by Nina


"I work in the Czech Republic, not Yugoslavia!"

Posted by Nina Hanakova |

My friend Louel, a Filipino living in the Czech Republic and teaching English here, is an incredibly intelligent and witty polyglot. Among other languages he has fully embraced Czech, in just two years. He recently went home for vacation and posted this on his Facebook profile:

"I'm starting to get tired of always having to explain these things: The Czech Republic isn't part of the USSR! Neither was Czechoslovakia! And Czechoslovakia doesn't exist anymore! And I work in the Czech Republic, not in Yugoslavia! And Yugoslavia doesn't exist anymore! And there's no war in Czechoslovakia--ooops, sorry!--the Czech Republic! Fuck! I think people should read more!"

He later elaborated...

"I remember a Czech girl who got mightily offended when I spoke of the Czech Republic as being part of Eastern Europe. But we have to understand two things: There's Eastern Europe, the political entity, as well as Eastern Europe, the geographical entity. When non-Czechs refer to the Czech Republic as being part of Eastern Europe, they're talking about Eastern Europe, the political entity--a term valid at least during the Cold War. Of course, many will argue that this term has been obsolete for 20 years now. But this is what people have in mind when they refer to the Czech Republic as being part of Eastern Europe. It was part of the Eastern bloc--that's historically verifiable.

They don't think of it in geographically terms. Besides, how many people can claim to be really good at Geography. How many people actually know that the Czech Republic is at the very center of Europe? I for one can't visualize the positions of Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Austria, although I may know a little bit about their history and politics. I just know that they're neighbors--or somewhere very close. After all, politics and history, in my opinion, are far more interesting than geography. Of course, I have an excuse. I'm not European, and I didn't need to learn this stuff by heart. But I know a lot of Western Europeans who sincerely don't know where the Czech Republic is geographically, but remember quite well that Czechoslovakia was part of the Eastern bloc.

In other words, the phrase "The Czech Republic--part of Eastern Europe" when spoken by a non-Czech should be understood--let's say 90% of the time--as "the Czech Republic, the country which was part of the Eastern bloc." This is accurate information. Europe was neatly cut in half--the East and the West--right after World War II. Unfortunately, the era of the Cold War had such a tremendous impact that it tends to be forgotten that many of the countries that were part of the Eastern bloc are, in fact, quite central in location.

But then again, the term "Central Europe" is also quite problematic. Where on earth is the boundary between Central and Eastern Europe? The Czechs, without a doubt, claim to be part of Central Europe. But so do the Slovaks, the Hungarians, the Austrians, the Slovenes and the Croatians. Poland makes the same claim. Even my Romanian friends--who are Geography majors--in a calm and collected tone--declared that their country is part of Central Europe!(After all, isn't half of Russia part of continental Europe? Russia is the real Eastern Europe, they argue.) It seems, therefore, that the further you go East, the more diffuse is the perception between Central and Eastern Europe. On the other hand, the East-West dichotomy during the Cold War was never ambiguous--we knew where the Iron Curtain fell, and Czechoslovakia was in the Eastern part."

I just thought it was interesting? :) Did you?



evinka said...

Ahoj, super blog!

Melissa Kelly said...

yes, very interesting; thank you; I needed that :^)

Melissa Kelly said...

yes, very interesting; thank you; I needed that :^)

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