The Czechoslovakia Divided
Czechoslovakia as a state unit was in many aspects uneven. The centre was always in Prague, the power concentrated in the Czech part. In the communist regime, the Czechoslovak unity was very much proclaimed, but, on the other hand there were terms like “Slovakian nationalism” without any such Czech equivalent. It was even used in a large trial which resulted into harsh sentences for the Slovaks who opposed the new regime’s wrongdoings. It is sort of an irony that one of those sentenced was Gustáv Husák, who became the main figure of the normalization period nearly thirty years later.
While the majority of both ethnicities have been in favor of the federation, there were strong radical groups in its opposition, mainly in Slovakia. It might have been unfair to remind of Josef Tiso’s pro- facist Slovak State during the WWII years, weren’t this the moment in our history that the Slovakian nationalists always hailed as the finest moment of their nation. The anti- Czech sentiments were strong after the Communist regime collapsed. Husák was Slovak all right, but the system itself was widely identified with the Czechs. Not without logic: the first decades of the regime were not even federative, the Czech part clearly dominated. The well- known 1946 election, which helped the Party to get close to power, was a victory in the Czech part, but not the Slovakian. This fact was overlooked by the Czech Party leaders, as if Slovakia didn’t count. And this attitude prevailed for quite some time. It was somewhat logical that both countries’ politicians decided to get rid of the burden and start the new road to market economy and liberal democracy as two separate states. But was it political wisdom or cowardice?
When Czechoslovakia was founded the shared view was that our cultures and our history made us so close, bound together, that it would be irrational to be separated. No matter how great the tensions were at the beginning of the 1990s, there is something irresponsible about the split. It may be that the Czech idea of Czechoslovakia was too patronizing, too unbalanced, but that doesn’t mean a sharp and probably irreversible division was the answer. Many of those who spent most of their life in the previous state say, that it was the split that resulted more differences, though the envy is gone. Everyone used to know both languages, the cultural sphere was very much interlinked etc. Czechoslovakia was an artificial product of years of policy making, that connection of two nations, it sure was. But is it better now that my generation has problems with Slovakian language and a trip to Tatry is often seen as a voyage to a foreign country?