Yeltsin, Mozart, Chopin and other famous 'Czechs'


What do other Europeans know about the Czechs? This Tuesday saw the release of an unusual survey in the Czech capital.

Brian Kenety joins me in the studio to tell us about this new survey released in Prague on Tuesday:

What the rest of Europe knows about the Czech Republic. Brian?

That's right, Jan. This morning, Tuesday morning, I went to a rather trendy café in downtown Prague and the company Jan Becher, which markets the spicy Czech aperitif - it's kind of a greenish liquid - presented the survey; they conducted the research. And what they did is they sent out five young students to five capital cities of Europe — London, Paris, Brussels, Stockholm and Lisbon — and these young people asked 22 questions related to what other Europeans know about the Czech Republic and the Czech people.

And what were some of the questions up front?

Well, first the good news. 83 per cent of respondents knew that the Czech Republic exists, so only one in five who responded to the survey had never heard of the country. Of the people who had heard of the Czech Republic about 70 per cent thought they could name the capital city, Prague. And 94 per cent of those did so correctly. Others said it was Riga, or Grozny, or Monaco, or Belgrade for example.

Almost no one could name the current Czech president - you know, what's his name, Vaclav...

Oh, Vaclav ... Klaus?

Klaus, yeah, that's it. But quite a few volunteered the name of Vaclav Havel, unaware that he'd stepped down after 13 years in office.

And, most people could name at least one famous Czech athlete. But I'll let marketing director Vlastimil Spelda explain.

"Outside of these, let's say, official results, there are plenty of very funny things that we can learn. For example, if we ask European people 'Who is president of the Czech Republic?' There are many people saying that our president is Boris Yeltsin, for example. If we people ask about social life, about the culture, who is the best composer, they may name someone like W.A. Mozart, Beethoven."

"We can say that, basically, the most famous people from the Czech Republic are sportsmen - soccer players and ice hockey players and also Czech beautiful models. [Former Czech president] Vaclav Havel is really the most-known person and spontaneously the most-frequently mentioned. Number two could be Pavel Nedved, the European football player of the year, he is also very famous. And [the model] Eva Herzigova. Eva Herzigova is very well known."

So in fact only about 3 per cent of those surveyed correctly identified Mr Klaus as the current president. They didn't do a whole lot better on culture.

Oh right. And how did they do?

Well, as for music, only about 9 per cent of respondents could correctly name one Czech composer. The most common answer was actually Tchaikovsky, who is not Czech. Others said Chopin or Shostakovich.

Who are also not Czech.

That's right. About one in four, though, could name a Czech writer.

Franz Kafka
What writers were named?

Well, about half of those who could identify one said Franz Kafka. And about 30 per cent each said Vaclav Havel or Milan Kundera.

Probably it will come as no surprise to Radio Prague listeners that 60 per cent of those surveyed had tried Czech beer. I presume they enjoyed it. They best known brands were Pilsner Urquell and Budvar, also known as Budweiser but that's another story.

So you've got your models, you've got your alcohol and you've got your Kafka - your typical images of the Czech Republic. Were there any surprises?

Yes, aside from all those things, which you might see on a typical tourist wandering around in a 'Czech Me Out' tee-shirt, for example, yes, there were a few surprises. And I'll let Mr Spelda explain again.

"Maybe not completely surprising but interesting is that we are definitely not a destination for the people who like nature and the countryside. The Czech Republic is really visited mostly for architecture, history, culture."

"And then also, a very surprising result was that there are few people who know Czech gastronomy. We can say that outside of the Czech Republic, traditional, typical Czech foods are not very well known. It's quite normal because if we take big European cities, it's very rare that you can find a real Czech restaurant."