Are Czech racists and why they resent Romanies - press

Prague, 13. 6. 2005, 08:59 (CTK)

The ""Czech Idols" television contest, from which Romany Vlastimil Horvath emerged as the winner last night, has refuted sociological studies according to which the Romany minority is one to which the Czech majority society has the worst possible attitude, Hospodarske noviny writes today. It were the votes by television viewers from generations that link Romanies to all possible bad human qualities that brought Horvath the victory, the author says.

"The contest has confirmed something I have been saying for many years. Czechs - with the exception of skinheads - are not racists in a sense of the word that they resent a different skin colour. Problems with Romanies, as public opinion polls show, are of the social and not ethnic nature," expert for Romany problems Roman Kristof says.
"The enormous resentment towards Romanies mainly stems from people's bad experiences, including housing problems and Romanies' attitude to work," he says.

The Centre for Public Opinion Research (CVVM), which has studied Czechs' attitude to ethnic minorities on a sample of more than 1,000 respondents for many years, confirmed his opinion. In the polls, at least three-quarters of respondents have been sying for a long time that they do not want to live near Romanies, heavy alcoholics and people with a criminal past, while people with a different skin colour are only resented by two in ten respondents.

People do not connect the question about a different skin colour with Romanies because they connect Romanies with something else and that it their bad experience with them.

According to the majority of respondents in a poll taken in 1970, in which the Public Opinion Research Institute (UVVM, the CVVM's predecessor) analysed in detail Czechs' attitude to Romanies, Romanies are noisy, aggressive, primitive, selfish, troublemakers, lazy, false and dirty.

It is just the generation of the major group of respondents from 1970 who voted in the "Czech Idols" television contest in great numbers. Peoplemeters show that it is people over 45 (and children from four to 15) who prevailed in front of television screens during the contest. They made up more than one-half of the viewers.

These people could have hardly changed their attitude to Romanies. The reason of the success of Romany Horvath is different, according to sociologist and a CVVM analyst Jan Cervenka, who has studied Czechs' tolerance towards Romanies for a long time.

He asked people in 2003 how they thought Romanies could contribute to good co-existence with the majority population. "The answers showed that Czechs believe that Romanies should change their behaviour and life-style and better adapt themselves to the norms of the majority, observe laws, work and study," Cervenka said.

This is a precise portrait of Horvath pictured by the contest and by himself. In the only interview which touched upon his nationality, Horvath said that he considered "the behaviour demanded from Romanies" the only acceptable one. "Sometime I say if I have had to prove for my entire life that it is possible to live a decent life why other Romanies could not do the same," Horvath says.

Messages exchanged by contest fans on its website show that his statement did not go unnoticed. Those who attack Horvath because he is a Romany receive various answers from his supporters.

"Yes, Vlastik is a Romany, but he is decent. Why should this bother you, you racist," a girl who called herself Magdalena wrote, for instance.