Last Updated: Monday, 15 September 2014, 10:11 GMT

Czech Republic: Differences between Czechs and Slovaks, such as culture or surnames

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 March 1999
Citation / Document Symbol CZE31227.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Czech Republic: Differences between Czechs and Slovaks, such as culture or surnames, 1 March 1999, CZE31227.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6accc1c.html [accessed 15 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

 

Limited information on concrete differences between Czechs and Slovaks could be found in the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. None of the sources provided information on differences between Czech and Slovak surnames.

Czechs and Slovaks are Slavic peoples who were ruled by separate dynasties throughout most of the past centuries: the Czechs by the Austrians and the Slovaks by the Hungarians (MAR 29 Aug. 1995; SSEES 23 Feb. 1999; Wehrlé 1994, 82). The land now known as the Slovak Republic has generally had a more rural economy, with an emphasis on sheep farming (ibid., 83; SSEES 23 Feb. 1999). Frédéric Wehrlé in his book Le divorce Tchécho-Slovaque suggested that the different histories have led to different political cultures in each of the two areas (1994 88-90, 267-8). Slovak culture has tended to be less open and more local than Czech culture, which has been subject to more Western influences (ibid., 85). It is possible that Czechs and Slovaks might have differing interpretations of historical episodes, such as events during WWII (ibid., 236-240).

The Czech and Slovak languages are very similar, and are mutually intelligible although there are some differences (Czechoslovakia: A Country Study 1989, 100; Katzner 1986, 90-91). For example, certain letters are unique to one or the other alphabets, with the Czech accented "r" being considered particularly difficult for non-Czechs to pronounce properly (ibid.; Let's Go Eastern Europe, 1999, 145). Western, particularly German, influences might be noted in the idioms and metaphors used by Czechs, although many of these are falling into disuse (Czechoslovakia: A Country Study 1989, 101; SSEES 17 Feb. 1999). According to one source, "even if a Czech resident in Slovakia or vice versa learns the other language 'perfectly,' there will almost invariably [be] tiny details that reveal the true origin" (ibid. 24 Feb. 1999).

Slovaks have more resolutely stuck to the Catholic faith, while Czechs have been more likely to embrace other denominations, such as Protestant, Evangelical sects (SSEES 23 Feb. 1999; ibid. 17 Feb. 1999; Wehrlé 1994, 85-87).

Czech food is more influenced by German cuisine, and "typical" dishes include pork, dumplings, sauerkraut, sausages and salami (SSEES 17 Feb. 1999). Sheep's cheese is considered a "typical" Slovak foodstuff (ibid., 24 Feb. 1999).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

References

Czechoslovakia: A Country Study. 1989. Ihor Gawdiak. Washington, DC: Secretary of the Army.

Katzner, Kenneth. 1986. Languages of the World. Great Britain: Guernsey Press.

Let's Go Eastern Europe. 1999. Edited by Benjamin Paloff. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Minorities at Risk (MAR). 29 August 1995. "Slovaks in the Czech Republic." [Internet] [Accessed 1 Feb. 1999]

School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES). 24 February 1999. Correspondence received by the Research Directorate.

_____. 23 February 1999. Correspondence received by the Research Directorate.

_____. 17 February 1999. Correspondence received by the Research Directorate.

Wehrlé, Frédéric. 1994. Le divorce Tchécho-Slovaque. Paris: L'Harmattam.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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