- Slovakia became an independent state in 1993. In 1989, figures held locally gave the number of Gypsies for the region as 253,943, but this excluded many who were not in receipt of any welfare support. According to the 2001 census, Roma number only 90,000, but experts estimate the population to be some 400,000.Apart from a group passing through Spissky in 1423, the earliest record of Gypsies in the territory of present-day Slovakia is of an execution in Levoca in 1534. They were accused of starting fires there and in other towns. Slovakia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918. Maria Theresa tried her assimilationist policy of settling the Gypsies, with some success. By the end of the 19th century, it was estimated that around 90 percent of Slovak Romanies were settled. There were also several thousand nomadic Vlah Gypsies who had emigrated from Romania. The settled Gypsies in general lived in isolated settlements and pursued a range of occupations, from blacksmiths and bricklayers to musicians.In 1918 Slovakia became part of an independent Czechoslovakia. From the 1920s a strong nationalistic movement arose in Slovakia, and there was a pogrom in Pobedim in 1928 in which six Gypsies were killed. The anti-Semitic Slovenska Narodná Strana (Slovak People's Party) saw Gypsies as "an ulcer which must be cured in a radical way." This party gained between 25 and 40 percent of the votes in elections in the years after 1918 and paved the way for the establishment of a puppet Slovak state following the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938.In 1940 the fascist government imposed compulsory labor on Gypsies, and they were forbidden to enter parks or cafés or use public transport. The following year, all Gypsies living among Slovaks were ordered to move and build themselves new isolated settlements. From many areas, male adults were sent to labor camps. In 1944, after the failure of a popular uprising against the fascist regime, Gypsies were accused-in some cases wrongly-of helping the resistance movement. Massacres of men, women, and children took place in Cierny Balog, Hija, Kriz nad Hronom, Slatina, Tisovec, and elsewhere. Anton Facuna and Tomas Farkas had been active in the Partisan movement and were decorated after the war.In Slovakia more Gypsies survived the war than did in the Czech lands (Bohemia and Moravia), but discrimination continued after 1945. They are still referred to as "blacks" (cierny) by the Slovaks. The Communist National Front government tried to eliminate the shantytowns (with little success) and force the Gypsies into paid employment. There was some voluntary movement in the first years of peace after 1945 to the Czech lands, where they took the place of ethnic Germans who had been expelled. In 1958 the Act for the Permanent Settlement of Nomadic Persons prohibited nomadism and ordered local councils to help the integration of the ex-nomads. The Czechoslovak government tried to introduce compulsory resettlement of Gypsies from Slovakia to the Czech lands to eliminate the high concentrations of Romanies in some areas.Sterilization was also introduced as a means of controlling the Gypsies' population growth. Reports say that the operation was still being carried out without the women's consent in some hospitals as late as 2003. In 2005 the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women issued a mild statement condemning the past practice, but this has been misrepresented by the Slovak government and press who still deny that forced sterilization took place.Romanies are classed as a national minority. As well as their own cultural organizations, there are consultative bodies such as the Council for the Affairs of Minorities and specialized advisory bodies concerned with education and other fields. The central control of solutions to "Romany problems" was abolished by the new state and the responsibility given to local councils. Nevertheless, the national Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and the Family issued a resolution in April 1996 on "Citizens in Need of Special Care." This saw Romanies as a problem and a burden to the state.Discrimination and prejudice continue. Graffiti can be seen on the walls proclaiming "White Slovakia" or "Gypsies to the gas chambers." The Slovak National Party is openly anti-Gypsy. The sometime prime minister Vladimir Meciar said that social welfare payments should be cut to stop the Gypsies from having so many children, and the minister of labor accused them of not wanting to work. Vitazoslav Moric, former deputy of the nationalist political party SNS, stated at a press conference in August 2000 that the Roma should be rounded up and put on reservations the way Native Americans were. His immunity was lifted and he was due to be prosecuted for incitement to racial hatred, but in 2003, authorities closed the investigation with no criminal charges filed. Another controversial former leader of the SNS, Jan Slota, publicly stated that the government should offer Roma money to undergo sterilization. He also said in 2000 that what was required to deal with Slovakia's Roma population was "a small courtyard and a whip." Also in 2000, Michael Drobny of the Movement for Democratic Slovakia compared Roma to locusts and said that they "must be isolated because coexistence is impossible."In this atmosphere, it is not surprising that racist attacks-mainly but not always by skinheads-have been reported regularly. In July 1995 Mario Goral was killed by skinheads in Ziar nad Hronom. In the same month, masked policemen beat up Gypsies in Jarovnice. Skinhead violence against Roma continues to be a serious problem in the 21st century, and police remain reluctant to take action. In August 2000, Anastazia Balazova, a Romany mother of eight, died from injuries sustained in a brutal attack on her family in Zilina, northwest Slovakia. In August 2001, 18-year-old Milan Daniel suffered permanent brain damage after a beating by three fascist skinheads, during which his assailants used baseball bats and iron bars. When the police asked them for a motive, they replied that he was a "Rom."Mario Bango was imprisoned in 2001, awaiting trial after intervening to help his brother Edo, who was being attacked by a skinhead. The skinhead was wounded in the fight and died a few weeks later. Despite waiting on the spot after the fight and calling an ambulance, Mario was arrested and taken to prison. Reports in the Slovak press stated that he and his brother were thieves who had been stopped by the skinhead, who was a "brave citizen." Parliament observed a minute's silence for the dead skinhead. The case has been largely ignored except by left-wing groups. The Supreme Court sentenced Mario to 10 years in prison for attempted murder.Although the constitution prohibits such practices, there are many examples of police beating Roma. They reportedly have used threats and pressure to discourage Roma from pressing charges of police brutality. In January 1999, two police officers in the eastern Slovak city of Kosice conducted a raid on Roma households at one o'clock in the morning. The officers harassed families in 14 apartments, shouting racial slurs and pointing revolvers at them. The three Berkova sisters, aged between 13 and 15, were made to strip to the waist.Additionally, police have often been found to be unwilling to investigate thoroughly crimes against Roma. Lawyers, too, are often reluctant to represent Roma for fear it will have a negative effect on their legal practices. In February 2002 a new Police Code of Conduct was introduced. Also in 2002, a special police unit to monitor extremist activities began operating at the Police Praesidium.The public perception of Roma remains very negative. According to a newspaper survey, 50 percent of those questioned did not want to have a Romany neighbor. A 2001 study by the Institute for Public Questions and United Nations Development Program reported that 71 percent of the majority Slovak population believed that relations with Roma were to some degree conflict-ridden or unpleasant, while only 31.5 percent of Roma held the same view.In 2003, the national unemployment rate dropped to less than 15 percent, but was as high as 95 percent in Roma settlements in eastern Slovakia. Roma continue to face discrimination in housing. In 1989, members of seven Romany families who were permanent residents in the towns of Nagov and Rokytovce in Medzilaborce County in the northeast were forced from their homes when their employer, an agricultural cooperative, ceased operations. No village in the county would allow these Roma to settle within their territory. Their return to Medzilaborce in 1997 sparked a series of meetings by local political leaders, culminating in the banning of Roma from settlement in the two municipalities. The resolutions were revoked in April 1999, but the municipalities did not acknowledge that the resolutions were illegal or provide any form of compensation to the victims.Although the law requires state administrators to register all citizens, some local officials have refused to give registration stamps to Roma citizens, which in turn prevents them from receiving social benefits and housing. However, in October 2001 the majority of 88 apartments built in Presov with funding from the European Union were allocated to Romany families.Roma are discriminated against in the health care system and have unequal access to public services. The mortality rate for children is three times that of the majority population, and the life expectancy for Roma was lower by almost 17 years. At the end of 2003, the government reduced welfare payments to families with children, a move that has had a disproportionate effect on Roma families. InFebruary 2004 there were violent clashes with the police during protests against these cuts in welfare payments.In February 1999, Parliament created a special Parliamentary Advisory Committee for Roma Issues. Many political parties promised to place Roma on their candidate lists; however, only five received positions on a total of three lists; and none was elected to Parliament. Some ethnic Romany parties were successful at winning representation at local level, though. In 2003 the village of Bystrany in the Spis-ska Nova Ves district elected a Rom, Frantisek Pacan, as mayor. Nine other Roma were also elected to the local board, which for the first time consists entirely of Roma deputies.The government's special program for Roma has a budget of 50 million koruny ($1.5 million). Furthermore, there is a 10-year strategy for the development of Roma, which includes elements of positive discrimination or affirmative action. In 2004 the Parliament adopted a new law on Equal Treatment and Protection against Discrimination in the hope of improving the situation of the country's Roma. The country in 2001 ratified the European Charter on the Use of Minority Languages, which provides that in municipalities with a minority constituting at least 20 percent of the population, the minority language is an official language. In 2003, Romani was theoretically an official language in 53 towns. There is, however, little use of Romani in educational establishments.A high percentage of Romany children do not attend school regularly. Some efforts have been made to establish a preschool year where the Romany children can improve their knowledge of Slovak or Hungarian (where that is the local language). In 1992-1993, some primary schools in Kosice opened bilingual classes in Slovak and Romani. On the whole, however, little attention is paid to the fact that the Romany children come to school not knowing the language of instruction. In 1999, kindergarten attendance among Romany children was only 15 percent, lower than previously. Parents often do not have the money to cover expenses of kindergarten or extracurricular activities in schools. Many continue to be placed in special schools or in schools and classes where the majority of the pupils are Roma. Once placed in a special school, their future prospects are very limited, because they are not given the possibility of completing the primary education course required for entrance to secondary schools and university. The best they can hope for is to find themselves a place at a training school for blue-collar workers. In 2003, there were only three Romany students enrolled in colleges of higher education in eastern Slovakia.The Act on Public Service was amended in June 2002 to introduce assistant teachers for primary and nursery schools. This step is intended to facilitate the integration of Roma children into the standard educational system. Educational specialists have shown that a preparatory program for five-year-olds has shown that they can succeed without the need for special schools.The major associations that exist have received grants since the new state was formed. They include the Cultural Society of Citizens of Romany Origin, Romany Culture, the Association of Romany Intelligentsia, and the Cultural Union of the Romany Community. Seventeen Romany associations met in 1993 and formed the Council of Romanies in Slovakia. After an initial impetus, however, the council has not been very active. In 1995, therefore, six Romany parties formed a new umbrella organization, the Union of Roma Political Parties in the Slovak Republic. The Romani Civic Initiative had had one seat in the regional Slovak Parliament from 1990, but it was unsuccessful in the elections of 1992 and 1995 that followed independence.A new Romany organization has been set up in Slovakia. The Council of Slovak Roma (RRS), which held its first conference in Kosice in January 2003, is chaired by Frantisek Gulas and has 15,000 members. The RRS will cooperate with other Romany organizations and work with the Slovak government to improve the situation for the country's Roma population. In 1991, a Department of Romany Culture was established at the Pedagogical Faculty in Nitra. A Romany professional theater, Romathan, has existed since 1992 at Kosice, and a specialist music school is based in the town. There is some broadcasting in Romani-within the Hungarian service - and six bilingual periodicals.
Historical dictionary of the Gypsies . Donald Kenrick.
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