Slovak census: more than 156,000 people declared to belong to Roma ethnicity, and more than 100,000 declared to have Romani as their mother tongue

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Juan de Dios Ramírez-Heredia Montoya

Slovakia is a small country of five and a half million inhabitants. Its history shows us the strengthens of its people.

Years after the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed on the eve of the First World War in 1914, Slovakia was attacked by the then Hungarian Soviet Republic, which annexed a third of its territory. It became the Slovak Soviet Republic. In short, a real chaos. It was in 1939 when Slovakia achieved the status of a separate state as a result of the pressure exerted on the area by both Germany and Hungary. The Slovak government openly embraced Nazi ideology.

However, in 1989 Czechoslovakia disappeared, as it did communism. It was the moment of the creation of two States: Slovakia and the Czech Republic, which separated after January 1, 1993, by mutual agreement and peacefully. Slovakia became a member of the European Union in May 2004.

Roma in Slovakia

Some 500,000 Roma live in this small country in Central Europe, bordered by Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south. And of them, 7,000 Roma live in the Lunik IX neighborhood, in the Slovak city of Kosice, —considered a true ghetto in the heart of Europe—. They could not see Pope Francis in his last visit to the country, in September 2020.

The authorities only allowed a small group of Roma to stand in the front row in front of the Pope. The rest were sent to their homes.

Unfortunately, those who suffer the main consequences of the racism suffered by Roma in Slovakia are children, almost 20% of whom live in extreme poverty. Amnesty International has denounced it very clearly: “In areas with a large Roma population, at least three out of four minors who attend schools for students with “mild mental disabilities” are of this ethnic group. Throughout the country, Roma children make up 85% of the students who attend special classrooms. Discrimination and segregation in Slovak schools severely limits future opportunities for boys and girls and prevents the Roma population from fully participating in society. They are isolated in a circle of poverty and marginalization.”

Proud to be Roma

When the Slovak authorities decided to carry out the census of its population last year, they allowed the citizenship to register and to indicate their belonging to up to two nationalities. This was controversial, especially among groups belonging to ethnic minorities. Obviously, citizens of Hungarian descent opposed the possibility to include a second nationality. However, a total of 5,153,712 inhabitants responded to the nationality question.

The majority of the Hungarians mentioned a single nationality, 422,100 of them (7.75% of the respondents), while the people who mentioned their nationality as Roma came in second place. Very far behind were the original Ruthenians, Ukrainians and even the Czechs, mentioned by 0.53% of those surveyed.

Overall, therefore, Roma nationality was registered by 156,185 inhabitants, the highest number in the census history after 1989. However, this number is influenced by the fact that previously a second nationality could not be enumerated, and the phenomenon of having more than one nationality is more frequent precisely among the Rrom population.

The number of Roma actually living in Slovakia is estimated at about 500,000, which means that more than 31% of them were listed as Roma citizens during last year’s census.

Romani reaffirms itself as the universal language of the Roma population

Almost 82% of the respondents stated that Slovak is their mother tongue. But next, above all other languages, a total of 100,526 citizens mentioned Romani as their mother tongue.

One more incentive so that Spanish Roma—and gadchés as well— who want to learn it do not give up their efforts.