Characteristics, if any, that would indicate that a surname is Romani rather than ethnic Hungarian; specific surnames that are recognized as being Romani (January 1996 - April 2006) [HUN101156.E]

In 20 April 2006 correspondence to the Research Directorate, a representative from the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) stated the following:

There are certain surnames that are often perceived as being of Hungarian Roma origin or as being more common among Hungarian Romani individuals. However, it is important to note that these surnames can also be found among non-Romani Hungarian individuals. Similarly, Hungarian Romani individuals can have surnames not perceived as particularly Roma in origin. There exists little direct relation between the ethnicity of a Roma individual and his/her surname. That is to say, a surname can be taken neither to prove nor disprove an individual's Roma ethnicity.

As part of an assimilationist edict passed in the region in 1761, Romani names were banned (HRW July 1996, 8) and Roma were forced to take Christian first names and surnames (Rombase Jan. 2003). According to Rombase, "[s]ince that time, many Roma have Gadžo [non-Romani] names" (ibid.). The Rombase Website, based in Graz, Austria, and supported by the European Community as well as Austria's Federal Chancellery, "offers information on the socio-cultural and socio-historical situation of the Roma" (ibid. Jan. 2004).

The Roma of Hungary are not a homogeneous community (Népszabadság 7 June 1997). There are three major and distinct groups: the Romungro, the Vlach (Wlach or Olach) and the Beash (Beás) (ibid.; JPR Dec. 1996, 23; ERRC 6 Feb. 1998; HRW July 1996, 8).

In its 2000 publication entitled A Roma's Life in Hungary, the Budapest-based Bureau for European Comparative Minority Research (BECMIR) listed several surnames of Romani origin which "appear in official censuses," including Dudoma, Pusoma, Lalo/Lali, Murdalo and Bango (2000b, 10). Rombase lists the following Hungarian surnames as commonly Romani: Horváth, Taragoš, Tokár, Lakatoš, Conka, Rác(z) and Žiga (Jan. 2003). An article appearing on the Website of the ERRC also noted that "Kolompár is a typical Romani name in Hungary" (n.d.).

In 1998 correspondence with the Research Directorate (RD), two academics, an associate professor of government with the University of Texas at Austin and a research fellow at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at the University of London, indicated that common Romani surnames include Virag, Harangozo, Rostas, Lakatos, Hegedüs, Farkas, and Balog (Associate Professor 4 Aug. 1998; Research Fellow 16 Aug. 1998). According to the Roma Press Centre (RPC), family names such as Orsós, Kolompár, Lakatos, Horváth, and Rostas are traditional Romani names, although they are not exclusively Romani (5 Feb. 1998). In correspondence sent to the RD, an ERRC research intern stated that Orsós and Bogdán are common Beash family names, Balogh, Kolompár, Sztojka, Daróczi, and Mohácsi are common Vlach family names, and Oláh, Lakatos, and Farkas are common Romungro names (6 Feb. 1998).

A research project on the integration of Roma in five East and Central European countries published some of its findings in a book entitled Caught in the Trap of Integration: Roma Problems and Prospects in Hungary (BECMIR 2000a, 50). Potential Hungarian interviewers who were to take part in the study were asked the extent to which various descriptive criteria were important in determining that a potential interviewee was a Rom (ibid.). Whereas a quarter of respondents felt that the "lifestyle" criterion (associated with home furnishings, segregated residences, or styles of dress) were "very" or "quite" important in allowing them to determine someone's Romani identity, less than a fifth of respondents felt the same way about the criterion of family names (ibid., 53).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin. 4 August 1998. Telephone interview.

Bureau for European Comparative Minority Research (BECMIR). 2000a. György Czepeli. Caught in the Trap of Integration: Roma Problems and Prospects in Hungary. Edited by Jeno Böszörményi and Márta Józsa. Budapest: Bureau for European Comparative Minority Research (BECMIR).

_____. 2000b. A Roma's Life in Hungary. Edited by Ernokállai and Erika Törzsök. Budapest: Bureau for European Comparative Minority Research (BECMIR).

European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC). 20 April 2006. Correspondence sent by a representative.

_____. 6 February 1998. Correspondence from a research intern.

_____. N.d. Claude Cahn. "'An Average Police Department': The ERRC Discusses the Hajdúhadhá Police Department with the Head of the Hungarian Police." [Accessed 12 Apr. 2006]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). July 1996. Rights Denied: The Roma of Hungary. New York: Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Jewish Policy Research (JPR) Policy Paper. December 1996. No. 3. Margaret Brearley. The Roma/Gypsies of Europe: A Persecuted People. London: JPR.

Népszabadság [Budapest, in Hungarian]. 7 June 1997. "Tradition and the Laws of the Homeland-How Many Times a Roma has to Break the Rule to Live According to His or Her Customs." Translated into English by Elza Lakatos, Roma Press Centre. [Accessed 29 Jan. 1998]

Research Fellow, School of Slavonic and East European Studies at the University of London. 16 August 1998. Correspondence.

Roma Press Centre (RPC). 5 February 1998. Correspondence from a representative.

Rombase. January 2004. "Rombase." [Accessed 13 Apr. 2006]

_____. January 2003. Milena Hübschmannová. "Names of Roma." [Accessed 12 Apr. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral Sources: The National Organization of Roma Professional Men [Szekesfehervar], the Public Foundation for the National and Ethnic Minorities Living in Hungary [Budapest] and the Public Foundation for the Roma Living in Hungary [Budapest] did not respond to requests for information within time constraints.

Publications: Encyclopedia of the World's Minorities (2005).

Internet Sites, including: Amnesty International (AI),, Behind the Name, Council of Europe (COE), European Union (EU), Factiva, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United States Department of State.

Associated documents