Dissolution of Czechoslovakia

Dissolution of Czechoslovakia
History of Czechoslovakia
Coat of Arms of Czechoslovakia
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The dissolution of Czechoslovakia, which took effect on 1 January 1993, was an event that saw the self-determined separation of the federal state of Czechoslovakia. The Czech Republic and Slovakia, entities which had arisen in 1969 within the framework of Czechoslovak federalisation, became immediate subjects of the international law in 1993. It is sometimes known as the Velvet Divorce, a reference to the bloodless Velvet Revolution of 1989 that led to the end of the rule of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and the formation of a democratic government.



Czechoslovakia between 1968 (Constitutional Law of Federation) and 1989 (Velvet Revolution)
The modern Czech Republic
The modern Slovak Republic

Czechoslovakia was created with the dissolution of Austria-Hungary at the end of World War I. In 1917, a meeting took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the future Czechoslovak president Tomáš Masaryk and other Czech and Slovak representatives signed the Pittsburgh Agreement which promised a common state consisting of two equal nations, Slovakia and Czechia. Soon after, the philosophy of Edvard Beneš pushed for greater unity and a single nation.

Many Slovaks were not in favour of this change, and in March 1939, with the approval from Hitler and a majority of Slovaks, the First Slovak Republic was created. Occupation by the Soviet Union after World War II oversaw their reunification into the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.

In 1968, the Constitutional Law of Federation reinstated an official federal structure (of the 1917 type), but during the "Normalization period" in the 1970s, Gustáv Husák (although a Slovak himself) returned most of the control to Prague. This approach encouraged a regrowth of separatism after the fall of communism.


By the 1990s, the Czech Republic's GDP per capita was some 20% higher than Slovakia's, but its long-run GDP growth was lower.[citation needed] Transfer payments from the Czech budget to Slovakia, which had been the rule in the past, were stopped in January 1991.

Many Czechs and Slovaks desired the continued existence of a federal Czechoslovakia. Some major Slovak parties, however, advocated a looser form of co-existence[citation needed][Need quotation to verify] and the Slovak National Party complete independence and sovereignty. In the next years, political parties re-emerged, but Czech parties had little or no presence in Slovakia, and vice versa. In order to have a functional state, the government demanded continued control from Prague, while Slovaks continued to ask for decentralization.[1]

In 1992, the Czech public elected Václav Klaus and others who demanded either an even tighter federation ("viable federation") or two independent states. Vladimír Mečiar and other leading Slovak politicians of the day wanted a kind of confederation. The two sides opened frequent and intense negotiations in June. On 17 July, the Slovak parliament adopted the Declaration of independence of the Slovak nation. Six days later, Klaus and Meciar agreed to dissolve Czechoslovakia at a meeting in Bratislava. Czechoslovak president Václav Havel resigned rather than oversee the dissolution which he had opposed; in a September 1992 poll, only 37% of Slovaks and 36% of Czechs favored dissolution.[2]

The goal of negotiations switched to achieving a peaceful division. On 13 November, the Federal Assembly passed Constitution Act 541 which settled the division of property between the Czech lands and Slovakia.[3] With Constitution Act 542, passed on 25 November, they agreed to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia as of 31 December 1992.[3]

The separation occurred without violence, and was thus said to be "velvet", much like the "Velvet revolution" which preceded it, which was accomplished through massive peaceful demonstrations and actions. In contrast, other post-communist break-ups (such as the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia) involved violent conflict.

Reasons for the division

Many different reasons are given for the split of Czechoslovakia, but debates around the reason for the dissolution of Czechoslovakia center around inevitability versus events that occurred between the Velvet Revolution of 1989 and the end of the joined state in 1992.[4]

The people who argue inevitability point to the stereotypes between the two nations, problems with the shared state during communism, the failure of the communist state in Czech lands and its success in the Slovak lands, and the 1968 constitution that had a minority veto.[5]

The people who argue events between 1989 and 1992 point to international factors such as the situation the breakaway of the Soviet satellite nations, the lack of unified media between the Czech and Slovak republic, and most importantly the actions of the political leaders of the two nations.[6]

It is also important to note that Czech and Slovak histories only converge in the period 1918–1993. Since early medieval times when states first arose in what are now the Czech and Slovak republics, those states had little to nothing in common. Between the early 10th century and 1918, the two states were joined only under the dominion of Austria-Hungary, and even then the Czech lands were much closer to Austria and the Slovak lands to Hungary than they were to each other. The 1918 federation can be seen as mostly forced by necessity (as well as ideas of Slavic unity), as neither state was seen as strong enough to become independent from Austria-Hungary alone. Later under communist rule after World War II, there was little choice in the matter (forced unions were maintained by communists elsewhere as well – Yugoslavia is a prime example). The lack of common historical ground was likely an important determinant of the post-1989 federation's lack of internal cohesion, even though it was ultimately contemporary circumstances that led to its dissolution.

Legal aspects

National symbols

Since the Coat of arms of Czechoslovakia was a composition of historic geographic areas forming the country, each republic simply kept its own symbol – the Czechs the lion and the Slovaks the double cross. The same principle was applied to the two-part bilingual Czechoslovak national anthem that comprized two separate pieces of music, the Czech stanza Kde domov můj? and the Slovak stanza Nad Tatrou sa blýska. Disputes occurred only with respect to the Czechoslovak national flag. During the 1992 negotiations about the details of dissolution of Czechoslovakia, on demand made by Vladimír Mečiar and Václav Klaus, a clause forbidding use of state symbols of Czechoslovakia by successor states was inserted into the Constitutional Law about the Dissolution of Czechoslovakia. From 1990 to 1992, the red and white Flag of Bohemia (differing from the Polish flag only by proportion of the colours) officially served as the flag of the Czech Republic. Eventually, after a search for new symbology the Czech Republic unilaterally decided to ignore the constitutional law on dissolution of Czechoslovakia (article 3 of law 542/1992 says the "Czech republic and Slovak republic shall not use national symbols of Czech and Slovak Federative republic after its dissolution.") and to keep the Czechoslovak flag with an altered meaning.


The national territory was divided along the existing internal borders. Nevertheless, the border was not clearly defined at some points and, in some areas, the border cut across streets, access roads and communities that had co-existed for centuries. The most serious issues occurred around area ‘U Sabotů’ and ‘Sidonia’, but the newly born countries were able to solve the difficulties via mutual negotiations, financial compensation and, finally, an international treaty covering the border modifications. People living or owning property in the border area, however, did not stop experiencing practical problems until both new countries entered the Schengen Agreement Area, after which the borders became less significant.

Division of national property

Most federal assets were divided in a ratio of 2 to 1 (the approximate ratio between the Czech and Slovak population within Czechoslovakia), including army equipment, rail and airliner infrastructure. Some minor disputes (e.g. about gold reserves stored in Prague, federal know-how valuation) lasted for a few years after dissolution.

Currency division

Initially the old Czechoslovak currency, the Czechoslovak koruna, was still used in both countries. Fears of economic loss on the Czech side caused the two states to adopt two national currencies as early as 8 February 1993. At the beginning, the currencies had an equal exchange rate, but later on, for most of the time, the value of the Slovak koruna was lower than that of the Czech koruna (up to ca. 30%, in 2004 around 25–27%). On 1 January 2009 Slovakia adopted the euro as its currency, and €2 commemorative coin for 2009, Slovakia's first one, featured 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in remembrance of the common struggle of the Czechoslovakian people for democracy. By the virtue of fate, the welcoming speech on the behalf of the European Union on the occasion of Slovakia's entry to the Eurozone was delivered by Mirek Topolánek, the prime minister of the then EU presiding country, the Czech Republic, naturally in his native language while other guest speakers used English. The Czech Republic continues to use the Czech koruna, or crown.

International law

Neither the Czech Republic nor Slovakia sought recognition as the sole successor state to Czechoslovakia. This can be contrasted to the dissolution of the Soviet Union where the Russian Federation was recognized as successor state to the USSR. Therefore, Czechoslovakia's membership in the UN ceased upon dissolution of the country, but on 19 January 1993 the Czech and Slovak Republics were admitted to the UN as new and separate states.

With respect to other international treaties the Czechs and Slovaks agreed to honor the treaty obligations of Czechoslovakia. The Slovaks transmitted a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations on 19 May 1993 expressing their intent to remain a party to all treaties signed and ratified by Czechoslovakia, and to ratify those treaties signed but not ratified before dissolution of Czechoslovakia. This letter acknowledged that under international law all treaties signed and ratified by Czechoslovakia would remain in force. For example, both countries are recognized as signatories of the Antarctic Treaty from the date Czechoslovakia signed the agreement back in 1962.

Both the Czech and Slovak Republics have ratified the Vienna Convention on Succession of States in respect of Treaties. However, it was not a factor in the dissolution of Czechoslovakia since it did not enter into force until 1996.



The dissolution had some negative impact on the two economies, especially in 1993, as traditional links needed to accommodate the bureaucracy of international trade were severed, but the impact was considerably less than expected by many people.

Many Czechs hoped that dissolution would quickly start an era of high economic growth in the Czech Republic (without the need to "sponsor the less developed Slovakia"). Similarly others looked forward to a stand-alone, unexploited Slovakia which might become a new "economic tiger". The Czech state is markedly more prosperous than the Slovak and the Slovak GDP level is still lower than that of the Czech Republic. The growth of the Slovak GDP, however, has been consistently higher than the Czech one since 1994 and the margin between the two states is closing. Furthermore, Slovakia has overtaken the Czech Republic in terms of economic reforms aimed at approaching the economic conditions of the West. One of the outcomes so far has been the acceptance of Slovakia into the Euro Area in 2009, which the Czech Republic still does not fully qualify for (on account of the missing reforms, some of which are required for accession). While the wealth of the Czech Rep. remains higher than that of Slovakia in many respects, Czech development is continually hindered by what may be described as a lack of resolve towards mending the persisting shortcomings of the domestic economy (in addition to the discussed reforms, this includes e.g. long-term fiscal irresponsibility or a failure to take steps to improve the low domestic labour productivity).


Dual citizenship between the two states was originally not allowed; only years later did courts make it possible. Only a handful of people have exercised this right; however, the significance of this is lessened by both nations' membership in the EU as the freedom of movement for workers policy guarantees EU citizens the right to work and live anywhere in the Union. In the case of movement between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, this policy took effect from 2004.

People of both countries were allowed to cross the border without a passport and were allowed to work anywhere without the need to obtain an official permit. Border checks were completely removed on 21 December 2007 when both countries joined the Schengen Agreement.

Under the current European regulations, citizens of either country are entitled to the diplomatic protection of any other EU country and, therefore, the Czech and Slovak Republics have been considering merging their embassies together with nations of the Visegrád Group in order to reduce costs.[7]

Roma people

One of the problems not solved during dissolution was the question of a large number of Roma living in the Czech Republic, who were born and officially registered in today's Slovakia. Most of them did not re-register their official place of stay during the months before dissolution, and so the question of their citizenship was left open. The 1992 Czech Nationality Act allowed a grant of automatic citizenship only to those born on Czech territory. For others, the right to citizenship required proof of a five-year period of residence, an "unobjectionable" criminal record, significant fees and a complicated bureaucratic process; this reportedly excluded a rather large percentage of Roma.[8]

The Slovak government did not want to grant citizenship to non-residents. Significant numbers of Roma living in Czech orphanages did not have their legal status clarified, and were released from care as adult non-citizens without any right to work or live in the Czech Republic.[9] Under pressure from the European Union, the Czech government made amendments to its nationality law in 1999 and 2003 which effectively solved the problem; compensation, however, has not been provided to those rendered stateless in 1992.[8]

Language contacts

In the former Czechoslovakia, the first television channel (see Mass media in Communist Czechoslovakia) was a federal one and the Czech and Slovak languages were used in equal ratios in the TV news there, although foreign films and TV series were almost exclusively dubbed into Czech, for example. This (and the fact that both languages are very similar) made almost all people of both nations passively bilingual, i.e., they were able to understand but not necessarily speak the other language. After the dissolution in 1990s the new TV channels in the Czech Republic practically stopped using Slovak, and young Czech people now have a much lower understanding of the Slovak language. Also, the number of Slovak-language books and newspapers sold in the Czech Republic dropped drastically. The Czech TV news, however, recently started to reintroduce Slovak-language coverage from Slovakia and Slovak TV (STV2) is re-transmitting Czech news Události ČT ("Czech Television - Events") each day ten minutes after the midnight.

In the Slovak state TV, STV, it is common to have daily at least one coverage from the Czech Republic in the prime time news. Further, for economic reasons, many TV programmes on Slovak TV channels are still dubbed into Czech, some films in cinemas are subtitled in Czech and there are far more Czech-language books and periodicals on the market than before the dissolution. The major boost for the language interchange has come recently from private TV channel providers like CS Link (Czech Republic) and Sky Link (Slovakia) that offer Slovak Channels in the Czech Republic and, vice versa. Additionally, several channels, regardless of their national origin, offer programs both in Czech and Slovak (CSFilm, TV Barrandov) or even mix like TV Nova's NOVA SPORT coverage of the English Premier League. New impulses to mutual contacts coming via TV are also common shows like the Intelligence Test of Nations, Czechoslovakia's Got Talent,[10] hosted by PRIMA and TV JOJ, and Czecho-Slovak SuperStar, the latter being the first international edition of the Pop Idol song contest hosted by TV Nova and Markíza. Also, the New Year's Eve Program for 2009 was prepared and broadcast jointly by the state televisions ČT and STV and that for 2010 by the Czech TV PRIMA and the Slovak TV JOJ, this time even including the singing of the Czechoslovak national anthem.

Young Slovak people still have the same knowledge (if not better) of the Czech language as their predecessors. Even today, in Slovakia, Czech may be used automatically in all judicial proceedings, plus all documents written in Czech are acknowledged by Slovak authorities, and vice versa. Further, the Slovak Official Language Act passed in 2009 did reconfirm the right of Czechs to use their language in all official communication when dealing with Slovak authorities (however, the Act explicitely limited the use of Czech in Slovakia only to persons with Czech as their mother tongue). The same is true about using the Slovak language in the Czech Republic owing to the Administration Procedure Act of 2004. Gustáv Slamečka, the Czech transport minister of Slovak origin, uses the Slovak language exclusively in his official communication.

The upward trend in the language contacts demonstrates that Czechs and Slovaks do not regard each other as foreigners. The interview surveys from 2010 showed that majority of the population of Prague (Czechs) still considers the division of the country as a mistake;[11] similarly, the general representative survey in Slovakia (from 2008)[12] showed that society is still divided in opinion on the dissolution: 47% favoring the dissolution, while 44% considering it as a mistake.

For the language comparison see differences between Slovak and Czech languages.


At the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships 1993 in Falun, Sweden, the ski jumping team competed as a combined Czech Republic-Slovakia team in the team large hill event, winning a silver. The team had been selected prior to the dissolution. Jaroslav Sakala won two medals in the individual hill events for the Czech Republic at those games along with his silver in the team event.

The official break-up occurred right in the middle of the 1993 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, which also took place in Sweden. The team representing Czechoslovakia was called "Czech-Slovak" starting on 1 January.

In their qualifying section for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the Czechoslovakia national football team competed under the name RCS which stood for "Representation of Czechs and Slovaks". It was after this that the teams were then officially split up into Czech Republic and Slovakia. The team failed to qualify after they could only draw their final match against Belgium, a match they needed to win to qualify.

The mutual encounters between national teams especially in ice hockey, traditionally the successful sport, and soccer, where Czechs and Slovaks compete against each other regularly in the World and European Championship Qualifications is followed by the majority of the population, and the number of players and coaches active in the other republic is endless. Several sports did or do feature a common league, and the discussions about having a common soccer or ice hockey league continue. For example, Martin Lipták, a Slovak handball coach led successfully the Czech national team in EHF 2010 Handball European Championship in Austria.[13] A Slovak Team under his coaching, Tatran Prešov, won the Czech national league in 2008 and 2009.[14]


The two successor states continued to use the country code +42 until 28 February 1997, when this was replaced by two separate codes: +420 for the Czech Republic and +421 for Slovakia. Since then, telephone calls between the two countries have required international dialing.


After a transition period of roughly four years, during which the relations between the states could be characterized as a "post-divorce trauma", the present relations between Czechs and Slovaks, as many people[who?] point out, are probably better than they have ever been.

No movement to re-unite Czechoslovakia has appeared and no political party advocates it in its programme. Political influences between the countries are minimal, but social democrats tend to cooperate very closely on regional and European topics in recent years. Furthermore, it has become customary that the elected presidents pay their first and last official "foreign" visits during their term to the other republic of the former Czechoslovakia. Appointed foreign ministers tend to follow this unwritten rule. Also, peace keeping troops stationed in the former Czechoslovakia were put under a joint command on several occasions. Trade relationships were re-established and stabilized, and the Czech Republic continues to be Slovakia's most important business partner. After a short interruption, Slovakia's resorts in the Carpathian mountains are again the target of a growing number of Czech tourists.

See also


  1. ^ Skalnik Leff, Carol (1997). The Czech and Slovak Republics. Nation versus state. Westview Press. pp. 129–139. ISBN 0-8133-2922-1. 
  2. ^ Kamm, Henry. "At Fork in Road, Czechoslovaks Fret", New York Times, dateline 9 October 1992. Retrieved 1 January 2009.
  3. ^ a b Mrak, Mojmir (1999). Succession of States. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. ISBN 904111145. 
  4. ^ Innes, Abby (2001). Czechoslovakia: The Short Goodbye. Yale University Press. 
  5. ^ Kraus, Michael (2000). Irreconcilable Differences? Explaining Czechoslovakia’s Dissolution. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 
  6. ^ Musil, Jiri (1995). The End of Czechoslovakia. Oxford University Press Inc.. 
  7. ^ "V4 wants common embassies". Noviny.joj.sk. http://noviny.joj.sk/politika/4-9-2009/clanok/v4-chce-spolocne-velvyslanectva.html. Retrieved 14 April 2011. 
  8. ^ a b Dedić, Jasminka. Roma and Stateless. European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs
  9. ^ The manufactured troubles of L'udovit Gorej, Roma Rights Quarterly, Summer 1997
  10. ^ "Úvod | Česko Slovensko má Talent". Csmatalent.sk. 30 November 2010. http://www.csmatalent.sk/. Retrieved 14 April 2011. 
  11. ^ "Rozdelenie Československa: Čo hovorí pražská ulica?". Tv.sme.sk. http://tv.sme.sk/v/13701/rozdelenie-ceskoslovenska-co-hovori-prazska-ulica.html. Retrieved 14 April 2011. 
  12. ^ "Slovaks have not come to terms with the breakup". Hnonline.sk. http://hnonline.sk/c1-29483470-slovaci-sa-nezmierili-s-rozchodom-s-cechmi. Retrieved 14 April 2011. 
  13. ^ "Martin Lipták trénerom hádzanárov Česka". Sportky.topky.sk. 18 July 2008. http://sportky.topky.sk/c/25442/Martin-Liptak-trenerom-hadzanarov-Ceska. Retrieved 14 April 2011. 
  14. ^ pdrbjak. "Tatran Prešov Web Page". Tatranpresov.sk. http://www.tatranpresov.sk/index.php?page=44. Retrieved 14 April 2011. 


  • Innes, Abby (2001), Czechoslovakia: The Short Goodbye (New Haven: Yale University Press).
  • Rupnik, Jacques (2001), “Divorce à l’amiable ou guerre de sécession? (Tchécoslovaquie-Yougoslavie),” Transeuropéennes no. 19/20.
  • Wehrlé, Frédéric (1994), Le Divorce Tchéco-Slovaque: Vie et mort de la Tchécoslovaquie 1918–1992 (Paris: L’Harmattan).
  • Paal Sigurd Hilde, "Slovak Nationalism and the Break-Up of Czechoslovakia." Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 51, No. 4 (Jun. 1999): 647–665.


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