathood".[25]


In the 2011 census, the largest religious groups among the Romani were Catholics (8,299 or 49.77% of them), Muslims (5,039 or 30.22% of them) and Eastern Orthodox (2,381 or 14.02% of them).[23]

Romani in modern Croatia

In the Republic of Croatia, Romani have remained largely marginalized, so the government has a programme to provide them with systematic assistance in order to improve their living conditions and to include them in the social life. According to a survey conducted in 1998, 70% of surveyed families at the time did not have any permanently employed family members, 21% had one member, and 6% had two permanently employed members.[26] Additional risks include poor housing conditions, inadequate clean water supplies and inadequate electricity infrastructure in Romani settlements, poor health care and low average level of education.[26]

The Romani elect a special representative to the Croatian Parliament shared with members of eleven other national minorities.[27] The first such member of parliament, Nazif Memedi, was elected in the 2007 parliamentary election. In 2010, Romani were added to the preamble of the Croatian Constitution and thereby recognized as one of the autochthonous national minorities.[28] In 2012 the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb introduced for the first time courses titled Romani language I and Literature and culture of Roma.[29]

Roma in Međimurje County

According to estimates and available data, at the beginning of 2009 in Međimurje County there lived about 5,500 Roma, 4.7% of the total population, which made them the largest national minority group in the county.[30] According to the census in 2011, 2,887 people (2.44%) identified themselves as Romani.[21] The difference between the census data and the actual Roma population can be explained by the fact that many Roma choose not to reveal their minority affiliation due to stigmatization. For example, in Donja Dubrava municipality, according to the 2001 census there wasn't a single Roma living there, even though at that time in the municipality there were little Romani settlements with about 70 people.[30]

Altogether there are twelve settlements in Međimurje where the Romani minority live. A concentration of Roma in some settlements, and in certain peripheral streets of some settlements show territorial segregation of Roma within the county.[30] In more than half of Međimurje municipalities, Roma are not present or are present in very small numbers.[30]

See also


  1. ^ "Census of population, households and dwellings in 2021 – population of Republic of Croatia". Croatian Bureau of Statistics. 31 January 2023. Retrieved 8 April 2023.
  2. ^ a b c "Ured vlade za nacionalne manjine-Obilježja Roma u RH". Archived from the original on 2013-02-16. Retrieved 2013-03-09.
  3. ^ "Ured za ljudska prava i prava nacionalnihmanjina-Romi". Ured za ljudska prava i prava nacionalnihmanjina. Archived from the original on 2013-12-24. Retrieved 2013-04-27.
  4. ^ Hancock, Ian F. (2005) [2002]. We are the Romani People. Univ of Hertfordshire Press. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-902806-19-8: ‘While a nine century removal from India has diluted Indian biological connection to the extent that for some Romani groups, it may be hardly representative today, Sarren (1976:72) concluded that we still remain together, genetically, Asian rather than European’((cite book)): CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  5. ^ a b Mendizabal, Isabel (6 December 2012). "Reconstructing the Population History of European Romani from Genome-wide Data". Current Biology. 22 (24): 2342–2349. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2012.10.039. hdl:10230/25348. PMID 23219723.
  6. ^ a b Sindya N. Bhanoo (11 December 2012). "Genomic Study Traces Roma to Northern India". New York Times.
  7. ^ Current Biology.
  8. ^ a b c K. Meira Goldberg; Ninotchka Devorah Bennahum; Michelle Heffner Hayes (2015-10-06). Flamenco on the Global Stage: Historical, Critical and Theoretical Perspectives. p. 50. ISBN 9780786494705. Retrieved 2016-05-21.
  9. ^ a b Simon Broughton; Mark Ellingham; Richard Trillo (1999). World Music: Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Rough Guides. p. 147. ISBN 9781858286358. Retrieved 2016-05-21. Roma Rajastan Penjab.
  10. ^ Šebková, Hana; Žlnayová, Edita (1998), Nástin mluvnice slovenské romštiny (pro pedagogické účely) (PDF), Ústí nad Labem: Pedagogická fakulta Univerzity J. E. Purkyně v Ústí nad Labem, p. 4, ISBN 978-80-7044-205-0, archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04
  11. ^ Hübschmannová, Milena (1995). "Romaňi čhib – romština: Několik základních informací o romském jazyku". Bulletin Muzea Romské Kultury. Brno (4/1995). Zatímco romská lexika je bližší hindštině, marvárštině, pandžábštině atd., v gramatické sféře nacházíme mnoho shod s východoindickým jazykem, s bengálštinou.
  12. ^ "5 Intriguing Facts About the Roma". Live Science. 23 October 2013.
  13. ^ Rai, N; Chaubey, G; Tamang, R; Pathak, AK; Singh, VK (2012), "The Phylogeography of Y-Chromosome Haplogroup H1a1a-M82 Reveals the Likely Indian Origin of the European Romani Populations", PLOS ONE, 7 (11): e48477, Bibcode:2012PLoSO...748477R, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048477, PMC 3509117, PMID 23209554
  14. ^ "Can Romas be part of Indian diaspora?". 29 February 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  15. ^ "Protection of the Roma in Croatia - European Parliament" (PDF).
  16. ^ Boyash Studies: Researching “Our People”. p. 381.
  17. ^ a b c Hrvatić, Neven (December 2004). "Romi u Hrvatskoj: od migracija do interkulturalnih odnosa". Migracijske I Etničke Teme (in Croatian). 20 (4). Retrieved 2013-04-28.
  18. ^ Kenrick, Donald (2006). The Gypsies During the Second World War: The final chapter. The Gypsies During the Second World War. Vol. 3. Centre de recherches tsiganes (Université René Descartes) (illustrated ed.). Univ of Hertfordshire Press. p. 92. ISBN 978-1-902806-49-5. Retrieved 2011-11-28.
  19. ^ Logos, Aleksandar A. (2022). "Jasenovac in Croatia or a short story about a war and mass killing in it". pp. 38-40 and note 124. Retrieved 2022-09-11.
  20. ^ "Stanovništvo prema narodnosti, popisi 1971. - 2011" (in Croatian). Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  21. ^ a b "Population by ethnicity". Census. Croatian Bureau of Statistics. 2001. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
  22. ^ "Status romske populacije u Republici Hrvatskoj". (in Croatian). Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb. 7 November 2011. Archived from the original on 9 November 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  23. ^ a b "4. Population by ethnicity and religion". Census of Population, Households and Dwellings 2011. Croatian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2012-12-17.
  24. ^ "Most frequent surnames, 2011 Census". Census of Population, Households and Dwellings 2011. Zagreb: Croatian Bureau of Statistics. December 2012.
  25. ^ a b c d e Radonić Mayr 2021.
  26. ^ a b Štambuk, Maja (June 2000). "Romi u Hrvatskoj devedesetih". Društvena Istraživanja (in Croatian). 8 (2–3). Retrieved 2013-04-28.
  27. ^ "Pravo pripadnika nacionalnih manjina u Republici Hrvatskoj na zastupljenost u Hrvatskom saboru". Zakon o izborima zastupnika u Hrvatski sabor (in Croatian). Croatian Parliament. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
  28. ^ Marijan Lipovac (2011-04-11). "Integracija Roma" [Integration of Roma]. Vjesnik (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 14 June 2012. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
  29. ^ "Kolegiji Romski jezik I i Književnost i kultura Roma I". Archived from the original on 2013-12-24. Retrieved 2013-04-27.
  30. ^ a b c d Šlezak, Hrvoje (December 2009). "Prostorna segregacija romskog stanovništva u Međimurskoj županiji". Hrvatski Geografski Glasnik (in Croatian). 71 (2). Retrieved 2013-04-27.