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

    Leaving Scalia Replacement to 2017 Would Mean Unusually Long Vacancy

    History of high court shows Obama not in unique situation during final year of presidency

    US Fact Checkers Debunk Some Republican Candidate Claims 

    Slim evidence for several claims made by Republican presidential candidates at their last debate ahead of next Saturday's key nominating election in South Carolina

    Uganda Presidential Debate a Small Victory for Democracy

    In homes and bars across country, Ugandans were fixated on their screens as eight political candidates running for president took part in national debate

    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.
    New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Ugandai
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    February 12, 2016 9:29 PM
    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video Refugees in Kenya Vie to Compete in Rio Olympics

    In Kenya, refugees from other African nations are training at a special camp and competing for a limited number of slots in this year's Rio Olympics under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Ngong, this is a first in Olympic history.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.