Arlije is the name of a heterogeneous group of Roma from the southern Balkans. As Muslims, they belong to the southern Balkan / western Rumelian cultural tradition. The name Arlije, also Erli or Erlides, is an indication of the early settlement of the group(s): Turkish yerli means "native". Common to all Arlije is a strong influence of the Osmanic/Islamic or, to be more exact, the western Rumelian cultural tradition.

In the course of the work migration which started in the 1960's, members of this group have been coming to Austria, most of them migrating from Prilep, Macedonia. Others come from Macedonian towns such as Kumanovo, from the Šutka near Skopje, (with more than 30,000 inhabitants, the Šutka is the world’s largest Roma settlement) as well as from Prizren in Kosovo. In Prilep, the Arlije make up about 90% of the Roma population, living alongside members of the Dzambas (horse traders, etc.), whom they also call Mahadzir (immigrants), as well as some families of the so-called Cergárja (tent dwellers). As only very little has been published on this group of Arlije, it can only be assumed, from what is known, that part of the group immigrated from southern Serbia (Lesovac) around the turn of the century. Others may have come from Tito Veles, a place to which family ties are still intact and where almost the same variety of Romani is spoken. For the most part, the Arlije from Prilep are small farmers, field and factory workers in the production and processing of tobacco. Others make a living as weight carriers and shoe shiners. There is also a group of craftsmen who are better off financially: these include carpenters, stove-fitters, watchmakers, mechanics and electricians. [ Professions ]

Current Situation in Austria

The Arlije’s immigration follows the usual patterns of work migration: first, only the men come, wishing to make enough money to then go back home. When they end up staying longer than originally planned, women and children follow along with grandparents and other relatives, which finally moves the centre of life to Austria for entire extended families. Today, the great majority of Arlije living in this country are Austrian citizens.

As opposed to the Kalderaš, "escaping from wage-dependency" is not a big issue among the Arlije. The first generation of immigrants remain in their professions and to some extent have been working as unskilled labourers in factories or on construction sites to this day. Respectively, the women are employed as helpers in households, kitchens, or as cleaning personnel for various companies. Thanks to better training, the majority of the children of the immigrant generation, who were born and have grown up in Austria, manage to climb the social ladder, many of them finding employment as skilled workers. Today, the Austrian Arlije are "partially integrated" in the same way as other so-called "guest workers" who immigrated from the Balkans. Like many Austrian working class families, they live in relative prosperity in the larger area of Vienna.

In general, bonds among extended families still exist. The individual subgroups form "closed network communities" and are in touch both with relatives in the country of origin and with members of the extended families or clans who have emigrated to other European countries such as Germany, Switzerland, etc., or gone to live overseas in such places as the US or Australia.

Being Muslims, the Arlije have big Islamic celebrations that bring them back in touch with members who have gone abroad. Such celebrations are weddings (inter-racial marriages are relatively rare; for the most part, Arlije still marry within their ethnic group), name-giving celebrations, as well as traditional holidays in the course of the year, such as Herdelezi on the 6th of May (St. George), which is also celebrated by non-Muslim Roma (e.g. Kalderaš) under the name of Djurdjevdan. The Arlije are very open among each other and willing to organize events. For several years there was an Arlije organization in Vienna, which unfortunately no longer exists. There is great interest in folklore, dance, and music. Even still today, the older Arlije generation sometimes tells Romani tales of Turkish origin.

Text based on

Fennesz-Juhasz, Christiane / Halwachs, Dieter W. / Heinschink, Mozes F. (1996) Sprache und Musik der österreichischen Roma. In: GLS, pp. 46. 61-110.
Halwachs, Dieter W. (2004) Roma und Romani in Austria. http://www-gewi.kfunigraz[...]ni/ling/romani-at.en.shtm.


Halwachs, Dieter W. (2001) Romani in Österreich. In: Halwachs, Dieter W. / Menz, Florian (eds.) Die Sprache der Roma. Perspektiven der Romani-Forschung in Österreich im interdisziplinären und internationalen Kontext, Graz, pp. 1-37.
Halwachs, Dieter W. / Heinschink, Mozes F. (1993) Zur Mehrsprachigkeit der Zigeuner in Österreich. In: Halwachs, Dieter W. / Stütz, Irmgard (eds.) Sprache-Sprechen-Handeln. Akten des 28. Linguistischen Kolloquiums, Tübingen, pp. 229-236.
Heinschink, Mozes F. / Hemetek, Ursula (eds.) (1994) Roma. Das unbekannte Volk. Schicksal und Kultur, Wien.
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