SK = CS - CZ
Before disintegrating into Czech Republic and Slovakia, the combined state of Czechoslovakia existed for almost one century. Born in 1918 at the end of World War I, it finally surrendered to separatist pressures in 1993, shortly after the fall of communism. Most young Czechs and Slovaks are at peace with the current situation of living in two separate states who maintain friendly relations between each other.
Czech Republic and Slovakia share a similar history but differences seemed to prevail when the countries decided to split. Both countries were once part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, but Czech Republic used to lean towards Austria while Slovakia mostly seemed to suffer under Hungarian occupation.
`Some reforms were carried out in Slovakia and still need to be implemented in Czech Republic. I think Slovakia now has a more solid basis for the future`
When the countries became independent under the flag of Czechslovakia, they maintained their slightly different languages, while differences in living standards persisted as well. Czech territories have always been more industrialized and industrious, while Slovakia used to serve as Czechoslovakia`s nature reserve that contributed only marginally to the country`s financial situation.
During World War II, the North-Western part of Czechoslovakia was annexed by Nazi-Germany, followed by the rest of the Czech part of the republic. In an attempt not to create more problems than necessary, Slovakia passively allowed Germany to install a puppet government in Bratislava. Slovakian resistance only developed during the final years of the war.
Czechoslovakia never officially split up during World War II, but whatever de facto separation had taken place was rapidly undone by the communist regime who grabbed power after the war. No-one ever managed to entirely centralize the country. In 1969, communist Czechoslovakia had to seize for a first time by creating a federal state, consisting of the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic. National authorities were largely broken down into separate state-level institutions for both the Czech and the Slovak part of the country.
The Velvet Revolution once again emphasized that both parts of the countries had fundamentally different needs. Slovaks were tired of always having to serve the Czech economy without ever standing a chance to be perceived as full participants in the country. Slovak politicians then submitted a proposal for both republics to share power on a 50/50 basis, or to split the country in two. Given the differences in population (10 million Czechs against 5 million Slovaks), Czech politicians could only accept the proposal to let go with Slovakia. The political deal was signed while most inhabitants of the country/countries were still recovering from the giant consequences of the revolution, and many of them were actually surprised that the separation actually took place.
With only some exceptions, Czechs and Slovaks have grown used to the new system and they support the current status quo. Both population groups still mix well, both in friendships and in marriages. Reproaches are hardly ever made, although some Slovaks can laugh at how proud Czechs are about their beer, while Czechs can make fun of how Slovaks tend to drink much stronger home-brew spirits.
Janna (24) is Czech by nationality but has Slovak parents. She travels to Slovakia every now and then to visit friends. `I think Slovaks are usually friendlier to each other. Also, Czechs miss the Tatra mountains which used to be in their country before, but they are now somewhere across a border. Fortunately, crossing the border has always been very easy. With the Schengen agreements in place, it seems like the border is not even there anymore. But the Tatra still keep attracting loads of Czechs. The favourite reason for Slovaks come to Czech Republic to study or work. The main university cities of Brno, Ostrava and Prague are full of Slovaks.`
Pavel (23), Czech, thinks that Czech people mostly like Slovakians but he is not sure how much of that appreciation is reciprocal. `I think it`s good that we split. We don`t need to pay for the development of their economy any longer, while they can do what they want, just how they originally wanted it.` Pavel does not seem bothered by the fact that Czech Republic itself is currently sponsored by plenty of other European countries, even though it has been mostly unwilling to take care of its own less-developed province. `That`s a completely different situation`, is his only comment.
Pavel continues explaining: `When it comes to differences between people, language is probably the biggest one, and even that one is so subtle that foreigners will hardly notice it. To us Czechs and Slovaks, it`s instantly clear from which country someone comes. Some words are different, the accent is slightly different. But Czechs and Slovaks of our age can almost perfectly understand each other without one of them having to change languages. We have plenty of conversations about the few linguistic differences, and those are always very interesting.`
Pavel thinks that Czechs are better at pretty much any kind of sport except maybe skiing. `We are better at football, better at basketball and most of the time better at ice hockey as well. There is obviously some rivalry, but I always support Slovakia if they play against anybody except Czech Republic ? whatever the sport or discipline. After all, we are still brothers.
From across the border
Jan (24, photo) is Slovakian and he knows many young compatriots who went to study in Bratislava (Slovakia) or Brno (Czech Republic). `I preferred to stay here in Zilina. Whenever they return home, the will always come see me and we can build some parties.` Jan thinks that the split has done both countries well. `Slovakia always cherished hopes to become an independent country, especially during the time of Austria-Hungary. Now in the early years after the separation, we faced quite tough times, but I think Slovakia was quicker to carry out some reforms. Our government made a mess out of lots of things, but they were quite smart about streamlining the pension system. I think Slovakia has a better basis for the future now, while Czech Republic will see its growth slow down. The longer they wait with the reforms, the more difficulties they will have implementing them. We will probably have Euros soon, while they have to wait for another couple of years.`
Jan thinks that Slovakia and Czech Republic have shown that countries can separate without bloodshed. `I believe that it would be good if Europe had some more of these smaller nations. They would be easier to govern, and if they are all supervised by the European Union, the combination of centralizing and decentralizing would probably be at its best.` Jan is not aware of any separation ambitions in Belgium, but he sees no harm in the country separating if it creates a win-win situation for all involved. `The only thing is that I would say that it`s alreasy sufficiently small as it is. I think Catalunya and Bask Country would do quite well as independent countries.` Jan`s opinion about Kosovo is different than the ones about Belgium, Catalunya or Bask Country. `The wish of Kosovo to become independent did not get the support from the Slovakian government. We think that Kosovo is part of Serbia and it should have remained so. It`s not a situation where two parties win. We have a similar situation in the south, with some local Hungarian minorities who want to proclaim independence. For us Slovaks, such a move would be completely unacceptable. It would in no way be similar to the way we separated from the Czech Republic.`
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