Gypsy Literature

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gypsy Literature


the literature of the Gypsies of various countries of the world. Gypsy folklore has been influenced by the folklore of the countries through which the Gypsies have migrated, but Gypsy ethnic groups separated by considerable distances share common folkloric themes. Purely Gypsy themes predominate in the songs, which reflect Gypsy life in the past; Gypsy themes are more rarely found in recently written ballads. The plots of Gypsy folktales are for the most part borrowed.

In the USSR, Gypsy literature developed in the mid-1920’s after the creation of a writing system based on the Russian alphabet. A seminal figure in Soviet Gypsy literature was A. V. Germano (1893–1955), the author of Ganka Chiamba and Other Stories (1935), Poems (1935), Poems and Songs (1937), and Novellas and Short Stories (published 1960). Another important writer was N. A. Pankov (1895–1959), who translated P. Méri-mée’s Carmen in 1935 and A. S. Pushkin’s The Gypsies and The Captain’s Daughter in 1937. The sociopolitical and cultural journals Romany zorha (1927–30) and Nevo drom (1930–33) were published in the Romany language.

Outstanding writers of the late 1920’s and early 1930’s included I. Bezliudskii (1901–70), I. I. Rom-Lebedev (born 1903), O. I. Pankova (born 1912; Poems, 1936), Vano Timofeevo (real name, I. V. Khrustalev; born 1913; Poems, 1936), and N. G. Satkevich (born 1917).

The Romen Moscow Theater stages plays by Gypsy writers. Gypsy literature in the 1920’s and 1930’s, developing in close interaction with Russian literature and other national literatures of the USSR, played an important role in helping the Gypsies adjust to work, take part in the cultural life of the country, and lead a settled mode of existence.

After the Baltic republics, Western Byelorussia, the Western Ukraine, and Bessarabia were incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1939 and 1940, Gypsy literature, written in the local Romany dialects and the languages of the republics’ inhabitants, began a new stage of development in the USSR. In Moldavia, G. V. Kantia (born 1940) has published the collection of poems Gypsy Folklore (1970). In Latvia, K. Rudɵviɩs (born 1939) has published poems, and Leksa Mânus-Belugins (born 1942) has produced the collections of poems / Want a Little Horse (1973) and The Little Star (1976). In the Altai, poems by Vano Romano (I. M. Panchenko, born 1941) have appeared. Satkevich has published the collection of poems Strings (1972), and his compilation of Gypsy poems, The Campfires, appeared in 1974.

In the postwar period, works by Gypsy writers have been published in several European countries: in Poland, the collection of poems The Songs of Papusza (1956) by Papusza Bronislawa Wajs (born 1910); in Bulgaria, the collection of poems Songs From the Caravan (1955) by U. Kerim (born 1927); in Czechoslovakia, A Song Above the Wind (1964) by D. Banga (born 1934); and in Yugoslavia, the collection of poems A Gypsy Searches for a Place Under the Sun (1970) by R. Djuric (born 1947). In Hungary, poetry and prose have been published by J. Dároczi Csóli (born 1939), M. Bári, M. Lakatos, and Andro Loleshtye. In France, M. Maximoff (born 1912) has published the novels Prophesies (1946) and The Seventh Daughter (1967); in Sweden, Catharina Taikon (born 1933) writes journalism and has published the children’s book The Wanderers (1970); and in Finland, V. Baltazar (born 1946) has published a novel inspired by Gypsy life, The Sparkling Road (1969).

The absence of a literary language common to all Gypsies limits the number of readers, since works by a Gypsy writer are understood only by those who speak the author’s dialect. In the 1960’s and 1970’s Gypsy writers increasingly tended to write in the languages of the countries they inhabit.


Romano al’manakho: Skedyia A. Germano. Moscow, 1934.
Poésie Tsigane. Paris, 1974.
Rom som: Cigány klubjának havi tájékoztatója. Budapest, 1974–77.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.