Ambassador Tomas Husak of Czech Republic and Ambassador Milan Lajciak of Slovak Republic hosted a reception at the Grand Ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel in Seoul on October 30, 2018 in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of independent Czechoslovakia as a common state of Czechs and Slovaks.
The party was attended by Korean and international guests, as well as the ambassadors and other senior members of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps with their spouses.
Among the guests in attendance were Deputy Foreign Minister Bahk Sahng-hoon of Public Diplomacy and Ambassadors Thura Thet Oo Maung of Myanmar, Abdulla Saif Alnuaimi of UAE, Antoine Azzam of Lebanon, Petar Andonov of Bulgaria, Mihai Ciompec of Romania.
Excerpts from the speech of Ambassador Tomas Husak of Czech Republic:
There are not many receptions which are organized by two Embassies. There are not many receptions to commemorate foundation of the country, which does not exist today. Anyhow, we are attending this special reception by Czech and Slovak Embassy to commemorate Foundation of Czechoslovakia and I would like to thank you for your coming to this special occasion.
Why is foundation of Czechoslovakia important even today for its successor’s states, Czech Republic and Slovak Republic?
The roots of the foundation of independent state go back to the 19th century, when our philosophers and educators founded many patriotic, self-help organizations which provided a chance for many of their compatriots to participate in communal life prior to independence.
With the outbreak of World War I, politicians represented by Czech Tomas Garique Masaryk and Slovak Milan Rastislav Stefanik began working for Czech and Slovak independence in a Union. Their effort was supported by more than hundreds of thousands of Czech and Slovaks in Czechoslovak Legions, fighting together with the Allies Powers in France and Italy and fighting against Russian Bolsheviks in Russia.
Czechoslovakia was founded on 28th of October 1918 after the collapse of Austro-Hungarian Empire. It quickly becomes one of the most developed countries in Europe thanks to its industrial strength. It as well become one of the strong bastion of democracy, even in the period of depression, when number of European countries opted for different sorts of dictatorship.
In September 1938, Adolf Hitler demanded control of Czechoslovak border areas. October 1938, Nazi Germany occupied and annexed the border region, effectively crippling Czechoslovak defenses. On 15 March 1939, the remainder of Czechoslovakia was invaded and divided into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and the puppet Slovak State.
From 1939 to 1945, following its forced division and partial incorporation into Nazi Germany, Czechoslovakia did not de facto exist but its government-in-exile continued to operate and coordinate resistance movement. And as it was during World War I, hundreds of thousands of Czechoslovak soldiers fought either in Czechoslovak units or in the Armies of Allied countries.
After World War II, pre-war Czechoslovakia was re-established, with the exception of Subcarpathian Ruthenia, which was annexed by the Soviet Union. In February 1948 the Communists seized power. Although they would maintain the fiction of political pluralism through the existence of the National Front, the country had no liberal democracy.
In 1968, there was a brief period of liberalization led by Alexander Dubček known as the Prague Spring. In response, five other Eastern Bloc members of the Warsaw Pact invaded. Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia on the night of 20 August 1968. In the period after the invasion there was a spontaneous campaign of civil resistance against the occupation. Despite of that centralized control of economy was reestablished and power of police authorities was extended resulting in a “dark era” for citizens of Czechoslovakia.
The 1970s saw the rise of the dissident movement in Czechoslovakia, represented among others by Václav Havel. The movement sought greater political participation and freedoms. It took another 20 years to restore our democracy. It has happened during such a called “Velvet revolution” in 1989 when Communist regime was peacefully replaced by regime of standard democratic country.
The 1970 saw as well beginning of economic cooperation with republic of Korea. Czechoslovakia started to import wide range of product, starting with computers and finishing with cars and ocean going vessels. Diplomatic relation between Czechoslovakia and Korea started in 1990 and our relations were quickly developing, resulting in an official visit of President of Czechoslovakia Vaclav Havel in Korea in 1992.
In 1993 Czechoslovakia was peacefully divided into two countries – Czech and Slovak Republics.
Excerpts from the speech of Ambassador Milan Lajciak of Slovakia:
I would like to join the voice of my colleague Tomas Husak, Czech Ambassador, and on an equal basis warmly to welcome you at today´s reception - commemoration event devoted to 100 years of Czechoslovakia, a common state of Czechs and Slovaks.
I was asked by some people, why we celebrate a common state when we later dismantled it and when this state does not more exists. To give the answer, I should say that for understanding the causes of disintegration of Czechoslovakia in 1993, one should understand the reasons behind our integration in 1918 as well as the issues of our 75 years of coexistence.
Very briefly, at the end of the World War I, Czechoslovakia was a project of Czechs and Slovaks, two nations keen for their own independence, but at the same time, neither of them having individually enough power to form its own independent state. For political reasons, to achieve an independent status, the concept of “Czechoslovakism” was born, stressing on similarities of languages and cultures, presenting to the world powers, decision-makers of a new European map, that Czechs and Slovaks are like one nation, strong enough functioning as a sovereign state. The concept was marginalizing historical, national and cultural differences between our nations but at that time, in situation of formation of new states on ruins of Austro-Hungarian Empire, this was the only working strategic solution and realistic framework for achieving sovereignty.
Without common Czechoslovak state, Czechs and Slovaks would never be able to consolidate their national identities and culture and to manage their national interests in independent way.
Our common 75 years history of Czechoslovak state developed a lot of positive synergies and mutual benefits but also grievances and growing tensions between our nations. It came only by the collapse of communism in 1989, when liberal forces were released, national ambitions popped out and accumulated problems appeared quickly on a political agenda.
The split of Czechoslovakia on January 1, 1993, was maybe not entirely inevitable, but due to the conceptual differences of a common state, as well as growing feelings of national identities, political and economic costs of keeping the country together, would have been extremely high.
Today, Czechs and Slovaks live and function as two sovereign states, another time integrated, in a common family of European Union. Our relations are set-up on equal basis, not patronizing each other, neither focusing on historical grievances, but living in friendly mood as independent masters of our destiny. Our cooperation is much above standards and it is saying for itself – that our “divorce” in 1993 brought us better and more equal “marriage” in the context of European Union, respecting our past and focusing on our future.
This successful story had one common starting point – the formation of Czechoslovakia – common state of Czechs and Slovaks in 1918. That is why have gathered here today and that is why we are celebrating this important event that was a precursor of our today´s independent states – the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic.
The last but not the least, I should also mention with high appreciation that the Republic of Korea was one of those countries who acknowledged both successor states - the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic - from the very first moment of their existence and established with them diplomatic relations. And today we can celebrate together in addition to 100 years commemoration of Czechoslovakia also high level of political dialogue and intensive cooperation on many fronts of the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic with the Republic of Korea.