The old-new republic
The independent Czechoslovak state was founded 82 years ago on Saturday. Although Czechoslovakia ceased to be eight years ago, the Czechs, unlike the Slovaks, still celebrate this date as one of the most important in their history. Libor Kubik reports:
Czechoslovakia was born in dramatic circumstances. After almost three hundred years of Habsburg rule, the first Czechoslovak president, Thomas Garrigue Masaryk, campaigned vigorously throughout WWI for support from the Allied powers to recognise the idea of an independent Czechoslovak state, and succeeded in 1918, thanks mainly to support from the American president, Woodrow Wilson.
The legacy that Masaryk, who remained in office until 1935, bestowed on his nation was one of democracy, and not nationalism. He thus became an icon and a paragon of moral authority. Masaryk was acutely aware of the social and moral problems that faced the region in the early twentieth century. Masaryk wanted the new Czechoslovak Republic to be considerate, pro-European and selfless.
The fledgling country's learning process continued until the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in 1938, and Nazi occupation in March 1939. Slovakia declared independence as a client state of Nazi Germany, and it was not until 1945 that the country was reunited. Czechoslovakia remained intact throughout 40 years of oppressive communist rule. It did not, however, survive the fall of communism, and the country split in two almost eight years ago.
It is eighty-two years since the foundation of Czechoslovakia, a state that no longer exists. Although this day is celebrated as a national holiday, only time will tell how many people are aware of its significance.