The Czech Republic’s leaders have chosen “Czechia” as the one-word alternative name of their country to make it easier for companies, politicians and sportsmen to use on products, name tags and jerseys.
The choice, agreed on Thursday evening by the president, prime minister, heads of parliament and foreign and defence ministers, must still win cabinet approval before the Foreign Ministry can lodge the name with the United Nations and it becomes the country’s official short name.
The Czech Republic emerged, along with Slovakia, from the peaceful breakup of the old Czechoslovakia in 1993. But so far there has been no standardised one-word English name for the Czech Republic, unlike, say, France, the shortened version of the French Republic.
That has led to a lot of head-scratching. The largest part of the country is known as Bohemia (“Cechy” in Czech), but there are also other parts, Moravia and Silesia, so one name is needed that does not exclude those historic lands.
The Czech Republic’s adored ice hockey team has donned “Czech” on their jerseys, as have bottles of the country’s premium export beer, Pilsner Urquell. But “Czech” is an adjective and cannot be used as a one-word name for the country.
Supporters of “Czechia” say the term in English can be traced back to the 19th century and was codified by the Czech surveying and mapping authority soon after the 1993 split of Czechoslovakia as a possible one-word alternative.
But it never gained traction until now and it may not have an easy start once it gains official status.
To some, it sounds ugly. Others, including Regional Development Minister Karla Slechtova, think it is too close to “Chechnya”, making it prone to confusion.
Slechtova tweeted on Thursday that the Czech Republic had invested more than $40 million into a tourism promotion campaign using its full name, and should stick to it.
In some other languages, including French and German, the Czech Republic is already designated by a single name, but in Czech itself the name ‘Cesko’ has only made slow progress since 1993 and ‘Cechy’ – or Bohemia – is still commonly used to mean the whole country.