Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Splitting Of Czechoslovakia

Dissolution of Czechoslovakia
..... sometimes known as the Velvet Divorce, a reference to the bloodless Velvet Revolution of 1989 .... Czech parties had little or no presence in Slovakia, and vice versa ...... On 17 July, the Slovak parliament adopted the Declaration of independence of the Slovak nation. Six days later, Klaus and Meciar agreed to dissolve Czechoslovakia at a meeting in Bratislava. Czechoslovak president Václav Havel resigned rather than oversee the dissolution which he had opposed; in a September 1992 poll, only 37% of Slovaks and 36% of Czechs favoured dissolution. ....... Most federal assets were divided in a ratio of 2 to 1 (the approximate ratio between the Czech and Slovak population within Czechoslovakia), including army equipment, rail and airliner infrastructure. Some minor disputes (e.g. about gold reserves stored in Prague, federal know-how valuation) lasted for a few years after dissolution. ........ Initially the old Czechoslovak currency, the Czechoslovak koruna, was still used in both countries. Fears of economic loss on the Czech side caused the two states to adopt two national currencies as early as 8 February 1993. ...... Czechoslovakia's membership in the UN ceased upon dissolution of the country, but on 19 January 1993 the Czech and Slovak Republics were admitted to the UN as new and separate states. ...... With respect to other international treaties the Czechs and Slovaks agreed to honour the treaty obligations of Czechoslovakia. The Slovaks transmitted a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations on 19 May 1993 expressing their intent to remain a party to all treaties signed and ratified by Czechoslovakia, and to ratify those treaties signed but not ratified before dissolution of Czechoslovakia. This letter acknowledged that under international law all treaties signed and ratified by Czechoslovakia would remain in force. For example, both countries are recognized as signatories of the Antarctic Treaty from the date Czechoslovakia signed the agreement in 1962. ....... Many Czechs hoped that dissolution would quickly start an era of high economic growth in the Czech Republic (without the need to "sponsor the less developed Slovakia"). Similarly others looked forward to a stand-alone, unexploited Slovakia which might become a new "economic tiger". ...... Many Czechs hoped that dissolution would quickly start an era of high economic growth in the Czech Republic (without the need to "sponsor the less developed Slovakia"). Similarly others looked forward to a stand-alone, unexploited Slovakia which might become a new "economic tiger". ...... Slovaks have become a more integral part of the EU thanks to their adoption of the euro, and they are more resolved to take part in the banking and fiscal unions ...... in 2005–08, the Slovak economy grew faster than the Czech one. Economists agree this was thanks to the right-wing reforms of the Mikuláš Dzurinda government and the promise of the euro adoption, which attracted investors. ....... "Slovaks proved to be more consistent in choosing their priorities. They were more capable of reaching agreement, which is important for the economy and the state" ...... Slovak legislation allowed dual citizenship until 2010 when this possibility was abolished ..... the significance of this is lessened by both nations' membership in the EU as the freedom of movement for workers policy guarantees EU citizens the right to work and live anywhere in the Union. ........ By contrast, the Czech Republic has formerly prohibited dual citizenship for naturalized citizens, requiring them to give up existing citizenship(s) prior to receiving citizenship of the Czech Republic. ....... People of both countries were allowed to cross the border without a passport and were allowed to work anywhere without the need to obtain an official permit. ........ Under the current European regulations, citizens of either country are entitled to the diplomatic protection of any other EU country and, therefore, the Czech and Slovak Republics have been considering merging their embassies together with nations of the Visegrád Group in order to reduce costs ........ After the dissolution in 1990s the new TV channels in the Czech Republic practically stopped using Slovak, and young Czech people now have a much lower understanding of the Slovak language. Also, the number of Slovak-language books and newspapers sold in the Czech Republic dropped drastically. ......... Young Slovak people still have the same knowledge of the Czech language as their predecessors, if not better. Even today, in Slovakia, Czech may be used automatically in all judicial proceedings, plus all documents written in Czech are acknowledged by Slovak authorities, and vice versa. ........ Gustáv Slamečka, Slovak citizen who was the Czech transport minister (2009 - 2010), used the Slovak language exclusively in his official communication. ...... The upward trend in the language contacts demonstrates that Czechs and Slovaks do not regard each other as foreigners. The interview surveys from 2010 showed that the majority of the population of Prague (Czechs) still considers the division of the country a mistake; similarly, the general representative survey in Slovakia (from 2008) showed that society is still divided in opinion on the dissolution: 47% favouring the dissolution, while 44% considering it as a mistake. ......... In their qualifying section for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the Czechoslovakia national football team competed under the name RCS which stood for "Representation of Czechs and Slovaks". It was after this that the teams were then officially split up into Czech Republic and Slovakia. The team failed to qualify after they could only draw their final match against Belgium, a match they needed to win to qualify. ........ The two successor states continued to use the country code +42 until 28 February 1997, when this was replaced by two separate codes: +420 for the Czech Republic and +421 for Slovakia. Since then, telephone calls between the two countries have required international dialing. ....... After a transition period of roughly four years, during which the relations between the states could be characterized as a "post-divorce trauma", the present relations between Czechs and Slovaks, as many people point out, are probably better than they have ever been. ....... it has become customary that the elected presidents pay their first and last official foreign visits during their term to the other republic of the former Czechoslovakia. Appointed foreign ministers tend to follow this unwritten rule ....... Trade relationships were re-established and stabilized, and the Czech Republic continues to be Slovakia's most important business partner. After a short interruption, Slovakia's resorts in the Carpathian mountains are again the target of a growing number of Czech tourists. ....... Following the death of the last Czechoslovak president Václav Havel on 18 December 2011, both the Czech and the Slovak Republics observed the day of national mourning.
Czechoslovakia Breaks in Two, To Wide Regret
A multi-ethnic nation born at the end of World War I in the glow of pan-Slavic brotherhood, Czechoslovakia survived dismemberment by the Nazis and more than four decades of Communist rule only to fall apart after just three years of democracy. ....... While the Czech Republic's 10.3 million people are almost entirely composed of Czechs, Slovakia's population of 5.2 million includes nearly 600,000 ethnic Hungarians who already feel anxieties about the new Government. ....... "Living together in one state is over. Living together in two states continues." ...... these Slavic peoples, who speak similar languages and differ mainly in their ancient histories. ...... Although each country will now have a separate embassy in Washington, the two countries have for the moment agreed to maintain a common currency and customs union to allow free movement of goods. Czechs and Slovaks will not be required to show passports at the 17 newly opened border crossings, and the other 350 roads that link these two countries will remain open to traffic. ...... its banks have faced runs as anxious Slovak depositors moved their savings into Czech banks. ....... Slovak officials have warned of hard times ahead, but insist their country will eventually reap major benefits from independence. They note that the lion's share of foreign investment in Czechoslovakia thus far has gone to the Czech lands, a fact they attribute to the bias of federal officials in Prague rather than the demands of the market. ......... The breakup of Czechoslovakia was, from its inception, a political matter. ...... These two men, with vastly different visions of the future, quickly decided they could not govern together and agreed to dissolve the country. Both brushed aside a petition signed by 2.5 million Czechoslovaks demanding a referendum, and with good reason: Even after the dissolution of the state was decided, public opinion polls continued to show that a majority of Czechoslovaks preferred that the country remain as one. ........ Mr. Klaus was entirely willing, even eager, to dispense with the poorer Slovak region of the country. ....... The breakup, which was carried out in just a few months, has been relatively smooth. Czech and Slovak officials divvied up military equipment, foreign embassies and other assets on a two-to-one ratio reflecting their populations. Even a prisoner exchange has been planned, with 1,500 Slovaks in Czech jails to be traded for 300 convicted Czechs being held in Slovakia. ....... The breakup has produced its comic side as well. Reporters found a town where the ski chalet is in one country and the slopes in another. They uncovered postal routes that criss-crossed between the two countries and even a village where the train station and the town it serves were in different countries. ....... At one point, the federal Government was forced to acknowledge that it did not know exactly where the line ran and had been using Nazi-era maps of the Slovak puppet state for guidance. ......... June 1992 -- Vladimir Meciar wins election for Prime Minister in Slovakia and Vaclav Klaus wins in the Czech Republic. They meet to form a government, and immediately begin discussing the breakup of the country.
Czechs and Slovaks were better together
As the referendum on Scottish independence nears, I recall the feeling of deep depression that came over me 21 years ago at the time of Czechoslovakia’s “velvet divorce”. Two new small countries appeared on the map – the Czech Republic and Slovakia – and beyond their borders nobody understood why they had separated. A broader and larger “unionist” (federal) state that bound citizens together gave way to two smaller states more reliant on ethnic definition. ......... It was also largely seen as a positive achievement because at the time Yugoslavia was falling apart violently. ........ the Czechoslovak decision was not made through a proper democratic process. It was sprung on “unionists” as well as on “secessionists” in a somewhat despotic fashion by two national leaders, energised by electoral success: one a Czech, on the victorious political right, the other a Slovak on the equally victorious left. It was made over a cup of tea ........ One of the results is the rise of little-Czech nationalism, populism and xenophobia in a nation that no longer shares its fate with its historical partners or minorities – Slovaks, Germans, Jews, Poles, Hungarians. The Roma Gypsies have become the new “other”. Such small-nation nationalism and parochialism comes with a lot of negative sentiment: anti-politics and anti-politicians, anti-Roma, anti-homeless people, anti-Islam, increasingly anti-American, anti-European and still quite anti-German. Curiously, pro-Russian sympathies are growing, as reactions to the crisis in Ukraine tend to demonstrate. ......... At home, for nearly two decades there has been a widespread feeling of depression. “Blba nalada”, silly mood, as Havel once coined it. It all began then, with the split of Czechoslovakia. But we didn’t know.
Slovakia: life after the velvet divorce
On New Year’s Day a small, mountainous European country of just over five million people celebrated its 21st anniversary as an independent nation. Since independence, it has enjoyed some of Europe’s highest growth rates, with strong inward investment encouraged by low taxes, and has become an active member of the European Union, stoutly defending its own interests. ...... The country in question is Slovakia, known until its “Velvet Divorce” from the Czech Republic in 1993 as the smaller, less developed and weaker part of Czechoslovakia. Now it scores higher in almost every economic indicator. ........ as a Scot living in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, for the past three years, I see the experience of this country’s separation from the Czech Republic as pretty positive. The strongest testimony to this is that a large majority of both Czechs and Slovaks – who overwhelmingly opposed the split at the time (there was no referendum) – now believe it was for the best. ....... Czechs and Slovaks appear to get on better now than they did when they shared a country, constantly bickering as they did (just like the Scots and English) over whether one “subsidised” the other or “dictated policy”. ...... “We have grown up politically. We don’t have anyone else to blame any more. We are responsible for our own decisions.” ......... The experience of Slovakia’s re-emergence as a state certainly dispels some of the myths surrounding Scotland’s likely fate after a Yes vote. Even though the “divorce” was rushed through in a matter of months, allowing little time for negotiations (which the Scots are told would be fiendishly complex), Slovakia was admitted to international institutions such as the World Bank and IMF from day one, and became a member of the United Nations after just 19 days. Czechoslovakia was not a member of the European Union at the time but both new countries went on to join the EU in 2004, and it was Slovakia, not the Czech Republic (previously seen as economically more vibrant), that was first to adopt the euro, in the days when that was a mark of respectability. ...... the Slovaks used to feel ignored and patronised by Prague. .... I remember coming to Bratislava in 1991 to report on what was being called “the Hyphen war”. Thousands of Slovaks marched in the streets to champion the somewhat improbable cause of inserting a hyphen into the country’s name: “Czecho-slovakia”. But that was just a strange expression of a much deeper need. The Velvet Revolution had ushered in a Czechoslovakia where the divisions between the two nations became more apparent than they had been under the communist state. .......... Opinion polls showed that 67 per cent of Slovaks and 78 per cent of Czechs were against the split, but it went ahead anyway from 1 January 1993. ...... The initial upheaval was immense, with border posts going up, customs barriers, separate currencies and passports – all things the Scottish government hopes to avoid – plus a complex exercise in political arithmetic as Czechoslovakia’s real estate, from embassies to tanks and aircraft, was divided up to reflect the 2:1 ratio of the new countries’ populations. .......... after this rocky start Slovakia took off, and hasn’t looked back. The country joined Nato in March 2004, and the EU – simultaneously with the Czech Republic and several other central European countries – two months later. Foreign investors such as Volkswagen, Samsung and Deutsche Telekom, attracted by a low 19 per cent flat tax rate, saw it as a prime location. Being in the Schengen area brought an end to border controls and passport checks. In 2007, just before the global crash, Slovakia had the highest growth rate in the EU (10.5 per cent). Within a short time it met the criteria to join the single currency, and on 1 January 2009 fireworks and concerts marked its spectacular entry into the eurozone. For a tiny country that had once looked like the poor man of Europe, these were big, brassy badges of honour. .......... Despite the global recession and continuing high unemployment, Slovakia, one of only four former communist countries to have joined the eurozone, remains one of Europe’s success stories. Its economy is growing while that of its “big brother”, the Czech Republic, is contracting. National wealth – per capita GDP – has soared from just 50 per cent of the EU average 12 years ago to 76 per cent today. It is the world’s biggest car producer per head of population. ........ “The Slovak intelligentsia and political class got a chance to mature. We do not have anyone to point a finger at, to make excuses, so that’s kind of a good thing.” ........ Slovaks are immeasurably poorer than Greeks and most object strongly to the idea of their own country, which abides by every comma in the single-currency rulebook, contributing billions to dig Greeks out of their self-inflicted mess. ......... The downside of independence is the country’s “smallness”. Slovak television seems parochial; the gene pool of talent is that much smaller. Slovaks still watch Czech TV as well as their own, and love Czech songs, comedians and films. Prague, they tell you with some regret, was a great place to have as your capital city. ........ The split has not driven Czechs and Slovaks apart; rather the opposite. Many thousands of Czechs still live in Slovakia, and vice versa. Czech climbers throng the mountain paths and ski slopes in the Slovak Tatras – and Slovaks endlessly josh about “yet another group of stupid Czechs lost in our hills”. Ice hockey is the national sport and matches between the two ignite the same passions as Scotland-England football games. Yet there is not even a hint of bitterness. Recently the Czech and Slovak equivalents of Britain’s Got Talent got together again for a series of Czecho Slovakia’s Got Talent, with one presenter from each nation and plenty of benign rivalry. ........ “The Czechs always used to complain that they were ‘paying’ for us, and we used to complain that they were bossing us around. Not any more,” says Gyárfášová. “Now we trust each other more. We get on better than ever.”
The break-up of Czechoslovakia and Scottish independence
The smooth, quick division of Czechoslovakia at the end of 1992 is invoked by advocates of Scottish independence as evidence that amicable separation is feasible. But dissolving a federation is very different from removing part of a union that would continue............ The major issues that would need to be settled in negotiating Scottish independence (division of assets and liabilities, borders, defence and currency) would entail much more demanding talks than those that terminated the Czechoslovak federation.............. While peaceful, the division of Czechoslovakia took longer than is often claimed, and was preceded by far-reaching devolution that had already granted most of the powers of statehood to the constituent republics............ While some Czechs and Slovaks initially favoured a diluted sovereignty akin to that proposed by the Scottish National Party, they were forced by events to accept full independence. ......... They concluded that it would be easier to divide the country than divide portfolios. ...... much remained to be tidied up after January 1993, including the exact delineation of the border (1996), arrangements for citizens of one republic to attend university in the other (1998) and to acquire dual citizenship (July 1999), and final settlement of the federal central bank’s assets (November 1999). ...... Since the Czech Republic had approximately twice the population of Slovakia, a 2:1 ratio was applied to moveable assets and liabilities. Fixed assets, such as government buildings or state-owned enterprises, went to the republic in which they were located. A Commission of Final Settlement was established to work out the details of matters that did not lend themselves to simple assignment, such as the gold deposits of the central bank (Slovakia made a separate claim on several tons that it said had once belonged to the Slovak state that was nominally independent under German tutelage during the Second World War; they were delivered under the 1999 deal.) As Czechoslovakia had accumulated little debt, both republics were content to shoulder a proportionate share of it. In the case of Scotland, by contrast, there could be huge disagreement over whether the UK, as a continuing state, should bear the entirety, or whether to link it to another matter, such that Scotland would take on some of the debt in return for continued use of sterling. Such bargaining did not feature in the Czech-Slovak talks. ........ In a year, from October 1992, they divided federal military facilities and equipment according to the default rules for fixed and moveable assets. An exception was made for the MiG-23 fleet, in which Slovakia had no interest, so as compensation they took half the MiG-29 fleet. Mutual access to archives, including intelligence files, was also arranged, with extensive photocopying permitted. Officers were allowed to choose where to remain, on the provision that they committed to citizenship of that country: 85% - 90% of 8,600 Slovaks in the Czech Republic, and of 2,580 Czechs in Slovakia, chose to stay on. The Army of the Czech Republic thus started out with an officer corps that was 18% Slovak, and its Slovak counterpart was 15% Czech. ............ While Slovakia would have been happy to keep its border with the Czech Republic lightly guarded (and insisted on the right to work in the other republic without a permit), the Czechs were driven to demand stronger controls owing to Germany’s threat to return unsuccessful asylum seekers to the nearest safe country through which they had traveled; the Czechs in turn pressed the Slovaks to tighten up their Ukrainian frontier, while limiting the places where people could cross the Czech-Slovak line. It took until June 1994 to work out a variable regime, which was exceptionally relaxed for Czechs and Slovaks (those over 16 with a national ID card) and a normal state line for nationals of other countries. In any event, such matters were neutralized by the joint accession of the republics to the Schengen area in 2007. ........ an independent Scotland’s use of sterling rather than its own money would require very extensive negotiation. There may also have to be parallel talks with Brussels about whether Scotland would have to commit to eventual adoption of the euro. For the Czechs, there was no question that separate currencies would eventually replace the Czechoslovak crown, forcing the Slovak side to abandon their preference for a joint currency issued by separate central banks. It was a matter of trying to minimize disruption to trade by operating a transitional currency union. ....... the currency union was not expected to be sustainable beyond June 1993 owing to the different pressures on the respective economies, but knowledge of that prompted banks, firms and individuals to hoard cash in Czech banks and convert to foreign currency in anticipation of devaluation of the Slovak crown. In January 1993, as both central banks saw their foreign exchange reserves disappearing, the two governments agreed to uncouple, with the currency union ending after only 38 days in operation. The changeover to separate currencies went very smoothly, re-enacting the stamping of Austro-Hungarian imperial banknotes in 1919 for use within Czechoslovakia until they could be replaced by new national notes. It should be remembered that, at the end of 1992, the Czechoslovak crown was not fully convertible, and was thus less exposed to global markets than sterling is today. .......... the ‘sovereignty’ favoured by Michal Kováč in1992, who went on to become the first president of Slovakia the following year. Like Salmond, he was an economist with experience in banking, and was attracted to the idea of confederation, a group of states that are allied to form a political unit in which they keep most of their independence but act together for purposes such as defence. While some, such as Slovak Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, might have been bluffing to extract concessions from the Czechs, Kováč took the idea seriously, and with economist Augustin Marián Húska and future foreign minister Jozef Moravčík began to draw up articles of confederation in 1991. Assuming the two republics to be technically sovereign states, the proposed treaty envisioned a mini-Maastricht union with common currency managed by a system akin to the United States Federal Reserve, but resting on separate Czech and Slovak central banks. The two republics would have been represented separately within the EU after accession, and the states would have operated their own armies under a joint command. Both republics would have had a president, rotating as president and vice-president of the confederation. ........ Like Kováč in Slovakia 75 years later, Masaryk found himself the president of a more fully independent country than he originally expected or, perhaps, wanted. ....... a ‘postmodern statehood’ (in political scientist Charles King’s words) relieved of a few burdens, but also with a sovereignty diluted by global forces that twenty years ago could be kept at a distance.
Lessons from Czechoslovakia: a currency split that worked
The split was announced on February 2. The two countries already had capital controls, but all cross-border money transfers between them were halted to avoid further speculative flows into the Czech Republic. Border controls were tightened..... Komercni Banka, a then state-owned commercial bank, glued stamps, printed by a British firm to ensure secrecy, on 150 million federal banknotes. These were trucked around the country with the help of police and the army....... The exchange for notes stamped by Czech or Slovak stamps, at a 1:1 rate, started on February 8 and was completed in four days. Later in 1993, the stamped notes were replaced by new ones....... People could swap a maximum of 4,000 crowns -- then worth $136 -- in cash. They had to deposit the rest. The old money ceased to be valid immediately the switch started..... The whole process, which required 40,000 people just on the Czech side, went ahead smoothly. An opinion poll showed 86 percent of Czechs experienced no problems in the operation. Capital controls were essential to stop bank runs. Secrecy in the buildup was paramount........ It was a peaceful separation for the federation of 15 million people, very different from the bloodbath that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia. In economic terms, the main consequences were a depletion of foreign reserves and a drop in trade between the neighbors. .......... Trade between Slovakia and the Czech Republic recovered after a 25 percent drop in 1993 and trade with the European Union grew. The Slovak currency devalued by 10 percent in mid-1993 and remained weaker than the Czech crown until Slovakia's euro entry in 2009. .......... "Seen from today's perspective this was a divorce of two undercapitalized, developing-world economies"
Scottish independence: Lessons from the Czech/Slovak split
In London, for instance, the Czechs took over the embassy and the Slovaks set up their diplomatic post in what had been the ambassador's residence. ...... The Czechoslovak experience has been studied by nationalist movements from Quebec to Catalonia. ...... the formation of the Czech and Slovak republics "demonstrate that once the popular will is determined constitutional discussions can be concluded in good time". ...... Many Slovaks thought the state was too Prague-centric and many Czechs thought they were subsidising Slovakia. ....... Agonising talks to find the central European equivalent of 'devolution max' or some other accommodation between the two nations failed. ....... It was swift, smooth and amicable when compared with the ugly conflict in the neighbouring Balkans but that doesn't mean there were no disagreements. .......... Munitions were moved back and forward across the border for a couple of years and it took nearly a decade to resolve a row about Slovakia's gold reserves in Czech banks. ........ Relations between the two countries were at "freezing point" he said. "The governments were accusing each other of everything". ...... Slovakia's independence "cost the country 4% of its GDP in the following year". ...... "Slovakia was a weaker part of Czechoslovakia" explained the former prime minister, Vladimir Meciar, who led Slovakia to independence. ....... His authoritarian style also resulted in Slovakia's near isolation in Europe until he was replaced in the late 1990s. ......... By the time of the global financial crisis, Slovakia's economy was growing so fast it had become known as the 'central European tiger'. ...... In 2013, the Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts that Slovakia's GDP will grow by 2.1% - three and a half times faster than the Czech republic. ..."We are doing very well," said Miroslav Lajcak. "The Czech republic is doing well and our friendship is better than ever," he said. ............. The Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, agreed that improved relations with Slovakia had been one of the advantages of independence. ..... One disadvantage he identified was a loss of influence in the world....... "The international weight of both republics together is less than the former Czechoslovakia," he said....... In Slovakia, one former minister said it was better to have gained a voice of their own. ............ For better or for worse, the Velvet Divorce was irreversible and after twenty years of independence there's no clamour for Czechs and Slovaks to get back together.
Britain might learn from split of Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia was formed from two parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which died in the flames of World War I in 1918. It was a stable democracy between the two world wars, then fell victim to Hitler and turned communist after World War II........... At the root of the breakup were differences over political and economic reforms following the end of four decades of communism. While the Czechs heartily endorsed the quick transformation to a market-based economy, the Slovaks preferred slower change. Slovakia, a less-developed region of 5.4 million, was hit hard by Prague's market-oriented reform drive; the 10 million Czechs suffered less. Both nations agreed to split their country's property on a 2 to 1 ratio. Although the breakup went smoothly, the absence of referendums left a feeling of ambiguity for many. ......... Slovaks wanted to keep the common currency but differences in their economies meant that the monetary union collapsed after just five weeks. After Feb. 8, people had four days to place all their money in the banks and Czech or Slovak government stamps were placed on the banknotes. The entire operation went smoothly and is now considered an example to follow. ........ Vaclav Havel, a dissident playwright who led the anti-communist Velvet Revolution, initially was opposed to the separation and resigned as the country's president in July 1992, but acknowledged 10 years later that "it is a good thing that it happened. Czechs and Slovaks may be closer today than ever before." Today, both countries have flawless relations and are close allies in the borderless EU and NATO. ......... The economic disaster predicted by many for Slovakia didn't come. After wasting several years under authoritarian Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, it made free-market reforms to become the EU's fastest growing economy and adopted the euro in 2009. The more Euroskeptic Czechs don't have it yet.
When Velvet Turns Red: The Peaceful Breakup of Czechoslovakia and the Violent Split of Serbia and Kosovo – Why the Difference?
Czechoslovakia broke up peacefully on January 1st, 1993, while Kosovo split off of Serbia violently throughout the 1990s. Both movements were sparked by the receding communist and Soviet influence, allowing nationalism and national interests to rise to the fore once more. Clifford Geertz wrote that, ‘(states) at once alike and very different, they form a commentary on one another’s character’ (Geertz 1968:4). For Geertz an interpretive analysis was useful because states that were very similar offered commentary on each other based on their differences. Czechoslovakia and Serbia share numerous similarities. The breakups of the two states happened in the same historical period (1990s Post Communist). The two states themselves were born in very similar time frames with the Kingdom of Serbia coming into being following a war of independence from the Ottomans in 1912. Czechoslovakia gained independence following the end of World War I and the Versailles Treaty. Following World War II, both countries came under the influence of communism and the Soviet Union in the Eastern bloc. .......... In the communist era, Czechs continued to occupy the most important positions in the public administration. More importantly, largely symbolic elections were being held on two levels, namely in the republic and on the federal. Consequently, a feeling of political separateness between Czechs and Slovaks developed. Thus, the patterns of self-identification along national rather than social lines were ingrained in the communist era with the two-tiered election system that de facto created a divided political system. After this Czechs voted for Czechs, Slovaks for Slovaks and even smaller minority groups formed their own parties. ........ (in 1990, 95 % of Slovaks rejected the claim that the Czechs considered them as equals) .......... Increasingly, the party-system followed centrifugal tendencies (who can be most nationalist and additionally, incorporated within extremist parties). Parliament passed the bill for dissolution of the Federation on 25. November 1992. ........ The Slovak economy was based on industry and arms production which was hit with reforms in 1991 with a resulting rapid rise in unemployment, while unemployment remained low in the Czech lands. However, the two parts of the federation generally held widely different view on political matters with the Czechs favoring privatization and the political right and the Slovaks favoring the political left. Socially, there was little migration between the Czech and Slovak parts of the country and divided mass media. The isolation was arguably conducive to mobilization of regional interests. Similarly, there was struggle about symbolic equality between the Czech and Slovak parts of the country with the so-called war of the hyphen being the most obvious example. .............. In Serbia, ethnic violence was promoted as a means for political legitimacy. The position of power of the Communist (later Socialist) Party of Serbia (hereafter referred to as SSP) was heavily reliant on perpetual ethnic conflict. Therefore, the SSP worked actively to provoke and incite ethnic conflict in order for the party to remain in power. ............ the Serbian national myth was defined through fight against Ottoman Turks. Fundamentally, it is about the historical construction of ethnic sentiment as political identities. In other words, ethnic conflict lines were salient to the public and consequently, it made sense for the SSP to seek public support by these means. Additionally, The SSP was widely ethnically homogeneous and thus, the strategy could be pursued without alienating significant parts of the member base. ......... Ethnic violence as a strategy was chosen to fend off challenges by reformists within the SSP and seal the demise of a united Yugoslavia. After the fall of communism, the main threat to the elites came through increased political participation with a degree of real influence on the distribution of political power. There were powerful movements for multi-party elections with widely supported protest rallies. In this context, only 39 % of the population was Serb and almost all non-Serbs had been alienated by Milosevic’s strategies. Therefore, it became increasingly unfeasible to win a somewhat fair election for the SSP. ........ The response was attempts to demonize other ethnic minorities in order to provoke violence along ethnic lines. Thereby, the SSP could discredit the ideas of both a united Yugoslavia and the claims of reformist Serb groups. The mass media were controlled by SSP and were used incite ethnic violence. Moderates and reformist Serbs were branded as traitors and prosecuted. Tellingly, when massive protests broke out for increased political participation and against the disastrous economic policies of Milosevic these were branded as enemies of Serbia who worked with Albanians, Croats and Slovenes in an attempt to destroy Serbia. ....... Czechoslovakia, a nation/state that was founded as a result of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, has known a remarkable transformation of its ethnic composition starting from its foundation up till its break-up in the 1990’s. Marked in the beginning by a large minority of German-speaking citizens (otherwise known as the Sudeten-Germans), the ethnic composition of the country became essentially dichotomous after the Second World War – when Germans were forced to flee – comprising of a Slovakian and Czech element, with the Czech population having a dominant majority throughout the twentieth century. Consequently, at the moment of the dissolution, the Czech population comprised around 62% of the population, whereas the Slovaks were a strong minority, with 31% identifying themselves as Slovakian. In this sense, we see a strong demographic presence of both Czechs and Slovaks, which was further symbolized by their clear territorial demarcation.
Czechoslovakia, 20 years after the split
Before World War II, Czechoslovakia was one of the 10 most industrialised states in the world, and the only central European country to remain a democracy until 1938. Many still wonder whether the two nations could have achieved substantial progress and continue the legacy of Czechoslovakia, if they had remained together after 1993.

No comments: