Foreign minister Lubomir Zaoralek told reporters the government decided to take action because ‘there have been distortions and misspellings’
But unlike the bodily transformations undergone by Gregor Samsa, the protagonist in Czech novelist Franz Kafka’s best-known work, they may be about to witness a metamorphosis of national magnitude.
Czech leaders, fed up with their country’s long and complicated full name, have proposed changing it to a single word with just three syllables: Czechia.
In a joint statement, the president, prime minister and other senior officials said they would ask the UN to update its database of geographical names with the new title, in the hope that it might take root before the country competes in the Olympics this summer.
“We recommend using the single-word name in foreign languages in situations when it’s not necessary to use the country’s formal name: sports events, marketing purposes etc,” the statement said.
The foreign minister, Lubomir Zaoralek, told reporters the government decided on the change because “there have been distortions and misspellings” in the past.
Although some Czech Republic sporting teams have long been referred to with a single word, Czech (the national ice hockey team have the word emblazoned on their jerseys), this variant – along with others including “Czechlands” and “Bohemia” – were seemingly overlooked by officials.
A new myth-busting website called Go Czechia assures readers that the name is not a neologism, and was in fact first uttered in Latin back in 1634 (its first English use came in 1841).
The website contends that the western part of Czechoslovakia was frequently referred to as “Czechia” in US newspapers following the birth of the nation in 1918, in the wake of the collapse of Austria-Hungary at the end of the first world war.
The Czech Republic is a successor state to former Czechoslovakia following a peaceful split with Slovakia in 1993.
The website also argues that comparisons with the US and the UK – both countries with longer, two-worded titles – are invalid, as “the Czech Republic is much less known than the United States and the United Kingdom around the world and, unlike the USA and the UK, it does not have a well-known, unique and internationally recognized abbreviation”.
The country has had misgivings over its name for years, so much so that the issue came up in conversation between President Milos Zeman and his Israeli counterpart in 2013.
“I use the word Czechia because it sounds nicer and it’s shorter than the cold Czech Republic,” Zeman told then president Shimon Peres on an official visit to Israel.
But not all Czechs are keen on the change. “I disagree with the name ‘Czechia’,” the regional development minister, Karla Slechtova, tweeted on Thursday. “I don’t want people to confuse our country with Chechnya.”
This article includes material from AFP