According to the last census from 2011, there were 105,738 persons counted as Romani people in Slovakia, or 2.0% of the population. The Romani are the second-largest ethnic minority in Slovakia after Hungarians and they live mostly in the eastern parts of the country.
Other sources claim that 7.5% of inhabitants of Slovakia (402,840 people) may be Romani.
The first record of sightings of small groups of Romani within the area of present-day Slovakia are from 1322 AD, when the region was part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Major waves of Romani nomads were recorded from 1417 onwards. In 1423 they received a decree from the Hungarian king Sigismund of Luxemburg at Szepes Castle, granting them Europe-wide right of passage and the right to settle. They proved to be useful metal workers for the royal armies fighting the Turks.
Through the ensuing centuries, whilst in western and central Europe Romani were treated violently and often expelled, the Hungarian Kingdom and Habsburg Monarchy in general provided a tolerant and stable safe-haven for the Romani community. In the 18th century, Joseph II of the house of Habsburg attempted to 'civilize' the Romani, for example by prohibiting their dress and customs and educating them. However these efforts generally failed. On the other hand, increasing repression of the Romani in the Czech, Polish and Austrian lands caused them to become concentrated in the more tolerant regions of Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Russia.
After the repressive Romani policies of the first Czechoslovak Republic (1918-1939), the communist government of 1945-1989 attempted to integrate the Romani into the majority population through obligatory education and employment, and the formation of Romani organizations. The nomadic way of life was banned in 1958. Parts of the Romani population were also transferred from Slovakia into the country's Czech regions.
Though these policies were partly successful, after the 1989 Velvet Revolution, the Romani have once again found themselves on the margins of the society. On the one hand, there is a generous social system, but the system fails to effectively integrate them into the mainstream society.