What happened in Sweden?
In the 500 years that Romani people have existed in Sweden, new immigrants have continuously arrived here from other parts of Europe. They have brought different languages, cultures, identities and educations, making the Swedish Romani population of today a richly varied group.
The first record of Romani people coming to Sweden is from 1512, when Countess and Count Anthonius arrived with their accompanying entourage. In the 16th century Romani people travelled around Europe with various letters of recommendation, stating – for example – that they were on a pilgrimage of penitence. Those Romani people arriving in Sweden were soon regarded with distaste. They were described as loose-lived and godless and in cahoots with evil powers through their healing skills and abilities to tell fortunes. Many were also skilled craftsmen, and thereby a threat to the Swedish craft guilds.
From the very beginning of their stay in Sweden, the Romani were harassed by laws that aimed either to force them to leave the country, or to limit their freedom of movement and means of support. Attempts at reducing the size of the Romani population have included deportations, compulsory sterilisation and the arbitrary taking into custody of their children. Moreover, there was a total ban on Romani immigration into Sweden from 1914 to 1954, while the two world wars raged in Europe.
One conventional method for categorising the different Romani groups living in Sweden is by using the time of their arrival. By this method there are five main groupings: Travelling Romani, Swedish Romani, Finnish Romani, Non-Nordic Romani and Recent Romani arrivals.
Excerpts from Swedish texts from 1512 and on