Cultures of Norway: Roma and Romani Norwegians

In Norway, there are both Roma and Romani peoples.

In Norway, there are both Roma and Romani peoples. They regard themselves as two distinct groups, speaking two separate languages. The Roma people, or the Vlach Roma, number between 300 and 400 people in Norway, while the Romani, or travelers, number between 2,000 and 4,000. Norway also sees migrant Roma and Roma refugees from such areas as Bosnia-Herzegovina, according to the Collaborative Research Network's Romanis in Europe website.

The Roma and Romani peoples alike are recognized as national minorities by the state. There is no official government representation for these peoples, though there are many nongovernmental organizations that serve Roma and Romani people in Norway, including the Stifitelsen Roma, Romani & Romanes folklets Landsforening, Romanifolkets Landsforbund and the Romanifolkets Kommissjonsrad. These groups work to spread knowledge about the culture and history of the Roma and Romani people in Norway to all those who are interested and to start fostering greater cultural understanding.

Government response to past injustice

Recently, Norway's officials made a huge step in improving relations with the Roma and Romani minorities within the country. According to The Guardian, Prime Minister Erna Solberg made a speech in Oslo on International Roma Day in which she apologized for the exclusion policies Norway had regarding Roma people. During and after World War II, Roma who had traveled away from Norway were denied re-entry into the country, which created a dangerous situation in the Nazi years. Indeed, a government-commissioned report found Norwegian Roma citizens who were denied re-entry were at times sent to Nazi death camps, where 62 named people were killed.

"It's time for a moral reckoning with this dark part of our history," Solberg said. "The state recognizes its responsibility for the errors that were made and the injustice done to Norwegian Roma."

The state will pay reparations to Norwegian Roma under terms that will be decided upon with the input of Norwegian Roma themselves, The Guardian reported.

Roma and Romani culture and your travels

Unless you seek it out, you are not overwhelmingly likely to find evidence of Roma or Romani culture as you explore the country on your Norway cruise. This is not to say that you cannot contact the organizations listed above to see whether there are sites or activities in which you may be interested, of course. It is simply the case that most of the Roma and Romani people in Norway spend their winters in Oslo and travel throughout Europe in the summer, including those who are involved in cultural advocacy and education initiatives that you may wish to learn more about.

Whether or not you experience Norwegian Roma or Romani culture firsthand on your cruise travel, it's important to understand Norway is truly a country of many people, languages and cultures. It is not a monolithic location, as you will learn on your travels, and one of the many threads in the Norwegian tapestry is Roma and Romani culture - and the attendant history of government treatment, which has not always been fair or kind. Coming to terms with the complexity of a country while you travel through it gives you a richer understanding than simply acting as a disengaged tourist.