After 1989, Czechoslovakia was regarded by many observers as a stabilizing element in Central Europe, and many people hoped that it would become a model for the democratic transformation of multinational postcommunist states. This hope, held by the Czechs and Slovaks themselves, as well as by foreign observers, was based on the country's democratic traditions, on its habitual political moderation and on the fact that no bloody ethnic conflict had arisen between Czechs and Slovaks in the past. On the contrary, the two nations had unusually similar languages and had cultivated friendly cultural contacts even before becoming part of the common state. Nevertheless–to the surprise and sorrow of many of its citizens as well as of sympathizers living abroad – this state has disintegrated.
The present volume, written by Czechs, Slovaks, and experts from the United States and France, tries to describe and to explain why, after the collapse of the communist regime, Czechoslovakia split up into two separate states. Besides this main goal, stressing the documentation and interpretation of a concrete historical process, the collection has some important ancillary objectives – both theoretical and practical. On the one hand, the Czechoslovak experience is used to explore the concepts and instruments of European integration as a whole, and the theory of contemporary forms of nationalism; on the other, it could well have some practical policy implications. The failure of the Czechoslovak Federation will perhaps become an impulse for a more sophisticated approach to European integration and may also serve as a reminder to countries facing similar problems – i.e. Belgium, Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain.
The book is the result of three workshops organized by the Centre for the Study of Nationalism at the Central European University in Prague in the years 1992 and 1993. The Centre, directed by Ernest Gellner, studies the theory of nationalism as well as concrete historical developments directly or indirectly linked to nationalism. Obviously an academic