chapter  13
Democratisation and division in Czechoslovakia: economics and ethnic politics: Robert Schaeffer
Pages 11

Like many other countries in recent years, Czechoslovakia democratised in the wake of the collapse of authoritarian rule. Yet in Czechoslovakia, democratisation also led to division. The state was divided because democratisation contributed both to economic differentiation, which forced Slovaks and Czechs in opposite political directions, and led to the emergence of ‘ethnic’ political parties, first in Slovakia and then in Bohemia and Moravia, that demanded the dissolution of the state. Regionally based political parties jointly attacked the state in order to secure different economic and political objectives. Slovak parties wanted to retreat to a reform communist past; Czech parties wanted to advance to a free-market future. Both agreed that these objectives could best be achieved in states of their own. The state succumbed in 1992 because historical and contemporary developments had critically weakened its institutions and undermined its legitimacy and popular support. Fortunately, partition did not lead to conflict within or war between successor states, as it did in parts of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union during this same period. Czechoslovakia avoided conflict largely because state institutions were weak and incapable of using force to defend the state.