Roma Civil Rights movement

Search

Jana Horváthová

Roma in the Czech Lands

From the arrival in the Czech Lands to the fall of Communism in 1989

The status of the Roma in the Czech Land1 has been developing dramatically since the 15th century. In 1538, in Moravia, it was stipulated for the first time that ‘Gypsies’ should be ‘eradicated and banished’ and in 1545, Ferdinand I, King of Bohemia, Croatia and Hungary (1526 – 1564) and Holy Roman Emperor (1558 – 1564), issued the first edict for the Czech Kingdom which forbade their very presence.

Such provisions were issued repeatedly, indicating that the law was not effectively implemented at the local level. After the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), hard times befell the Roma. In 1697, the Emperor Leopold I, King of Bohemia, declared ‘Gypsies’ outcasts (vogelfrei); Romani men could be killed like animals. Bohemian criminal law sentenced men to death by hanging at public executions, whilst punishments for women and older children included whipping, a part of their ear or the entire ear being cut off and branding. Children could be taken away for forced labour, or a ‘Christian re-education’. With the help of the army, Romani people were rounded up and brought to the border, then left to their fates. The Roma would, nevertheless, come back into the Czech lands, as ‘Gypsies’ were banished across the entirety of Christian Europe.

Their presence on any given territory was possible only until they were caught. The Roma were seen as beyond the rule of law; when sentenced to death, their only right was to beg for mercy. Members of Roma communities, therefore, learnt to survive underground, to protect their own lives and to distrust the ruling classes. At the time of the promulgation of the many anti-Gypsy decrees, something remarkable happened in a fertile part of southern Moravia, near Uherský Brod, on the land of the Kounic family. Before 1698, the nobility had permitted the exemption the family of the blacksmith Štěpán Daniel (also known as Vajda), from the proscriptions. The Daniel family (originally from Slovakia and the north of Hungary), was allowed to settle and sell complementary blacksmith services (not to compete with the locals), in return for actual assimilation and cutting all ties with their extended family.

During the reign of Charles VI (1711-1740), the terror against the Roma in the Czech lands reaches its climax. Helping ‘Gypsies’ became a reason enough for punishment; Romani women were executed as well as men and warning signs, depicting various kinds of punishment for ‘sneaking Gypsies’, could be seen at the border. Empress Maria Theresa (1740-1780) began, in the 1760s in Hungary and Transylvania, a progressive and economically motivated project with some humanistic benefits. Forced settlement and assimilation made Roma, for the first-time, legal citizens and subjects. Joseph II (1780-1790) continued in the work of his mother, particularly in Moravia, where he established Roma settlements in eighteen villages and in two villages in Silesia. Important personalities in the Romani movement during the entire post-1945 period in Czechoslovakia,2 originally came from a large and historic Romani settlement in Oslavany u Brna. After Joseph II, no ruler continued with these pragmatically motivated settlement programmes.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, other Roma from Slovakia followed the Daniel family, living under the protection of the Kounic nobility, as rumours about a better life travelled quickly amongst the Roma. Nobody was encouraging them to settle, yet they persisted in their effort to find a permanent home. In between the wars, there were about thirty large Romani settlements in south Moravia, whose inhabitants slowly integrated into the local society. The differences between them, however, grew. Romani settlements would often be built behind villages, should the locals allow it, frequently on infertile or disputed lands. To escape from the isolation of the Romani settlements and to move to the local villages was not easy; individuals or small families were more likely to succeed. Their children, however, already had the possibility to attend local schools. The co-existence with the locals would bring natural changes in the behaviour of previously nomadic families. Now settled, they would leave parasitism behind and form functional relationships with neighbours on whom they could count if need be. The Roma in Bohemia, as opposed to Moravia, remained mobile, even though the nomadic circles of blacksmiths, knife-grinders, horse-traders, musicians, merry-go-round owners, door-to-door salesmen and others were limited only to several villages. Even these Roma gradually integrated into the countryside life.

The first Czechoslovak Republic (1918-1938) issued Law no.114/1927, applying to ‘itinerant Gypsies’. The developing democracy followed the French and Bavarian examples and tried to shield itself from the so-called, ‘Gypsy plague’. Nomadism, as a source of uncontrollable crime, was subjected to a bureaucratic and police control. ‘Gypsy identity cards’ were issued, and group leaders were given documentation permitting travelling. It specified territory where nomadic ‘Gypsies’ were not allowed to enter, and it allowed the state to take children away from their families if these regulations were contravened. The new regulation did not, however, define the term ‘Gypsy’; this allowed the prosecution of non-Romani homeless people, as well as settled ethnic Roma.

Following the Munich Agreement (29th September 1938) and the detachment of the Sudeten borderland, the Roma and German Sinti moved away from the newly-incorporated Nazi territories. The number of unemployed and homeless people grew, whilst the already negative attitudes of the Czech public towards the Roma, became acute. The developments in the neighbouring Nazi racial state, in Germany only contributed further to this. The Czech state was encouraged to follow the German example, in terms of dealing with the Jews and ‘Gypsies’. Even before the occupation on the 2nd March 1939, a regulation on Disciplinary Labour Camps (DLC, see below) was issued, in the second Czechoslovak Republic.

During the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (March 16, 1939),3 the discrimination against Roma was at first disguised as an initiative against people with asocial behaviour. It became obligatory for people described as ‘Gypsies’, to settle by the end of January 1940. Those who did not comply, together with healthy men unable to demonstrate the source of their income, were placed in the newly opened DLCs (10th August 1940) either in Bohemia, near the village of Lety close to the city of Písek, or in Moravia, near the village of Hodonín close to the city of Kunštát. Those ‘in need of discipline [were] re-educated’ for periods, through forced labour. Only ten to twenty-five percent were of Romani origin. The Law on Itinerant Gypsies was still in effect, but ‘Gypsy identity cards’ were newly issued for all Roma, for reasons of ‘race and biology’, regardless of their way of life.

In 1942, the incorporation of Protectorate offices into the apparatus of the Nazi occupation was completed and followed by a fight against Roma on an openly racist platform. Based on the order to eradicate ‘the Gypsy vice’ (from July 1942, the imperial template copy from December 1938), a thorough registration of ‘Gypsies and people of Gypsy origin’ took place on the 2nd August 1942. A smaller group was immediately sent to Lety and to Hodonín, which had been turned into the so-called ‘Gypsy Camps’ (GC). What is crucial here is that the GCs were designed for entire families, including children, whose members had committed an offence at some time in the past, or who fell into the wide category of ‘asocial people’, in which case it was deemed desirable to put them into ‘preventive police confinement’.

The life conditions in the GCs were horrifying; the camps were not suitable for child prisoners. Overcrowded barracks, hard work, lack of nutrition and clean drinking water, together with appalling hygienic conditions (no water pipes and drainage), resulted in the outbreak of a typhus epidemic with a high death rate in both camps. The staff were exclusively Czech, many wardens behaved towards the inmates in an unnecessarily cruel way and the governors constantly cut food portions. Even if the GCs were a part of the Nazi occupation machinery, the share of guilt of the Czech wardens, in the tragic destiny of Romani inmates, remains unclear to this day. The GCs became the place from which many Roma were transferred to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

Based on Heinrich Himmler’s order from the 16th December 1942 (the so-called, Auschwitz Decree ), related to the deportation of ‘Gypsies and people of Gypsy origin’ from the Third Reich and its territories, massive deportations of almost all Roma from the Protectorate to Auschwitz-Birkenau II took place from March 1943 to January 1944. Free Roma who had jobs were deported first, followed by the inmates from the GCs that had, in the meantime been closed or quarantined, because of the outbreak of typhus. It was the criminal police that managed the liquidation of the ‘Gypsies’, who were considered to be hereditarily asocial. The choice of deportation lists was made by the Nazis based on subjective, anthropological features. Only one-tenth of the original 6,500 documented Roma, from the death camps of the Protectorate, survived after the war; the entire community of Czech and Moravian Roma, as well as German Sinti, were slaughtered.

After 1945, Roma from the agricultural east of Slovakia, often from very poor settlements, start coming to the industrial parts of the Czech lands. They settled in the border areas where the Germans and Jews used to live, where they were given housing and employment. In the cities with a high concentration of Roma, ghettos came into existence – problematic and socially excluded localities, many of which remain. The Communist regime (from February 1948) annulled the Law on Itinerant Gypsies and the Roma were de facto granted equal rights in 1950. The regime focused on eradicating illiteracy, but a particular approach that considered the history of exclusion of the Romani pupils was missing. Often unsuccessful Romani pupils were transferred to special schools, even though they did not have special needs. Following the Soviet example, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPC) adopted a model of state-directed ‘Gypsy assimilation’, in 1958. The Roma and their culture, as well as their confidence, suffered substantially from such a measure.4 It entailed an insensitive effort to integrate ‘Gypsies’ into the mainstream society. At this stage, however, the Roma were guaranteed jobs, even though unqualified due to their poor education, as labourers, maids, and other unskilled workers.

Thanks to the relaxation of the political situation in 1968, the very first Romani organization was established, the National Association of Gypsies-Roma (AGR, 1969-1973). The AGR of the CR had its headquarters in the capital of Moravia, Brno, where the descendants of the Roma that had integrated before the war lived. They were at the head of the AGR. The political, social and educational activities included the efforts to elevate Romani culture. Collections for a planned museum5 were being assembled and efforts were being made to compensate and commemorate the victims of the war-time racist persecution. During the process of ‘normalization’, the Association was dissolved in 1973, under the pretext of errors in accounting and economy. The Communist regime did not return to the strict assimilation measures, but until the fall of the regime in 1989, the Roma in CSSR did not have the possibility to manifest their ethno-emancipatory aspirations.

The development of the situation of the Roma after 1989 in the Czech Lands

The origins of a new state

In the framework of the general revolutionary euphoria following 1989, the Roma were accepted as a part of the regeneration process in the society, until 1993, when the former polity was divided into two states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Roma were seen as one group. Their development after this date took different paths. What has remained a constant, is their common solidarity. At first, Roma took part in events of all kinds; they would even appear amongst the most prominent speakers at the city squares. During the first free elections, the lists of the Civic Forum party in Bohemia and Moravia, and the Public Against Violence in Slovakia party, featured more than ten Romani personalities, that were elected to three parliamentary bodies. The first political Romani party was established, Romani Civic Initiative (RCI). It was very popular amongst the Roma; at the moment of its establishment it had 25,000 members. After the overthrow of the former Communist regime, it was the first attempt to create authentic Romani political representation. Such a successful development came to naught after a couple of years, due to the inability of Romani leaders to integrate into the political structures of the wider society.

The subsequent development of Roma initiatives moved towards the non-governmental sector, though such a positive initiative lasted only about two years. Then everything started to take a turn for the worse, in several ways. The first manifestations of hatred towards the Roma, led to the first Romani victims. From those times into the first decade of the new century, neither the executive, nor the judiciary, had the political will or motivation to recognise the racial motivation of such crimes.6 The 1993 division7 into two states was an unfortunate act, more coveted by politicians than by the public, bringing the first discriminatory laws promoted by the Czech members of the parliament. There were no Romani representatives among them. One of the worst laws, which very negatively influenced the majority of Romani people was Law no. 40/1993, of the Code on the acquisition and loss of Czech citizenship. Until then, registering Czech and Slovak citizenship hadn’t been thought of as a necessity, since more than ninety percent of the Romani population in the Czech lands were Slovak Roma, often third generation. The relationship of these Roma to their original land was ill defined, though they formally remained citizens of the Slovak state. Because of the new Czech Law, they lost their civil rights, such as the right to vote, the right to collect social benefits and the right to free health care in the Czech Republic. The Law was general, but it was clear that in reality, it was aimed at one group in particular. Such a tragic introduction to the beginning of the new state, influenced the lives of most of the Roma for many years to come and its negative impact resonates to the present day.8

The development between 1992 and 1997

Subsequent developments in the Czech Republic were undertaken as part of preparation for European Union accession. One of the demands of the EU Commission was to challenge some features of the negative attitudes of the general population towards the Roma, which had already reached a low point in the mid-1990s. The segregation of Romani children in the Czech education system had to be eliminated as well. In terms of wrongful placement of Romani pupils in special schools in the Czech Republic, the key decision was the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, 13th November 2007.9 The Grand Jury accepted the case of eighteen Romani students from Ostrava in the north of Moravia, that they had been deliberately excluded, on the basis of ethnicity and denied their rights to education, during the period 1996 – 1998. The Czech state insisted on its innocence and was not willing to take measures that would prevent a similar scenario from happening in the future, though reforms to the education system from 2017 have improved the situation of Romani children to a degree. The issue has not been effectively dealt with, so far, especially due to the reasons of social aversion towards the Roma and strong lobbying of an association of special needs teachers. The current governmental programme, even if it deserves support and recognition, cannot lay claim to be reducing levels of segregation at all schools.

Poor relationships between the Romani minority and the majority, high unemployment levels amongst unqualified people, as well as low motivational social politics, have only deepened the dire conditions of the Roma and their unequal position in society. These factors, highlighted by the popular media, led to several waves of immigration of Roma families to the Great Britain and Canada, where they sought political asylum, from 1997. The then Prime Minister, Václav Klaus, had to admit that the situation was extremely serious and required an effective solution. Such a solution should have resided in the establishment of the Interdepartmental Commission for Romani Matters. The then shadow minister issued the Bratinka Report, which analysed the cause of these dire conditions and outlined several possible solutions. These proposals were reflected in the governmental programme for the integration of Roma into wider society. The Interdepartmental Commission later became the Council for Romani Matters, under the office of the Prime Minister. The Council was an advisory body, but at a relatively high level. It was composed of the representatives with the function of a deputy, corresponding to the same number of representatives from the civil society sector, exclusively of Romani origin. The executive authority to make effective change has been missing however, to the present day. In any case, the establishment of the Council has meant the adoption of an agenda to solve matters that concern the Roma and that the government should preoccupy itself with.

The first quarter of the new millennium in token of moderate progress towards the Roma

At the beginning of the new millennium, it seemed that the situation of the Roma stabilized. It could be characterized as follows: not worse, but not much better either. Another law directly concerning the Roma was Law no. 261/2001 of the Code on compensation, for those who were forced to hide during the war because of race, so that they wouldn’t be imprisoned in the concentration camps. The law applied to the Jews and the Roma born before the end of the Second World War. It was a law that entailed extremely complicated administrative measures for those who could benefit from it, not to mention that almost sixty years after the end of the war, the memory of many was unclear. It was also impossible to provide documents that would confirm stories from the long past about marginalised people, who were not even registered. The concrete evidence of the rightful claim for compensation was, therefore, very hard to find, if not impossible. A considerable proportion of applicants, even though the stories of their persecution were confirmed and supported by historians from the Museum of Romani Culture, did not qualify. The second symptomatic case of a negative attitude towards the Roma, which resonated also in the Parliament and in a section of the political representation, was later called, ‘the law that institutionally denies the Romani Holocaust’.

Racially motivated violence

Shortly after November 1989, an unprecedented manifestation of racial violence towards the Roma and Vietnamese inhabitants of the Republic occurred. The perpetrators were far-right-wing members of skinhead and punk movements. Armed with machetes, baseball bats, chains and knives, they would attack the Roma and Vietnamese people in the streets and in front of their houses. The first casualty was a student, a Turkish citizen, mistaken by the attackers for a Roma person.

Emil Bendík, a twenty-two-year-old boy did not survive a three-day assault on a Romani family; a non-swimmer, Tibor Danihel from Písek, was forced to jump into a river where he drowned. In Hrádek nad Nisou, a skinhead shot a twenty-one-year-old Rom with a legally owned gun. Tibor Berki died of brain haemorrhage after being hit with a baseball bat; a Roma man, Oto Absolon, was murdered in Svitavy in 2001. A night-time fire that started after an incendiary grenade was thrown into a house in Vítkov in April 2009, fatally burnt eighty percent of the body of a eighteen-month-old girl. The statistics of racially motivated crimes was unrelenting. There were seventeen similar cases in 1990, fifty-one in 1993, 273 in 1997 and there were 544 acts with a confirmed racial violence subtext, in 2002.

A chapter of its own, which started in the Communist state in 1971, was the sterilization of Romani women, carried out without their full and informed consent. It was so common that the procedures on Romani women continued during the 90s, and the last case was recorded in 2007. Thousands of women were affected. An obvious and undeniable phenomenon is the negative attitude towards the Roma at all levels of society, including amongst health care professionals. This is the basic characteristics of the current situation in society in relation to the Roma.

Holocaust of the Roma 70 years after the war

The Holocaust of the Roma in the Czech Republic remained, until recently, unknown. A sad fact is that it would have probably remained so, if protests, which were originally a part of commemorative events at one of the two Protectorate Concentration Camps for the Roma, Lety u Písku, wouldn’t have spoken against the long-lasting presence of a pig farm on the site of the camp. Its very existence was a humiliating element in the Romani pieta. The cultural public in the CR and Europe, repeatedly voiced the request towards the Czech government, to take care of such a disgrace by either demolition or by transfer of the pig farm somewhere else. It is indisputable, however, that the Czech government reached a consensus in 2017 to destroy the pig farm and has already taken concrete steps to do so.

The role of the non-governmental sector

While the first president, Václav Havel, respected the non-governmental (NGO) sector and supported its embedding in the structures of society, his successor, Václav Klaus, denied the civil rights sector such a possibility and he was very clear about it. All of that played a negative part in the creation of the civil rights sector in the CR, that considerably lags behind other states, with a more traditional and long-lasting democracy.

Already in 1991, the Association of Roma in Moravia (ARM) was established, as well as the Association of Experts and Friends of the Museum of Romani Culture. The efforts of the latter led, in 2005, to the establishment of a state museum incorporated into a network of professional museum institutions. A unique workplace focusing on building, preservation and presentation of an original collection of Romani items, is a rarity in Europe.

Shortly after, a youth centre Drom (Path) was created in Brno, as well as the organization IQ Roma Servis. Romodrom operates in Prague, where the international festival Khamoro has been organized for the past nineteen years, by Word 21. In the fields of media and internet news, Romea.cz has achieved a high level of prestige. Since 1999, some newspapers have been published – a fortnightly, Romano hangos, for nineteen years in a row now, and a monthly periodical, Romano voďi (Romani soul).10 An authentic Romani civil rights movement, which would work as the rightful spokesperson of the entire Romani population in the Czech Republic, has not emerged though. The question remains whether the young, educated Roma generation will be strong and ambitious enough to create such an authentic representation. If so, it will be an unmistakable sign of the regenerative power of the Roma community in the wake of centuries of persecution and discrimination.

Roma in Slovakia

The oldest records about the Roma in Slovakia dates back to the second half of the 14th century; they were mentioned in the Zemplín County records, in 1377 and 1381. In 1417, there was a group of three hundred, led by their king (Sindel) and dukes (Panuel, Michal, and Ondrej). They came from Budín, passing through Košice and heading towards Bratislava, presenting themselves as penitents from ‘Little Egypt’. The locals initially behaved in a hospitable way. Noblemen, monarchs and even the Pope issued protective decrees and safe conduct letters. Such a letter was issued for the ‘Gypsy Duke Ladislav’, by Sigismund of Luxemburg, at the Spiš Castle in 1423.

The Ottoman Empire enlarged its border in the 16th and 17th centuries to the southern part of Slovakia. At the time of war, both sides, Turkish and Slovak, were using the services of the local inhabitants. It was an opportunity for Romani blacksmiths who, apart from agricultural tools, could provide parts of weapons. The Roma at noble courts acted as musicians and soldiers as well. The oldest records regarding the first Romani settlements on the territory of present-day Slovakia, also come from the 16th century.

At the Age of Enlightenment, Empress Maria Theresa and Joseph II, tried to assimilate the Roma living in the Hungarian territories of the Hapsburg Empire. Their approach included some of modern ideas; for example, a focus on school attendance and the education of children. One of their measures was also documentation of the Empire’s citizens. We learn that in the second half of the 18th century, the Roma living in the Slovak territories were mostly settled, working as blacksmiths, musicians and occasionally as farmers.

Recurrent efforts trying to regulate the life of the Roma started to appear at the end of the 19th century. As a preparatory measure, a census was carried out. In 1893, there were almost 245,000 Roma living in Hungary, in other words 1.8% of all inhabitants. Up to 90% of them were settled Roma. Considering the current Slovak border, there were more than 35,000 Roma living in given counties in 1893 and only 2,000 of these were nomads.

After the birth of Czechoslovakia in 1918, whose Slovakian territories included many Roma, there were major efforts to take control of the nomadic Roma. In 1927, a Law on Itinerant Gypsies was adopted, based on which, it was obligatory to report regularly at police stations in the home county of the family and to come back if summoned. A “Gypsy survey” was in place as well.

The saddest chapter of modern Romani history is the period of the Second World War (1939-1945). The military Slovak state, which came into existence in 1939 following the break-up of Czechoslovakia, followed the discriminatory and racist laws of Nazi Germany. In 1940, in line with the military law, the Roma and the Jews were stripped of the possibility of enlisting in the armed forces. They were compelled to work in labour camps as building and construction workers.

After the Vienna Arbitration in November 1938, the southern and eastern regions of Slovakia became a part of Admiral Horthy’s Hungary. The Roma were gradually forced out of society, they weren’t allowed to enter public places or to go to schools. The situation became even worse at the beginning of 1944, when the majority of Roma were deported to labour and concentration camps; people from eastern and southern Slovakia were deported to the Detention Camp in Komárno from which they were sent to the Concentration Camp Dachau or other Concentration Camps.

In April, 1941, based on the notice aimed at the “correction of the Gypsy situation”, the Olah Roma were prohibited from nomadizing and the settled Roma had to remove their housing from public roads. The Roma weren’t allowed to use public transportation, they had limited access to public places, to cities and villages. Another persecution measure was the establishment of the so-called labour institutes for Romani men. They were forced to do the most difficult kind of work building dams, roads and railways. The largest institutes were in Dubnice na Váhom, Ilava, Orava, and in Hanušovce nad Topľou.

In August 1944, the Slovak National Uprising broke out in Slovakia. After its suppression by the German army, reprisals against the military personnel, insurgents and civilians started. The Roma were persecuted for their active participation in the partisan movements and a suspicion of their co-operation in the revolt was enough to be punished. Executions and deportations to places of mass executions in Kremnička, Nemeckej, Kováčov, Dolný Turček and in the Jewish cemetery in Zvolen, followed. The majority of Romani victims came from Ilija (the county of Banská Štiavnica), Čierny Balog (the county of Brezno), Tisovec (the county of Rimavská Sobota), and Lutila (Žiar nad Hronom).

The persecution of Roma reached its climax in November 1944, in Dubnice nad Váhom. A Gypsy Detention Camp was built, and Romani families were deported there. Cold winter weather and insufficient hygiene had a deleterious impact on the health conditions of the inmates, the most serious being an epidemic of typhoid fever. The camp was put into quarantine and the German command ordered the execution of 26 infected people (including women and children) in 1945. The camp was dissolved before the arrival of the frontlines of the Red Army. With the advancing front, the brutality spiked. Several Romani communities were murdered on the southern territory of Slovakia, for example in Slatina (the county of Levice) or near Trhová Hradská (the county of Dunajská Streda).

After the end of the Second World War, Roma from Slovakia started to immigrate to the Czech Lands where they could find better employment and housing. They were settling the borderline regions after the Germans had left. Similarly, the Roma were leaving eastern Slovakia in the 50s to move to the city centres (Most, Sokolov, Teplice, Ústí nad Labem, Chomutov, Cheb, Kladno or Ostravsko) – often as a result of organized recruiting. The state bodies after the WWII refused to see the Roma as an ethnic group. They weren’t even using the term Roma or Gypsy, but ‘people of Gypsy origin’ instead.

One of the measures was a forced prohibition of nomadizing, carried out by a law adopted in 1958. The prohibition affected a smaller group of Olah Roma. In 1965, the Czechoslovak government outlined a ‘conception of the liquidation of Romani settlements and the following dispersion of the Gypsies’ on the territory of Bohemia and Moravia. In 1969, the Governmental Committee for the Matters of Gypsy Citizens was created at the Slovak Ministry of Social Affairs. Similar committees were created at the county levels and a network of social curators was gradually coming into existence.

The political changes after 1989 meant for the Roma the right of self-determination. In 1991, the newly approved, Basics of the Governmental Policy of the Slovak Republic towards the Roma gave them the status of a national minority. That enabled the formation of cultural unions, interest groups and non-profit organizations as well as the establishment of the Romathan theatre in Košice and the Department of Romani Culture in Nitra.

In consequence of the socio-economic transformation, the majority of Slovak Roma faces social exclusion. To co-ordinate the policies aiming at the integration, the Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for Romani Communities was established in 2001. The democratization of society enabled the formation of the Romani political representation. Several Romani political parties were created, but none of them received enough votes to secure seats in the Parliament. In the 2012-2016 election period, Peter Pollák won a seat for the political movement, OĽANO.