The Czech Republic: A Nation of Velvet

The Czech Republic: A Nation of Velvet

The Czech Republic: A Nation of Velvet

The Czech Republic: A Nation of Velvet


Rick Fawn is Lecturer in International Relations and Director of the Center for Russian, Soviet and Central and Eastern European Studies at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.


With the birth of the Czech Republic on 1 January 1993 a new political system and ethos had also to be nurtured. the success and personality of the state would hinge on its politics and, as would be demonstrated by 1997, to a degree on its domestic integrity and international reputation also.

The Czech Republic was blessed with capable and intellectual leaders. From the outset, these leaders were intent on building a particular type of political community even though they disagreed on some of its philosophical tenets. Part of this was a continuity with interwar Czechoslovakia, part a continuation of the reforms of 1990-92, themselves linked to the First Republic, and part a new entity in its own right. This new conception was a blend of neoliberalism and conservatism that predated the centrist social democratic governments that would sweep into power across Western Europe in the late 1990s under the name of the 'third way'. the Czechs, however, might be enraged to hear such an appelation applied to them. Indeed, a gulf has existed between the aims of the Czech intellectual leadership and the aspirations of the population.

This chapter examines the political society that the new Czech Republic sought to create, beginning with the ideas on which it was to be based, before turning to its political institutions and parties. It will then look at the drama and denouement of Czech politics, including the elections of 1996, the downfall of the Klaus government in November 1997 and the elections of June 1998.

The ideals of new czech political life

Political life in the Czech Republic has been more substantive and philosophical than a mere struggle to enact policy preferences. the creation of the political structures and ethos of the Czech Republic must be construed as a philosophical experiment. This experimentation is in itself part of the nature of Czech political life. This stems mainly from the political antecedents of the country, its political culture and particular personalities.

The czech REPUBLIC: a nation of velvet

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