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News flash: Czech Republic is not Chechnya

April 19, 2013

With news of the Boston marathon bombers being of Chechen descent, Petr Gandalovič, the Czech Ambassador to the United States, feels it is necessary to explain that the Czech Republic is not the same as Chechnya in an official statement:



As more information on the origin of the alleged perpetrators is coming to light, I am concerned to note in the social media a most unfortunate misunderstanding in this respect. The Czech Republic and Chechnya are two very different entities – the Czech Republic is a Central European country; Chechnya is a part of the Russian Federation.

Apparently, Ambassador Gandalovič does not have a very high view of American understanding of basic European geography.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2013 3:00 pm

    I think there is good evidence that his “not … very high view” is justified. But then how many Europeans (and I include my fellow Brits) would do much better on American geography? How many would know that Washington DC is not in Washington state?

  2. April 22, 2013 12:55 am

    It is also an indictment of the educational value of television. In the US, we had saturation news coverage of the hunt for the Tsarnaev brothers, but apparently, despite extensive coverage, there are still problems with people knowing where Chechnya is.

    I remember reading somewhere (maybe in Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death) that shortly after the 444-day “Iranian hostage crisis,” the majority of adult Americans could not locate Iran on a map, despite the fact that virtually all Americans saw at least some television news coverage with a map of Iran.

  3. April 24, 2013 1:48 pm

    I think there is at least some excuse for people my age to be confused. I did very well in geography in school– but countries like Chechnya didn’t exist back then. I really need a new course in Asian geography now that the Soviet Union no longer exists!

  4. April 24, 2013 2:22 pm

    Kristen, I know what you mean: I still stumble sometimes and want to say “Czechoslovakia” instead of saying “Czech Republic.”

    What kind of name is “Czech Republic” anyway? We almost always ignore “Republic” when giving the name of countries — we say “Germany” and not “German Federal Republic” or we just abbreviate — we say “PRC” instead of “People’s Republic of China.” And why do we say “Slovakia” instead of “Slovak Republic”? But it somehow sounds wrong to say the name of the country as “Czech” (that seems like an adjective) or “Czechia” (that just sounds wrong!) I personally wish we could call it “Bohemia,” but that is definitely a minority view.

    (The only other examples I can think where people say “Republic” instead of a short name are “Central African Republic” and “Democratic Republic of the Congo” [since it is politically incorrect in some circles to say “Zaire” and since it is a different country than “Congo”].)

  5. April 25, 2013 6:33 am

    The related news here in Texas (in Central Texas specifically where a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant has resulted in the deaths of 15 people and injury for 200 others and displacement from homes and businesses for countless others) is the following:

    Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg was attending a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels April 22 when he announced his intentions to send aid to Texas, reported the Prague Daily Monitor. “I will propose to the cabinet tomorrow that we offer them four million (crowns) as first aid, especially for the reconstruction of the local gym,” said Schwarzenberg. That amounts to approximately $200,000[US]….

    Aside from a modest donation, the Czech Republic is making its presence felt in West with actual boots on the ground. Petr Gandalovic, Czech ambassador to the United States, traveled from Washington D.C. to the tiny Texas town last week to offer his condolences and to reassure its residents that they have the support of the motherland. The ambassador reaffirmed the tight bond the town still maintains with the European nation. “This is basically a Czech city. The [Czech] families [are] over 70 percent, many have some Czech origin. They have Czech names and they maintain Czech festivities,” Gandalovic told KLTV.

    Gandalovic made headlines recently when he had to give a geography lesson to the Internet. After the bombing in Boston last week, which was allegedly perpetrated by individuals descended from the Republic of Chechnya, social media became a hotbed of misinformed commenters spewing vitriol towards Czech people. “The Czech Republic and Chechnya are two very different entities,” Gandalovic said in a public statement. “The Czech Republic is a Central European country; Chechnya is a part of the Russian Federation.”

    There is no confusion about the Czech-Chechnyan distinction in West, Texas, however. And the country whose habits and customs West residents still cherish clearly knows the difference between West, Texas and West Texas, too.

    US President Barack Obama will be at nearby Baylor University today, attending a memorial service for the explosion’s victims. He has declared the explosion site in West, Texas a federal disaster area, calling for emergency protective measures to be 75 percent funded through Federal Emergency Management Agency. // In April 2009, the president and first lady visited Prague, The Czech Republic, for a much less somber reasons.

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