7
Mutual Perceptions in
Czech-Slovak Relationships

PETR PŘÍHODA


Introduction

In the spring of 1990, a controversy developed concerning the future name of our joint state in the Czechoslovak parliament. It was obvious that we could not be the 'Czechoslovak Socialist Republic', but Slovak members of parliament were also not satisfied with the name 'Czechoslovakia' because it did not adequately emphasize Slovak individuality, but even concealed it. This was the claim of Slovak cultural representatives and journalists, and also the feeling of the majority of the Slovak public. The Czech public did not understand this.

Just at that time, a minor incident occured. A group of Czech tourists in the Slovak mountains got into a quarrel with some local people, and several Slovak teenagers beat up one of the tourists. The mass media spread information about this event throughout the country and influenced the public mood, including the mood in the editor's office of the daily paper Lidové noviny, where I happened to be paying a visit. Lidové noviny is a liberal daily newspaper, which especially appeals to well-educated readers. It was published monthly as a samizdat during the communist regime and was read mainly by dissidents.

The incident created a debate in the editor's office, and one agitated commentator declared with contempt that the Slovaks were not even a nation. He did not elaborate further, whether they were an ethnic group on a tribal level of organization, or some other group. No one from the editor's office contradicted him.

The main point of this episode is the following: at the time Lidové noviny wrote about the attitude of Slovak parliamentary members and the Slovak public in a very critical, often controversial, manner, but still correctly. Contempt could be found only behind the scenes.

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