After the 1917 revolution and the establishment of a new state – the Soviet Union – Romani literature took its first independent steps. Following the liberal policy of the early USSR towards ethnic minorities and their languages, Standard Romani was created in the mid-1920s. The new standard language based on the Russian variant of Romani was used prolifically. During the 1920s and 1930s more than 200 books and journals were published in Romani in the USSR. Apart from the original works of Romani writers and poets, the published books included translations of Russian and European classics, political texts and speeches and school textbooks on language, mathematics, geography etc.
Romani literature of this period was highly politicised and addressed such topics as the discrimination of the Romani people under the Tsarist regime and the creation of a ‘new Romani life and culture’ in the Soviet Union. Old Romani traditions such as an itinerant lifestyle, fortune-telling, begging and horse-dealing were portrayed pejoratively. A frequent subject of both fiction and non-fiction writing was the idea of a traditional Romani family who settle down in a kolkhoz (the Russian acronym for kollektivnoe khozyaistvo or collective farm) and start working for the common good. The stylistic and thematic variations of this literature were very limited even in comparison with other Soviet literature, which was generally rather homogeneous.
Many authors of Romani literature were also active in social work and education. For instance, Nikolai Pankov (1895–1959) not only authored several textbooks in Romani, translated many Russian classics and edited Romani journals and a Romani-Russian dictionary, but also taught at a Romani college.
A different group of Romani writers was associated with the traditional professional ensembles and the Teatr ‘Romen’ (‘Romen’ Theatre), the ‘Romen’ Theatre. Ivan Rom-Lebedev (1903–1991), who came from a family of professional Romani musicians, was a leading playwright of this period. Ivan Khrustalev-Timofeev (1901–1970) wrote mostly for this theatre, where he became a choreographer and one of the leading actors. Mikhail Ilyinsky (1882–1962), an experienced actor in the ‘Romen’ Theatre, was also an author of short stories notable for their rich and expressive language.