Roma Markets in Bulgaria Selling Brides ! The Unusual Tradition of the Romanis

Throughout history, various ethnic groups have co-existed on earth, forming societies in their inhabited regions. Almost every society has cultures, traditions and lifestyles which set them apart and make them unique. The Romani, sometimes referred to as Gypsies, are one of these communities.


They have been in existence for hundreds of years, leading distinct lives in different countries. Approximately 2 million of them reside in Turkey, while the majority are found in the Balkans. The Romani’s roots trace back to Northern India.


The people you now label as Romani or Gypsies are initially of Indian descent, my friends. They don’t particularly like the term Gypsy. Especially in the UK, Romani is often addressed as a Gypsy.


As the term Gypsy is derogatory and disparaging, the Romani people do not appreciate being called Gypsies. On the other hand, these people migrated westward in groups from the regions of India, Afghanistan and Pakistan around 420 AD. Countries such as England, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey are predominantly among these regions.


Today, their total global population is thought to be around 10 million. There are various theories about why the Romani left their homeland in India and migrated eastward. Some say these people were captured by western rulers as enslaved people in the 4th century AD and transported to the west.

Others emphasize that the Romani were bought as mercenaries to be used in wars and started living among western states. What’s interesting about the Romani is that, regardless of where they migrate, they maintain a similar lifestyle and culture in that region. For example, they love practising fortune-telling and being fortune-tellers, irrespective of where they are.


Men, on the other hand, usually engage in music-related activities, tins mithing and livestock farming. Both men and women share a deep connection to music and dance. In other words, they derive great pleasure from dancing.

However, the Romani experience marginalization in most countries worldwide. They are not readily accepted by society in their countries and people often maintain a reserved attitude towards them. This relates somewhat to the Romani because they do not socialize much within the community.

For example, they withdraw their children from school at a young age, they live together in specific neighbour hoods and they have their districts. They don’t live solitary lives in a single neighbourhood. Additionally, they often prefer to marry within their community.

These unique characteristics contribute to their social exclusion. Now, let’s talk about Bulgaria, one of these countries. In Bulgaria, the Romani live in isolation from the rest of the country.

Therefore, both Bulgarians and Romani have a somewhat distant relationship. So, let’s delve into the bride markets in Bulgaria, which is the main topic of this video, and try to understand the lives of the Romani in this country. Yeah, this is the biggest gypsy neighbourhood in Sofia.

There are really nice people from the gypsy community, but most of them are given an image like this. If you see the neighbourhood like this, because they try to build the houses without permission. They find the land and they start building houses in the new community there.

They don’t like Bulgarians and Bulgarians don’t like them because of this reputation, because they just don’t pay the water, they don’t pay anything. According to this guide from Bulgaria, the Romani people in the country generally do not favor working. They find vacant land and customize it according to their preferences, turning these lands into Romani neighbourhoods, effectively drawing a line between them and the rest of society.

However, for Bulgarians, the main issue is not this separation. They are more concerned that the Romani live without paying bills, illegally using essential resources such as electricity and water, and exploiting the country’s resources. Bulgarians claim that the costs of these illegal uses, consumed by the Romani, are reflected in their taxes.

Hence, the Bulgarians’ cold attitude towards the Romani seems to stem from their unregulated lifestyle and a disregard for rules. Years ago, the number of Romani in Bulgaria was much higher. After Bulgaria joined the United Nations, the country’s borders opened and tens of thousands of Romani people rushed to various European countries through Bulgaria.

Therefore, the Romani population in Bulgaria has lightened a bit in recent years. They have Bulgarian ID and all the rights to vote. They use them to buy votes in the election.

You don’t have to call them gypsy, which is the Bulgarian word for gypsy. They prefer to call them Romi. Yeah, I think also they’re coming from India.

They’re coming from India and they bring their traditions from India. Some of them, they’re very good musicians. Today, these people in Bulgaria live in shantytown-style neighborhoods, mainly in the underdeveloped rural areas of cities.

The Romani regions in Bulgaria consist of neglected areas with minimal state investment. Many roads have worn out asphalt, the paint on houses is peeling, and green areas are getting worse due to neglect. When you look at the items they use in their homes and their houses, you can see that their situation is not particularly uplifting.

Their quality of life can be described as a bit below average rural living conditions. In these village houses, they generally engage in pig farming. The houses are not in the form of apartment-style buildings, but rather consist of independent garden-equipped 30 or 40 years old structures.

For these reasons, the Romani in Bulgaria has a peculiar tradition that they organize yearly. It’s such a strange tradition that these impoverished communities believe it can save their lives and see it as an opportunity in their lives. Because Bulgaria faces significant unemployment and a considerable portion of the population lives a middle-class life.

Especially the Romani in Bulgaria, having a much lower quality of life, have created an opportunity for themselves through their daughters. In the past Anatolian culture, if a man and a woman wanted to get married, the man’s side would pay a dowry to the woman’s father. This situation was frequently depicted in old Turkish movies.

In other words, a dowry was paid to the girl’s family for a trousseau gift, and in return the girls would be taken from their families. However, this perception changed in many countries over time, and the concept of a dowry disappeared. Nowadays, even in less developed countries, money is not directly paid to girls.

However, in Bulgaria, the Romani still practice this tradition. Moreover, it is not the usual dowry situation. Because when a man pays a dowry, there was usually a prior acquaintance between the girl and the boy, and they loved each other.

The situation in Bulgaria has been reduced entirely to a commercial dimension. Romani families in Bulgaria take their daughters out of school after primary education, preparing them for marriage, and sort of selling them, my friends. Moreover, they do this openly in public markets, and the Bulgarian government does not impose any sanctions against it.

These markets, organized at certain times of the year, attract participants from various parts of Bulgaria, and people here give away their daughters for money to strangers. For many of you, this might seem extremely outdated and primitive. However, this tradition still exists for the Kalacha clan in Bulgaria, and the locals consider it a part of their culture.

Therefore, we are conveying this tradition, which they assume as part of their culture. On the day the bride market opens, a sweet excitement begins in the homes of Romani families. The daughters are trying to look as stylish and attractive as possible.

For instance, Romani families start preparing for that day a year in advance, buying expensive clothes and shoes to make their daughters look elegant. When preparations are complete, they take their daughters to the market. So she has everything, she has dress, she’s prepared, but the most important thing is to find the groom for the wedding.

So the price depends on the guy who is trying to buy the bride. And it depends. If the girl likes the boy, they can go lower.

Ten, twenty, twenty thousand. Interestingly, there is no situation here resembling forced marriage. In Bulgaria, Romani girls go to the market happily, and they seem content with the situation.

Perhaps, due to not actively participating in society, they might fear the possibility of never getting married, and they see these markets as an opportunity for their own lives. On the other hand, the price of a girl at the market varies according to her age and beauty. Similarly, these prices are determined by the girl’s father, and the sale takes place according to his wishes.

For example, the price of an 18-year-old girl is higher than that of a 25-year-old. If high offers come for their daughters, families take pride in it and express it at every opportunity. Or if they got married this way in the past, they boast about being worth so many leva at that time.

Thus, Romani in Bulgaria not only don’t feel uncomfortable with being valued with money, but they also find happiness in it. In this case, Romani families go to the market together to give their daughters away. Even if the father convinces the daughter to get married, if the mother doesn’t like the groom and the groom doesn’t appeal to the daughter, they may not want to give away their daughters.

According to the guide, the amount the groom’s side needs to spend for an average bride varies between 20,000 and 50,000 leva. 50,000 leva can be a fortune for a Romani family living in Bulgaria. As you know, Bulgaria is one of the lowest income countries in Europe and the dollar is quite valuable in this country.

Therefore, the concept of money is one of the most useful elements for the people in this country. Moreover, including Roma, the Bulgarian people come to places like Edirne to do their shopping at lower prices in Turkey. For example, the current equivalent of 50,000 leva is more than 27,000 dollars.

Since the impact of this money on the purchasing power in Bulgaria is relatively high, it is seen as a sufficient amount for the dowry. For instance, the blue eye color gene is much rarer in Bulgaria compared to the rest of Europe. Therefore, these factors directly affect the increase in the price.

Although the situation of buying people with money is as repulsive as it can be, the strange thing is not just this. Both the bride’s side and the groom’s side see each other for the first time in the market. The fact that two people who have never met and seen each other will start getting to know each other after getting married is, in my opinion, even stranger than all of this.

For example, Romani families in Bulgaria don’t want their daughters to make friends by socializing. They say that flirtations and situations resembling a romantic relationship harm family culture and carry risks. So, according to them, situations involving flirting lead to gossip within the Romani clans and, afterwards, families face negative stigmas.

In fact, to prevent any acquaintance during the school period due to such gossip, almost none of the Romani girls can see beyond elementary school. Romani children, regardless of gender, are married off at the age of 13 or 14 by being taken to these markets. In this sense, it is quite possible to say that Romani get married at a very young age.

Therefore, you can’t see them much in the social life there. For them, marrying off their daughters at bride markets holds a more suitable meaning. Of course, I should mention this.

Having such customs among the Romani in Bulgaria does not mean that all the Romani in that country and around the world follow the exact same traditions. The Romani who continue these bride markets are known as the Kalaica Romani. When you look at people’s faces at the bride market, it’s noticeable that the groom’s side comes with old model vehicles like Mercedes to appear wealthy.

Moreover, both the bride’s side and the groom’s side strive to look as wealthy as possible. This can be explained by the fact that they have as many valuable items on them as possible. In addition, various regional dances are performed at the markets, and people try to socialize with each other.

You can think of this as a unique festival for the Romani in Bulgaria. Some Romani are not interested in getting married, but they can still visit these markets just to have fun. People generally have smiling faces in the area, and some instantly find a match.

Also, the considerable interest in these bride markets can be easily understood from the crowd in the environment. For those of you who want to know exactly where this place is in Bulgaria, these bride markets are set up in Stara Zagora, and marriage markets open here at certain times of the year. Stara Zagora is one of Bulgaria’s largest cities with a population of about 150,000.

It is assumed that around 20,000 of this population consists of Romani. Therefore, Romani are pretty active in this city and can sustain their own culture in urban areas. For example, this bride market is the only bride market in Europe, and since Bulgaria is a European country, it has the potential to make a significant impact in other European countries as well.

For this reason, every year a large number of people from all over Europe visit Stara Zagora to see the bride markets and contribute to the city’s economy. Of course, only one thing is crucial for both sides here. The bride’s side, the groom must be as wealthy as possible.

For the groom, the bride must be as young and beautiful as possible. The criteria chosen by two people who have never met each other for marriage are only external beauty and wealth. Actually, for such a marriage, it can also be called a mutually beneficial marriage.

But there is a feature in the Romani. Even if they are from different tribes, they can get to know each other and get along very quickly. For example, after the agreement is reached at the marriage market, a celebration is held at the girl’s house, and the groom also attends this celebration.

Celebrations are held with dances and music, the favorite things of the Romani, and thus the tradition is fulfilled. In the next stage, they will get married and establish a home. In this way, although Romani may not be very popular in the countries they are in, generally seen as people who do not work without education, they continue to preserve their culture without assimilating and maintain these traditions.

They love living daily life, living for entertainment without accumulating wealth. In the end, they are happy within themselves, and you can find and visit Romani neighbourhoods almost anywhere in the world. In this article, we tried to provide information about the marriage markets organized by the Romani in Bulgaria every year.


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