Czech President praises communist-era face slapping  for Roma  workers

Czech President Milos Zeman is well known for his racist outbursts about Muslims, but during a visit to the Moravian region, his most recent target was the Roma minority. 

Sofija Kordic
Sofija Kordic NewsMavens, Czechia
Czech President praises communist-era face slapping  for Roma  workers - NewsMavens
President Milos Zeman, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

President Milos Zeman recently visited the Olomouc region, where 70% of the Roma population are marginalized and live in so-called "ghettos". On the eve of municipal and Senate elections, he used rhetoric addressed specifically to the Kojetin citizens in the Olomouc region.

Zeman knew, says political scientist Lukáš Novotný in the article recommended below, that racist claims were just the kind of thing people in the region wanted to hear. 

“There was a system during communism when Roma working units were led by Roma people whom they respected. When somebody in that particular unit wouldn’t work, he would be slapped across the face. It is a very humane method and usually works very well”, said Zeman.

Details from the story:

  • “I’m certainly not a friend of communism, but during communism the Roma had to work. They were mostly diggers. When they rejected work, they would go to jail”, said Zeman.
  • Lukáš Novotný says that the president's views are in line with those of the average Czech, but by speaking publicly like this he deliberately aggravated ethnic tensions. Instead, thinks Novotný, Zeman should be offering solutions in these problematic regions.
  • Novotný points out that communism neglected the integration of Roma minority. “It's not only 'as we sow, so we shall reap' -- we are helping this problem remain unsolved.”
  • Last year President Zeman claimed that 90% of Czechia's “non-adaptive citizens” are Roma.  
  • Half of Czechia's Roma population of 120,000 lives in social exclusion and Romani children are still segregated into so-called "special" schools more frequently than non-Romani ones.
  • According to last year's Government Report on the State of the Roma Minority, Czechia's Roma citizens have been subjected to unfair treatment by society for years. Their access to the job and housing market is restricted and they struggle with discrimination even when they are educated and successful. 
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