Information on the Roma in the case of Estonia

In Estonia, the Roma community is relatively small – according to the National Population Register, there are 649 people living in Estonia who self-identify as Roma. According to the last census of population carried out in 2011 there are 456 Roma people officially living in Estonia. Unofficial data and international organisations suggest that the numbers are higher in reality and there are approximately 1,000-1,500 people of Roma origin in Estonia.

The Roma living in Estonia do not travel inside the country and are mostly sedentary. The current Estonian Roma population has been formed through immigration after the Second World War from the Soviet Union, mainly from Russia and Latvia. The Roma in Estonia have family ties in Latvia and also in Russia, so the community is not bound to state borders, and they largely communicate with Roma communities outside the country; yet self-identification as Estonian Roma (Estonska Roma) exists. 40 per cent
of the Roma in Estonia hold Estonian citizenship, 38 per cent hold Latvian citizenship, 14 per cent hold Russian citizenship and 7 per cent who are stateless.

Most of the Roma in Estonia state that their native language is the Romani language (65 per cent). Linguistically the Roma in Estonia can be divided into the Lotfitka (Latvian) and Xaladytka (or also called Ruska, Russian) dialect groups, similarly to the case of Latvia. The larger community in Estonia speaks Lotfitka. The Roma mostly identify themselves as either Latvian, Russian or Estonian Roma.9 Usually it is the Latvian Roma who have lived in Estonia for several generations and have started to identify themselves as Estonian Roma. 15 per cent consider that their native language is Russian and 10 per cent consider it to be Estonian.

Key problems:

Over the years the Roma community has not been offered specific government financing. The calls for proposals for different projects have been of a general nature, where all NGOs can apply for funding, and the Roma community has not used the opportunity either due to being unaware of this or out of fear of bureaucracy and the responsibility as stated by representative of the Ministry of Culture.

All in all, it can be said that the biggest problem in Estonia is that integration is not aimed at a specific target group, but the same activities and opportunities are aimed at all groups – it is almost impossible to reach the Roma community in this manner.

Roma Civil Monitor Coordinators:

RCM 1 (2017-2020) Estonia Reports:

Roma Civil Monitor (2017) Civil society monitoring report on implementation of the national Roma integration strategies in Estonia: Focusing on structural and horizontal preconditions for successful implementation of the strategyENGLISHESTONIAN

Roma Civil Monitor (2018) Civil society monitoring report on implementation of the national Roma integration strategy in Estonia: Assessing the progress in four key policy areas of the strategy ENGLISHESTONIAN

Roma Civil Monitor (2019) Civil society monitoring report on implementation of the national Roma integration strategy in Estonia: Identifying blind spots in Roma inclusion policy  ENGLISHESTONIAN

Roma Civil Monitor 2017-2020 country fiche: Estonia