21 March 2013 | Reviews
Suomen romanien historia
[A history of Finland’s Romani people]
Toimittanut [Edited by] Panu Pulma
Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura (the Finnish Literature Society), 494 p., ill.
The Romani people set out from India around a thousand years ago; there are those who even claim that they originated in Egypt long before that. This latter account was favoured among the Romani in Europe, and so their leaders took to styling themselves the Dukes of ‘Egypt Minor’ or ‘Little Egypt’.
The Romani of Europe are generally considered to have come from northern India in the 15th century. They arrived in Finland – which at that time was part of Sweden – in 1512.
Five hundred years later, it seems a fitting time to publish Suomen romanien historia, a volume edited by Panu Pulma, PhD, a university lecturer in Finnish and Nordic history, with chapters contributed by a total of 14 additional experts.
The Romani who reached Stockholm, also in 1512, were said to be from ‘Egypt Minor’. This purported connection with Egypt is the origin behind the English word gypsy. The Swedish word zigenare (related to the German Zigeuner) did not come into use until the 17th century. More…
Kimmo Oksanen: Kerjäläisten valtakunta.Totuus kerjäävistä romaneista ja muita valheita
[Kingdom of beggars. The truth about Roma beggars, and other lies]
Helsinki: WSOY, 2009. 214 p.
€ 15, paperback
After Romania and Bulgaria had joined the European Union in 2007, a small group of Roma beggars from Romania arrived in Helsinki. This was a sight that was familiar to Finns on their travels abroad, but alien to them in the environment of their own city. Begging is not a crime in Finland, but the phenomenon caused a great stir in the media and, eventually, among political decision-makers. This polemic by journalist Kimmo Oksanen gives a face to the beggars and reveals many factors behind begging, as well as experiences of poverty and discrimination. Oksanen observed the beggars on the streets daily and travelled to their home villages to investigate their backgrounds. Roma criminal activity indisputably occurs elsewhere in Europe, but Oksanen maintains that there is no evidence that organised crime has arrived in Finland. The beggars are nevertheless objects of fear as well as racist attitudes.