Roma Civil Rights movement


Roma in Norway

Vidar Fagerheim Kalsås


The political mobilization and actions of the Roma and Romani-Tatere communities in Norway after the Second World War, has developed within a changing economic, social and political landscape in Norway. The country moved from building a broad welfare state, based on ideas about economic equality in the first decades after the war, towards increased market liberalisation and stronger ties to the EU, towards the end of the century, entailing commitments to international conventions on human and minority rights. Amongst these are the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities; the Norwegian government recognized five national minorities: Kvens/Norwegian Finns, Jews, Metsäsuomalaiset/Forest Finns, Roma and Romani-Tatere1. There is an ambivalence among the Romani-Tatere organisations, to the status as a national minority; some oppose the status whilst others accept it2.

This distinction between Romani-Tatere and Roma was based on historical and linguistic differences and differences in community organisation and interaction3. The Romani-Tatere are considered to be descendants from migration of Romani to Scandinavia in the 16th century, while the Roma arrived in Norway during the 1880s. While the policy towards the Romani-Tatere was dominated by ideas of assimilation from the second half of the 1919th century until the later part of the 20th century4, the policy towards the Roma in the first part of the 20th century can be described as exclusionary, based on the notion that the Roma did not belong within the Norwegian nation-state5.

The essay is an account of some of the forms of political action that targeted state policies or societal discrimination, directed from individuals or collectives that has identified as Romani-Tatere or Roma. It is one historical (and one historian’s perspective) account of Romani-Tatere and Roma as political actors in the context of Norwegian minority policy after the Second World War. In order to create such an account, some form of group definition is necessary6, with the limitations and simplifications that such definitions entails.