GYPSY GUILDS (ESNAFS) ON THE BALKANS
Elena Marushiakova & Vesselin Popov University of St Andrews
Unlike Central and Western Europe, where the access of Gypsies to the professional guilds of the local population was denied for centuries, in the conditions of Ottoman Empire the participation in guilds of Gypsies, who where full-fledged subjects of the Empire, was perceived as something completely acceptable and normal. Formally the Ottoman Empire regulated legally the activities of the guilds only in 1773, the historical data shows that many Gypsies living in Constantinople/Istanbul, were members of different guilds. Although the guilds in principle should not be detached ethnically, in the 19th c., along with the development of national movements among the Balkan nations, a process of separation of guilds along ethnic lines started. In the general context of these processes at the end of the 19th c. were already registered separate Gypsy guilds in the Ottoman Empire, and later in the new independent Balkan states too. The article introduce three flags of Gypsy craftsmen gilds (blacksmith in Prizren and Resen, and potters in Kyustendil), preserved until now. The history of the Gypsy guilds is reconstructed
primarily on base of materials from oral history of Gypsy (Roma and Balkan Egyptians) communities. It is show the place of the guild’s flags in the overall life of the respective communities and their use in various calendar and family celebrations, customs and rituals, including nowadays, and presented also the development of some of the traditions of Gypsy guilds for regulation of relations in the local Gypsy communities. During the last two decades the historical heritage of the Gypsy guilds acquires again new forms and functions. Festivities themselves and used flags are seen already not only and not so much as an event connected to given occupation but as an expression of preservation and demonstration of community traditions, as a manifestation of the ethnic identity (Roma and Balkan Egyptians).
In: Kyuchukov, Hristo; Elena Marushiakova; and Vesselin Popov (eds.). 2016. Roma: Past, present, future. ISBN 9783862887361: 76-89. (pdf e-paper).