Veijo Baltzar (born 1942) is a forerunner of Romani literature in both Finland and worldwide. He was born in Suonenjoki in central-southern Finland into a wandering family. His father was a horse breeder and his mother a craftswoman who taught her children to read and arranged literary meetings.

Baltzar started out in the 1960s as a novelist and visual artist. Besides novels, he has written many plays, poems, librettos as well as screenplays both for film and television. Furthermore, he has directed a folk opera, Orli, in which 200 actors took part. His overall output comprises more than seventy works. In 1976 he founded the first Nordic Romani theatre, ‘Drom’, and in July 2002 he organised the founding meeting of the International Romani Writers Association (IRWA) in Karjaa in Finland.

The idea of founding IRWA had been maturing among Romani intellectuals for years. At the end of 1990s Veijo Baltzar began actively networking in order to establish an organisation that would unite Romani writers around the world. A significant event was the signing of the November 2001 ‘Cologne Declaration’ on the establishment of the International Romani Writers Association during a seminar of Romani poets, writers and journalists organised by Deutsche Welle. In 2002 Romani writers from twelve European countries as well as numerous international artists, Finnish politicians and political and cultural activists assembled in Karjaa for the inaugural meeting. Baltzar was elected as the president of the association for the period 2002–2005.

Baltzar has been fighting for Romani rights since 1965. Today he takes part in diverse cultural and political forums as a travelling intellectual. In his book Towards Experiential Philosophy (2014), he develops concepts of intercultural education and offers tools for a successful development of pluralism and a good quality of life in contemporary Europe.

In 2011 the then president of Finland, Tarja Halonen, granted Baltzar the honorary title of cultural counsellor. He was awarded the Arvo Turtiainen literature prize in 2002 and the Mikael Agricola medal in 2008 and received an honourable mention in the European Roma Spirit Award in 2016.

Selected bibliography

Baltzar, Veijo. 2014. Seitsemän kielen kitara. Helsinki: ntamo.

Baltzar, Veijo. 2014. Towards Experiential Philosophy. Helsinki. ntamo. ISBN 978-952-215-509-2

Baltzar, Veijo 2012. Kokemuspohjainen filosofia. Helsinki: ntamo.

Baltzar, Veijo. 2008. Sodassa ja rakkaudessa. Helsinki: Tammi.

Baltzar, Veijo. 2000. Phuro. Helsinki: Tammi.

Baltzar, Veijo. 1990. Musta tango. Helsinki: Tammi.

Baltzar, Veijo. 1988. Käärmeenkäräjäkivi. Helsinki. Tammi.

Baltzar, Veijo. 1977. Mustan Saaran kristallipallo. Helsinki: Tammi.

Baltzar, Veijo 1973. Mari. Helsinki: Tammi.

Baltzar, Veijo. 1969. Verikihlat . Helsinki: Tammi.

Baltzar, Veijo. 1968. Polttava tie. Helsinki: Tammi.