The Czech Republic is 25 years old

The establishment of the country is a forgotten anniversary

The year 2018 is not only the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia but also the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Czechoslovakia split into two independent countries on Jan. 1, 1993, in what is called the Velvet Divorce.

The annual fireworks from Letná Park at 6 pm on Jan. 1 officially are not meant to celebrate the start of the new year but to mark Restoration Day of the Independent Czech State. In Slovakia, it is called Day of the Establishment of the Slovak Republic.

The event tends to be overlooked, especially in the Czech Republic. While a full year of events is planned in 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovakia, a country that no longer exists, the establishment of the Czech Republic is included as an afterthought if at all.

The division came complicated negotiations of two prime ministers of the states making up the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic (ČSFR), Václav Klaus for the Czechs and Vladimír Mečiar for the Slovaks.

Klaus recalled at a recent debate that the negotiations were tough. Negotiations took place behind closed doors at the Tugendhat Villa in Brno. The press was not allowed in, though a few photos were taken of the prime ministers talking under a tree in the garden in August.

Klaus and Mečiar signed the agreement Aug. 26, 1992, calling for the split and division of property as of Jan. 1, 1993.

Klaus in a debate organized by the Václav Klaus Institute to mark the 25th anniversary said the split was successful and that both countries earned it.

“Our division was soft,” Klaus said, according to daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD). “Czechs and Slovaks did not feel hostility during the split, and they do not feel it even now,” Klaus said.

Mečiar said the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic did not work well, and there was a need to find a new solution.

Mečiar added that the peaceful split led to good relations between the countries.”Which two countries in Europe are closer to each other than the Czech Republic and Slovakia? You will not find them,” Mečiar said, according to MfD.

Klaus said the development of the two countries over the past quarter-century proved the split was done properly, even if it required concessions and compromises.

Unlike the current Brexit happening in the UK, there was no public referendum on the split of Czechoslovakia. Klaus maintains that it was not needed, as the parliamentary elections for already decided the issue. “It did not make sense in the Czech part; there was nothing to ask,” he said, adding that Slovakia wanted the breakup and he did not want to see a long period of deteriorating relations between the two federal partners. A quick dissolution was better for all parties. All major parties in Slovakia at the time favoured the split.

Restoration Day of the Independent Czech State has been a public holiday since 2000, but Jan. 1 was already a holiday for the new year, as it is almost worldwide. There are no national service awards given out, no public rallies and no big speeches, those take place on other days. There is just the fireworks. The Czech president now gives his end-of-the-year address on Dec. 26.

The Czech Republic celebrates the Foundation of the Independent Czechoslovak State on Oct. 28 and Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day on Nov. 17, which both overshadow the founding of the Czech Republic. The Order of the White Lion, the highest national honour, is given out Oct. 28. Political rallies are held Nov. 17 and May 1, which is Labor Day.

After the split, the Czech Republic joined the United Nations on Jan. 19, 1993. Václav Havel, who had been president of Czechoslovakia before the split, was elected president of the new Czech Republic on Jan. 26, 1993. He took office Feb. 2, 1993, and served two five-year terms.

Havel was not a fan of the split. After the Slovaks called for independence, he resigned as president of Czechoslovakia on July 20, 1992, because he did not want to preside over the split. He had been resident since Dec. 29, 1989, just after the Velvet Revolution.

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