Czechia still not catching on

Two years after the short name was registered with the UN, few people use it

The name Czechia is failing to catch on after two years as the short alternative to the Czech Republic. Companies, agencies and other institutions are clinging to the long name as it is more accepted internationally.

The shorter English name Czechia was registered with the United Nations in July 2016, and the Czech Foreign Ministry recommended that it be used in virtually all cases, except official government documents, treaties and high-level meetings.

The most recent rejection came from the national hockey team, which unveiled new uniforms at the end of June. They not only lacked the national shield, using a giant crowned lion's head instead but have the text Czech Republic, with Czech in large letters. The Czech Ice Hockey Association said the decision had to do with branding, as Czech Republic was what people recognized. (The change to the lion's head logo was also a marketing decision, as it can be trademarked to protect its use.)

The recommendation to use Czechia has been widely ignored, even by the Foreign Ministry. Czech ambassadors have been urged to use the short name, but not ordered to do so, ministry spokeswoman Michaela Lagronová said, according to Aktualne.cz.

The short version of the name also does not yet appear in European Union databases, although a change was finally requested in February at the urging of a civic initiative called Česko/Czechia. The group has a website making several arguments as to why Czechia is better. They claim, for example, the Czech Republic is political while Czechia is neutral. They also make linguistic and historical arguments.

The state-funded tourism promotion agency CzechTourism has been sticking with Czech Republic. CzechTourism has committed to a project called Czech Republic Land of Stories, which partly uses EU money. The campaign is scheduled to last until 2020 and has already used Kč 1.8 billion in funds.

CzechTourism says fewer that one-third of foreigners prefer the short version of the name.

The Czech Olympic Committee won't switch before 2022 at the earliest, as the cost of changing all the uniforms and other places the name appears would be too expensive. Other sports associations make similar arguments.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports has not been not urging sports groups to change the name, and only vaguely acknowledges that there is an issue.

The country's largest companies also have been shunning the short name. Škoda Auto does not use it for any of its advertising or communications. Brewer Plzeňský Prazdroj, the maker of Pilsner Urquell beer, tried the name but people didn't respond to it. Brewery spokeswoman Jitka Němečková told Aktualne.cz that the company made limited use of the label “Brewed in Czechia” but found Czechs prefer the incorrect “Brewed in Czech” label, so the company returned to that version.

A lot of institutions seem to be waiting for the name to become popular before adopting it, creating a Catch-22 of nobody using it since nobody is using it.

The institutions using Czechia include Google for its Google Maps and Wikipedia. Foreign countries that make reference to the short name include The United States, United Kingdom, Sweden and Germany.

Most English-speaking expats in the Czech Republic seem to prefer the long version of the name. Use of the name Czechia on expat social media platforms to ask questions such as “Can I buy Marmite in Czechia?” are more likely to stir up heated condemnation of the country's short-version name than any useful information on the availability of Marmite.

But people from some other countries prefer Czechia, as the country is commonly called by one word in their own native language. Germans, for example, use Tschechien, Dutch use Tsjechië and Icelanders use Tékkland. Most Eastern European countries have a one-word version. Latvians say Čekija and Poles say Czechy.

And while the group Česko/Czechia has been urging the shorter name, they have competition. A small group of Moravian activists has been urging the country adopt the name Czechomoravia, as it reminds people of Czechoslovakia and acknowledges the forgotten eastern half of the country. 

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