October 2018 marked 100 years since Czechoslovakia declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and was formally established as a sovereign state. Although almost 75 years later Czechoslovakia peacefully divided into the Czech Republic and the Republic of Slovakia, netizens from Slovakia are marking the centennial with online discussions about the state that once unified them.
A date in history
For many of its citizens and their descendants who have now come of age, Czechoslovakia meant the basis of democracy and prosperity, while others considered it a smaller ‘Prison of nations’ — a version of the nickname given to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy.
While the Czech Republic embraced the anniversary and celebrates it as the “Czech and Slovak Century,” opinions in Slovakia are more divided. Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini initiated an official celebration, but instead of the traditional Czechoslovak October 28 which was celebrated in the Czech Republic capital of Prague, he moved the Bratislava festivities to October 30. The date marks the anniversary of the Martin Declaration which essentially put the focus on the Slovak movement.
Vôbec sme sa za tak dlhý čas nenaučili byť hrdí na spoločnú republiku, ktorá bola v medzivojnom období ostrovom demokracie v strednej Európe, nachádzala sa v prvej desiatke najvyspelejších krajín sveta, bolo v nej od začiatku uzákonené volebné právo žien, otvorili sa nám dvere do Európy, naštartoval sa vzdelanostný a kultúrny rast. … Preto sme doteraz nenašli silu pre uznanie štátneho sviatku a miesto toho sme si prijali jednorázovu nálepku pre naše svedomie na 30. októbra.
We have not, for so long, learned to be proud of the common republic, which was in the inter-war period island of democracy in central Europe, was in the top ten of the most advanced countries in the world, where from the beginning women had enacted voting right, the doors to Europe were opened for us, educational and cultural growth has begun. … Therefore, we have not yet found the power to recognize the state holiday and instead we have adopted a one-time sticker for our conscience on October 30th.
Feeling of unity
Positive memories clearly dominated in blogs affiliated with major newspapers. Jakub Tinak, a holder of both Czech and Slovak passports and speaker of Czech, Slovak and Hungarian, summed up his impressions about the former state and contrasted it with the violent breakup of the Balkan federation of Yugoslavia:
Som veľmi šťastný, že naše národy vedeli spoločný štát stvoriť a tiež, že sa vedeli v mieri rozísť.
I am very happy that our nations knew how to create a common state and that they also knew how to peacefully split.
Radoslav Hodor opined that Czechoslovakia fulfilled its historical role as a force for good:
Preto bez ohľadu na všetko zlé bolo Československo pre oba národy dobrý projekt. Čechom umožnilo nadviazať na svoju štátnosť zo stredovekých českých kráľovstiev a Slovákom vytvoriť si vlastnú. Iný štátny útvar by im takú možnosť neposkytol.
Therefore, regardless of all wrong what was, Czechoslovakia was a good project for both nations. He allowed Czechs to connect to their own statehood from medieval Czech kingdoms and to Slovaks to create their own. Another state formation would not give them such a chance.
Stanislav41 pointed out that the foundations of democracy in Slovakia were established by the declaration of the republic hundred years ago:
storočnica bude mať aj vojenskú parádu – samozrejme v Prahe, … a ak sa budete dobre pozerať, naša účasť bude potvrdením, … že nám to samostatne ide vari ešte lepšie …
the centenary will also have a military parade – of course in Prague, … and if you will look well, our participation will be a confirmation that … independently it goes well for us even better …
The two countries continue to have strong ties, with many students choosing to continue their university education across the border ‘in the other part of former Czechoslovakia”. In 2013, the biggest group of Czechs studying abroad was in Slovakia, while in 2016, 8.9% of university students in the Czech Republic were Slovaks.
Patrik Ölvecký felt that even though the official celebrations were on different days, the Slovaks and Czech people remain close as “brothers”.
Dokonca aj pre mňa, človeka, čo spoločné Československo nezažil, … ja som za posledných päť rokov štúdia v Prahe zistil, že ten náš vzťah je úžasný. Že mať tak blízko k inému národu je nesmierne krásne.
Even for me, a person who has not experienced Czechoslovakia … in the last five years of my studies in Prague I have found out that our relationship is amazing. Being so close to another nation is immensely beautiful.
Student Lukáš Račko also wrote about the special common features of “a country I never lived in, but it will always be my home”.
Niečo, tak jedinečné, že si to málokto na svete dokáže predstaviť. Veď, len si predstavte, že by zaviala Srbská vlajka nad Kosovským národným múzeom alebo naopak.
Pretože presne toto sa práve dnes deje v Prahe, kde je pri novootvorenej historickej budove národného múzea vyvesená aj Slovenská zástava.
Something, so unique, that just few people in the world can imagine. Just imagine that the Serbian flag will be flooded over the Kosovo National Museum or vice versa.
Because this is exactly what is happening today in Prague, where at the newly opened historical building of the National Museum is displayed also Slovak flag.
Writing in the Czech language on a Slovak blog platform, Michal Ruman shared that for the people who had both Czech and Slovak parents like him, nothing has changed since the split — they just had to carry their passports to travel from one end to another. He ended on a very personal note:
27. 10., v předvečer výročí vzniku společného státu … má naše dcera v českém kalendáři svátek. Naše Češkoslovenka. Pokračovatelka jednoho krásného spojení dvou svérázných etnik. … Všechno nejlepší, Zoe!
October 27, on the eve of the anniversary of the creation of the common state … our daughter has a names-day in the Czech calendar. Our Czechoslovak [girl]. A sequel to one beautiful union of two peculiar ethnicities. … All the best, Zoe!