Ondrej and Katarína first met in 2008, greater than a decade after their nations divorced.
He, a Czech, and she or he, a Slovak, see their cross-national marriage as something however uncommon.
“My uncle is Slovak and has a Czech spouse. My sister is getting married to a Czech man,” Katarína mentioned. Her husband chimed in: “Many people do not consider Slovakia as a overseas nation within the true sense of the phrase.”
January 1st marked the thirtieth anniversary of the breakup of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic, two separate states. The “Velvet Divorce”, because it’s identified overseas, is remembered as Europe’s most peaceable and profitable breakup in latest historical past.
It was agreed with out battle or acrimony, albeit with out the general public’s opinion being requested, and politicians from each side hammered it out in over simply six days.
This yr’s anniversary has added gravitas. Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 due to an abhorrent perception that Ukrainians, who broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991, will not be a real nationality and that their territory should be a part of the Russian Federation.
Tensions are boiling between Serbia and Kosovo, two former compatriots, whereas the aspirations of independence from the UK of round half the voters in Scotland rumble on — as do separatist claims in Catalonia and Belgium.
Slovaks at the moment are by far the biggest overseas nationwide group residing within the Czech Republic. Variations of their languages are cigarette-paper skinny. Even earlier than each joined the European Union in 2004, travelling between each nations was comparatively easy and a customs union from 1993 onwards meant commerce was seamless.
And it has led to some oddities.
Andrej Babiš was the Czech prime minister till 2021. Subsequent week, he’ll probably drive a run-off election within the race to develop into the following Czech president. However he was born and raised in Slovakia’s capital Bratislava and solely relocated to the Czech Republic after 1993, in his late thirties.
Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová was ranked as the most well-liked politician amongst Czechs in a survey by CVVM, a pollster, in late 2021.
“Although many people had been born in a single nation, and now we stay in two, we nonetheless have wonderful relations and are capable of work collectively. I personally have a Slovak husband,” the speaker of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, Markéta Pekarová Adamová, joked at an anniversary ceremony final weekend.
Though nobody questions the fraternity between each side, the breakup stays a sore level for some.
Median, one other pollster, present in a latest survey that 47% of Czechs and 62% of Slovaks now suppose the separation was the appropriate determination. However 48% % of Czechs and 33% % of Slovaks nonetheless say it was a foul transfer.
“Nostalgia for Czechoslovakia is powerful within the Czech Republic among the many older era; the youthful era doesn’t care and often has no opinion on it. In Slovakia, the scenario is kind of comparable,” Lubomír Kopeček, a political science professor at Masaryk University, informed Euronews.
Many individuals opposed it on the time. Czechoslovakia’s hero of anti-communist resistance resigned as president the day after separation was determined.
The riddle of the Velvet Divorce is that an occasion so peaceable and, a long time later, considered as a hit, may have been performed regardless of such opposition on the time.
A brief historical past lesson
In some ways, the breakup of Czechoslovakia was extra simple than its formation.
By the early twentieth century, neither Czechs nor Slovaks had loved their very own state for hundreds of years, nor had they a lot historical past in cooperating bureaucratically. The Slovak lands (or “Northern Hungary” as they had been identified on the time) had been dominated from Budapest below the Habsburg twin Austro-Hungarian empire. The Czech lands, in the meantime, got here below Vienna’s purview.
Whereas the Czech lands had been the commercial powerhouse of the Habsburg empire, Slovak territory was much more agricultural and undeveloped.
Protestantism was sturdy in Bohemia, the western heartland of the Czechs, whereas Catholicism reigned amongst Slovaks. (Immediately, Czechs are the least spiritual of Europeans whereas Slovaks are amongst essentially the most God-fearing, in keeping with common polls.)
Nonetheless, Czech and Slovak nationalism developed across the identical time within the late nineteenth century and each had been centred on their mutually-intelligible languages. Each believed that they’d stand a greater probability of gaining statehood after the First World Conflict in the event that they partnered collectively.
Many different nationwide teams who remained remoted had been absorbed into different nations amid the nation-building experiment after 1918.
Cohabitation additionally made sense to politicians on the time. Tomáš Masaryk, the founding father of Czechoslovakia and its first president, was the son of a Slovak and a Czech. Milan Rastislav Štefánik, the Slovak chief, spent most of his adolescence learning in Prague.
Furthermore, whereas Czechs and Slovaks may need been majorities in their very own territories, there have been vital numbers of ethnic Germans, Hungarians and Ukrainians which meant Czechsloavkia was destined to be a multinational state.
However Slovakia had its first style of “independence” from Prague in 1939 when its clerical-fascist chief Jozef Tiso broke away to kind the First Slovak Republic, a Nazi puppet state. Quickly after, Nazi Germany invaded the whole thing of the Czech lands, ruling over it till 1945 because the “Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.”
After the Second World Conflict, Czechoslovakia was reconstituted and, when the communist social gathering took energy in 1948, federalised the 2 areas. Autonomy was expansive.
The collapse of Communism
The defining second got here in 1989 when the communist regime of Czechoslovakia collapsed. Distinctive in Jap Europe, it was principally a peaceable occasion, incomes it the moniker of a “velvet revolution.”
However socialism’s fall additionally led to what locals referred to as the “hyphen conflict”, a debate on whether or not the brand new post-socialist state must be the “Czechoslovak Republic” or the “Czecho-Slovak Republic”, the latter favoured by Slovak patriots. Century-old schisms got here to a head in 1992.
English audio system know the occasion because the “Velvet Divorce”, a wordplay on the peaceable Velvet Revolution that introduced down Czechoslovakia’s communist regime 4 years earlier. It’s not a time period often utilized by Czech and Slovaks audio system, although.
Some overseas observers see the separation as a continuation of the autumn of communism in 1989 and since each occasions had been peaceable, the adjective “velvet” could appear acceptable, Filip Kostelka, a professor on the European College Institute, defined.
However for Czechs and Slovaks, the autumn of communism in 1989 and the breakup of Czechoslovakia are clearly two completely different occasions. “The separation was not a pure or inevitable consequence of the autumn of communism,” Kostelka informed Euronews. “There was no widespread assist for it.”
Václav Havel, the icon of anti-communism who was elected president of Czechoslovakia in 1989, was vehemently towards a divorce. He introduced his resignation the day after the Slovak parliament voted for separation.
Whereas the tip of communism in 1989 was heralded as a democratic occasion, a joyous consequence of a long time of civil society struggles and victory for the powerless, the breakup of Czechoslovakia was relatively much less egalitarian.
Publish-breakup life in neighbouring nations
In early 1992, the Czechs and Slovaks went to the polls for their very own federal territories. Czechs opted for the centre-right Civic Democratic social gathering below Vaclav Klaus, who needed to centralise energy to kickstart financial liberalisation.
Slovaks, in the meantime, voted for the populist Vladimir Mečiar, who campaigned on higher sovereignty for Slovak territory.
Months later, in July 1992, the Slovak Parliament adopted the Declaration of Independence. It took simply six days, after conferences in Bratislava, for Czech and Slovak negotiators to comply with dissolve their frequent state.
However the public was by no means requested their opinion. And politicians determined towards placing it to a referendum as a result of they thought it was too harmful.
“The worst factor that would have occurred on the time was for one a part of the nation to say it needed divorce and for the opposite to say the alternative,” the then-head of the Czech federal parliament, Jan Stránsky, mirrored years later in a media interview.
“I dare say the hazard was so nice it could not have stopped in need of civil conflict,” he added.
Most Czechs and Slovaks accepted their new destiny. Only a few individuals at present need an precise reunion. The thought of a “Czechoslovak” who’s neither solely Czech or Slovak has handed into the historical past books.
Each few years or so the soccer associations of each nations meet to debate after which reject concepts to reform a joint Czecho-Slovak league to spice up competitiveness. Most years a duet between Czech and Slovak bands, usually a lament on their breakup, turns into a chart-topper.
However the primary lesson is that “a peaceable break-up adopted by cordial and wholesome neighbourly relations is feasible,” Kostelka mentioned. Nonetheless, the separation “could also be troublesome [for other countries] to emulate.”