Czechia Is Slowly Winning Out
A debate and recent press coverage shows progress with the name
by Raymond Johnston (Foto: Fotolia)
Some people find the full name “the Czech Republic” a bit cumbersome. In April 2016, constitutional officials approved “Czechia” as the official short version of the name in English, and President Miloš Zeman began supporting the shortened name. The long name still remains valid, and the short name is simply and alternative. Both are acceptable. But in the end, one will be used more often than the other. Two names have existed side beside in the Czech language since 1993: Česko and Česká Republika.
A debate and a recent article in Forbes magazine claim that slowly Czechia is winning out, and use of the Czech Republic is dropping.
Experts discussed the topic last week at the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Charles University, and declared Czechia the winner, according to daily Hospodářské noviny (HN). Business magazine Forbes in their English edition ran an opinion in May stating that Czechia had won the debate. This contrasts with an article in UK daily The Guardian in October 2016 titled “Nobody calls it Czechia.”
In July 2016 the name Czechia was entered in the UN database of country names. Its use has been supported by Miroslav Jansta, head of the Czech Sports Union, which gives the name viability as it appears on some sports uniforms.
In a big blow to long-form supporters, Google Maps adopted Czechia on Jan. 19, 2017.
“The name of Czechia is gradually finding its way into English textbooks abroad, atlases, Google Maps, international standards and government databases, such as the CIA World Factbook or the US State Department’s database,” Petr Pavlínek, a professor from the Faculty of Natural Sciences, said at last week’s debate. He added that the use of Czechia was already resolved in 1993 when Česko was adopted as the short form, according to HN. The short English name is simply a translation of the official short Czech version.
Jansta also appeared at the debate. He originally favored the long form but has changed his mind. The short form is less political, as it doesn’t reference what type of government the country has. This makes it more suitable for international sports, he claimed. The transition will take time, though, as changing uniforms and other items cost money.
Kristina Larischová, head of diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the country has held some events and promotions to encourage the use of the short version of the name. The Czechia.eu brand has been registered, letters have been sent to embassies and a video has been made.
Forbes contributor Francis Tapon in his May 22 article pointed at that the official name of France is the French Republic, but that term is not in common usage. He claims that the Czech Republic is too difficult to say and that Czechia makes people’s lives easier.
The transition will take time though. “It takes years for new names to catch on. As anyone who has changed their name knows, getting your friends to adopt it is difficult,” he stated.
“When Burma became Myanmar, Leningrad became St. Petersburg and Peking became Beijing, the world took years to adapt,” he later added.
He also derides the common claim that Czechia sounds too much like Chechnya, oddly pointing to Slovakia and Slovenia as well as Washington State versus Washington, DC. He even points the UK so far not adopting the short form as evidence Czechia is winning, as the UK tends to be more reactionary in these matters. His tracking of social media statistics is a bit more convincing.