Prague, Czech Republic – The official English name of Czechia / the Czech Republic has long been a contentious issue, both among Czechs and foreigners.
A recent debate on Twitter showed just how much.
“We don’t like ‘Czechia’ and Czech Republic is a mouthful”
In late April, talking to Times reporters about the recent events surrounding Russia’s alleged role in a deadly depot explosion on Czech soil in 2014, the head of British foreign intelligence agency MI6 Richard Moore mistakenly referred to “Czechoslovakia”, a country that stopped existing 28 years ago following the 1993 break-up of the Czech and Slovak Republics.
While he quickly apologized on Twitter for his “slip of the tongue”, the blunder – which remains surprisingly common among Western officials even nearly three decades after the split of Czechoslovakia – sparked an interesting debate on the social media platform.
Reacting to M. Moore’s mistake, the British Ambassador in Prague Nick Archer weighed in with a comment whose lack of tact and, well, diplomacy, may seem surprising coming from an official envoy.
“I do think it is a branding issue, if only in English,” he said, defending the bloop of the MI6 head, whom many started accusing of ignorance. “Britons here know where it is, but use ‘Czech’ as a noun (‘back in Czech’) or ‘Prague’. We don’t like ‘Czechia”, and Czech Republic is a mouthful, although I try to use it.”
“And you kept flag and capital…?” he added, referring to the fact that Czechs kept both the capital city (Prague) and the flag of former Czechoslovakia (reneging on an agreement they had with Slovaks).
While some gave credit to M. Archer’s arguments, agreeing with him that neither “Czechia” nor “the Czech Republic” are an ideal English-language name, many nevertheless urged him to use the “correct name” of the country he is posted in.
Angered by his comments, some also accused him of arrogance and tactlessness.
Which one is correct?
As we reported in length in the past, both terms are correct in English.
While the Czech Republic is the formal, political name of the state (equivalent to the Slovak Republic, the Russian Federation or the Kingdom of Spain, for instance), Czechia was adopted five years ago as the official short, geographical name of the country (equivalent to Slovakia, Russia or Spain, to keep the same examples) which comprises the regions of Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia.
Few people know that Czechia was registered as the country’s official short English name in 2016, and the term continues to be frowned upon, scorned and rejected by many, Czechs and foreigners alike.
For more background on the topic, you can read our dedicated piece on the issue.