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

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

Election Campaigning Begins in Ivory Coast

No one expecting a repeat of 2009-2010 post-election conflict, but campaign getting off to tense start with only 4 of 10 candidates agreeing to sign code of good conduct More

Indian PM Calls for Unity Amid Tense Climate Over Beef Attacks

Recent series of beef-related incidents seen as signs of rising intolerance toward Muslims and other religious minorities More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs