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

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Phone, Internet Surveillance

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid