hyphenThis day marked the beginning of the Hyphen War in Czechoslovakia. Although the USSR had fallen a year earlier, the official name of the country was still the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. President Václav Havel proposed merely dropping the word Socialist from the name, but Slovak politicians wanted another change – the spelling of the name with a hyphen (i.e., Republic or Federation of Czecho-Slovakia ), as it was spelled from Czechoslovak independence in 1918 until 1920, and again in 1938 and 1939. President Havel agreed to the change, but the Czechoslovak parliament in typical political fashion resolved that the country’s long name was to be spelled without a hyphen in Czech and with a hyphen in Slovak.

This solution was found to be not only dumb but unsatisfactory, and less than a month later, the parliament reversed itself. Problem not solved. Although the Slovaks were demanding a hyphen, the Czechs called it a dash. The Czechs usually use the same term for both; Slovaks use different terms. Thus the Hyphen War began. Oddly enough, the Czechs did not call it the Dash War.

While the Hyphen War was not really a hot war (nor a cold war), it demonstrated differences between Czechs and Slovaks about their identity, that perhaps they really weren’t meant for each other. The slippery slope: the frequent bickering over minor issues, the trial separation, and in 1992, both sides said yes to splitsville. The country was split into two states – the Czech Republic and Slovakia – in what is called the Velvet Divorce (or for some, the Vel-vet Divorce).

 

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