Call us Czechia: Prague plugs for the informal

A vendor in the Czech capital Prague with a T-shirt bearing the country's new informal name Czechia.
A vendor in the Czech capital Prague with a T-shirt bearing the country's new informal name Czechia.PHOTO: REUTERS

PRAGUE • The Czech Republic is tired of its long and unwieldy name and would like to be called "Czechia" from now on.

"We recommend using the single-word name in foreign languages in situations when it is not necessary to use the country's formal name: sports events, marketing purposes etc.," the country's President, Prime Minister and other officials said in a statement on Thursday.

"The Foreign Ministry will ask the United Nations to include in its databases the correct equivalents of the country name in its official languages - Czechia in English, la Tchequie in French, etc."

Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek told reporters the government decided to take action because "there have been distortions and misspellings".

The Czech ice hockey team, for instance, has been using "Czech" - an adjective - on its jerseys.

The country has had misgivings over its name for years, so much so that the issue even 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 is shorter than the cold Czech Republic," Mr Zeman told then President Shimon Peres on an official visit to Israel.

While the new name does not necessarily resolve the potential confusion with Chechnya - it might even cause more confusion, some critics say - its proponents are hoping Czechia rolls off the tongue in English more easily than Czech Republic.

But not all Czechs are keen on the change. "I disagree with the name 'Czechia'," Regional Development Minister Karla Slechtova tweeted on Thursday.

The Czechs, pushed and pulled between East and West over the centuries, have long suffered from an identity crisis. It does not help that many foreigners consistently confuse their proud country, the Czech Republic, with its predecessor, Czechoslovakia, or its poorer cousin, Slovakia.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 16, 2016, with the headline 'Call us Czechia: Prague plugs for the informal'. Print Edition | Subscribe