Myth No. 1: Czechia is an unknown and possibly grammatically incorrect short name for the Czech Republic. Czechia is rarely used in English because native English speakers do not like to use it.
Fact: The short (geographic) name Czechia [tʃɛkiə] was standardized as the English translation of Česko (the short name of the Czech Republic in Czech) by the Terminological Committee of the Czech Office for Surveying, Mapping and Cadaster in 1993. Since 2016, after being approved by the Czech government, Czechia has been listed in the United Nations´ databases of official country names “UNTERM” and “UNGEGN” as the internationally recognized short name of the Czech Republic in English. Since 2016, it has been included in the International Organization for Standardization database of country names and its use has been recommended by U.S. and British government institutions. Since 2017, Czechia has been used, for example, by Google, the Oxford Atlas of the World, Times Atlas of the World, Apple iOS 11, CIA World Factbook and TomTom navigation. EU institutions, such as EUROSTAT, have started to use Czechia in 2018, UNESCO and IATA in 2019. Although the use of Czechia continues to grow, it has not, up until recently, been well known around the world because the Czech state and its institutions have not used it systematically. Some people confuse the fact that they are not used to Czechia with not liking it.
Myth No. 2: German, Russian, Chinese and other foreign languages have spontaneously used their translation of the short name Česko. However, the Czech Republic has become widespread in English-speaking countries. It is pointless to try to convince the English-speaking world about using Czechia as a short country name for the Czech Republic.
Fact: Czech state institutions have solely used “the Czech Republic” in English for 23 years between 1993 and 2016. The one-word equivalent of “Czechia” has been commonly used in all Germanic languages with the exception of English. Once Czechs start using Czechia more frequently, the English-speaking world will adapt, just as it adapted to recently introduced short names of other countries, such as Belarus, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Eritrea and Croatia. The name of former Czechoslovakia was a similar case after 1918. It is simply a matter of getting used to “Czechia” in English. Native English speakers can help by using “Czechia”, too.
Myth No. 3: Since Česko is not mentioned in the Czech constitution, its English translation Czechia can never become the official short country name.
Fact: A short (geographic) country name does not have to be spelled out in the Constitution in order to be official. Slovakia, for example, is not mentioned in the Constitution of the Slovak Republic either but is widely used. Since Czechia has been officially standardized and internationally recognized (see points 1 and 16), it can be used by both Czech and foreign firms, various institutions, at sporting events and by the general public in those cases when short names for other countries are used.
Myth No. 4: The name Czechia is a neologism (a newly coined word).
Fact: The first recorded use of Czechia was in 1569 in Latin and in 1841 in English. Other historic evidence of the use Czechia in English is from 1856 and 1866 in the Australian press. U.S. newspapers commonly used Czechia between 1918 and 1960 to refer to the western part of Czechoslovakia (as opposed to Slovakia, its eastern part) i.e. to the contemporary Czech Republic.
Myth No. 5: Czechia sounds strange in English.
Fact: Czechia is originally derived from Latin, which is common for numerous other country names in English, such as Austria, Australia, Croatia, Virginia, California, Indonesia, Slovakia, Latvia, Colombia and many more, also including the names of Czech regions of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. Czechia might sound unusual to some people the first time they hear it but so do numerous geographic names derived from foreign languages that are commonly used in English, such as Idaho, Utah, Massachusetts, Lithuania, Zimbabwe, Belarus, Croatia and also (former) Czechoslovakia.
Myth No. 6: A short geographic name (Czechia) is unnecessary. A political name (the Czech Republic) is sufficient.
Fact: The short (geographic) name of a country cannot be substituted by its formal (political) name, which is transient and ignores the historic continuity of a given state territory because it is limited only to the existing state form. While the Czech Republic has only existed since 1993, the Czech state has existed in various forms and under different political names for more than one thousand years. As such, the political name can never fully replace a permanent geographic name that does not change in response to changing state forms in a particular territory. The need for a proper short name is demonstrated by the fact that the Czech Republic is often erroneously shortened to Czech, Czech rep. or Czechrep, CR, C. Rep. Republic CZ or Czecho. In many cases, foreigners continue to use the name Czechoslovakia, although the country has not existed since 1993. “Made in Czech Republic” has failed to become a familiar brand around the world because it is ambiguous and too long.
Myth No. 7: Czechia is an inappropriate and imprecise historical name because the Czech state had not used it in the past and has used different names instead.
Fact: As opposed to a formal (political) name, which refers to an existing state political form, short (geographic) name refers to a particular territory regardless of its current state form. As such, Czechia can be used in historic context. Other countries, such as Egypt, Greece and Poland, use short geographic names despite the fact that they experienced major territorial changes in the past and had various names throughout their history.
Myth No. 8: There are other countries that exclusively use political names without any problems. Examples include the Dominican Republic or the Central African Republic.
Fact: Although that is true, the vast majority of countries use short geographic names. The Dominican Republic and the Central African Republic are the only two countries in the entire world that do not have readily available short names. Other than these two countries, it is typically internationally unrecognized and fictitious countries that use exclusively political names, such as the People´s Republic of Donetsk, the Republic of Artsakh, the Republic of Srpska, the Republic of Logone and others.
Myth No. 9: The United States and the United Kingdom are also two-word country names. Therefore, there should be no problem with using the Czech Republic.
Fact: The number of words in the name is irrelevant. What matters is the difference between the political and geographic name. Furthermore, the full political name „the Czech Republic“ is hardly comparable to those of „the United States“ and „the United Kingdom“, which are shortened political names of „the United States of America“ and „the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland“. These full political names are rarely used in everyday communication, in which both countries are usually recognized by their geographic names „America“ and „Great Britain“ (or „Britain“) or by their shortened political names „the United States“, „the States“, „the U.S.“, „the U.S.A.“ and „the United Kingdom“, „the U.K.“, respectively. These shortened political names are not equivalent to the full political name of the Czech Republic. Furthermore, 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. CR is the official abbreviation of Costa Rica, not the Czech Republic.
Myth No. 10: The name change from the Czech Republic to Czechia would be too expensive and overall harmful by interrupting the continuity of the Czech Republic. The Czechs need to worry about much more important problems than their short country name in English.
Fact: No change in the country name is involved since the Czech Republic as a political name remains in place and unchanged. The Czech Republic will still be used in situations in which other countries use their formal names, such as matters of national and international diplomatic protocol and international treaties. It is more appropriate to use Czechia in situations when other countries use their short names. The introduction and the use of Czechia instead of the Czech Republic in these situations is taking place gradually with no or minimum expense during the update of the country’s promotional materials. Any additional expense will pay for itself in the form of increased international recognition of the country because of its clear and unambiguous name, including its international brand name “Made in Czechia”.
Myth No. 11: Czechia has the same meaning as Bohemia. Czechia thus excludes the regions of Moravia and (Czech) Silesia from the Czech state.
Fact: Czechia covers exactly the same geographic area as the Czech Republic and it is therefore composed of Bohemia, Moravia and (Czech) Silesia. Although Czechia was originally also used as a synonym for Bohemia prior to the 20th century, since the beginning of the 20th century it has almost exclusively been used to denote the entire territory inhabited by the Czech speaking population (i.e. Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia).
Myth No. 12: Czechia is less representative than the Czech Republic and it is confusing because it is ambiguous.
Fact: There are about 150 countries that use the term “republic” in their formal political name, but the vast majority of them use their short names in everyday speech and during international sporting events. It is mainly undemocratic, internationally unrecognized and authoritarian regimes around the world that have frequently emphasized “republic” in their country names in order to increase their legitimacy. Czechia [ˈtʃɛkiə] is unambiguous in both spoken and written English. As a matter of fact, the Czech Republic [tʃɛk rɪˈpʌb.lɪk] is much more ambiguous than Czechia since the term “Czech” [tʃɛk] is pronounced the same way as check and cheque, which have several meanings as a noun and verb in spoken English, while “republic” is ambiguous because it is used in the political names of the majority of countries. Developed democratic countries do not usually use their full political names in non-political contexts.
Myth No. 13: Czechia ˈtʃɛkiəˈ can be pronounced as ˈtʃɛtʃiəˈ.
Fact: Anyone who can pronounce “Czech” [tʃɛk] can easily pronounce Czechia [tʃɛkiə]. There are 286 words in English in which “ch” is pronounced as [k] and not [tʃ] and are pronounced similarly as “Czech” [tʃɛk], such as architect, ache, anarchy, anchor, chemistry, chaos, epoch, and mechanism. English speakers simply have to learn the pronunciation of these words, including Czech and Czechia.
Myth No. 14: Czechia is an unsuitable short name for the Czech Republic because it can be easily confused with Chechnya.
Fact: The Chechen Republic and Czech Republic are even more similar than Chechnya and Czechia and were confused, for example, by a high-ranking American official following the Boston marathon bombing in 2013. There are numerous countries with more similar names than Czechia/Chechnya, such as Austria/Australia, Iran/Iraq, India/Indonesia, Mali/Malawi, Niger/Nigeria, Gambia/Zambia, Slovakia/Slovenia and even Georgia/Georgia (a U.S. state). None of these countries have given up their short name and use their political name exclusively because of a possible confusion with another country (region). The chance of actual confusion of Czechia and Chechnya at the international stage, such as various sports events is almost zero since Chechnya is not an independent country and does not act as a sovereign entity at the international scale. In other Germanic languages in which the equivalent of Czechia is widely used, the confusion between Czechia and Chechnya does not happen.
Myth No. 15: Czechia is too similar to German „Tschechei“ that was used by Nazi Germany as a derogatory name for the occupied Czech territory during the Second World War.
Fact: Czechia [-k-] is unrelated to the German term „Tschechei“ [-ch-] … and these two terms are pronounced differently. Although Germans had used “Tschechei” before the Nazi period, Czechia had been used many years before Germans first used “Tschechei”. Today, “Tschechei” is rarely used in Germany because Germans use „Tschechien“. If “Tschechei” is used it does not need to be necessarily viewed as a pejorative term since it was created in a similar way as names for other countries in German, such as Slowakei and Türkei.
Myth No. 16: The general public should decide about the correct short country name Czechia.
Fact: In 1993, following the legal procedure of place names standardization, 55 experts (linguists, historians, geographers and others), members of the Terminological Committee of the Czech Office for Surveying, Mapping and Cadaster in cooperation with the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs standardized Czechia as the correct and only possible English translation of Česko. This is not an opinion but the outcome of the process of standardization, which is defined by Czech Law No. 200/1994 paragraph No. 3. As such, it is a legal process and is not determined by public opinion.
Vladimír Hirsch, Petr Pavlínek, Zdeněk Kukal
© Czechia Civic Initiative, Praha – Brno, January 2020