Naming a country isn’t like naming a baby; there isn’t some giant book of suggestions from which the “parents” (in this case, the population of a sovereign nation) can hunt for the absolutely perfect word to describe their new child. As a result, when a country gets a new name, there’s basically no way everyone is going to like it.
This is what the Czech Republic, “which announced last week its new name of “Czechia last week, is starting to realize. As it turns out, many of the 10.5 million “parents” living in the country are not fans of the change.
The new name is meant to be the solution to a problem that has existed since Slovakia the Czech Republic formed out of the previously unified Czechoslovakia in 1993. In the 23 years since the country’s formation, it has yet to select an official nickname, which is something that — little known fact — basically every other country in the world has. For example, the UK can be officially referred to by its formal name of “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,” or its informal short name, simply “The United Kingdom.”
Regardless of the necessity of the issue, the name Czechia isn’t going over too well. For example, a 2013 poll found that 73% of the country’s residents opposed the name. Additionally, the Czech Republic’s minister of regional development has criticized the name for sounding too much like Chechnya, the semiautonomous Russian Republic. Government officials are also being criticized for how quickly the name was selected, as allegedly the only experts consulted on the matter were in the field of public relations.
This doesn’t mean there wasn’t a great deal of thought put into the new name though. Some proposed — and ultimately rejected — names excluded the cultural identity of certain regions, or brought about territorial designations set during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. Also, a group promoting the name Czechia through advertising and social media has been slowly gaining a following since 1997, so it’s not as though Czech citizens weren’t aware of the name as an option.
Although opposition will likely remain for some time, anyone who has a problem with Czechia can still use the country’s formal name, although now that may feel a little bit like saying “Mr. Czech Republic.”
Dillon Thompson is a travel intern with Paste and a student at the University of Georgia.