Culture & Science History

Why and how did Czechoslovakia split?

They say the dissolution of Czechoslovakia is an example of peaceful separation of two countries. But why did Czechoslovakia split and how did they manage to break up so peacefully? Read more about the so called Velvet Divorce.

Czechs and Slovaks not only belong to the Slavic family, they have much more in common. And just a few decades ago they even had a country in common. Then, on January 1, 1993 there were two. The exemplary split of these two nations resulted in an extraordinarily good relationship between two neigbouring countries.

What was before…

Czechoslovakia was created in 1918 after the dissolution of Austria-Hungary. Some Slovaks didn’t agree with a common country and so in 1939 the first Slovak Republic was created as a satellite state of Germany. The two countries reunited during the Soviet occupation and the federation was a satellite state of the Soviet Union until 1989. Three years after the Velvet Revolution (end of communism) the famous breakup happened.

The split

Although many people on both sides wanted to continue living in one united country, there were strong pressures especially from the National Slovak party that the country split. To be fair, this was welcomed by some on the Czech side as well since the Czech part of the republic was heavily sponsoring the Slovak part. Slovakia was very agricultural and underdeveloped as for the infrastructure, universities etc. All of this was basically paid for with Czech money. Also, similar like in the case of Bohemia and Moravia, it is understandable that Slovaks – brotherly but still a different nation – wanted to have their own state. Although it is quite interesting that only a minority on both sides was in favor of the split of Czechoslovakia in the opinion polls in 1992.

The prime ministers Václav Klaus (Czech) and Vladimír Mečiar (Slovak) began negotiating the rules of the split in June 1992. In July the Slovaks declared independence of their nation and the prime ministers agreed on the split only a few days later.

The division is sometimes called velvet just like the revolution three years prior, because it was achieved without any violence.

How is the relationship now?

Nowadays Czechs and Slovaks still call each other brothers. Although there are people who are not so fond of the other nation and accusations are made as for who caused the separation that so many people didn’t want, the relationship between the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic is a great one. The countries have a lot of bilateral agreements which make it easy for people from one country to live, study and work in the other.

Many Slovaks lived and worked in Czechia before the split and decided to take the Czech citizenship (people could declare themselves one or the other without any special bureaucracy, language exams etc.). Quite logically, there is a large number of Czech-Slovak families and many Slovaks come to the Czech Republic to study every year as they have free access to the Czech universities and understand the language perfectly.

The language is another great advantage, the two nations understand each other perfectly, although the children of today already have some difficulties.

Whether the separation was right or not, despite of how many people supported or opposed it, one thing is sure: the ability of the Czechs and the Slovaks to divide their country in two without spilling a single drop of blood is admirable.

Now you know why Czechoslovakia split and maybe you’d like to know whether to say Czech Republic or Czechia!

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