The Hyphen War (Czech: Pomlčková válka; Slovak: Pomlčková vojna, lit.'Dash War') was the political conflict over what to call Czechoslovakia after the fall of the Communist government in 1989.


The official name of the country during the last 30 years of Communist rule was "Czechoslovak Socialist Republic" (in Czech and in Slovak Československá socialistická republika, or ČSSR). In December 1989—a month after the Velvet Revolution—President Václav Havel announced that the word "Socialist" would be dropped from the country's official name. Conventional wisdom suggested that it would be known as simply the "Czechoslovak Republic", which was its official name from 1920 to 1938 and again during the Third Czechoslovak Republic and early years of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (1945-1960).

However, Slovak politicians felt this diminished Slovakia's equal stature, and demanded that the country's name be spelled with a hyphen (i.e. "Czecho-Slovak Republic"), as it was spelled from independence in 1918 until 1920, and again during the Second Czechoslovak Republic (1938-1939). President Havel then changed his proposal to "Republic of Czecho-Slovakia"—a proposal that did not sit well with Czech politicians who saw reminders of the 1938 Munich Agreement, in which Nazi Germany annexed a part of that territory.[clarification needed][citation needed]


As a compromise, on 29 March 1990 the Czechoslovak parliament resolved that the country's long name was to be the "Czechoslovak Federative Republic," explicitly acknowledging that the country was a federation. The name was to be spelled without a hyphen in Czech (Československá federativní republika), but with a hyphen in Slovak (Česko-slovenská federatívna republika).[1][2][3] An informal agreement on the Slovak long-form name was to be codified in a future law on state symbols.[citation needed]

This solution was found to be unsatisfactory, and less than a month later, on 20 April 1990, the parliament changed the name again, to the "Czech and Slovak Federative Republic" (Czech: Česká a Slovenská Federativní Republika, Slovak: Česká a Slovenská Federatívna Republika, or ČSFR). This law explicitly listed the long-form names in both languages and stated they were equal.[4][5][6]

Generally, only the first word of a country's name is capitalized in Czech and Slovak. Capitalizing all of the words eliminated issues of prestige around the capitalization of "Slovenská".

Although the Slovaks were demanding a hyphen (Czech, Slovak: spojovník), the Czechs called it a dash (Czech, Slovak: pomlčka). Although there is a clear difference between a hyphen and a dash in Czech and Slovak spelling (a hyphen is used to mark a connection between two words, while a dash is used in other cases), both Czechs and Slovaks usually use the term pomlčka for both.[citation needed] Nonetheless, English language media generally refer to the conflict as the "Hyphen War".[citation needed]

While the Hyphen War was not really deserving of the name "war", it demonstrated that there were differences between Czechs and Slovaks regarding the identity of their shared country. Over the following two years, more substantial disputes arose between the two halves of the federation. In 1992, Czech and Slovak politicians agreed to split the country into the two states of the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic—the so-called Velvet Divorce—which became effective on 1 January 1993.

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  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-02-18. Retrieved 2010-09-24.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-05-22. Retrieved 2010-09-24.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Nové ASPI | Wolters Kluwer SR, s.r.o". Retrieved 2016-09-19.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2010-09-24.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-05-22. Retrieved 2010-09-24.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Česká a Slovenská Federatívna Republika, Zbierka zákonov č. 21/1990, page 404, "Ústavný zákon 101/1990 Zb. z 20. apríla 1990 o zmene názvu Česko-slovenskej federatívnej republiky", 20 April 1990 (in Slovak) (Constitutional law about the change of the name of the Czecho-slovak Federative Republic)

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