Moscow’s Roma theatre plays on against troubled backdrop

With passionate songs, flowing dresses and the wild strumming of guitars, a Moscow theatre has staged colourful aspects of Roma culture since the shows' heyday in the early Soviet era. Calling itself the "world's only" Roma theatre, the state-funded Romen Theatre occupies a huge building close to the city centre and holds near-nightly shows. It was founded in the 1930s as a symbol of the "friendship of the peoples", a phrase coined by Joseph Stalin for relations between the USSR's many ethnic groups -- even though Soviet authorities persecuted numerous non-Russian minorities. Today, some 200,000 Roma live in Russia, according to official statistics, mostly in the European part of the country. And, like elsewhere in Europe, the communities often have tense relations with their neighbours. In June, a massive inter-ethnic brawl in the village

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