Czech(ia) This Out – the Name Debate Solved

You’ve probably seen or heard the name “Czechia” used instead of “Czech Republic” and may have wondered what the deal was - which name is right? It’s an easy answer: both. Depending on the situation, of course.

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cartoon krtek in the forest with lollypop in his hand
The Mole (Czech: Krtek) is an animated character in an iconic cartoon series created by Czech animator Zdeněk Miler. Photo: Be&W

The name Czechia (pronounced CHEK-i-yah or CHE-ki-yah, with a “k” sound in the middle) was officially standardized and internationally recognized in 2016 as the short name for the Czech Republic, while the Czech Republic has been the formal name since 1993. In practice, this means that ‘Czech Republic’ is used for official political purposes, such as diplomatic protocols and international treaties. ‘Czechia’ should be used everywhere else – media, speech, sports, academia, and everyday discussion.

Czech Republic or Czechia? A historical look

It is common practice for countries to have a short (or geographic) name, such as France as the short form for the Republic of France and Greece for the Hellenic Republic. For this reason, it was unusual that Czechia did not designate one following the 1993 split of Czechoslovakia. In contrast, Slovakia, the other half of the former nation, has commonly been called by its short name as opposed to the formal version, the Slovak Republic, since the breakup.

The debate over the short-form name for the Czech Republic simmered for over two decades as finding the right shortened version proved difficult. In 1993, the Terminological Committee of the Czech Office for Surveying, Mapping, and Cadaster recommended that the short name be Czechia, an English version of the Czech word ‘Česko.’ However, it failed to catch on at the time. Some felt that ‘Czechia’ was more closely associated with the Czech region of Bohemia and ignored the other two regions, Moravia and Silesia. Others felt the name sounded too harsh.

“It sounds nicer…”

Whatever the reason, with the lack of an official short-form name in English, Czechs and English-speaking foreigners were left to fend for themselves, often using abbreviations ranging from ‘Czechlands’ to ‘Bohemia’ to the adjective, ‘Czech.’ In the early 2000s, a movement to finally adopt Czechia gained steam, aided by organizations like Civic Initiative Czechia. This push was further assisted by allies like President Miloš Zeman, who, in 2013, told then-president of Israel, Shimon Peres, “I use Czechia because it sounds nicer and it’s shorter than the cold Czech Republic.”

Name recognition for ‘Czechia’ is still far lower than for ‘Czech Republic.’ Petr Pavlínek of the Civic Initiative Czechia told KafkaDesk.org that “If Czechia [had been] used consistently… we would [be] in a similar position as… all newly created countries in Central and Eastern Europe since 1990. No one is questioning or discussing their short names because all these countries have consistently used them.” However, he is optimistic for the eventual common usage of Czechia “because it is much more practical… We would have given up a long time ago if we were not convinced that Czechia would eventually prevail.”

Cynthia Sklodowski

freelance editor and writer from Dallas, Texas, who has been living in Warsaw, Poland for over a decade with her husband and 2 kids. She has worked for publications such as Cosmopolitan and Seventeen, and is still hard at work trying to figure out the Polish language.

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