Czech Republic Ethnic Groups

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The Czech Republic is not the oldest nation in the world, but it's population has remained pretty ethnically consistent for centuries. In this lesson, we are going to see what ethnicity means in the Czech Republic today.

The Czech Republic

Once in this world, there were Czechoslovakians. The Czechoslovakians lived in the nation of Czechoslovakia. I'm using the past tense because there is no Czechoslovakia today. This may seem sad to some, but in many ways it is appropriate, because there never really were any Czechoslovakian people. Okay…hang on a minute- what's going on here? The term Czechoslovakian is a nationalist term, referring to citizens of that former nation. It's not a term that describes an ethnic category. Czechoslovakia was founded by two different ethnic groups, the Czechs and the Slovaks in the aftermath of World War I. After the nation split apart nonviolently much later in 1993, the Slovaks formed a country called Slovakia, and the Czechs got together to form their own country called- you guessed it- the Czech Republic.

The Czech Republic
Czech Republic

Czech Ethnicity

So, who lives in the Czech Republic? As with any nation founded primarily as home to a specific ethnic group, you may expect that Czechs make up most of the population, and you'd be correct. About 64% of people in Czechoslovakia identify as being ethnically Czech. The Czech people speak the Czech language, a Slavic language, and can trace their ethnic heritage back to the region of their republic historically called Bohemia. For this reason, the Czech people were generally referred to as Bohemians until the 20th century. According to traditional Czech mythology, this ethnic group is descendant of one of two brothers in Medieval Europe. According to legend, the brothers Cech and Lech, who were from a mystical unknown land, were forced from their home. According to some versions, they were driven out by warfare, and according to others they were accused of murder and fled. Cech, Lech, and their people travelled across the mountains until finding a land of peace and plenty. Cech and his tribe stayed there, founding the Czech nation, while Lech continued on to the mountains and his people formed the nation of Poland. To this day, many Czechs consider Forefather Cech to be the founder of their people.

Cech and Lech in a 14th century book
Cech and Lech

Other Ethnic Groups in the Czech Republic

So, if the Czechs aren't actually 100% of the population, who else lives in the Czech Republic? About 5% are Moravian. Moravians are an ethnic subgroup of Czechs, and are counted by many demographers as ethnically Czech. However, they do speak a distinct Moravian dialect of the Czech language and claim ancestry from a different Slavic tribe than the larger Czech majority.

Although technically a subgroup of Czechs, the Moravians have a long history of ethnic pride

After the Moravians, the next largest ethnic minority group are the Slovaks, the ethnic group who shared a country with the Czechs for nearly a century. The Slovaks are another Slavic group, closely related to the Czechs, although their language is completely distinct. Only about 1.5% of people in the Czech Republic identify as Slovak, largely because most Slovaks live in Slovakia, but also because many Czech people don't actually see the differences between Czech, Slovak, or Moravian as substantial enough to worry about.

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