Though they shared a state for most of the twentieth century,
when the Czechs and Slovaks split in 1993 they founded their new
states on different definitions of sovereignty. The Czech
Constitution employs a civic model, founding the state in the name
of "the citizens of the Czech Republic," while the Slovak
Constitution uses the more exclusive ethnic model and speaks in the
voice of "the Slovak Nation."
Defining the Sovereign Community asks two central
questions. First, why did the two states define sovereignty so
differently? Second, what impact have these choices had on
individual and minority rights and participation in the two states?
Nadya Nedelsky examines how the Czechs and Slovaks understood
nationhood over the course of a century and a half and finds that
their views have been remarkably resilient over time.
These enduring perspectives on nationhood shaped how the two states
defined sovereignty after the Velvet Revolution, which in turn
strongly affected the status of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia
and the Roma minority in the Czech Republic. Neither state has
secured civic equality, but the nature of the discrimination
against minorities differs. Using the civic definition of
sovereignty offers stronger support for civil and minority rights
than an ethnic model does. Nedelsky's conclusions challenge much
analysis of the region, which tends to explain ethnic politics by
focusing on postcommunist factors, especially the role of
opportunistic political leaders. Defining the Sovereign
Community instead examines the undervalued historical roots of
political culture and the role of current constitutional
definitions of sovereignty. Looking ahead, Nedelsky offers crucial
evidence that nationalism may remain strong in Slovakia and the
Czech Republic, even in the face of democratization and EU
integration, and is an important threat to both.
Subjects: Political Science
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