Czechoslovakia. A country that hasn’t existed for nearly 25 years but a name that’s more commonly used than the countries names themselves. As we’ve just marked the 24th anniversary of the velvet revolution which signalled the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, it’s a rather fitting time to share the history of Czechoslovakia with you, and go over some of the reasons the two countries ended up going their separate ways.
To take things right back to the beginning, Czechoslovakia was formed in 1918 after the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It was home to a diverse population made up of Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Germans, and Ukrainians, with many different languages being spoken around the country.
The Second World War soon changed that, and Czechoslovakia was deprived of its German speaking regions before being occupied by Nazi Germany. After the war, the parts of Czechoslovakia which are now Ukraine were given to the Soviet Union and ethnic Germans were forced to leave, which meant that only Czechs, Slovaks, and (not many) Hungarians remained.
In 1948 the communists came to power and ruled Czechoslovakia until 1989 – just before the break up. During this time, many differences of opinion came to light and even though politicians were made up of a mix of Czechs and Slovaks, Slovaks felt they weren’t equally represented. There were also some major differences when it came to the economy, as Slovakia was largely agricultural whereas the Czech part of Czechoslovakia was mostly industrial and had a 20% higher GDP than Slovakia.
After the fall of communism in 1989, the political situation in Czechoslovakia was in chaos. Although the president Vaclav Havel and most of the population were in fact against dissolution, no one could come to a decision about what should be done and the countries ended up separating. The Slovak parliament declared independence on July 27th 1992. Act 541 was passed, dividing property 2:1 and Act 512 stated the date for dissolution to be 31st December 1992.
Even though Czechoslovakia is now the Czech Republic and Slovakia, our two countries still share a very special bond. Many people at the time were worried about the impact of dissolution and if it was the right decision or not, but relations between us have never been better and separating maybe even stopped the growing divide before things got nasty. Nowadays, we still have plenty of joint TV shows, music, sports, and a cultural bond you´re unlikely to find anywhere else. Linguistically, Czechs and Slovaks can still understand each other and communicate without any problem, especially as regional dialects get more and more similar the closer to the border you get.
We could go on about our country’s turbulent past for ages. But before we get carried away, we hope that we’ve been able to give you an insight that you can use to impress a Czech or Slovak person next time you meet one (because after all, we don’t want you getting in their bad books by asking if they’re from Czechoslovakia 🙂 ).
If you’re interested in the linguistic side of things, we’re dedicating Friday’s blog post to Czech and Slovak, so have a read if you’d like to find out more about our languages.