Romani people in the Czech Republic

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Romani people
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Romani people (Czech: Romové, commonly known as Gypsies Czech: Cikáni) are an ethnic minority in the Czech Republic, currently Roma making up 2–3% of the population. Originally migrants from North Western India sometime between the 6th and 11th centuries, they have long had a presence in the region. Since the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918, the Romani population have experienced considerable hardship, having been a main target of Nazi extermination programs during World War II, and the subject of forced relocation and other radical social policies during the Communist era. In the successor state, the Czech Republic, challenges remain for the Romani population with respect to education and poverty, and there are frequent tensions with the ethnically Czech majority population over issues including crime and integration.


According to the 2011 census, the Romani population was 13,150,[1] 0.2% of the total number reporting some nationality. Of these, 5,199 responded by listing only Romani nationality; the remaining 7,951 listed their Romani nationality in combination with another nationality, for example, Romani and Czech, Romani and Moravian and so on. In the 2001 Census, 11,746 people reported their nationality as Romani – 0.1% of those claiming some nationality.

However, 40,370 respondents to the 2011 census reported Romani language as their language.[2]



The Romani people originate from Northern India,[3][4][5][6][7][8] most likely from the northwestern Indian states Rajasthan[7][8] and Punjab.[7] Linguistic evidence indicates that the roots of Romani language lie in India; the language shares grammatical characteristics with Indian languages, as well as a large part of the basic lexicon, such as body parts or daily routines.[9] More specifically, Romani shares its basic lexicon with Hindi and Punjabi. It shares many phonetic features with Marwari, while its grammar is closest to Bengali.[10]

Sign banning entry of itinerant Gypsies and rovers, 1920s

The results of a genetic study in 2012 suggest that the Romani originated in North Western India and migrated as a group.[4][5][11] The study indicates that the ancestors of present scheduled tribes and scheduled caste populations of North India, traditionally referred to collectively as the Ḍoma, are the likely ancestors of modern European Roma.[12]

In February 2016, during the International Roma Conference, the Indian Minister of External Affairs stated that the people of the Roma community were children of India. The conference ended with a recommendation to the Government of India to recognize the Roma community spread across 30 countries as a part of the Indian diaspora.[13]

World War II[edit]

During the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in World War II, Romani were exterminated by Nazi mobile killing units and in camps such as Lety, Hodonín and Auschwitz. 90% of native Romani were killed during the war; the Romani in modern-day Czech Republic are mostly post-war immigrants from Slovakia or Hungary and their descendants.

Communist era[edit]

During the communist years unsuccessful attempts to change the nomadic living style of Romani were undertaken by the government. Many Romani people were rehoused in panelák housing estates, which subsequently fell into acute disrepair, such as the Chánov housing estate near Most.[14] After 1989, some Romani women accused the state of "forced sterilizations" arguing that they were not properly informed of what "sterilization" meant.[15] According to Czech ombudsman Otakar Motejl, "at least 50 Romani women were unlawfully sterilized".[16] The Czech representative at the United Nations protested against the accusations, claiming that they were "false" and that Romani women "exaggerate in all cases".[17] A hospital in Vitkovice, Ostrava, apologised to a Romani woman who was sterilised after her second caesarean, but a request for a compensation of 1 million Czech crowns was rejected by the court.[18]


Many Romani left the country after the independence of the Czech Republic, saying that they felt unsafe due to a surge in right-wing activity. Countries such as Ireland, the UK, Norway and Sweden took in large numbers, but most Romani returned home after a few years. Immigration rates to Great Britain dropped suddenly after financial support for refugees started to be paid out in the form of food tickets in summer 2000 (due to the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999).[19] The following year, British customs officers began to check the passengers flying to the UK from Prague airport and routinely rejected those of Romani origin.[20][21] In October 1997, after receiving over 1,000 requests for asylum from Czech Roma within a single year, Canada reinstated a visa regime for Czech citizens.[22]


The Romanis are at the centre of the agenda of far-right groups in the Czech Republic, which spread anti-ziganism. One highly publicized case was the Vítkov arson attack of 2009, in which four right-wing extremists seriously injured a three-year-old Romani girl. The public responded by donating money as well as presents to the family, who were able to buy a new house from the donations, while the perpetrators were sentenced to 18 and 22 years in prison.

In January 2010, Amnesty International launched a report titled Injustice Renamed: Discrimination in Education of Roma persists in the Czech Republic.[23] According to the BBC, Amnesty argued that while cosmetic changes had been introduced by the authorities, little genuine improvement in addressing discrimination against Romani children had occurred.[24]

According to a 2010 opinion poll, 68% of Czechs have antipathy towards Romani.[25] The survey also found that 82% Czechs oppose any form of a "special care of Roma rights", 83% of Czechs consider Romani asocial, and 45% of Czechs would support the expulsion of Romani people from the Czech Republic.[26]

A 2011 poll, which followed a number of brutal attacks by Romani perpetrators against white victims, reported that 44% of Czechs are afraid of Roma people.[27] The majority of Czechs (90%) do not want Romani people as neighbours,[28] viewing them as thieves and social parasites. Despite a long waiting list for adoptive parents, Romani children from orphanages are almost never adopted by Czech couples.[29] After the Velvet Revolution in 1989 jobs traditionally employing Romanis either disappeared or were taken over by immigrant workers.[citation needed]


Crime statistics from the early 1990s reported that the crime rate among the Romani population in Czechoslovakia was highly disproportionate, especially regarding burglaries. According to Říčan (1998), about 20–30% of the Romani population earn their livelihood in illegal ways, such as procuring prostitution, trafficking and other property crimes.[30] Romani make up more than 60% of the Czech prison population and about 50% of repeat offenders, and are thus more than 20 times over-represented in Czech prisons than their population share would suggest.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "K romské národnosti se veřejně hlásí 13 150 lidí. Méně než k Rytířům jedi ze Star Wars" [13,150 people publicly declare themselves to have Romani Nationality, less than Jedi Knights from Star Wars]. Hospodářské Noviny (in Czech). 15 December 2011. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Základní výsledky". 29 May 2012.
  3. ^ Hancock 2002, p. xx: ‘While a nine century removal from India has diluted Indian biological connection to the extent that for some Romanian groups, it may be hardly representative today, Sarren (1976:72) concluded that we still remain together, genetically, Asian rather than European’
  4. ^ a b Mendizabal, Isabel (6 December 2012). "Reconstructing the Population History of European Romani from Genome-wide Data". Current Biology. 22 (24): 2342–2349. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2012.10.039. PMID 23219723.
  5. ^ a b Sindya N. Bhanoo (11 December 2012). "Genomic Study Traces Roma to South India". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Current Biology.
  7. ^ a b c K. Meira Goldberg; Ninotchka Devorah Bennahum; Michelle Heffner Hayes (2015-09-28). Flamenco on the Global Stage: Historical, Critical and Theoretical Perspectives. p. 50. ISBN 9780786494705. Retrieved 2016-05-21.
  8. ^ a b Simon Broughton; Mark Ellingham; Richard Trillo (1999). World Music: Africa, Europe and the Middle East. p. 147. ISBN 9781858286358. Retrieved 2016-05-21.
  9. ^ Šebková, Hana; Žlnayová, Edita (1998), Nástin mluvnice slovenské romštiny (pro pedagogické účely) (PDF), Ústí nad Labem: Pedagogická fakulta Univerzity J. E. Purkyně v Ústí nad Labem, p. 4, ISBN 978-80-7044-205-0, archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04
  10. ^ Hübschmannová, Milena (1995). "Romaňi čhib – romština: Několik základních informací o romském jazyku". Bulletin Muzea Romské Kultury. Brno: Muzeum romské kultury (4/1995). Zatímco romská lexika je bližší hindštině, marvárštině, pandžábštině atd., v gramatické sféře nacházíme mnoho shod s východoindickým jazykem, s bengálštinou.
  11. ^ "5 Intriguing Facts About the Roma". Live Science.
  12. ^ Rai, N; Chaubey, G; Tamang, R; Pathak, AK; Singh, VK (2012), "The Phylogeography of Y-Chromosome Haplogroup H1a1a-M82 Reveals the Likely Indian Origin of the European Romani Populations", PLoS ONE, 7 (11): e48477, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048477, PMC 3509117, PMID 23209554
  13. ^ "Can Romas be part of Indian diaspora?". 29 February 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  14. ^ Chanov - urban settlement without trees and flowers
  15. ^ Radim Uzel: Jak to bylo s násilnou sterilizací u Romů v Československu?
  16. ^ "Otakar Motejl: Nezákonně bylo sterilizováno nejméně 50 žen" [Otakar Motejl: At Least 50 Women Were Unlawfully Sterilized]. Aktuálně.cz (in Czech). 29 December 2005. Archived from the original on 22 May 2011. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  17. ^ "Česko řeklo v OSN, že Romky přehánějí" [Czech Republic says in UN that Roma women exaggerate]. Aktuálně.cz (in Czech). 18 August 2006. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  18. ^ "Soud:Za sterilizaci jen omluva,peníze ne" [Court: Apology for sterilization, no money]. Aktuálně.cz (in Czech). 17 January 2007. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  19. ^ *"Roma And Emigration" (PDF). Postoj politiků k emigraci Romů (The Attitude Of Politicians To The Romani Emigration). p. 219. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-02-26.
  20. ^ "Interview with Pavel Seifter, Czech Ambassador to the UK". BBC (in Czech). 1 August 2001. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  21. ^ "Pozdní důkaz u britských soudů: Britští imigrační úředníci v Ruzyni Romy skutečně rasisticky diskriminovali" [Late proof in British courts: British immigration officers really did racially discriminated against Roma at Ruzyně airport]. Britské listy (in Czech). 3 November 2004. Archived from the original on 10 February 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  22. ^ Schneider, Howard (10 October 1997). "Canada limits Czech visitors". The Washington Post. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  23. ^ Injustice Renamed: Discrimination in Education of Roma persists in the Czech Republic Amnesty International report, January 2010
  24. ^ "Amnesty says Czech schools still fail Roma Gypsies". BBC News. 13 January 2010. Archived from the original on 14 January 2010. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  25. ^ "STEM: Dvě třetiny Čechů nemají rády Romy" [STEM: Two-thirds of Czechs dislike Roma]. (in Czech). 4 May 2007. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  26. ^ St'astny, Jiri (9 December 2010). "Češi propadají anticikánismu, každý druhý tu Romy nechce, zjistil průzkum". (in Czech). Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  27. ^ "Romsky bloger nekteri romove se chovaji jako blazni" (in Czech). Retrieved 1 November 2011.
  28. ^ "Czech don't want Roma as neighbours" (in Czech). Retrieved 15 April 2007.
  29. ^ "What is keeping children in orphanages when so many people want to adopt?". Radio Prague. 7 February 2007. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  30. ^ a b Říčan, Pavel (1998). S Romy žít budeme – jde o to jak: dějiny, současná situace, kořeny problémů, naděje společné budoucnosti. Praha: Portál. pp. 58–63. ISBN 978-80-7178-250-6.

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