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100th Anniversary of Czechia

10 September 2018

Dr. Michal Král, Ambassador of the Czech Republic in Pretoria speaks about the 100th Anniversary of the Czech Republic.
 
Diplomatic Society (DS): The Czech Republic was born in 1993, so why do you celebrate your National Day on 28 October as 100th Anniversary?
Ambassador Král (HE): You are quite right. The Czech Republic, or in short Czechia, as we know it today, came into being after a friendly (some use the word “velvet”) dissolution of Czechoslovakia on the 1st January 1993. But it existed long before – within the federal system of Czechoslovakia –and is a direct political successor and heir of Czechoslovakia in terms of international law.
What we commemorate this year is the 100th Anniversary since the restoration of the Czech sovereign statehood in its historical borders, after three centuries of the Czech Lands, originally an independent duchy and since 12th century a kingdom, having been part of the Austrian and later the Austro-Hungarian Empire which ruined itself in a very unfortunate way due to WWI.

At the turn of the 19th and 20th century, the Czech Lands were a highly developed industrial country representing 75% of industry of the whole Empire, with intensive agriculture, practically zero illiteracy and rich cultural life with people like the famous poet    Jan Neruda, painter Alfons Mucha and the world-known composer Antonín Dvorák who were active at that time.
Later, during the 20th century, masters appeared like writer Karel Capek, globally famous for introducing the word “robot” into human vocabulary, Nobel Prize-winners inventor and chemist Jaroslav Heyrovský and poet Jaroslav Seifert, perhaps not so globally known but all the more genial photographer Josef Sudek and last but not least writer, playwright, humanist and later statesman Václav Havel. Just to name but a few. All of these people contributed in their own way to building a prosperous and democratic state.
Czechoslovakia was for more than 70 years (interrupted only during WWII) a shared home of closely and brotherly related Czech and Slovak Peoples as well as several minorities. I therefore believe that it was a successful state building project worth remembering. The fact that its dissolution in 1993 was completely peaceful in my opinion confirms that assessment.

DS: What is the current socio-economic situation in Czechia?
HE: The Czech Republic today enjoys one of the highest growth rates and the lowest unemployment in Europe. This is both thanks to our industrial tradition and the spirit of invention and to our membership in the EU we joined on 1st May 2014. We enjoy social peace and political stability and the trajectory still seems to be heading upwards.

DS: What about the relationship of Czechia with Africa and South Africa in particular?
HE: South Africa is currently a major trading partner of the Czech Republic in Africa. Mutual trade and investment is growing. Here I can mention for example the Czech company Hutní Montáže. Since 2013, this company has been involved in the construction of a coal-fired power station in Kusile, the fourth-largest power station of its kind in the world. The assembly of one power boiler with a capacity of 800 MW is worth some R150 million, whereas Hutní Montáže has currently finished the fifth boiler. Another Czech company, Pegas Nonwovens, is coming to South Africa with an investment of at least R1.3 billion. They will construct a new fabrics production plant in the Western Cape and thereby create 200 new jobs. More and more Czech companies are coming to start or expand their businesses here.
Also in our current engagement towards Africa, the Czech Republic builds upon the inheritance of former Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovak experts implemented many investment projects in a number of African countries, especially in the fields of energy, construction and engineering industries. Many Africans studied in our country. It is also certainly worth remembering that Czechoslovakia supported the struggle of Africans for their independence and supported the development of partner African countries. We are prepared to share our know-how, technologies and skills with our African partners as well as our experience gained in the process of building a modern open society and economy.
As far as South Africa is concerned, our relationship goes further back in history than with most other African countries thanks to the engagement of the Moravian Church which originated in the Czech Lands almost six centuries ago. Last year it celebrated 280 years of its establishment in South Africa.

DS: As you mentioned above you are a nation of great composers and musicians. Can you reveal what cultural events the Czech Embassy is planning for your anniversary?
HE: The Embassy has partnered with the Brooklyn Theatre in Pretoria and organised a series of events taking place at the venue. Already in March of 2018 we presented the “Dvorák Concert”. It was a huge success. It turns out that there is a great interest in Czech composers such as Antonín Dvorák by local music lovers.
To commemorate our 100 year Anniversary we have also decided to celebrate our national day jointly with the Slovak Embassy. The Czech – Slovak Reception will take place on the 25th October 2018 at the Brooklyn Theatre. A short performance of the Slovak folk group “SLUK” is planned for the reception.
Further on I would like to cordially invite everyone wishing to celebrate our 100th Anniversary with us to concerts of a legendary Czech folk group “Spirituál Kvintet”. This group was founded already in 1960 and during its 58 years of existence recorded more than twenty very successful albums.
Their concert “Czech and World music” is planned for the 11 November 2018 at 3 pm also at the Brooklyn Theatre. On 16 November at 6 pm they will then present their music at the Visegrad House in Cape Town.

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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September 2018

 
 
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