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History of Czechoslovakia
Coat of Arms of Czechoslovakia
This article is part of a series

First Republic

Second Republic and World War II

Third Republic

Communist Era

Velvet Revolution and Democracy


(January 1, 1993)

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The dissolution of Czechoslovakia, which took effect on 1 January 1993, was the event that Czechoslovakia was abolished by itself. The Czech Republic and Slovakia, which have arisen in 1969 within the framework of Czechoslovak federalization, become immediate subjects of the international law in 1993. It is sometimes referred to as the "Velvet Divorce" in English and in some other languages, a reference to the Velvet Revolution of 1989 that led to the end of the rule of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and the formation of a democratic government.



Czechoslovakia between 1968 (Constitutional Law of Federation) and 1989 (Velvet Revolution)
The modern Czech Republic
The modern Slovak Republic

Czechoslovakia was created with the dissolution of Austria-Hungary at the end of World War I. In 1917, a meeting took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where the future Czechoslovak president Tomáš Masaryk and other Czech and Slovak representatives signed the Pittsburgh Agreement which promised a common state consisting of two equal nations, Slovakia and Czechia. Soon after, the philosophy of Edvard Beneš pushed for greater unity and a single nation.

Many Slovaks were not in favour of this change, and in March 1939, with the approval from Hitler and a majority of Slovaks, the First Slovak Republic was created. Occupation by the Soviet Union after WWII oversaw their reunification into the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.

In 1968, the Constitutional Law of Federation reinstated an official federal structure (of the 1917 type), but during the "Normalization period" in the 1970s, Gustáv Husák (although a Slovak himself) returned most control to Prague. This approach encouraged a regrowth of separatism after the fall of communism.


By the 1990s, the Czech Republic's GDP per capita was some 20% higher than Slovakia's, but its long-run GDP growth was lower.[citation needed] Transfer payments from the Czech budget to Slovakia, which had been the rule in the past, were stopped in January 1991.

Many Czechs and Slovaks desired the continued existence of a federal Czechoslovakia. A slight majority of Slovaks, however, advocated a looser form of co-existence or complete independence and sovereignty.[citation needed] In the next years, political parties re-emerged, but Czech parties had little or no presence in Slovakia, and vice versa. In order to have a functional state, the government demanded continued control from Prague, while Slovaks continued to ask for decentralization.[1]

In 1992, the Czech public elected Václav Klaus and others who demanded either an even tighter federation ("viable federation") or two independent states. Vladimír Mečiar and other leading Slovak politicians of the day wanted a kind of confederation. The two sides opened frequent and intense negotiations in June. On 17 July, the Slovak parliament adopted the Declaration of independence of the Slovak nation. Six days later, Klaus and Meciar agreed to dissolve Czechoslovakia at a meeting in Bratislava. Czechoslovak president Václav Havel resigned rather than oversee the dissolution which he had opposed; in a September 1992 poll, only 37% and 36% of Slovaks and Czechs, respectively, favored dissolution. [2]

The goal of negotiations switched to achieving a peaceful division. On 13 November, the Federal Assembly passed Constitution Act 541 which settled the division of property between the Czech lands and Slovakia.[3] With Constitution Act 542, passed on 25 November, they agreed to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia as of 31 December 1992.[3]

The separation occurred without violence, and was thus said to be "velvet", much like the "Velvet revolution" which preceded it, which was accomplished through massive peaceful demonstrations and actions. In contrast, other post-communist break-ups (such as the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia) involved violent conflict.

Legal aspects


Division of national property

Most federal assets were divided in the ratio 2 to 1 (the approximate ratio between the Czech and Slovak population within Czechoslovakia), including army equipment, rail and airliner infrastructure. Some minor disputes (e.g. about gold reserves stored in Prague, federal know-how valuation) lasted for a few years after dissolution.

Currency division

Initially the old Czechoslovak currency, the Czechoslovak koruna, was still used in both countries. Fears of economic loss on the Czech side caused the two states to adopt two national currencies as early as 8 February 1993. At the beginning, the currencies had an equal exchange rate, but later on, for most of the time, the value of the Slovak koruna was lower than that of the Czech koruna (up to ca. 30%, in 2004 around 25–27%). On 1 January 2009 Slovakia adopted the euro as its currency, and €2 commemorative coin for 2009, Slovakia's first one, featured 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in remembrance of the common struggle of the Czechoslovakian people for democracy. By the virtue of fate, the welcoming speech on the behalf of the European Union on the occasion of Slovakia's entry to the Eurozone was delivered by Mirek Topolánek, the prime minister of the then EU presiding country, the Czech Republic, naturally in his native language while other guest speakers used English. The Czech Republic continues to use the Czech koruna.

International law

Neither the Czech Republic nor Slovakia sought recognition as the sole successor state to Czechoslovakia. This can be contrasted to the dissolution of the Soviet Union where the Russian Federation was recognized as successor state to the USSR. Therefore, Czechoslovakia's membership in the United Nations ceased upon dissolution of the country - on 19 January 1993 the Czech and Slovak Republics were admitted to the UN as new and separate states.

With respect to other international treaties the Czechs and Slovaks agreed to honor the treaty obligations of Czechoslovakia. The Slovaks transmitted a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations on 19 May 1993 expressing their intent to remain a party to all treaties signed and ratified by Czechoslovakia, and to ratify those treaties signed but not ratified before dissolution of Czechoslovakia. This letter acknowledged that under international law all treaties signed and ratified by Czechoslovakia would remain in force. For example, both countries are recognized as signatories of the Antarctic Treaty from the date Czechoslovakia signed the agreement back in 1962.

Both the Czech and Slovak Republics have ratified the Vienna Convention on Succession of States in respect of Treaties, however it was not a factor in the dissolution of Czechoslovakia since it did not enter into force until 1996.



The dissolution had some negative impact on the two economies, especially in 1993, as traditional links needed to accommodate the bureaucracy of international trade were severed, but the impact was considerably less than expected by many people.

Many Czechs hoped that dissolution would quickly start an era of high economic growth in the Czech Republic (without the need to "sponsor the less developed Slovakia"). Similarly others looked forward to a stand-alone, unexploited Slovakia which might become a new "economic tiger". The Czech state is markedly more prosperous than the Slovak and the Slovak GDP level is still lower than that of the Czech Republic. The growth of the Slovak GDP, however, has been consistently higher than the Czech one since 1994 and the margin between the two states is closing.


Dual citizenship between the two states was originally not allowed; only years later did courts make it possible. Only a handful of people have exercised this right; however, the significance of this is lessened by both nations' membership in the EU as the freedom of movement for workers policy guarantees EU citizens the right to work and live anywhere in the Union. In the case of movement between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, this policy took effect from 2004.

People of both countries were allowed to cross the border without a passport and were allowed to work anywhere without the need to obtain an official permit. Border checks were completely removed on 21 December 2007 when both countries joined the Schengen Agreement.

Under the current European regulations, citizens of either country are entitled to the diplomatic protection of any other EU country and, therefore, the Czech and Slovak Republics have been considering merging their embassies together with other V4 countries in order reduce costs.[4]


One of the problems not solved during dissolution was the question of a large number of Roma living in the Czech Republic, who were born and officially registered in today's Slovakia. Most of them did not re-register their official place of stay during the months before dissolution, and so the question of their citizenship was left open. The 1992 Czech Nationality Act allowed a grant of automatic citizenship only to those born in the Czech lands. For others, the right to citizenship required proof of a five-year period of residence, an "unobjectionable" criminal record, significant fees and a complicated bureaucratic process; this reportedly excluded a rather large percentage of Roma.[5] The Slovak government did not want to grant citizenship to non-residents. Significant numbers of Roma living in Czech orphanages did not have their legal status clarified, and were released from care as adult non-citizens without any right to work or live in the Czech Republic.[6] Under pressure from the European Union, the Czech government made amendments to its nationality law in 1999 and 2003 which effectively solved the problem; compensation, however, has not been provided to those rendered stateless in 1992.[5]

Language contacts

In the former Czechoslovakia, the first television channel (see Mass media in Communist Czechoslovakia) was a federal one and the Czech and Slovak language was used in equal ratios in the TV news there, although foreign films and TV series were almost exclusively dubbed into Czech, for example. This made almost all people of both nations passively bilingual, i.e., they were able to understand but not necessarily speak the other language. After the dissolution in 1990s the new TV channels in the Czech Republic practically stopped using Slovak, and young Czech people now have a much lower understanding of the Slovak language. Also, the number of Slovak-language books and newspapers sold in the Czech Republic dropped drastically. The Czech TV news, however, recently started to reintroduce Slovak-language coverage from Slovakia.

In the Slovakian state TV, STV, it is common to have daily at least one coverage from the Czech Republic in the prime time news. Further, for economic reasons, many TV programmes on Slovak TV channels are still dubbed into Czech, some films in cinemas are subtitled in Czech and there are far more Czech-language books and periodicals on the market than before the dissolution. The major boost for the language interchange has come recently from private TV channel providers like CS Link (Czech Republic) and Sky Link (Slovakia) that offer Slovak Channels in the Czech Republic and, vice versa. Additionally, several of offered channels, regardeless of their national origin, offer programs both in Czech and Slovak (CSFilm, TV Barrandov) or even mix like TV Nova's NOVA SPORT coverage of the English Premier League. New impulses to mutual contacts coming via TV are also common shows like the Intelligence Test of Nations and Czecho-Slovak SuperStar, the latter being the first international edition of the Pop Idol song contest. Also, the New Year's Eve Program for 2009 was prepared and broadcast jointly by the state televisions CTV and STV.

Young Slovak people still have the same knowledge (if not better) of the Czech language as their predecessors. Even today, in Slovakia, Czech may be used automatically in all judicial proceedings, plus all documents written in Czech are acknowledged by Slovak authorities, and vice versa. Further, the Slovak Official Language Act passed in 2009 did reconfirm the right of Czechs to use their language in all official communication when dealing with Slovak authorities. The same is true about using the Slovak language in the Czech Republic owing to the Administration Procedure Act of 2004. Gustáv Slamečka, the Czech transport minister of Slovak origin, uses exclusively the Slovak language in his official communication. The upward trend in the language contacts demonstrates that Czechs and Slovaks do not regard themselves as foreigners and confirms the recent surveys showing that the majority of the population still considers the division of the country as a mistake.[7] [8]


At the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships 1993 in Falun, Sweden, the ski jumping team competed as a combined Czech Republic-Slovakia team in the team large hill event, winning a silver. The team had been selected prior to the dissolution. Jaroslav Sakala won two medals in the individual hill events for the Czech Republic at those games along with his silver in the team event.

The official break-up occurred right in the middle of the 1993 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, which also took place in Sweden. The team representing Czechoslovakia was called "Czech-Slovak" starting on 1 January.

In their qualifying section for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the Czechoslovakia national football team competed under the name RCS which stood for "Representation of Czechs and Slovaks". It was after this that the teams were then officially split up into Czech Republic and Slovakia. The team failed to qualify after they could only draw their final match against Belgium, a match they needed to win to qualify.

The mutual encounters between national teams especially in ice hockey, traditionally the successful sport, and soccer, where Czechs and Slovaks compete against each other regularly in the World and European Championship Qualifications is followed by the majority of the population, and the number of players and coaches active in the other republic is endless. Several sports did or do feature a common league, and the discusions about having a common soccer or ice hockey league continue. For example, Martin Lipták, a Slovak handball coach led successfully the Czech national team in EHF 2010 Handball European Championship in Austria.[9] A Slovak Team under his coaching, Tatran Prešov, won the Czech national league in 2008 and 2009. [10]


The two successor states continued to use the country code +42 until February 28, 1997, when this was replaced by two separate codes: +420 for the Czech Republic and +421 for Slovakia. Since then, telephone calls between the two countries have required international dialing.


After a transition period of roughly four years, during which the relations between the states could be characterized as a "post-divorce trauma", the present relations between Czechs and Slovaks, as many people point out, are probably better than they have ever been.

No movement to re-unite Czechoslovakia has appeared and no political party advocates it in its programme. Political influences between the countries are minimal, but social democrats tend to cooperate very closely on regional and European topics in recent years. Furthermore, it has become customary that the elected presidents pay their first and last official "foreign" visits during their term to the other republic of former Czechoslovakia. Appointed foreign ministers tend to follow this unwritten rule. Also, peace keeping troops stationed in former Yugoslavia were put under a joint command on several occasions. Trade relationships were re-established and stabilized, and the Czech Republic continues to be Slovakia's most important business partner. After a short interruption, Slovakia's resorts in the Carpathian mountains are again the target of a growing number of Czech tourists.


  1. ^ Skalnik Leff, Carol (1997). The Czech and Slovak Republics. Nation versus state. Westview Press. pp. 129–139. ISBN 0-8133-2922-1. 
  2. ^ Kamm, Henry. "At Fork in Road, Czechoslovaks Fret", New York Times, dateline October 9, 1992. Retrieved January 1, 2009.
  3. ^ a b Mrak, Mojmir (1999). Succession of States. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. ISBN 904111145. 
  4. ^ V4 wants common embassies
  5. ^ a b Dedić, Jasminka. and Stateless. European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs
  6. ^ The manufactured troubles of L'udovit Gorej, Roma Rights Quarterly, Summer 1997
  7. ^ Rozdelenie Československa: Čo hovorí pražská ulica?
  8. ^ Slovaks have not come to terms with the breakup
  9. ^ Martin Lipták trénerom hádzanárov Česka
  10. ^ Tatran Prešov Web Page


  • Innes, Abby (2001), Czechoslovakia: The Short Goodbye (New Haven: Yale University Press).
  • Rupnik, Jacques (2001), “Divorce à l’amiable ou guerre de sécession? (Tchécoslovaquie-Yougoslavie),” Transeuropéennes no. 19/20.
  • Wehrlé, Frédéric (1994), Le Divorce Tchéco-Slovaque: Vie et mort de la Tchécoslovaquie 1918-1992 (Paris: L’Harmattan).
  • Paal Sigurd Hilde, "Slovak Nationalism and the Break-Up of Czechoslovakia." Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 51, No. 4 (Jun., 1999): 647-665.


External links


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