This was a question on Quora.

I teach Dutch and English to adults in Bratislava, most of them are Slovaks. I often ask them this question.

People seem a bit ambivalent about it. They are neither really pro nor really against it.

Ties between Slovaks and Czechs are very good, as far as I can tell. They understand each other’s language, the difference is not that great, though you can still say they are two different languages. I speak Slovak, and I can’t really speak Czech, but I can easily understand and read both.

Especially Slovaks have no problem watching movies with Czech subtitles or reading Czech books. The other way around is less common, Czech people will probably not reach for a book in Slovak as easily as Slovaks will reach for a book in Czech, but it happens.

In general I get the impression that the Slovak part was a little ignored when it was a part of Czechoslovakia. I don’t have the impression that the Czechs did this on purpose or that Czechs tried to forcefully oppress Slovaks. If Slovaks are a little bit negative about an other nation, it’s Hungary, but there are no real tensions. The Hungarian speaking minority in Slovakia has quite a lot of influence and lots of freedom.

Do they regret the split?

Not really, every Slovak I meet says it’s better, but I don’t get the impression that any of them would ever have picked up arms to demand their independence. This was a very peaceful separation, and it seems to have been decided at the top, and not so much as a result of any grassroots movement.

I have the feeling Slovaks feel the same way about Czech people as Flemish people feel about Dutch people. I’m Flemish myself, so let me explain, I see The Netherlands as a more advanced country than Flanders, and I sort of look up to our northern neighbours, always have, at the same time I can find Dutch people a little arrogant from time to time. When speaking to a Dutch person I will immediately try to copy their accent, Slovaks do the same when speaking to Czech people, they often try to switch to Czech, and many can pull it off easily. There are more differences between Czech and Slovak than between Flemish and ‘standard’ Dutch, but I’ve always had the feeling that the Dutch in the Netherlands was a litte higher up in the pecking order than my native Flemish.

It made sense to split the country, since the regions were developing differently, and it makes sense to keep close ties.

I work in Bratislava, as a freelance language teacher (for example, I combine several jobs at the moment) and one the schools that sends me to companies is Czech. If you live in Slovakia you will quite likely have some contacts in the Czech Republic as well, almost automatically.

All in all I find this split very fascinating, because it was done without hostilities and the two countries are still ‘friends’, if you can say that about countries.

To a certain extent people still feel part of an emotional union called Czechoslovakia.

It becomes most clear that these nations are separate when there’s a hockey match between the two, and when a foreigner mistakenly calls Slovakia, not Slovakia, but Czechoslovakia, or -worse- think that the capital is Prague. Even worse it to assume the capital is Ljubljana and to confuse Slovakia with Slovenia. For some reason I’ve never understood Slovenia is better known than Slovakia. And am saying that as a fan of Slovenia, I studied slovene at university and not Slovak.

Oh, worth noting: while I was studying Slavic languages you could study any Slavic language, except… Slovak… Which is a pity, it’s distinct enough to deserve its own course at any faculty of Eastern European languages.

Slovaka and the Czech Republic do have initiatives to cooperate more, such as the Visegrád group. Four countries have agreed to cooperate more. Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Taken together they constitute the 5th largest economy in Europe and the 12th largest economy in the world (!!). So far this union within a union seems not to amount to all that much.