Accepted paper:

A place of happiness and well-being, or one of poverty and misery? Roma and non-Roma memories of a Roma colony from Romania during the state socialist times


Zsuzsa Plainer (ISPMN (the Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities) )

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates Roma and non-Roma memories of the state-socialist past in Romania, through a forced relocation of a Roma colony forty years ago. Contrasting Roma and non-Roma sources reveals, how this minority became a muted group during the hegemonic process of constructing the memories of communism.

Paper long abstract:

Law number 59/1974, also known as law of systhematization, was part of the state-communist urbanization policies in Romania. According to its officially admitted intentions, this document was enacted to provide better living conditions to the citizens, however it aimed demolition of urban districts and forced relocation of local communities. One outcome of the law was the blurring up of a Roma colony from the medium-sized Romanian town, Oradea during the 1970ies and 1980ies. This presentation investigates how memories of the place, events on relocation and its consequences were made up and preserved. In doing so, two major sources are analyzed. At one hand post-socialist, even present-day representations of the colony are investigated,they ways it appears in non-Roma representations (official documents, newspaper articles, personal memories on the local history), on the other hand Roma narratives of the past are collected and subjected to inquiry. Contrasting these two sources clearly shows that Roma became a muted group within this non-Roma process of remembering and forgetting the communist past. Meanwhile members of the minority group regard the colony as a place of well-being, happiness and pride, the non-Roma memories see it a shame for the whole town, a terrain for delinquency, poverty and misery. Putting this in a broader context, within the various discourses on remembering communism, biases in representing the Roma became more salient. Memories on state socialism see the non-Roma as victims of a totalitarian power, still, relocation of the Roma is represented as an isolated event with no social and political relevance.

panel SPS003
Remembering and forgetting the communist past in post-communist Europe: politics, social practices and everyday life