Usage of the Term "Czechia" or NNDB Rewrites the History

As an Internet cruiser, sooner or later, you will come across an online "Who's Who, "known as NNDB, which ostensibly stands for "Notable Names Database", which prides itself in tracking the whole world and as being an "intelligence aggregator" containing links between people as well as vital statistics, vital statistics, job history, religion, sexual orientation and a biography (including criminal record).

It was on their pages where I first saw the reference to "Czechia." Although the term "Czechia" was not defined, they presumably refer to the country where the Czechs live. Inasmuch as this term did not exist before the Velvet Revolution and before the establishment of the Czech Republic, I have assumed that they are referring to the period starting from 1993, when the Czech Republic was officially established. But this is apparently not so.

When you look up Vaclav Havel, you will find that he was President of Czechia, Vaclav Klaus is present President of Czechia, while Prime Minister Stanislav Gross was Prime Minister of Czechia. However, they also use the term in case of individuals who were born in Czechoslovakia before the World War II, such as Vera Hruba Ralston (born in 1921 in Prague, Czechia, 1921). Similarly, a number of individuals, who were born before Czechoslovakia was established in 1918, are listed either as being born in Czechia such as Franz Kafka (born in 1882, Prague, Czechia) or died in Czechia, such as Bedrich Smetana (died 1884, Prague, Czechia) or Antonin Dvorak (died 1904, Prague, Czechia). They even use the term in connection with individuals from the time of the Kingdom of Bohemia in 14th through 18th centuries, e.g.., St. John Mepomuk (died 1393 in Prague, Czechia), Tycho Brahe (died 1601, Prague, Czechia), Wenzel Hollar (born 1607, Prague, Czechia), Franz Kotzwara (born 1730, Prague, Czechia). They also use the term "Czechia" for Nationality, irrespective of the time the person lived, e.g., in reference to Wenzel Hollar, St. John Nepomuk, Antonin Dvorak, Jaroslav Seifert, Bohumil Hrabal, Vaclav Havel, Vaclav Klaus, etc.

Inasmuch as they encouraged submission of corrections, I approached then in good faith with the suggestion that they substitute the "Czechia", which nobody else is using, with such standard terms, as Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia, Bohemia, etc. Instead of gratitude, they called me ignorant, claiming that the term "Czechia" was the preferred designation, as per recommendation by the Czech Foreign Ministry, as well as by the State Department. Yesterday, I had the opportunity of discussing the matter at the Czech Embassy's reception in Washington, DC, with the present Minister of Foreign Affairs of CR, H.E. Karel Schwarzenberg, who told me that the use of the term "Czechia" by NNDB was ridiculous. As it happened, the former spokesman of the American Embassy in Prague was also present at the reception. When I mentioned the matter to him, he assured me that the State Department has not authorized the usage of the term "Czechia".

Frankly, if there is need for a single term, why not adopt the term "The Czechlands", which was coined by the former Ambassador to the US, Michal Zantovsky, an anglophile and an authority on English language. The term is > comparable to the accepted term "The Netherlands," which has the advantage of being plural and thus would encompass both provinces, Bohemia and Moravia, and would also closely correspond to the established usage of the term "historic Czech Lands" in connection with the Kingdom of Bohemia. Since the NNDB ignores the facts, I hope that the media will bring this matter to the attention of the public.

To be sure, NNDB is inconsistent with the way they use the term “Czechia,” because in case of certain individuals, born on the territory of Czech Republic, they insist on stating that they were born in Austria or Austria-Hungary and to top it all, they even use German names (such as Bruen for Brno) for various locations which are now obsolete. The examples of this are the Nobel Prize laureates Cori Cori, Grety Cori and Jaroslav Heyrovsky from Prague or pianist Artur Schnabel from Lipnik. In case of the latter, this is already improvement because, until my protests, they claimed he was a native of Poland.

But to return to the term “Czechia,” I have made an unofficial survey among my American friends regarding its usage. Surprisingly, they were all familiar with the term, so it seemed. When I asked them what it meant, without exception, they thought it was some area in Russia or Asia where Muslims and Christians” kill each other.” They obviously mixed it up with the Russian "Chechnya." This is another reason why the term “Czechia” should be avoided. Mila Rechcigl Past SVU President


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