By Vladislav Strnad, The Institute of Cultural Diplomacy
On the 28th of July 2013 on the top of Velká Javořina, in the border region of the Czech and Slovak Republic, hundreds of citizens from both sides of the border met during the traditional festival of brotherhood and unity. This annual event reminds each nation of their common history where two increasingly interconnected nations gradually established a peaceful path to full independence over the last century. However, there still remains a certain bond and sense of togetherness between them which can be seen in similarities in culture and lifestyle.
Velká Javořina (970 m) is not only the highest point of the Bílé Karpaty, but also the oldest protected area of this mountain range. The mountain, which is steeped in legends traditionally chanted about in Slovak and Moravian songs, became a landmark meeting place for the Moravians and Slovaks in the 19th century. Then, it was a meeting place for not only for Slovak and Moravian students, teachers, priests and artists but also for ordinary people. Javořina was a gathering place for the building of friendships between Moravians and Slovaks, a space for manifestations, a place of joint excursions and a place for cheerful socials. This tradition was revived in 1990. Now, a new meeting, entitled “Celebration of Czechs and Slovaks Brotherhood, Javořina”, has been created. The Czech – Moravian – Slovak memorial, a work of sculptor Otmar Oliva, symbolizes that despite the current and future transformations of Europe, people in the Moravian-Slovak border remain close. The Javořina festivities are the culmination of a project of “Czech and Slovak reciprocity”. Throughtout the year there are numerous cultural and tourist events. Festival organizers have one common goal; to maintain the special relationship between the people and to increase the quality of life of people from both sides of the border.(1)
This year’s celebrations were attended by many folk ensembles, brass bands and choirs from the border region. There was a varied program of authentic fair stalls and traditional activities taking place in the natural amphitheater for the hundreds of visitors and well-known personalities from the media and politics who attended the aevent. Soloists and groups of different genres performed. Their art is an example of the rich folk traditions and extraordinary cultural and social affinities of the two nations. There were also competitions for children. The day before, a meeting of cyclists from the Czech and Slovak Republic, called the ‘Javorina Tour 2013’, was held on the top of the Velká Javořina.(2)
Czechs and Slovaks actually lived in one state from the times of the Hapsburg monarchy. The first independent state of Czechs and Slovaks was created in 1918. After seventy years of the existence of one united state, the Czechoslovak Republic broke into two on January 1st 1993 and became the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic. Both nations had a chance to start building their own sovereign states. Mutual relations remained, and always have been, fair and good. Regular meetings between Heads of States are conducted and there is constant communication between both cultural, educational and scientific spheres. The Czech Republic and Slovakia joined the European Union and NATO. Slovakia has ceased to be a “younger brother” and relations between the two nations”were given the standard level of relations between two neighboring countries, which between them have no problems and, by contrast, have much in common in the past.” (3)
Even after 20 years, the dissolution of Czechoslovakia is considered by Slovak former Prime Minister Vladimir Mečiar and by a former president of the Czech Republic Václav Klaus as a necessary step which helped everyone.
Mečiar said that the decision of the dissolution of Czechoslovakia was the right move, and if the republic did not divide in 1993, Slovakia would now be considered as insignificant European region. (4)
Václav Klaus justified the political decisions that “… our priority was to preserve the friendship and good relations between Czechs and Slovaks and preserve our future cooperation. We have stood the test because we approached each other with respect and a desire to understand one another. We have stood the test because we wanted success not just for us, but for the other side as well.”
Today the President for Czech-Slovak Relations has heralded the relationship between the two nations as great; unburdened by historical burdens and feelings of injustice or negative sentiments. “I believe that the Czechs and Slovaks remain true brothers to each other,” he said.(5)
Former Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas said that “the Slovaks are for Czechs the closest, truly fraternal nation; the nation on which we always rely, even at an international level, we know that we can rely on him.” It is difficult to find in Europe two nations with such friendly relations.(6)
Institute for Cultural Diplomacy