The second Prague Spring
In 1993 — while Germany had hardly recovered from
reunification celebrations — two countries in eastern
Europe went their separate ways that had voluntarily
formed a federation 75 years earlier. Two independent
republics emerged from the “Czech and Slovak Federal
Republic”, as the country was called since 1989 , after
the end of Soviet rule: the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Unlike the breakup of Yugoslavia, this separation went
peacefully, though it was not based on the will of the
people. Three quarters of Czechs and two thirds of
Slovaks had indicated their opposition to a separation
into two countries. All the same, the political leaders of
both republics decided the matter on their own. They
were unable to reach agreement on a new legal formula
for federation, and they went their separate ways. This
did no permanent damage to either of the two nations.
Indeed they are now among the most successful EU
countries from the former Soviet Bloc.
Neither of them had an easy start. In the Czech Republic,
once-picturesque Bohemia, in the western part of
the country, had a high price to pay for its industrialization
during the second half of the 20th century. Northern
Bohemia, with its main town of Usti nad Labem, located
close to the Saxon border, became emblematic for environmental
degradation. The state-owned coal-fired
power plants burned huge quantities of the — highsulphur
— brown coal produced there, the region’s most
important source of energy. In 1964 the 64,000-inhabitant
town of Most was completely demolished to make
room for open-pit excavators. A new Most was built
elsewhere — a monstrosity of concrete slabs.
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