Prague, Czech Republic – The Czech Republic should change its official name to Bohemia, a controversial Czech commentator recently suggested. But few people think that would be a good idea.
In an op-ed published last month in local daily Hospodarske Noviny, influential Czech economist Tomas Sedlacek argued that Bohemia should be the official name of the country, which today has two distinct standardized versions: while the Czech Republic is the political (long) denomination, Czechia has become since 2016 the official (short) geographical name.
The same difference as the Russian Federation, French Republic or Kingdom of Spain on one hand, and Russia, France and Spain on the other.
The Czech Republic, Czechia… or Bohemia?
Both names are correct and can be used in different settings, but the matter continues to divide the population, as well as foreigners: while some consider “the Czech Republic” as unnecessarily long and impractical, many haven’t warmed up to “Czechia” either – including government agencies and political representatives.
Pointing to the lack of consensus on the two names currently used for his home-country, economist Tomas Sedlacek now argues that both should be replaced by Bohemia, highlighting the fame and international standing of the term.
“Bohemia… A name that not only sounds beautiful but means something, describes us. Being a Bohemian is a life attitude, slightly exuberant, enjoying life artistically. What other nations would give for that? I’m from Bohemia, a God-blessed land, I’m a Bohemian,” he wrote.
The only problem? Bohemia (Čechy, in Czech language) is only one of three regions that make up the current territory of the Czech Republic and ignores Moravia (Morava) and Czech Silesia (Slezsko). To make matters even more complicated? A “Čech” can describe both someone from Bohemia (where the capital Prague is located) and someone from the Czech Republic as a whole.
Approximately 6,9 million people live in Bohemia, representing roughly 65 percent of the total Czech population.
“Tomas Sedlacek is a provocative writer, and I can understand why he may perhaps emphasise the different connotations of Bohemia to promote such a name change but, in my opinion, it would be both etymologically incorrect and politically untenable,” Premysl Macha from the Czech Academy of Sciences told Emerging Europe.
A long-standing branding issue
Other linguistic experts and scholars have dismissed the proposition as silly nonsense and utterly counterproductive. While acknowledging the Czech Republic’s branding problem, especially abroad and in relation to foreigners, they argue that further destabilizing the name of the country is not the way to go. Instead, efforts should be put into strengthening the visibility of the current name and truly positioning the Czech Republic/Czechia on the world map.
“The image of the country is created by the actions of politicians and people with great visibility in business, sports and culture,” pointed out M. Macha. “They give the name its meaning in the eyes of the international audience. Unfortunately, our current political representation is not doing a good job in this respect.”
Examples abound about foreigners – including top political leaders and leading newspapers and media organizations – misnaming the country, often in favour of the now defunct Czechoslovakia.
“The country’s brand is virtually non-existent,” pointed out Petr Pavlinek from Civic Initiative Czechia in a recent interview with Kafkadesk.
“If Czechia was used consistently since 1993, we would have been in a similar position as Croatia, Slovakia and all newly created countries in Central and Eastern Europe. No one is questioning or discussing their short names because all these countries have consistently used them”.