(Pavel Basinsky’s article appeared in Russia Beyond the Headlines, 4/8.)
Before the 1990 publication of Efim Druts and Alexei Gessler’s book “Gypsies”, many Russians did not know the true, complex history of the Romani people. This book dispelled many myths, but misconceptions are still widespread today.
Historically, both Europeans and Russians believed that the Roma originated in Egypt (hence their English name Gypsy) and were descended from pharaohs. To this end, Alexander Kuprin’s 1911 short story about Gypsies was called “Tribe of Pharaohs”.
In fact, back in 1844 the German linguist August Pott proved that the Romani people originated from India. They most probably left the subcontinent in the middle of the 5th century.
This exodus marked the start of the long-suffering Roma people’s difficult journey throughout Europe. They were treated differently wherever they went; in Greece, for example, they were welcomed, while they were persecuted and all but annihilated in other countries.