Czech Republic is officially called Czechia. Why hasn't it caught on? (2023)

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš was halfway through an interview with the Wall Street Journal in March when an aide had to inform him that his country had another name in English.

“I didn’t know this. I don’t like it at all,” he said, the WSJ reported, adding his feeling that the shortened name in English, Czechia, could be confused with Chechnya.

“I don’t like this. We are [the] Czech Republic. We are Czechs. And I don’t know who came with such a stupid idea. Crazy,” he said.

Babiš’ fears are well-founded. In 2013, CNN said the bombers of the Boston Marathon, who were Chechen, were from Czechia. The Czech ambassador in Washington at the time, Petr Gandalovič, was forced to publicly correct the mistake.

That said, Babiš can hardly claim to have not heard of the semantic argument before. The nature of the Czech Republic’s “geographical” English name was a talking point for decades prior to 2016, when the authorities settled on Czechia (pronounced che-ki-ya) in English, the equivalent of the shortened Česko in the Czech language.

In large part, this was a campaign led by President Miloš Zeman after he entered office in 2013, something Babiš also no doubt knew. “I use the word Czechia because it sounds nicer and it’s shorter than the cold Czech Republic,” Zeman said that year, when in Israel.

Czechia has now been accepted by the United Nations and the European Union, as well as by tech giants Google and Apple. Indeed, the UN claims that its origins go far further back, with its first reference in Latin coming in 1634, while Czechian and Czechish were commonly used by English-language speakers in the 19th century.

I’ll be the last one to use it.

Vaclav Havel

Czech Republic's first president

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The Czech Republic is certainly not alone in having more than one name, there are many nations that have both a geographical and political name: When referring to the French Republic, for example, people typically use the name France.

It also only remains an issue amongst English and Czech speakers. In French, some say Tchéquie is more common than la République tchèque, while in both Arabic and Korean the lengthier name is almost never used.

In Germany, it is a little more controversial. The more natural-sounding Tschechei was used to describe parts of the country occupied by the Nazi regime after 1938, and so the less historically-tainted Tschechien is now used.

“There are few things more symbolic than naming one's own country, therefore disagreements are to be expected, even in situations which may look to an outsider as trivial or bizarre,” said Richard Q. Turcsányi, an assistant professor at Mendel University in Brno, a city in the Czech Republic.

Indeed, the history of the Czech lands is somewhat a history of semantic disputes, and when Czech nationalism developed in the late 19th century it was largely based upon language.

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As Mary Heimann writes in her book Czechoslovakia: The State That Failed, nationality under the Hapsburgs was a variation on the German model, “in which the ‘nation’ was understood as people linked predominately through language and culture” as opposed to a “people who lived in the same territory.”

In the early 20th century, when part of the Austro-Hungarian multi-ethnic empire, Czech more accurately described Czech language speakers of this area, rather than those born in the Lands of the Bohemian Crown, as it was then known. German-language speakers formed a large percentage of the population in this area for centuries but for early Czech nationalists they weren’t Czech, a controversy that would define much of Europe’s inter-war period.

Czech Republic is officially called Czechia. Why hasn't it caught on? (1)


At the time of Czechoslovakia’s foundation in 1918, the National Geographic mocked the lengthy name as an “unfair handicap for the young state.” More ailing was whether it was the republic of Česko-Slovensko or Československo, as the official name often changed back and forth over the decades.

Slovaks speak a slightly different language than Czechs and saw themselves as a separate nationality under Hapsburg rule, only joining with the Czechs in 1918 in the belief that together they stood a better chance of gaining statehood after the First World War.

But debates over the whether there should be a hyphen signified a difference in culture and political aspirations between the two territories.

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Many Slovak nationalists called for formal independence from the centralised and, they said, the discriminatory power of the Czechs based in Prague, first achieved under fascist auspices in 1939 and then democratically and peacefully in 1993.

This issue would revive itself after the fall of communism in 1989 when the so-called “hyphen war” broke out in post-socialist Czechoslovakia.

The breakup of Czechoslovakia during the Velvet Divorce in 1993 cast the hyphen question aside. In its place arose another historical debate about what the new Czech Republic’s official shortened, geographical name should be.

Czechoslovakia – rather than the Czechoslovak Republic – was an accepted geographical name both in English and its equivalent in Czech before the breakup in 1993. Slovakia was also well-used to its own shortened name so was quick to accept Slovensko as the briefer version of the more formal Slovenská Republika – again, both in the English and Slovak languages.

But Czechs had been debating their own moniker since the 1940s, with the question arising again almost every decade since. Many Czech linguists thought the geographical name for their devolved territory should be Česko, meaning Czechia in English. Others thought this would upset regional sensibilities.

The semantic problem is that the root word meaning Czech (Čech) also means Bohemia, the largest and historically most powerful of the three Czech lands: Bohemia to the west, which includes the capital Prague; Moravia to the east; and the little sliver left of Silesia, most of which is now in Poland.

According to Lubomír Kopeček, a political science professor at Masaryk University, resistance to using Česko is mostly an “emotional thing” to do with regional sensibilities.

Under Hapsburg rule, Moravia had its own Diet, or Assembly, as did Silesia. Yet, after the foundation of Czechoslovakia, the Moravians and Silesians also felt that Bohemia and its capital Prague held too much political control, much like the Slovakians.

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'It's the Czech Republic, simple'

Even today, regionalism remains a hot-button issue for some. In the 2011 population census, 522,000 people declared themselves to be of Moravian nationality, up from 380,000 a decade beforehand, even though the Czech government doesn’t consider Moravians or Silesians as distinct national groups.

“Regional identities in the Czech Republic are relatively strong – the territory has been clearly divided into three lands since the early Medieval ages – and has remained so,” says Turcsányi, of Mendel University in Brno. These sentiments aren’t exactly irredentist, he added, by local patriotism in Moravia and to a smaller extent in Silesia exists and stands against centralizing power in Prague.

“Moravian regionalism is one of the sources of this resistance,” explained Kopeček. “But much more important is that Česko sounds strange also for the people in the western part of the country.”

Indeed, even after the Czech Nomenclature Committee accepted Česko as the official geographical name in 1993, there was still opposition by leading figures on aesthetic grounds, including by Vaclav Havel, the anti-communist figurehead and the Czech Republic’s first president.

“Slugs creep on my skin when I read or hear the word; I’ll be the last one to use it,” he once reportedly said.

According to Kopeček, the debate is less intense than it was even though there is “still a lot of people, not only in Moravia, who do not use the term.” When the country’s national basketball team put emblazoned Česko on their jerseys this month, it started another smattering of debate on social media. But many national newspapers now use it, though most politicians prefer the longer name which is also used on almost all official documents.

As for Czechia, that remains a perennial talking point, although one few people are that interested in anymore. Indeed, survey after survey has found that most Czechs still prefer the lengthier name over the shortened one in English. The majority find it too harsh sounding; others say that because most English-speakers haven’t caught up to the name change, confusion is avoided by keeping on with the Czech Republic.

On a recent Friday night in Olomouc, a Moravian city, a table of heavy drinkers gave a collective raise of the eyebrow when this topic was broached.

“It’s Czech Republic, simple,” said Tomáš, 32.

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Why is Czech Republic not called Czechia? ›

If the word Czechia were linguistically wrong it would never have been standardized as the correct translation of the short country name in Czech (Česko) into English and the Czech government would never have approved it. Fortunately, young Czechs are starting to use Czechia despite obstacles they face.

Why does Czechoslovakia want to be called Czechia? ›

In 1993, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country suggested the name ”Czechia.” The government approved the use of the name in 2016. They believed that it is a more commercial-sounding name that the international community would find easier to remember.

Is it Czechia or Czech Republic? ›

Czech Republic, also called Czechia, country located in central Europe. It comprises the historical provinces of Bohemia and Moravia along with the southern tip of Silesia, collectively often called the Czech Lands. In 2016 the country adopted the name “Czechia” as a shortened, informal name for the Czech Republic.

Why does the Czech Republic keep changing its name? ›

Czechia. Again it's marketing that is behind the name change of the central European country, Czech Republic. In 2016, the Czech government officially changed its name to Czechia, along with a recommendation to promote this short version in international contexts.

Why isn t Czechia called Bohemia? ›

The name Bohemia was rejected because it explicitly excluded Moravia and Czech Silesia in the east of the country.

Is there a difference between the Czech Republic and Czechoslovakia? ›

On a European scale, the Czech Republic is a medium-sized country. It became an independent state in 1993 after a peaceful split of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. Although it is a relatively young country, it builds on more than a thousand-year history of its statehood.

What language do Czech speak? ›

The official language of the Czech Republic is Czech. Spoken by nearly 11 million native speakers, Czech is classified as part of the Slavic branch of Indo-European languages. Although many people in the Czech Republic have a base knowledge of the English language, knowing a few key phrases in Czech will take you far.

Am I Czech or Slovak? ›

Slovak. Czechs are people living in the Czech Republic whereas people inhabiting Slovakia are known as Slovaks. Historically, the region now known as Czech Republic was once part of the Austrian empire whereas the Slovak area was a part of the Kingdom of Hungary.

Why did Czechoslovakia split into two countries? ›

While raw nationalism fuelled the conflict in Yugoslavia, economics and inept leadership were the prime causes of Czechoslovakia's schism—a dynamic that presages the struggle for independence in contemporary Catalonia, a region of Spain. The two peoples had experienced separation before.

What is Bohemia called today? ›

Bohemia is a historical country that was part of Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1939 and from 1945 to 1992. Since 1993 Bohemia has formed much of the Czech Republic, comprising the central and western portions of the country.

Is Czech Germanic or Slavic? ›

The Czech ethnic group is part of the West Slavic subgroup of the larger Slavic ethno-linguistical group. The West Slavs have their origin in early Slavic tribes which settled in Central Europe after East Germanic tribes had left this area during the migration period.

What is the former Czechoslovakia called now? ›

Against the wishes of many of its 15 million citizens, Czechoslovakia today split into two countries: Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Why is Czech Republic no longer Czechoslovakia? ›

Why Did Czechoslovakia Split? On January 1,1993, Czechoslovakia split into the nations of Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The separation was peaceful and came as a result of nationalist sentiment in the country. The decision to split was decided by the Federal Assembly who voted on the matter.

What was the Czech Republic called before 1945? ›

With the collapse of the Habsburg monarchy at the end of World War I, the independent country of Czechoslovakia (Czech, Slovak: Československo) was formed as a result of the critical intervention of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, among others.

When did Czech and Slovakia split? ›

Dissolution of Czechoslovakia, 1992.

On December 31, 1992, the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic ceased to exist and was succeeded by two new states: the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Is A Bohemian the same as a Gypsy? ›

In the modern era, “Bohemian” came to be used to describe Roma people, or gypsies as they were also called, in much of Western Europe.

What language do Bohemians speak? ›

Czech language, formerly Bohemian, Czech Čeština, West Slavic language closely related to Slovak, Polish, and the Sorbian languages of eastern Germany. It is spoken in the historical regions of Bohemia, Moravia, and southwestern Silesia in the Czech Republic, where it is the official language.

When did they start calling it Czechia? ›

In an effort to improve the linguistic lives of all English speakers, the Czech Republic registered its short-form name, Czechia, on July 5, 2016.

Why did Russia invade Czechoslovakia? ›

On August 20, 1968, the Soviet Union led Warsaw Pact troops in an invasion of Czechoslovakia to crack down on reformist trends in Prague. Although the Soviet Union's action successfully halted the pace of reform in Czechoslovakia, it had unintended consequences for the unity of the communist bloc.

When did Czechoslovakia stop being called that? ›

The dissolution of Czechoslovakia (Czech: Rozdělení Československa, Slovak: Rozdelenie Československa) took effect on December 31, 1992, and was the self-determined split of the federal republic of Czechoslovakia into the independent countries of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Is Czechoslovakia under Russian rule? ›

On 23 April 1990, it became the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic. From 1948 until the end of November 1989, the country was under Communist rule and was regarded as a satellite state in the Soviet sphere of interest.
Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.
Preceded bySucceeded by
Third Czechoslovak RepublicCzech and Slovak Federative Republic

How do you say hello in Prague? ›

Ahoj (ah-hoy) = Hi. or Bye. Much like Aloha this word can be used both when meeting and leaving. You will often hear Czechs saying hi while waving you goodbye. Čau is another informal equivalent.

Is it difficult to learn Czech? ›

The Czech language has a reputation as being a particularly difficult language to learn. However, while it may present some challenges that are not encountered when studying other languages, we believe that an enthusiastic learner can achieve basic proficiency in the Czech language quite easily.

How do you say thank you in Czechoslovakian? ›

1- Děkuji.

In Czech, the most simple way of saying “Thank you” is: Děkuji. Děkuji is a verb, and the dictionary form is děkovat which in English will be translated as “to thank.” So literally translated, the word děkuji means “(I) thank.”

Can I understand Slovak If I speak Polish? ›

Separated By Dialects But Very Similar

This may cause some confusion, but in general, it is safe to say that you can use any of these languages to make users of the other two understand yourself. Although Czech and Slovak can understand each other, Czech and Polish cannot.

Can Czechs and Slovaks understand each other? ›

czech is mutually intelligible with slovak.

However, they might not be mutually intelligible for much longer. Since Czechoslovakia broke up in 1993, the two languages are diverging, and it is now more difficult for Czech speakers to understand Slovak speakers (and vice versa).

What is the main religion in the Czech Republic? ›

Presently, 39.8% of Czechs consider themselves atheist; 39.2% are Roman Catholics; 4.6% are Protestant, with 1.9% in the Czech-founded Hussite Reform Church, 1.6% in the Czech Brotherhood Evangelic Church, and 0.5% in the Silesian Evangelic Church; 3% are members of the Orthodox Church, and 13.4% are undecided.

Was Croatia part of Czechoslovakia? ›

Czechoslovakia recognized Croatia on 16 January 1992. After dissolution of Czechoslovakia, Croatia and the newly established Czech Republic mutually recognized and established diplomatic relations on 1 January 1993.

Why did Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia break up? ›

Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia are among the several countries that have broken up in the last few years, largely as a result of the centrifugal forces associated with secessionist aspirations. Yet, the process of that breakup has been vastly different in the two states.

Was Slovakia ever part of Russia? ›

In 1969, Czechoslovakia became a federation of the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. It became a puppet state of the Soviet Union, but it was never part of the Soviet Union and remained independent to a certain degree.

What ethnicity is Bohemian? ›

"Bohemian" was originally a term with pejorative undertones given to Roma gypsies, commonly believed by the French to have originated in Bohemia, in central Europe.

What is the difference between Bohemian and Czech? ›

Do you know the difference between the Czech Republic and Bohemia? The short answer is that there is practically none. Both names refer to nearly the same region, and they are used for historical reasons. From the Middle Ages to 1918, Bohemia was the name of what is today the major part of the Czech Republic.

What are people from Prague called? ›

Selected answer: Praguer.

Are Russians Slavic or Germanic? ›

The Russians (Russian: русские, romanized: russkie) are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Eastern Europe, who share a common Russian ancestry, culture, and history.

What makes you a Slav? ›

Definition. The term "Slavs" designates an ethnic group of people who share a long-term cultural continuity and who speak a set of related languages known as the Slavic languages (all of which belong to the Indo-European language family).

Are Polish people Slavic? ›

Answer and Explanation: Yes, Poles are a Slavic people. Polish is one of a number of Slavic languages. Some others are: Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Czech, Slovak and Macedonian.

What was Czechoslovakia called in 1938? ›

In September 1938 he turned his attention to the three million Germans living in part of Czechoslovakia called the Sudetenland. Sudeten Germans began protests and provoked violence from the Czech police.

What was Czech Republic originally called? ›

The Czech Republic, also known as Czechia, is a landlocked country in Central Europe. Historically known as Bohemia, it is bordered by Austria to the south, Germany to the west, Poland to the northeast, and Slovakia to the southeast.

When did Czechia and Slovakia split? ›

1 January 1993: The Czech Republic is established

Czechoslovakia as a state can no longer be found on maps today, as it split into two separate successor states, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, on 1 January 1993.

Are Czech people Slavic or Germanic? ›

The Czech ethnic group is part of the West Slavic subgroup of the larger Slavic ethno-linguistical group. The West Slavs have their origin in early Slavic tribes which settled in Central Europe after East Germanic tribes had left this area during the migration period.

What did Prague used to be called? ›

Traditionally, Prague was called the Golden City, City of a Hundred Spires and the Heart of Europe. Prague is made up of five historic towns and was built on the banks of the Vltava River.

What was Czech Republic called in ww2? ›

Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren (German) Protektorát Čechy a Morava (Czech)
• 1942–1943 (acting)Kurt Daluege
• 1943–1945Wilhelm Frick
State President
• 1939–1945Emil Hácha
29 more rows

What country is Bohemia now? ›

Bohemia is a historical country that was part of Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1939 and from 1945 to 1992. Since 1993 Bohemia has formed much of the Czech Republic, comprising the central and western portions of the country.

What was Slovakia called before Czechoslovakia? ›

Slovakia, however, which bordered on the Little Alfold (Little Hungarian Plain), was ruled by Hungary for almost 1,000 years and was known as Upper Hungary for much of the period before 1918.


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