Czechia - articles

CZECHIA - articles, essays, analysis


* The basic roots of Czech statehood are not historically fully confirmed, but the unification of the main Czech tribes can be attributed through indirect historical evidence between the 7th and early 8th century. The coming of Slavic tribes to Central Europe is dated between the 5th and 6th century.
* The Great Moravian Empire (830–907) – incl. Moravia, western Slovakia, Bohemia, Silesia, Pannonia, Lower Austria (origins of Christianity in 863) was the first Czech principality. Its role was taken over after the Empire's breakup at the turn of 9th and 10th century by
* "The Přemyslid State“ (885–1306) (Czech dynasty of Přemyslid), first "Principality of Bohemia“ - incl.Bohemia, Moravia, part of Silesia (during the 10th and 11th centuries the principality was consolidated, incorporating Moravia and some other neighboring territories), later "Kingdom of Bohemia", when the gradual rise in political, economic and cultural importance of the medieval Czech state resulted in its declaration as a kingdom in 1212 and reached its peak during the reign of Charles IV (1346–1378) from
* the Luxemburg dynasty (1306–1437) - Charles the IV, the emperor of The Holy Roman Empire, reigning (1346–1378) after his father John of Luxemburg, king of Bohemia, formed the "Lands of The Crown of Bohemia" (the official political name was frequently referred to as "The Czech State"), or "the Bohemian Crown lands". This state (1348–1918) was a kind of “confederation” of:
(1) The Kingdom of Bohemia – first "Principality of Bohemia“ (until 1212), later "Kingdom of Bohemia“ (1212–1918) and "adjacent lands“ as political units:
(2) The Moravian Margraviate – from the 10th century until 1918
(3) The Principality of Silesia – from the 14th century until 1742, in 1742 only the smaller part of this territory has remained a part of the Czech state as „Czech Silesia“

(4) Upper and Lower Lusatia – from the 14th century until 1635, since 1635 part of Germany (Saxony).
* Interregnum (1439 – 1453)
* George from Poděbrady (1453 - 1471 )
* Jagellonian dynasty (1471 - 1526)
* Hapsburg dynasty (1526 - 1648)
* Bohemian Crown lands as a part of the Hapsburg dynasty's Austrian (from 1648) and (from 1867) Austrian-Hungarian Empire until 1918
* Czechoslovakia - Czechia, Slovakia, Sub-Carpatian Ruthenia (1918 - 1938)
* Czecho-Slovakia without border territories (30.9.1938-14.3.1939); the so called 'Second Republic' after the Munich "Agreement" (euphemistically and historically) and in exact terms the Dictate of Germany, Italy, confirmed by the U.K. and France
* Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (1939 –1945) - German occupation; division of Czecho-Slovakia into Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia as a „part“of Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, the Slovaks proclaimed their „independent“ Slovak State, which was under „patronage“ of Nazi Germany
* Czechoslovak Republic (Czechoslovakia), (1945 - 1992), from 1960 until 1989 with the attribute "socialist". In 1945 the loss of Sub-Carpatian Ruthenia (incorporated into Soviet Union/Ukraine), 1948 – the Communist party won and has got complete political sovereignty, the communist regime ruling until 1989; * The Federation of Czech Socialist Republic (Czechia) and Slovak Socialist Republic (Slovakia) – the one of the positive outcomes of the of Prague Spring in 1968 which was defeated in August 1968 by the Soviet occupation (1968–1990); the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic – Federation of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic (1990–1992)
* The Czech Republic (Czechia) - since 1.1. 1993; after the split of Czechoslovakia into two independent states: Czechia and Slovakia.

The most important personalities of Czech medieval state: St.Wenceslas (Václav I., Duke of Bohemia); Přemysl Otakar II. (King of Bohemia); Charles IV. (King of Bohemia & the Emperor of Holy Roman Empire)


There are three distinguishable categories for the names of states separated into 2 categories - official and unofficial:

* Political names
- official denomination of the political formation of the state, that includes the type of state system, e.g. Czech Republic, United States of America, Federal Republic of Germany, etc.
* Geographical (short) names
- official denomination of the country, e.g. Czechia, United States, Germany, Austria, Poland, etc.
* Unofficial geographical names
- unofficial, commonly used names of the country, e.g. America, Holland, Britain, etc.


* Political names are connected with momentary political system of the state, therefore have a transient character
* Geographical names do not depend on changes of state political system, therefore represent continuity of the state in space and time

The Czech state has existed for more than one thousand years and the Czech Republic only 21 years. Its geographical and short name “Česko” in Czech and the synonyms in various languages (Czechia, Tschechien, Tchéquie, Chequia, etc.) were approved as official, standardized names only in April 1993, and that delay paradoxically became the reason for Czech politicians to question Czechia as a name and instead insist on using the political denomination, despite the fact that the name "Czechia" (unlike CR) has existed for centuries, represents the Czech state in all historical continuity and gives it a timeless dimension. On the other hand, Germany was born by the unification of many territorial units under the leading role of Kingdom of Prussia only in 1871, but nobody questions its historical continuity !


* 1634 in Latin (in the book of Pavel Stránský)
* 1840 in English (Australian press)

Leoš Jeleček (Erasmus 2010/11)
Edited by Vladimír Hirsch, 2011



Almost every state in the world has two denominations which, as a rule, are based on the name of the majority nation. One of these denominations, the political name (or “conventional” name, renders the state’s structure, political system etc., and is used mainly on formal, official occasions. It has one essential disadvantage: a change of the state´s system of government implies a change of its political name. At present, for example, France is a republic but it used to be an empire and a kingdom; Serbia is also a republic today but, in the past, it was also a principality, a kingdom, a people’s republic, and a socialist republic. In a majority of the world´s countries, the political name contains in itself what is called the geographical name (or the "short name"), that is, the other name of the state. This name usually originates in usage, mostly also derives from the name of the majority nation and is mainly used in commonly spoken language but also in social intercourse when it is more suitable and more natural than the political name. It is short, most often monosyllabic and therefore easier to remember. Contrary to the political name, it implies the state´s continuity in time and space, which are an important geopolitical value and also a factor of the nation’s and/or the state’s identity. While the subject called the Czech (Socialist) Republic has existed since 1969 when the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic changed to the Federation of the Czech and the Slovak Socialist Republics, since 1993 as an independent state after the peaceful split‐up of the Federation on 31 December 1992), the history of Czechia has been in progress for more than a thousand years and includes the history of its three parts, i.e., the historical lands Bohemia, Moravia & Silesia. As early as 1993 all relevant state authorities and central institutions agreed on the short (geographic) name Česko (Czechia in English). While the domestic expression ČESKO has caught on without essential problems, its most important foreign‐language equivalent – the English term CZECHIA – still contends with considerable difficulties in asserting itself.


Czech independence was not expected after 1989, was not wished by the Czechs because the desire for a (national) state of their own had been fulfilled as early as 1918 (and again in 1945) by the formation of Czechoslovakia. Therefore, the Czechs were absolutely unready for Czech independence, which also made them indifferent to the new state´s name (an unprecedented phenomenon in the world). The spleen for the end of Czechoslovakia, caused by Slovakia´s departure, transformed itself (among other things) into hatred for the one-word name of the new Czech state and clinging to the officially and formal political name Česká republika (The Czech Republic).


After the initial very short and promising start (particularly in some mass media) Česko, for hardly understandable reasons, soon fell into disfavour (shared intensively by ex‐president Václav Havel) and its use was interrupted. The same applies to its equivalents in foreign languages. It should be pointed out that these had existed from 1993. They were approved by the Terminological Board of the Czech Office for Surveying, Mapping and Cadastre after consultations with other experts (such as geographers, linguists, historians, political scientists) and state authorities including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (whose representatives were among the members of the Board). Afterward the equivalents were published in the UNO Gazetteers of Geographical Names – Names of States and Their Territorial Parts (Prague 1993). In the same year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommended all Czech diplomatic corps abroad to use the one‐word names in everyday contacts. (Unfortunately, adherence to this guideline was left to the individual person´s discretion.) The above‐mentioned publication includes the following names: Czechia (English), Tschechien (German), Tchéquie (French), Chequia (Spanish) and Чехия  (Russian).Naturally, every European language has its own term for  Česko, the UNO Gazetteers only cite the most important European languages.


Practical experience shows that those who insist that no short name is necessary are wrong. The unprecedented expansion of the adjective Czech as a "substitute" for the officially approved geographical name Czechia or, on the other hand, the regional name Čechy (i.e., Bohemia) instead of Česko, prove the absolute necessity of a one‐word name for non‐formal communication. Among those who are to blame for the expansion of the wrong form Czech we can cite, in particular, the Czech Olympic Committee, various sports and even such companies as Pilsner Urquell (see its label Brewed in Pilsen.Czech). They were soon followed by producers of caps and sports jackets decorated with the ill‐famed CZECH. This is a unique phenomenon: nobody has ever seen caps or jackets with the inscriptions ENGLISH, FRENCH, GERMAN, or DUTCH. We, however, are foolish enough to proudly exhibit these goods on our own bodies whenever we travel abroad to attend important sporting events.

Pilsner beer bottle with "Pilsner . Czech" on the label - the jersey of Jaromír Jágr with the shameful "Czech"
from the Olympic Games in Nagano, 1998


The English name Czechia was hindered in its "journey to the world" by the indifference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Why? From 1993 on, its officials did not see to it that the Gazetteer of geographical (or "short") names, published by the UNO mapping service on their websites, included the name Czechia. The UNO service waited until 1995 but the Minister at that time, Josef Zieleniec from the Civic Democratic Party, who was authorized to take this step, did not sent any relevant information and, consequently, the column short name was completed with this country´s political name – Czech Republic…! The whole unfortunate affair managed to enter the highest circles of Czech politics in the first half of 2004: on May 11, the Senate of the Parliament held its 7th Public Hearing on Functional differentiation between the standard names Česká republika and Česko, and their respective equivalents in foreign languages. The participants of the Hearing carried a final Memorandum which includes, among other things, the following:

"We recommend:
1. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs to insist on observing the present terminological standards as well as its own internal memoranda, and to introduce similar one-word labels (Czechia in English) for our delegations. It is recommended to adequately adapt the text of the Treaty underlying the Constitution for Europe and to inform the respective UNO bodies of the official English "short" name Czechia. The Ministry´s unambiguous approach will encourage other state authorities to take similar steps.
2. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports to see that its own announcement which was published in the Ministry´s gazette No 11/1999 is observed, particularly in the texts of schoolbooks and also in the activities of national teams, because it is a custom all over the world to use geographical names in sports events (such as Austria, Canada, Slovakia,etc.)
3 The Ministry of Industry and Commerce to see that the one-word name Czechia (Tschechien, Tchéquie, …) is used in order to consolidate a uniform visual style representing the state (in particular, to introduce the trade mark Made in Czechia for domestic products).
4. The Ministry of Local Development not to admit any uncertainty in the uniform visual style of the Czech Republic in the field of tourism (i.e., to use the one-word name Česko and its equivalents in foreign languages)."


The above-mentioned facts allow us to draw the following conclusion: if the state authorities had taken care of promotion of their own country from the very beginning, similar to other countries which arouse from disintegration of communist federations, the public would have soon taken into account that the well established "trade mark" Czechoslovakia continues as Czechia, and there would be nothing to discuss today. Who knew the name Czechoslovakia before 1918? And did anybody know such names as Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, before 1990? Did the names Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania have any meaning to anybody beyond those countries? Let alone a Moldova? No. The difference lies in the approach to the problem. While the representatives of the above-mentioned countries took all necessary steps to make the new state formations known to the public, the Czechs did not do anything. To make matters worse, they even started to mislead the world by saying that the one-word name of the Czech state "does not exist", and that it "was invented by Hitler", it "is a Slovak word", it "is not official" , etc. Howlers like these swarmed about particularly in the 1990s.1 Another typical misconception is what we call "the Chechnya fallacy" (see below). I often ask myself how it is possible that none of the Czech experts in publicity, advertising, public relations, etc., who attended various courses and workshops and are proud of their diplomas, certificates and qualifications, have ever hit upon the idea of exploiting the evident similarity of Czechia and Czechoslovakia in spoken and written form?!? It could easily demonstrate the continuity of Czechoslovak and Czech statehood. Both words include the root czech- and the suffix -ia, which is also present in the names of the Czech historical regions (Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia). In addition, there is the unique code CZ which does not occur in any other name of a state or a geographical area in the entire world (certainly not in Chechnya!). I am saying all this in order to demonstrate that the Chechnya fallacy is a stupid, false and empty argument used by some persons who have done nothing for the promotion of our country although they get their salaries from public resources, that is, from our taxes. Worse than nothing: they have filled the whole affair with confusion, ignorance, arrogance, and incompetence.


The "Chechnya fallacy" emerged for the first time in 2000 in connection with EXPO 2000 in Hannover. I do not remember all the details, but the point was that the letter "h" in the word Czechia which occurred somewhere (maybe in the map of the exhibition premises) was changed into "n" – either through a typing error (in a printed text) or by physical breaking off (in three-dimensional letters) and the word could be read as Czecnia. A journalist blew up this triviality to mean that the Germans mistake us for Čečna (as it is spelled in Czech language). In the medial turmoil which followed, nobody took notice of the fact that the name is quite different in English (Chechnya) and that the discussed region is not an independent state and cannot have its own exhibition hall at EXPO. A "problem" emerged and a new pseudo-argument against Czechia was born. But it is a mere fallacy for several reasons:
1. Names of states are anchored in history; in most cases – including ours – they come from the name of the majority nation who founded the state, who wanted it and worked on its formation (it is not essential whether its territory is also inhabited by members of other nations and ethnic groups). In our own language the attribute for the nation is český (Czech in English), the inhabitant is a Čech/Czech, we are Češi/Czechs, and so we can only form a český/Czech state, that is, Česko/Czechia.1 The root čech- (pronounced [t∫ek] in English) must logically, in various types of spelling, occur in other languages, and it really does (see Item 2). There is no other possibility. The fact that there are nations in the world whose names can sound similar, and accordingly also states whose names can – to somebody – sound similar, is only a secondary consideration. We have no choice but to teach ourselves not to confuse Austria with Australia, Thailand with Taiwan, Serbia with Siberia, Georgia (USA) with Georgia (a state in Transcaucasia), two Congos, two Koreas, three African Guineas (plus Papua-New Guinea), Iran with Irak (and Ireland), Prussia with Russia, Niger with Nigeria, Antigua with Anguilla, Gambia with Zambia, Zambia with Zimbabwe, Mali with Malawi, Columbia with British Columbia (Canada) and the US District of Columbia, Slovakia with Slovenia and Slavonia (a region in Croatia), Latvia with Lithuania, Libya with Liberia, various "Saints" – Saint Kitts, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Saint Pierre..., all the Central Asian "-stans", and God knows what else could anybody confuse. However, none of these countries applies the "directions for use" conceived by our propagators of the Chechnya fallacy! It would be an unprecedented sign of weakness, uncertainty and, above all, political immaturity, which could even raise doubts about such a country´s right to its own independent existence.
2. True, somebody may confuse Chechnya with Czechia, but this rather demonstrates the person´s complete ignorance of geography than the "impropriety" of the name Czechia. If we took the Chechnya fallacy very seriously, it would, in the end, necessitate changing our nation´s name.
3. An argument in the style of the Chechnya fallacy could never occur to any clear-headed person as it is absolutely erroneous and, in fact, unique. It actually says the following: if nation A finds out that a few individuals – foreigners – confused the state of nation A with another geographical formation B (not necessarily an independent state), nation A should change the name of its own state or choose another solution which will finally be less convenient. In my opinion such a passive and even dangerous method of thinking is really absurd.


Thanks to essential help of the mass media the one‐word name of this country has finally established itself in the Czech area: Česko has a life of its own and – speaking in medical terms – it only needs to come for a checkup once a year. Czechia, on the other hand, is lying in the intensive care unit connected to medical devices, but no help is provided – the "doctors" don´t care a fig for this patient, and so he survives only because a kind nurse or anothergood soul brings him an orange from time to time. Czechia needs help however small it may be! Some help has been offered for a few years by producers of road maps:  the East Moravian publishing house SHOCart&GeoClub was a pioneer. It would also help if the publishers of English versions of Czech internet papers decided to use the official one‐word name of this country next to the others (e.g., Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary  ‐‐‐  Czechia.). At first, it would be enough to use the name occasionally so that the readers can get accustomed. It is wrong to argue that international agencies donot use Czechia – this is a confusion of cause and effect. If Czechia were used more often in the Czech area, it would certainly soon be adopted by international agencies. An important argument in favour of Czechia is the following: English is apparently the only language in Europe which "is not able" to translate the geographical name Česko. Should we really believe that the English language – the lingua franca of today´s world – is so incompetent while, for example, Faeroese, spoken by about forty thousand islanders in the North Atlantic, or Icelandic, spoken by three hundred thousand inhabitants of a remote country of volcanos, geysers and icebergs, do have their own terms for Česko (Tekkia and Tékkland, respectively)?


  As the Chechnya fallacy is still one of the most frequent "counterarguments" which are used instead of a direct and reasonable answer whenever the question is asked "why not Czechia?", I would like to emphasize that it is wrong to adopt arguments based on the Chechnya fallacy and to believe them. This error is, however, easy to correct: relevant sources for names of states in general and for our state in particular are included in respectable publications; in this case they are geographical and linguistic publications. It is important to know that CZECHIA has been the official English equivalent of ČESKO since the very beginning of modern Czech statehood and it is appropriate to use this term just as the one-word equivalents of Česko are used in other languages. Insufficient dissemination (particularly) of the English one-word term for Česko has been caused by the representatives and professional promoters of the new Czech state (often neither professional nor promoters), who badly underestimated the importance of the English one-word name in the international field. The allegation that Czechia "has not caught on" in the world and so "let us forget it and accept the widespread Czech" (such talk can sometimes be heard in political and economic circles) is again nothing but confusion of cause and effect. Those who are in a position to do something have done nothing; they only try to hide their own incompetence and shift the blame on "adverse circumstances". 

Pavel Krejčí, (linguist, assist.professor at the Dept.of Slavonic Languages, Faculty of Arts of the Masaryk University in Brno
English translation: Eva Horová

Vladimír Hirsch,Petr Pavlínek,Zdeněk Kukal:

Myth No. 1: Czechia is an unknown and possibly grammatically incorrect short name for the Czech Republic. Czechia is rarely used in English because native English speakers do not like to use it.

Fact: The Terminological Committee of the Czech Office for Surveying, Mapping and Cadastre officially codified Czechia in 1993 in its publication “Names of States and their Territorial Parts”. Therefore, Czechia is the grammatically correct short name of the Czech Republic and the English translation of Česko (the short name of the country in Czech). Czechia is not well known and infrequently used because the Czech state and its institutions have not used it despite recommendations issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education in the 1990s. A short country name that is not used by the state itself and by its institutions cannot become well known and recognized abroad.

Myth No. 2: German, Russian, Chinese and other foreign languages have spontaneously used their translation of the short name Česko. However, the Czech Republic has become widespread in English-speaking countries. It is pointless to try to convince the English-speaking world about using Czechia as a short country name for the Czech Republic.

Fact: The Czechs have to start using their short country name first, after which English speakers will adopt it in a way similar to the way they adopted short country names such as Belarus, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Eritrea or Myanmar. These countries adopted and let the world know their proper short names. The Czechs need to do the same.

Myth No. 3: Czechia is unofficial and has not been approved because Česko is not mentioned in the Czech constitution.

Fact: A short country name does not have to be spelled out in the Constitution. Československo (Czechoslovakia) was not mentioned in the Czechoslovak Constitution either.

Myth No. 4: The name Czechia is a neologism.

Fact: The first recorded use of Czechia was in 1634 in Latin and in 1841 in English. Other historic evidence of the use Czechia in English is from 1856 and 1866 in the Australian press. U.S. newspapers commonly used Czechia between 1918 and 1960 to refer to the western part of Czechoslovakia (as opposed to Slovakia, its eastern part) i.e. to the contemporary Czech Republic.

Myth No. 5: Czechia is not a word. It sounds strange.

Fact: Czechia is originally derived from Latin, which is common for numerous other country names in English, such as Austria, Australia, Croatia, Virginia, California, Indonesia, Slovakia, Latvia, Colombia and many more, also including Czech geographic names such as Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. Czechia might sound strange to some people but so do numerous geographic names derived from foreign languages that are commonly used in English, such as Idaho, Utah, Massachusetts, Lithuania, Zimbabwe, and Belarus.

Myth No. 6: A short geographic name (Czechia) is unnecessary. A political name (the Czech Republic) is sufficient.

Fact: The political name of a country is transient and ignores the historic continuity of a given state territory because it is limited only to the existing state form. In the case of the Czech Republic, it is incorrect to use its political name for various state forms that had existed on its territory before 1993. As such, the political name can never fully replace a permanent geographic name that does not change in response to changing state forms in a particular territory. The use of a contemporary political name for a period before the existence of the current state form is incorrect and impractical. The need for a short name is demonstrated by the fact that the Czech Republic is often erroneously shortened to Czech, Czech rep., CR, C. Rep. or Czecho. In many cases, foreigners continue to use the name Czechoslovakia, although the country has not existed since 1993, and even Czech businessmen have attempted to restore the brand “Made in Czechoslovakia” since “Made in Czech Republic” has failed to become a familiar brand around the world.

Myth No. 7: Czechia is an inappropriate and imprecise historical name because the Czech state had not used it in the past and has used different names instead. Fact: Other countries, such as Egypt, Greece and Poland, use short geographic names despite the fact that they experienced major territorial changes in the past and had various names throughout their history. Being a neutral country name, Czechia can be used in historic, cultural and spiritual contexts. The transparency and relative simplicity of a short country name will facilitate its international acceptance.

Myth No. 8: There are other countries that exclusively use political names without any problems. Examples include the Dominican Republic or the Central African Republic.

Fact: Although that is true, the vast majority of countries use short geographic names. The Dominican Republic and the Central African Republic are the only two countries in the entire world that do not have readily available short names. With Czechia being standardized and readily available as a short name, the Czech Republic is not the same case. Furthermore, the history of Czech statehood is much longer than its republican political system. Czechia can be applied throughout the entire history of Czech statehood and irrespective of its actually existing political system.

Myth No. 9: The name change from the Czech Republic to Czechia would be too expensive and overall harmful by interrupting the continuity of the Czech Republic. The Czechs need to worry about much more important problems than their short country name in English.

Fact: No change in the country name is involved since the Czech Republic as a political name remains in place and unchanged. The Czech Republic will still be used in situations such as matters of national and international diplomatic protocol and international treaties. It is more appropriate to use Czechia in situations when other countries use their short names. The introduction and the use of Czechia instead of the Czech Republic in these situations can be done gradually with no or minimum expense during the update of the country’s promotional materials. Any additional expense will pay for itself in the form of increased international recognition of the country because of its clear and unambiguous name, including its international brand name “Made in Czechia”.

Myth No. 10: Czechia has the same meaning as Bohemia. Czechia thus excludes the regions of Moravia and (Czech) Silesia from the Czech state.

Fact: The same wrong argument can be made that the Czech Republic does not include Moravia and (Czech) Silesia in its name and the same could be said about the Czech lands. Czechia covers exactly the same geographic area as the Czech Republic and it is therefore composed of Bohemia, Moravia and (Czech) Silesia. Although Czechia was originally also used as a synonym for Bohemia, it has not been used in this sense since the beginning of the 20th century. Since then Czechia has been used to denote the entire territory inhabited by the Czech speaking population, which is composed of three historic Czech lands: Bohemia, Moravia and (Czech) Silesia.

Myth No. 11: Czechia is less representative than the Czech Republic and it is confusing because it is ambiguous.

Fact: Undemocratic and authoritarian regimes around the world have frequently included “republic” in their country names in order to increase their legitimacy. As such, the term “republic” has lost its former glamour during the 20th century. Czechia [ˈtʃɛki.ə] is unambiguous in both spoken and written English. As a matter of fact, the Czech Republic [tʃɛk rɪˈpʌb.lɪk] is much more ambiguous than Czechia since the term “Czech” [tʃɛk] is pronounced the same way as check and cheque, which have several meanings as a noun and verb in spoken English, while “republic” is ambiguous because it is used in political names of the majority of countries.

Myth No. 12: Czechia ˈtʃɛki.əˈ can by pronounced as ˈtʃɛtʃi.əˈ.

Fact: If this was the case then “Czech” [tʃɛk] could be pronounced as [tʃɛtʃ]. There are numerous words in English (286 to be exact) in which “ch” is pronounced as [k] and not [tʃ] and are pronounced similarly as “Czech” [tʃɛk], such as architect, ache, anarchy, anchor, chemistry, chaos, epoch, and mechanism. English pronunciation is variable and English speakers simply have to learn the pronunciation of particular words, such as blood – mood or head – steam.

Myth No. 13: Czechia is an unsuitable short name for the Czech Republic because it can be easily confused with Chechnya.

Fact: Poor knowledge of country names or geography by some people should not be a reason for refusing a particular country name. There are numerous countries with more similar names than Czechia/Chechnya, such as Austria/Australia, Iran/Iraq, India/Indonesia, Mali/Malawi, Niger/Nigeria, Gambia/Zambia, Slovakia/Slovenia and even Georgia/Georgia (a U.S. state). None of these countries has decided to give up its short name and use its political name exclusively because of a possible confusion with another country (region). Czechia can be confused with Chechnya in the same way the Czech Republic can be confused with the Chechen Republic. The chance of actual confusion of Czechia and Chechnya during various diplomatic, international scientific or sports events is almost zero since Chechnya is not an independent country and does not act as a sovereign entity at the international scale.

Myth No. 14: Czechia is too similar to German „Tschechei“ that was used by Nazi Germany as a derogatory name for the occupied Czech territory during the Second World War.

Fact: Czechia is unrelated to the German term „Tschechei“ … and these two terms are pronounced differently in English and German. Although Germans had used “Tschechei” before the Nazi period, Czechia had been used many years before Germans first used “Tschechei”. Today, “Tschechei” is rarely used in Germany because Germans use „Tschechien“. If “Tschechei” is used it does not need to be necessarily viewed as a pejorative term since it was created in a similar way as names for other countries in German, such as Slowakei and Türkei.

Myth No. 15: The selection of the proper short country name must be the outcome of a democratic public discussion.

Fact: The November 2014 statement of the Terminological Committee of the Czech Office for Surveying, Mapping and Cadastre states: “According to the article 3 of Act 1994/200 on Land Surveying, the standardization of names of settlement and non-settlement units is a land surveying activity in public interest and its results and recommendations should be followed by national and local state institutions. The position of the Terminological Committee of the Czech Office for Surveying, Mapping and Cadastre, an advisory authority of the Czech Office for Surveying, Mapping and Cadastre for the codification of country names, on the use of the name Česko and its foreign language variants (Czechia, Tschechien, Tchéquie, Chequia…) is positive. This position on the use of one-word name Česko and its equivalents in foreign languages has not changed since 1993. The experts unequivocally recommended the use of “Czechia” in English and its variants in other language (Tschechien, Tchéquie, Chequia etc.). This is not an opinion but the outcome of the process of standardization.” – This decision about the name “Czechia” has been made by those who are qualified by law to make it.

Geoff Piper:

I am a linguist and so suffer from what the French call „déformation professionelle“ – the typical drawbacks of the trade for those who practise it and not usually for the others. I speak several languages quite well; Czech is not one of them but I have a good grasp of its syntax and grammar and am much interested in things Czech in general. I have recently been very struck by the resistance of native English-speakers to the form CZECHIA for the country whose capital is Prague. I have only heard one good argument against it, viz. „it does not sound right...“ Well, most linguists do indeed accept this as a legitimate argument, but not across the board. If a word or expression „doesn´t sound right“ because it runs counter to the genius of a language, OK. But each and every neologism can „sound wrong“ on first hearing, only to become completely accepted with use – think of „software“ or „egghead“ or „upbeat“. And new things require new words anyway – Fowler reminds us that „appendicitis“ is only recorded from 1888 onwards! Well, Czechia actually is a new thing – a country that has never existed before.

But that is not the main reason for the word and I believe there are five other good reasons for adopting it.

The main reason (for non-linguists!) is probably that the Czech Foreign Service itself advocated it as long ago as 1993! The objection? „Who are they to tell us how to speak our language?“ ! ! Indeed – though one should perhaps remember that many country names, like „Pakistan“ or „Sri Lanka“, came initially from those countries and are in no way made up by the native English-speaker. Secondly, the Czech business world, desperately wanting a form less cumbersome than „Czech Republic“, and aware of the opposition to „Czechia“, has done such a good job introducing „Czech“ (yes, for the country, not the people or language !) that many Czechs actually think this a correct English form ! The Pilsen brewery, for instance, has a massive sales campaign with the slogan „Brewed in Czech“ – and it is not alone in the Czech business – or indeed private – sphere. Thirdly (this is the one that counts for the linguists !), the form „Czech Republic“ should not stand as the name of a country in a list like „France, Germany, ...“ for it is a political, not geographical, term. Either „the French Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Czech Republic“ or „France, Germany, Czechia“ etc. Fourthly, the form „Czechia“consists merely of the accepted adjective „Czech“ (for nationality or language) plus the affix -ia, which is perfectly normal English for several countries (Russia, India). It is therefore difficult to see in what way „Czechia“ is un-English. Fifthly, Czechia neatly parallels two forms which are gaining ground in French and German respectively and which make perfect sense in those languages: La Tchéquie and Tschechien. „Tschechien“ has virtually conquered the entire German-speaking press; „la Tchéquie“ has a little way to go but no-one doubts the outcome.

Could there simply be something ultra-conservative in the Anglo-Saxon mentality at play here?!
To sum up, I believe that the opposition to „Czechia“ amongst native English speakers is simply a „gut reaction“ which does not stand up to scrutiny and which, indeed, may pass so quickly that those who read these lines may wonder, in a few years´ time, why they ever debated the question...

Geoff Piper, UK
president of The Music Enterprise Agency
the supporter and promoter of Czech music

Eva Horová:

Linguist Eva Horová in her analysis : English-speaking/writing media and institutions are usually somewhat embarrassed when we try to inform them about CZECHIA as the standard one-word geographic name, authorized and recommended by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1993) and included in the UNO Gazetteers of Geographical Names. On the other hand, the German equivalent TSCHECHIEN was almost immediately adopted in German-speaking countries and has been widely used there as a natural and necessary counterpart to „die Tschechische Republik“. If users of English language ignored CZECHIA, it would be a serious and needless deviation from traditional rules underlying the system of geographic names in general:

An overwhelming majority of modern states have adopted two names. The political name gives information about the type of government (Kingdom, Federal Republic) and therefore usually consists of more than one word; it is applied in diplomatic negotiations, in texts of treaties, etc. The geographic name, as a rule in one word, appears in maps, on postage stamps, on the outfit of national football teams and, in particular, in daily conversation and in texts of non-official character. In accordance with this model, this country used to be known under the names Československá republika/the Czechoslovak Republic, and Československo/Czechoslovakia.

After the „velvet divorce“ in 1993, each of the two newly arisen states followed the traditional model: the Slovak Republic/Slovakia, and the Czech Republic/ —?? I think, that the most non-prejudiced persons would automatically add what is missing: CZECHIA. Quite right. Why should there be a gap in the system ? There are no rational reasons for that, either historical or linguistic. The name CZECHIA is no ad hoc invention. In terms of linguistic, the suffix -ia is a frequent phenomenon in English language and the word is derived naturally from the name of the nation. Then, why to hesitate to use CZECHIA? Let us recall the period following the separation. Unlike the Slovaks, the Czechs had always felt that it was sufficient for them to call their country Československo/Czechoslovakia. In fact, most of them (except linguists, historians and geographers) did not know that their territory had its own geographic name Česko, which only needed to be revived and re-adopted. Most citizens of the separate „new“ name Česko (which actually dates back to 18th century). Thus it happened that the political name Česká republika/the Czech Republic entered all fundamental laws and documents whereas Česko/Czechia had to wait for a sort of „public consensus“. As a result, a simple directive „from above“, although professional discussion and assessment had been finished by that time; it only could be recommended could not introduce a one-word geographic name.

An explicit approval was given to the one-word geographic name Česko/Czechia by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a memorandum sent to all Czech embassies and diplomatic missions in 1993: the Ministry recommends to use the official title „only in important official documents and texts (such as laws, treaties, notes, etc.), in titles of important institutions of the state (such as Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Embassy of the Czech Republic in ....) and in official speeches and addresses. In all other cases, the one-word name Česko can be used. (....) Its equivalents in some of the worldwide languages are: Czechia in English, Tschechien in German, Tchéquie in French, Chequía in Spanish, Cecchia in Italian, Čechija in Russian.“

This statement could encourage all users of English language, both native and non-native, to adopt CZECHIA as easily as the Germans had adopted TSCHECHIEN. Unfortunately, the information was not published on a large scale and did not reach all areas of social activities other than foreign service (such as international trade and industry, culture, sports, schools, and all kinds of international contact). If no help comes „from above“, we will gave to help „from below“ - this is what we had in mind when we founded in 1998 the Civic Initiative Czechia (Občanská iniciativa Česko/Czechia) in Brno, a group consisting of linguists and other professionals who work mainly at universities and research institutes in Brno and in Prague. A detailed description of our activities lies outside the scope of the present article. The following are only a few examples of our target groups.

1) Organizers of international events, such as conferences, congresses, exhibitions: The desk of any Czech delegation is always provided with the label „Czech Republic“ although the name sticks out among others (Austria, Denmark, Spain, Finland, .....) as „something exclusively official, artificial, lacking for naturalness, intimacy and general solidarity. (....) A combination of a political name of one state and the geographic names of other states is felt as communicatively inappropriate, stylistically clumsy, affected, and undiplomatic.

2) Sports organizations, TV and radio reporters: TEAM CZECHIA (the same as Team Canada, Team Sweden ezc.) should be seen on the players´ jerseys instead of such odd „inventions“ as CZECH TEAM or more complicated CZECH NATIONAL ICE-HOCKEY TEAM.

3) Trading and/or producing companies: Managements should review the labels and covers of their products. „MADE IN CZECHIA“ in the most appropriate inscription. „Czech Republic“ is not wrong but it is clumsy. There also accrue bad errors in denominations of companies, e.g., Alcatel Czech, Maspex Czech instead of Czechia.

4) Organizations whose names include the word BOHEMIA. This geographic name is often misunderstood. It does not mean the entire territory of the Czech Republic but only one of its historical parts (Čechy). Czechia consists of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. Thus, if an American company exports its product to this country under the label „Nature’s Bounty Bohemia“, it is an error, unless the company wants to limit its activities to one region only.

If some readers have decided to joins us, they will soon find out a lot of other objectives and they certainly will not suffer from a lack of work. We all feel it is high time we helped CZECHIA as fast as possible, before the opinion „Czech Republic is good in any context“ becomes deeply rooted. For this reason, I would recommend to tackle the task in a very pragmatic way, namely, to separate CZECHIA from ČESKO. We cannot waste time waiting for all inhabitants to get accustomed to Česko: some people will not be able to understand our rational reasons till the end of their lives. But this, in my opinion, should not prevent us from using the English equivalent in English texts. The word Czechia could be acceptable even to hard-core opponents of Česko.

It is both interesting encouraging witnessing a similar situation occurring – vice versa – in German-Czech relation. As we know, native speakers have commonly used the name Tschechien. I listened recently to a Czech interpreter (who is not very enthusiastic about Česko) translating simultaneously a German politician’s speech. I wondered what she would do when the politician said „Tschechien“. If she translated „Česká republika“, it would cause a shift of meaning because the two words are not pure synonyms… I will keep her decision a secret but I do hope that it has helped her to overcome her prejudice.

I can imagine the readers asking: „Why on earth do the people complicate their lives? Why so much ado about a name?“ Well, I think the answer is simple: * First, our country needs it. * Second, we follow the example of Jan Werich, the wise Czech comedian, who said approximately this: „The fight for common sense is obligatory.“


Other historical records of the name Czechia in

Comment in NYT about withdrawing the name July


© 2011 Civic Initiative Česko / Czechia
The civic initiative Czechia