News / Europe

Czechs, Slovaks Mark 20 Years of Bloodless Divorce

Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic, left, and Czech President Vaclav Klaus, presidential residence, Lany, near Prague, Feb. 18, 2012.
Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic, left, and Czech President Vaclav Klaus, presidential residence, Lany, near Prague, Feb. 18, 2012.
Stefan Bos
— Just after midnight on January 1, 1993, fireworks illuminated the skies over Bratislava as firebrand Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar declared Slovakia an independent republic.
 
The ceremony marked the end of Czechoslovakia, a politically stigmatized "artificial state" founded on the ashes of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918.
 
Slovakia, with just over five million people, divorced itself from what would become the Czech Republic, with a population of more than 10 million, a setback for Vaclav Havel, the former dissident playwright who became Czechoslovakia's last president after the Velvet Revolution ended Communist rule in 1989.
 
Though Havel would lead the Czech Republic for another decade, he deeply regretted what some described as the hastily arranged split between the countries, even if he was internationally praised for overseeing a bloodless breakup in a region otherwise plagued by fierce nationalism and constantly simmering hostilities.
 
Earlier this month, children gathered in the Church of St. Anne for a requiem marking the first anniversary of the late president's death, their sparkling voices reverberating through the Gothic nave.
 
"From all over the world people are here to pay their respect to Vaclav Havel, who played a crucial role in this country's modern history," said Cardinal Dominik Duka, the archbishop of Prague, recalling how the elder statesmen led his nation through turbulent times.
 
While Slovaks initially blamed Havel for dismantling the arms industry, whose decline began after the collapse of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact, leaving many jobless and impoverished, his star eventually began rising anew. As the perceived autocratic and nationalistic polices of Slovakian Prime Minister Meciar left the country internationally isolated, Havel, in the wake of Meciar's 1998 fall from power, guided its entry into the European Union and NATO military alliance.
 
At a recent meeting between current Czech and Slovak leaders, Havel's impact can still be felt.
 
Standing beside his Slovak counterpart, Czech President Vaclav Klaus cited 12 visits to Bratislava in less than two terms.
 
"This shows the closeness of the relations between the two nations despite the split of Czechoslovakia," said Klaus.
 
Although differences remain — Slovakia's President Ivan Gasparovic adopted the euro currency while the Euroskeptic Klaus held the Czech koruna — ties have improved.
 
"Today's financial crisis shows that the eurozone is not perfect," said Gasparovic, explaining that he understands reluctance to join the 17-nation eurozone. "But the goal of Slovakia and other countries is to save both the European Union and the eurozone."
 
Their currencies different but their languages similar, Czech and Slovak parliaments will meet in Prague next month to discuss their 20 years of cooperation changing roles within the EU and NATO.
 
If nothing else, the "Velvet Divorce" seems to indicate that countries in the former Soviet-dominated region can peacefully resolve historic disputes — at least in some cases.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
December 30, 2012 9:29 PM
The peaceful separation of the Czeh and Slovaks is something humanity can be very proud. There are many countries that were cobbled against the will of the constituent people, especially those people that ended up being minorities in multiple countries. These minorities were delivered by deliberate border machinations, of the so called 'Great Empires". The legacy of these empires was a trail of blood that continues to this day. The entire purpose of these artificial borders was to create minority populations, so that those empires could exploit the ancestral inhabitant's lands. These borders resulted in the deaths of millions upon million all over the planet. The Balkans was a powder cake, it is just now normalizing, but the Ottoman legacy still is a negative issue for Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece. The Ottoman Empire, a failed empire, was able to retain much lands it should not have after WWI; Turkey became a country that rules over portions of ancestral land belonging to many suffering people, this has done massive damage to Greeks, Armenians, Kurds, etc. Iraq, the current mother of all countries that will not have peace, until it is split, every day dozens are killed. Syria probably another country that needs to split, to ensure its minorities will have peace. Lebanon always on the edge, any day one can expect another bad civil war. The worse location, on the planet, of massively terrible border legacies, are the majority of countries in Africa. Africa has suffered, suffers and will continue to suffer terrible hardships; because ancestral tribal lands, were so split, by the colonial powers, that no peace is forseeable any time soon. Millions, in Africa, continue to be displace and die, thanks to the murderous borders left by the empires. The Czeh and Slovaks are a great example of what can be accomplished, if original nations can separate without bloodshed; maybe some of the other countries that need to separate should adopt such a model.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid