The former Czechoslovakian nation might be considered an arranged marriage. This marriage of peoples came about as many European boundaries shifted at the end of the first World War. It was at this time the Austro-Hungarian Empire fell apart.
A very abbreviated version of Czechoslovak history:
Moravia and Bohemia had been formally under specific jurisdiction of Austria. Slovakia had been a section of Hungary. Despite different economic and cultural differences, Slovakia, the tiny principality of Carpathian Ruthenia, along with the Czech speaking Moravia and Bohemia came together to form a new nation in 1918.
The resulting country was an unbalanced multi-ethnic nation. More than half of the state were ethnic Czechs; 16-percent were Slovakian; 22-percent came from German stock; five-percent claimed Hungarian ancestry; and about four-percent had their origins in Ruthenia. There was a feeling of oppression, from the beginning, of the minority populations by the Czech majority.
Despite the simmering differences within Czechoslovakia, the new country was the only democratic nation among all the brand new post World War One countries. Because the region had formed from the highly industrialized portion of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, the population was more prosperous. Czechoslovakians were, as a whole, more literate and progressive than their neighbors. In turn, the Czechoslovakian political elite promoted progressive economic and social programs that calmed discontent among the various ethnic groups.
Nazi Germany demanded control of a the Sudentenland. After the infamous Appeasement agreement at the Munich Conference, the Germanic portion of Czechoslovakia was ceded to Nazi control. The following year, the remainder of the country was invaded by Germany and divided into the Bohemia-Moravia Protectorate and the Slovak State. The Nazi aim was to eliminate Czech nationals so as to help enable German settlement of the territory. The unhappy result was a Nazi policy of deportation, assimilation, and genocide of the Czechoslovakian intellectuals, middle class, Jews, and other minority peoples.
After the defeat of Nazi Germany, the nation of Czechoslovakia was restored, except for Ruthenia which was absorbed by the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic as a part of the USSR. The election of 1946 saw the victory of the Communists in Bohemia and Moravia while the Democrats claimed victory in the Slovakian districts. Two years later, the Communists assumed power over the entire nation.
The pacified period of Communist rule existed through the next few decades with the exception of a brief period of destabilization in the early 1950s and during the “Prague Spring” of the late 1960s. The Czechoslovak Communist party was forced to surrender their more liberal policies to the will of the Soviet Union during this time.
Then the 1970s witnessed an upsurge of the liberal dissidents who demanded more political expression and a voice in work activity. They sought an end to overt displays of police brutality and high rates of imprisonment. There were also the desires for better education of children and equality in job placement for all Czechoslovakians.
The so-called Velvet Revolution, in 1989, happened during the same period as the fall of Communism in much of the rest of Eastern Europe. The result of this event was the restoration of Democracy to Czechoslovakia. With the end of Communism, the post World War One nationalistic tensions of the two main parts of Czechoslovakia began to reemerge. The weaknesses of a two-state federation, that had been suppressed by the centralized rule from Prague, became apparent, once again.
In the post Velvet Revolution nation, political forces that were aligned with a center-right philosophy prevailed in the Czech districts. More nationalistic and leftist parties had the sympathies of the Slovakians.
Slovakians became ever more resentful about the predominance of Czechs in the national government. At the same time, many Czechs had felt that Slovakia was an economic burden on the nation. The growing strife between the two ethnic groups might have been solved by allowing the Slovakians more autonomy, but that did not happen. The lack of democratic experience by both groups did much to increase tensions, too.
The decision to dissolve the nation of Czechoslovakia:
Politicians mulled over several ways to defuse the tensions between the Czechs and the Slovaks. The idea of holding a referendum was considered, then discarded, due to the unequal population sizes. Some citizens wanted a federation, others favored a confederation, still others wanted separate nations. One of the favored solutions involved a split into three countries. They would have been Bohemia, Slovakia, and
The “arranged marriage” that was Czechoslovakia, started its dissolution on November 25, 1992 when the Federal Assembly of Czechoslovakia voted in favor of what has since become known as the “Velvet Divorce”. Leaders voted to divide their nation into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The division would legally take effect on January 1, 1993.
The land was divided between the two new nations according to the existing domestic borders. Any disagreements about the exact border lines were solved under mutual negotiations, financial agreements, and finally an international treaty.
The “divorce settlement” included some minor disputes over industrial assets and the gold reserve in Prague, but these were taken care of
within the next few years. In early 1993 the two nations adopted their own currencies, the Slovak Koruna and the Czech Koruna. In 2009 Slovakia converted their money to the Euro. The Czech Republic continues to use the Czech Koruna.Because the nation of Czechoslovakia had been officially discontinued, neither Slovakia nor the Czech Republic desired to be recognized as the successor state to Czechoslovakia. That meant that Czechoslovakia’s membership in international organizations, like the United Nations, also ceased to exist. Instead, Slovakia and the Czech Republic were admitted as members to the organizations as all-new, separate nations.
Both of the new nations also agreed to individually honor the previously signed treaty obligations of the former nation of Czechoslovakia. These agreements were validated under international law.
There is still a bit of “post divorce trauma” in the two nations. Both exhibit a small degree of mutual xenophobia. The Slovaks seem to be recovering more quickly but the Czechs appear to have taken the split as more of a defeat. In my opinion, the role of membership in the European Union has been a positive. Without the two nations’ involvement in the EU, the dissolution of Czechoslovakia would likely have resulted in more strife and conflict.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this thought from former Czechoslovakian leader Vaclav Havel: “When a truth is not given complete freedom, freedom is not complete.”