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Czechia and Slovakia: Thirty years of a successful divorce

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Czechia/Slovakia – On 1 January 1993, three years after the Velvet Revolution, which put an end to almost 42 years of communist rule in Czechoslovakia, the two constituent peoples of that binational state, originally founded in October 1918 and reconstituted in April 1945, parted ways amicably. This happened at the initiative of Slovakia, whose parliament, under the leadership of Vladimír Mečiar, had adopted a declaration of independence on 17 July 1992.

Thirty years later, it must be said that the two nations’ “velvet divorce” has been, on the whole, successful. Indeed, these two peoples, although they are culturally and linguistically very close to each other, did not always get along when they lived together within Czechoslovakia, and now they have become neighbouring countries with the best possible relations.

On 1 January 2023, Czechia’s capital celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of this initially unwanted independence with many lights and flags. Prague’s mayor, Zdeněk Hřib (Pirates), had declared in late December: “Czechia will celebrate this special anniversary on 1 January. So we have decided to commemorate it in a subtle way by lighting up buildings and flying Czech flags in the streets of Prague.

On the Slovak side, the press noted that Slovakia – which, unlike Czechia, has adopted the euro – is in the process of catching up with its neighbour economically, and that the two countries should eventually catch up with Austria and Germany, at least according to the most optimistic politicians.

For the Czechs and Slovaks, whether they wanted this separation or not, it was never a tragedy. Thus, as one border resident recently interviewed by the BBC said:

Over there, that’s Slovakia, but for us it’s almost the same place. (…) For me, everything stayed the same. Friends, language – everything was the same.

In short, as observed by Slovak political scientist Grigorij Meseznikov in an interview for Deutsche Welle:

“The Slovaks’ perception of the Czechs is very positive, which is borne out in opinion polls. In the Czech Republic, too, the Slovaks are seen as the closest nation.”

So, like their Polish and Hungarian V4 partners before them, the Czechs and Slovaks are now historical “good friends”.