Name of the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic's official formal and short names at the United Nations are Česká republika and Česko in Czech, and the Czech Republic and Czechia in English. All these names derive from the name of the Czechs, the West Slavic ethnic group native to the Czech lands. Czechia (//), the official English short name specified by the Czech government, is used by many international organisations and attested as early as 1841. However, most English speakers use [the] Czech Republic in all contexts. Other languages generally have greater official use of a short form analogous to Česko or Czechia (such as French [la] Tchéquie, or Korean 체코/Cheko) although forms equivalent to "Czech Republic" are not uncommon.
The Czech name Čechy is from the same root but means Bohemia, the westernmost and largest historical region of the Czech lands and the modern Czech Republic. The name Bohemia is an exonym derived from the Boii, a Celtic tribe inhabiting the area before the early Slavs arrived. The Lands of the Bohemian Crown (1348–1918) were part of the Holy Roman Empire; often called "the Czech lands", they sometimes extended further, to all of Silesia, Lusatia, and various smaller territories. The Czech adjective český means both "Czech" and "Bohemian".
The country is named after the Czechs (Czech: Čechové), a Slavic tribe residing in central Bohemia that subdued the surrounding tribes in the late 9th century and created the Czech/Bohemian state. The origin of the name of the tribe itself is unknown. According to legend, it comes from their leader Čech, who brought them to Bohemia. Research regards Čech as a derivative of the root čel- (member of the people, kinsman).
Several variants of the name have been used over the centuries, due to the evolution of the Czech language. The digraph "cž" was used from the time of the 16th-century Bible of Kralice until the reform of 1842, being eventually replaced by "č" (changing Cžechy to Čechy). In the late 19th century the suffix for the names of countries changed from -y to -sko (e.g. Rakousy-Rakousko for Austria, Uhry-Uhersko for Hungary). While the notion of Česko appears for the first time in 1704, it only came into official use in 1918 as the first part of the name of the newly independent Czechoslovakia (Česko-Slovensko or Československo) . Within that state, the Czech Socialist Republic (Česká socialistická republika, ČSR) was created on 1 January 1969. On 6 March 1990 the Czech Socialist Republic was renamed the Czech Republic (Česká republika, ČR). When Czechoslovakia broke up in 1993, the Czech part of the name was intended to serve as the name of the Czech state. The decision started a dispute as many perceived the "new" word Česko, which before had been only rarely used alone, as harsh sounding or as a remnant of Československo. The older term Čechy was rejected by many because it was primarily associated with Bohemia proper and to use it for the whole country was seen as inappropriate. This feeling was especially prominent among the inhabitants of Moravia.
The use of the word "Česko" within the country itself has increased in recent years. During the 1990s, "Česko" was rarely used and viewed as controversial: some Czech politicians and public figures (e.g. media magnate Vladimír Železný) expressed concern about the non-use of Česko and Czechia; on the other side, individuals such as president Václav Havel and minister Alexandr Vondra have strongly opposed using these forms. In 1997, the Civic initiative Czechia was formed by linguists and geographers in Brno to promote the use of Czechia. The following year, a conference of professionals aimed at encouraging the use of the name was held at Charles University in Prague. The Czech Senate held a session on the issue in 2004.
The historical English name of the country is Bohemia. This name derives from the Celtic tribe of Boii, who inhabited the area from the 4th century BC. Boiohaemum, as it was originally known in Latin, comes from the Germanic "Boi-haima", meaning "home of the Boii". The name survived all the later migrations affecting the area, including the arrival of the Slavs and the creation of the Czech state. In the 9th century, the country became officially known as the Duchy of Bohemia, changing to the Kingdom of Bohemia in the 11th century, and the Crown of Bohemia in the 14th century. A number of other names for the country have been used, including Lands of the Bohemian Crown, Czech/Bohemian lands, Bohemian Crown, the lands of the Crown of Saint Wenceslas and others. The Bohemian state included the three historical lands: Bohemia (Čechy) in narrower meaning, Moravia (Morava) and Silesia (Slezsko). From the 14th century until 1635 it also included Upper and Lower Lusatia. The higher hierarchical status of the Bohemian region led to that name being used for the larger country, with the people and language of this country being commonly referred to as Bohemian.
Shortly before the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian empire, there were proposals to use the traditional name Bohemia for the newly-formed state. However, out of consideration for Slovak national aspirations, the name "Czecho-Slovakia" (later "Czechoslovakia") was adopted instead.
After the establishment of Czechoslovakia, the name Czechia appeared in English, alongside the official name, as a reference to all the Czech lands and to differentiate between the Czech and Slovak parts of the state. It was used at least as early as 4 January 1925; appearing in the article "Literary History of the Czechs", published by The New York Times. The name was used in the Anglophone press before the German occupation of the Czech lands in 1939.
The current English ethnonym Czech comes from the Polish ethnonym associated with the area, which ultimately comes from the Czech word Čech. The words "Czechian", "Czechish", "Czechic" and later "Czech" (using antiquated Czech spelling) have appeared in English-language texts since the 17th century. During the 19th-century national revival, the word "Czech" was also used to distinguish between the Czech- and German-speaking peoples living in the country. The term "Czechia" is attested as early as 1569 in Latin and 1841 in English (Poselkynie starych Przjbiehuw Czeskych – Messenger of the old Fates of Czechia). There were other early mentions in 1856 and in an 1866 report on the Austro-Prussian War.
Adoption of Czechia
In accordance with Resolution No. 4 I. of the UN conference on the standardization of geographic names (Geneva 1967) and Resolution No. 2 III. of the UN conference on the standardization of geographic names (Athens 1977), the Terminological Committee of the Czech Office for Surveying, Mapping, and Cadaster in cooperation with the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs standardized Czechia as the English translation of Česko in early 1993.
Other names suggested in the 1990s included Czechomoravia or Czechlands. However, by 2000 a short name had still not been fully adopted by the Czech authorities. At that time, the Second Secretary, Press and Politics at the British Embassy in Prague, Giles Portman, showed a willingness to accept the name Czechia. Portman said in 2000, "Czechs still use the name Česká republika rather than Česko, and the English equivalent, the Czech Republic, rather than Czechia. Were that pattern to change, we would have no problem at all with adapting accordingly. But we feel that the initiative for that change must come from the Czech side and not from us."
In 2013, Czech president Miloš Zeman recommended the wider official use of Czechia, and on 14 April 2016, the government agreed to make Czechia the official short name. The new name was approved by the Czech cabinet on 2 May 2016 and registered on July 5, 2016. In November 2016 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented recommendations on how to use the short name "Czechia" in international contexts. On 1 June 2017, the geography department of the Faculty of Sciences of Charles University in Prague organised a special conference to assess the progress of the name's proliferation.
The new short name was published in the United Nations UNTERM and UNGEGN country name databases on 17 May 2016. In September 2016, the British Permanent Committee on Geographical Names (PCGN) recommended the use of Czechia and added it as the sole form of the country name to their list of country names. On 26 September 2016, the International Organization for Standardization included the short name Czechia in the official ISO 3166 country codes list. Google switched to Czechia on Google Maps and Android country settings in January 2017. The name Czechia and its respective translations are also included in the Interinstitutional style guide of the European Union.
The equivalent of the Czech short form Česko is in routine use by most other languages. In a few cases (for example Polish Czechy, Croatian Češka and Serbian Чешка/Češka) this form had historically been used for Bohemia. Other languages adopted new short forms such as تشيكيا Tshīkyā in Arabic. In most cases, the new form has more or less completely replaced the formal name for most usages. However, usage in Spanish and French remains mixed, with the forms Chequia and Tchéquie occasionally being used alongside the longer formal names República Checa and République tchèque.
In German, the term applicable to the Czech part of Czechoslovakia used to be Tschechei, comparable to Slowakei for Slovakia. However, the usage of that term began to have negative connotations in connection with the Nazis, who used the term Rest-Tschechei "remaining Czechia" when they annexed the western parts of Czechoslovakia in early 1939. Since the restoration of Czechoslovakia and after the Second World War, the term Tschechien is in use instead, as suggested by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as German and Austrian linguists. Tschechien is a term from the 19th century that was originally used for the Czech lands that were part of Austria-Hungary. The German Federal Foreign Office uses Tschechien on its official list of countries.
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|Look up Czech Republic in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- ‹See Tfd›(in Czech) "Open letter to the Czech Olympic Foundation, Czech Sports Union, politicians, business people, media, etc.", National Geographic, 2001.
- ‹See Tfd›(in English) "Looking for a name" by Daniela Lazarova, Radio Prague, May 13, 2004.
- ‹See Tfd›(in English) "Česko versus Czechy? On the geographic name of the Czech Republic" by Leoš Jeleček, paper presented at the 2nd Slovak-Czech-Polish Geographical Seminar, Bratislava, September 1–5, 1999.[dead link]
- ‹See Tfd›(in English) "From Bohemia to Czechia" Jiří Šitler (12 July 2016) Radio Prague