Czechoslovakia split up for a very simple reason – because it consisted of two distinct nations. And then the explanation could go further and deeper. But the basic reason is that the country was made up of two similar but distinct nations, each wanting to be the master in their own country.
Go deeper in history to Moravia
If you want to go deeper in history then learn that 1000 years ago, western Slovakia used to be an extension of the country of Moravia, which is currently the eastern part of the Czech Republic. Nowadays the Czech Republic consists of three lands – western part is called Bohemia after Celtic Boians who had lived there before, the eastern part is called Moravia after the river called Morava, and northeastern part is called Silesia, which extends to north in southern Poland. However 1000 years ago, the land of Moravia was much more important, powerful and advanced than the land of Bohemia. While the western part of current Slovakia was a part of ancient Moravia, Bohemia – the western part of the current Czech republic – on the other hand was not part of Moravia at all as it was a separate dutchy subjugated by Bavarians (Austrians). Current western Slovakia and current Czech Moravia used to be one country called Moravia and the nation was called Moravian. So the ancient Moravia was the connector between the current Czechs and Slovaks. The capital city of Moravia was initially in the current western Slovakian town of Devín, that was under the reign of the king Mojmír I. and Rastislav, later, under the reign of the king Svätopluk, it moved to the current Slovakian town of Nitra. Even later but still under the reign of king Svätopluk, it moved to the town of Ostrihom, currently in Hungary. And even later it moved to the town of Stoličný Belehrad, currently also in Hungary.
It is needed to say that Moravians living along the river Morava attacked Nitra in the year 833 and expelled its ruler Pribina with his people away. Pribina later settled on the bank of the lake Blatno (Balaton in Hungarian) in current western Hungary and started his rule over that land. The land around Nitra was up until the Moravian conquest called the Slavic land and the border between Moravia and the Slavic land used to be on the river Váh. However, when Moravians conquered the area around Nitra, the border of Moravia moved western to the river Hron, which is the same river that also created the ancient border between the two huge ancient empires of Germania and Scythia.
Why do Czechs and Slovaks speak similar languages?
Moravia was a dutchy but under the reign of king Svätopluk it became a kingdom that took over Bohemia. The ancestors of western Slovaks were Moravians but Czechs were not Moravians at all. The reason why Slovaks speak a similar language to Czechs is that after the collapse of the Moravian kingdom, the nation of Moravians got split in two halves, while one half mixed with Czechs in the raising Czech kingdom and the other half of the Moravians mixed with the Slavs in the raising kingdom of Hungary. So the Czech language is a mix of two languages – Czech and Moravian, while Slovak is also a mix of two languages – Moravian and Slavic. The Moravian connection makes it possible for the nations of Czechs and Slovaks understand each other without any issues.
Similarities and differences of Czech and Slovak
Czech is very similar to Slovak but some grammar and vocabulary is completely different.
Example of a total difference:
Slovak: „Smädná ťava a škuľavá korytnačka chrúmu čučoriedky.“
Czech: „Žíznivý velbloud a šilhavá želva chroupou borůvky.“
English: „A thirsty camel and a twitchy turtle crunch blueberries.“
Example of similarity:
Slovak: „Ján sa išiel prejsť do lesa a cestou stretol veľkého medveďa, radšej sa napil vody, aby vládal utekať preč.“
Czech: „Jan se šel projít do lesa a cestou potkal velkého medvěda, raději se napil vody, aby vládal utíkat prič.“
English: „John went for a walk in the forest and met a big bear on the way, he better drunk some water to be able to run away.“
Importance of Moravian Kingdom
It is needed to stress that ancient Moravia used to be much more important than Bohemia because the Moravians had the first Christian kingdom among all the Slavs, they had the first Slavic writing called Glagolika, which was devised especially for them by a Greek scholar called Cyril the Philosopher (hence Cyrillic as the Russian writing), the Moravians were the first to have their own Christian archbishop, while the Czechs only had a small pagan duchy with no Christianity, no churches and no writing. Christianity was at that time considered as something politically very important in the western world and Czechs as well as Polish accepted the Christianity directly from Moravians, which is a reason why, based on the contemporary rules, Moravians were allowed to extend the rule over those peoples. Just for your information, the difference between a kingdom and a dutchy is such that a kingdom consists of several duchies. A kingdom is ruled by a king and a dutchy is ruled by a duke who is lower than a king.
Raise of the Moravian kingdom
The Moravian Kingdom was very successful and got more and more political and military power. Moravians conquered other neighboring lands that were also attached to Moravia. These countries were attached to Moravia: eastern Slovakia, part of southern Poland around the river Visla and also the land in the south, which is the current Hungary. At the peak of the military power, the Moravian kingdom Christianized and „liberated“ the Czechs from the Bavarian vassalage so that the Moravians could tax them and protect them instead of the Bavarians. At that time, Moravia was fighting for church and power independence against Bavarians (Austrians) and also against Franks (Germans and French) that claimed their right to rule over Moravians because the baptism came to Moravia from Frank priests. Moravia was also fighting against Bulgarians in the east. They fought for the rule over the important middle Danube area, which was and is a strategic area called „the cross-road of Europe“. Bavarians and Franks often allied themselves with Bulgarians against Moravians. Moravians had different allies, such as Polish, Polabian Serbs or White Croatians. The greatest Moravian king Svätopluk I the Great made a new ally in Hungarians, a tribe having appeared on the other side of the Carpathian mountains. He allowed the Hungarians cross the Carpathian mountains and settle in the eastern part of the Carpathian basin. He paid them for their alliance in fighting against the Franks, Bavarians and Bulgarians. Later, however, the Hungarians betrayed Moravians, broke the alliance with them and accepted payment from the Bavarians and Franks to fight against the Moravians. The Czechs joined the Franks and Bavarians on their campaign against Moravians, complaining that Moravians, their new ruler, imposed too high taxes on them. Hungarians completely subverted the Moravian kingdom, conquered its eastern part and acquired its western part by marriages with the Slavic noble families. And that was the end of the Moravian kingdom and a raise of the kingdom of Hungary could start.
Collapse and split of the Moravian kingdom
After the collapse of Moravian kingdom, Moravia and the Moravian nation was divided. The eastern part, which is current Slovakia, was annexed to Hungary. The western part of Moravia was annexed by the Czechs. The royal crown of the Moravian kingdom passed to the Czechs, Hungarians and Poles because all of these nations accepted the Christianity from the Moravians. And that is how the Slovaks appeared under the rule of the Hungarian kings. That is how the Slovaks turned from the top leaders of the Slavic world to barely surviving. The Slovaks suffered for millennia under the oppression of the Hungarians in the Kingdom of Hungary and were slowly and later relatively quickly Hungarianized. The Hungarians wouldn’t have decimated the Slovaks so much if it hadn’t been for two major disasters that happened in later centuries. One was the arrival of Mongols, sometimes called Tartars, in the 13th century. These Mongols basically totally ethnically cleansed the areas where mainly the Slovak population lived, especially in the north-eastern Hungary. This population had to be later replaced by people of various nationalities, such as Pechenegs, Germans, Italians, Russians, Serbians. By the time, all of these people accepted the Hungarian language as their mutual language. The second disaster was the Turkish conquest of Hungary in the 16th century that again decimated the population of Hungary and pushed the fleeing Hungarians up north to the Slovak territories. The Turkish occupation had lasted for a couple of centuries and at that time the Kingdom of Hungary had been restricted roughly to the area of current Slovakia.
Longing for the Slovak revival in the kingdom of Hungary
At the end of the 19th century, the Slovaks were almost destroyed, wiped out, spiritually and linguistically decimated and nationally eradicated, but some Slovak nationalists and patriots tried hard to save and revive the nation and separate it from the Kingdom of Hungary. The patriots saw a chance in an alliance with Russia as the protector of the Slavs. The story of Hungarians and Slovaks, that is the same as the story of the Jews and Palestinians. The Palestinian land was shrunk and renamed to Jewish land, and Palestinians had fewer rights than Jews in new Israel. The same thing happened to the Slovaks, the kingdom was renamed to Hungary and the Hungarian nation grew from the Slovak nation like a cancer at the expanse of the Slovaks, while Slovaks were treated as mentally retarded (literally) for not being able to speak Hungarian. Hungarians were stealing the Slovak kids, moved them to the lower land where the Hungarians lived and converted them to Hungarians.
The Hungarians inherited the Slovak/Moravian rich and famous cultural heritage, kingdom, capital city, wealth, administration, etc. The World War I happened to be the best opportunity for the Czechs and Slovaks to break away from the Austro-Hungarian empire. Both the Czech Kingdom and the territory of current Slovakia were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Czechs lived under Austrians and Slovaks under Hungarians. Both nations longed for liberation from the empire, which was nicknamed „the prison of nations“.
The end of the Austro-Hungarian empire
At the end of World War I, the Slovaks had a little chance to separate from the Hungarians, as there was no Slovak capital city, no Slovak schools, no Slovak offices and no Slovak administration. So the Czech and Slovak patriots got an idea that they would claim that the Czechs and the Slovaks were the same nation, actually one Czechoslovak nation, because they understood the language of each other. As a nation they claimed their right for their own Czechoslovak state. And that is how Czechoslovakia was born – based on a lie.
Life in Czechoslovakia
The claim that the Czechs and the Slovaks made one Czechoslovak nation was a pure lie because these peoples really were two distinct nations in two distinct countries separated by a distinct natural border – the Carpatian mountains. Anyway, this lie allowed the Slovaks escape from the non-Slavic country of Hungary and become a part of a new Slavic country of Czechoslovakia where they were able to cherish their own Slavic spirit. Finally, the Slovaks got some decades to recover from the Hungarian oppression, set up the capital city, the Slovak schools, administration, government, get educated professionals, etc.
In Czechoslovakia, however, the position of the two republics was different. Slovaks were not treated as equals, perhaps up to 95% equal. There were twice as many Czechs as the Slovaks so it was difficult for the Slovaks to get a voting majority. The capital of Czechoslovakia was located in Prague in the Czech Republic. In the first years of Czechoslovakia, the Czechs hoped to Czechize the Slovaks, but this approach quickly failed. The Czechs and Slovaks liked each other but sometimes they were greedy at the expense of the other. For example, all the headquarters of the companies were located in the Czech Republic and while the Slovaks worked like hell in the Slovak factories, the Czechs enjoyed the profits and higher salaries in the Czech headquarters of the same factories while they’d be very happily praising their successful „golden Czech hands“.
Break up of Czechoslovakia
This inequality grew more and more in Czechoslovakia and some promises given by the Czechs to the Slovaks were not fulfilled even after almost 80 years since the establishment of Czechoslovakia, so when the communist regime fell and the so-called freedom arrived in Czechoslovakia, the Slovaks declared their constitution and resolution of independence and that was it. The love for their own country, for which they fought for over 1000 years, was stronger than their friendship with the Czechs.
The politicians at the time after the end of communist era (1989 – 1993) couldn’t agree on the future administration of Czechoslovakia. They couldn’t agree even on such a simple thing as the name of the new country. Czechs wanted to get rid of Slovaks because Slovakia was poorer and Czechs didn’t want to support Slovaks and their weaker economy in the new capitalistic era, which was based on profit. The Slovaks at the same time complained that they were poorer than Czechs because of the Czechs having a centralized administration and all the profit in the Czech Republic.
The Czech and Slovak politicians, after another nothing-solving general election, decided to break the country apart. So Czechoslovakia was split between the Slovaks and the Czechs. Referendum was not held, even though per law it should have been, and so today we don’t know how many Slovaks and Czechs favored the divorce.
Walking towards the ancient Slavic glory
Break up of Czechoslovakia had other hidden aims. By creating Slovakia, the Slovaks wanted to restore the name of the ancient Slavic land, which was the homeland of many Slavic peoples, but was destroyed by the Hungarians. The Slavic land was much older than Bohemia and had a lot more glorious history. The Czechs actually moved to Bohemia from this ancient Slavic land located in the Carpathian basin sometime in the 6th – 8th centuries.
Just as the Moravian Kingdom was destroyed at the end of the 9th century by an outside power with the help of the Czechs, who sought to satisfy their greed for lower taxes over national sovereignty, Czechoslovakia was destroyed by the same greed of both nations who wanted their own money to fill their own coffers.
Nowadays both, the Czechs and the Slovaks, are happy for their own states and the nations are friendly with each other because the divorce was peaceful, unlike the case of the south Slavic and east Slavic nations.