Why Did The Czech Republic Change Its Name? The Shift Was A Long Time Coming

If European geography isn't your strong suit, looking at a map is about to get even more confusing. The Czech Republic is changing its name to Czechia after years of debate about what to call the nation that belonged to Czechoslovakia until 1993. The president, prime minister, and other top officials announced this week that they plan to ask the United Nations to officially recognize the central European country's short-form name, keeping the Czech Republic as the long-form title. Basically, the nation wants to go by a nickname.

When Czechoslovakia separated into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, the latter was quickly recognized as Slovakia, while the former clung to its more formal name. The Slovak Republic wasn't unique in taking on a snappier label — Germany is formally the Federal Republic of Germany, France is the French Republic, and America is the United States of America. The Czech Republic was just a tad behind, and now it wants to catch up to the rest of the world.

"It is not good if a country does not have clearly defined symbols or if it even does not clearly say what its name is," Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek told the Czech News Agency, explaining that his home country's name is often butchered when he goes abroad.

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Many Czechs already call their country Česko, short for Česká republika, and want the rest of the world to refer to nation in the same way; however, Česko and Czechia aren't universally accepted. Former Czech President Vaclav Havel said during his presidency that the word "Česko made his "flesh creep," some Czechs think it emphasizes the breaking up of Czechoslovakia, and others worry that it's too similar to the popular Prague supermarket chain Tesco. Czech Minister of Regional Development Karla Slechtova tweeted that the English alias Czechia sounds too much like Chechnya, the semi-independent Russian republic, and that the change would require lots of money be spent rebranding the nation.

Czechia was first recommended as the country's go-to name in 1993, but current President Milos Zeman has championed the change more recently. "I use Czechia because it sounds nicer and it's shorter than the cold Czech Republic," he said during a 2013 visit to Israel. The shortened title is already used in many languages — the nation is referred to as Tschechien in German and similarly abbreviated names in Slovak, Italian, Spanish, and French.

It unfortunately took the world years to get used to the independent Czech Republic and Slovakia, so this new adjustment will take some time to catch on.