Legal Status of the Roma in the Princedom of Serbia Cover Image

Pravni status Roma u Kneževini Srbiji
Legal Status of the Roma in the Princedom of Serbia

Author(s): Ivan Janković
Subject(s): History of Law, Ethnohistory, Ethnic Minorities Studies
Published by: Pravni fakultet Univerziteta Union
Keywords: Roma; Gypsies; cizye; haračluk; nomads; sedentarization; personal jurisdiction; Princedom of Serbia; Ottoman law

Summary/Abstract: In the Ottoman province of Serbia (initially the Belgrade Pashalik), the Roma had the same legal status as elsewhere in the Empire: they paid a special, Gypsy poll tax (Gypsy cizye; in Serbian: ciganski harač) and were subject to the personal jurisdiction of the Gypsy poll tax collector (Gypsy cizyedar; ciganski haračlija). After a successful uprising in 1815, the Serbs acquired a degree of autonomy, gradually broadened and formalized through a series of sultanic decrees, to culminate in a Constitution granted to Serbia by the Sultan in 1838. The Serbs progressively expanded their jurisdiction at the expense of the Ottoman authorities in every respect, including the powers over the Roma. Starting in 1818, the Serbian Prince began to collect the Gypsy tax in the name and on behalf of the Ottoman authorities; in 1826, he leased it from them, and by 1830 it was included in the lump annual tribute paid by Serbia to the Porte. The Ottomans thereby lost all jurisdiction over the Roma, excepting a small number of those employed as servants in the Turkish garrisons. Although Serbian authorities otherwise consistently endeavoured to replace the inherited Ottoman laws and customs with legislation modelled on that of West European Christian states, in respect to the Roma no attempt was made to alter the Ottoman system of special jurisdiction and taxation. In fact, the first changes in this system were consistent with the contemporary reforms proclaimed by the Porte: those nomadic Roma who wished to settle were to be given free land and to pay ordinary taxes. The same policy was proclaimed in Serbia in 1839, when the already sedentary Roma were entered into general tax registers, but no success was achieved in settling the nomads (a majority were eventually settled in the decade between mid-1860s and mid-1870s). The Gypsy tax collector (haračlija) was transformed into an institution (haračluk), with its own budget and staff, retaining personal jurisdiction over the nomadic Roma. This jurisdiction was progressively narrowed, to be abolished in 1853, together with the haračluk. However, the nomads remained subject to the poll tax, now collected by regular authorities. In consequence, they were also disenfranchised, as (since 1869) only the adult males who paid property and/or income (but not poll) tax had a right to vote. (Disenfranchisement, on the same grounds, affected other, non-Roma, categories, such as servants.) In 1884 the poll tax was abolished and the Roma achieved the same legal status as other Serbian citizens.

  • Issue Year: 2016
  • Issue No: 2
  • Page Range: 297-323
  • Page Count: 27
  • Language: Serbian