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The Euromosaic study

Other languages in the Czech Republic

  1. Bulgarian
  2. Croatian
  3. Greek
  4. Hungarian
  5. Russian
  6. Ruthenian
  7. Ukrainian
  8. Other language groups

 

1. Bulgarian

Bulgarian [bălgarski ezik] is a southern Slavonic language of the Indo-European family, together with Croatian, Macedonian, Serbian and Slovene. Codified in 1899, Bulgarian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet — in a version almost identical to the Russian script. The Bulgarian minority first organised in Bohemia in 1880, although immigration of Bulgarians in the territory of the CR mainly dates back to the 1920s and 1930s; some came immediately after World War II on the basis of an intergovernmental agreement, with many of them specifically engaged in vegetable-growing activities; they resettled areas where Germans had been evacuated.

According to the results of the 2001 census, 4,363 people have declared Bulgarian nationality as against 3,487 in 1991, but estimates place the number of Bulgarians living in the CR at 8,000-10,000 (including those with residence permit). Most of them have Czech citizenship. The Bulgarian minority lives scattered throughout the CR; most live in Prague, followed by the regions of Central Bohemia, South Bohemia, Pilsen, Karlovy Vary, Ústi n. L., Liberec, Hradec Králové, South Moravia, Olomouc and Moravia-Silesia. Almost 80% of the community are persons older than 18 years. The community is represented at the Government Council for National Minorities; the language, however, has no legal status. There are no Bulgarian schools, with the exception of the Petr Beron School within the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in Prague (the syllabus conforms to the Bulgarian one, with extended teaching of the Czech language). At university level, Bulgarian is offered within departments of Slavonic studies. There is little information on the language behaviour of Bulgarians; however, some of them are known to use Russian.

The association Bulharska Sedjanka was established in Prague in 1880. Other compatriot associations followed and eventually united to create the Bulharska kulturne-osvetova organizace [Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Organisation] (BCEO), as a successor to Bulharska Sedjanka. The BCEO is run by the roof organisation of Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Clubs in the CR (BCEC), who act as legal persons. In 1992 the St. Cyril and St. Mehodius Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Club was founded, and in 2001 the civil association Vazraždane in Prague was born. Other recent organisations are Pirin, a dancing and folklore ensemble in Brno, the association of the Bulgarians and their friends in the Czech Republic Zaedno, the Association for Bulgaria and the Bulharský kulturně osvětový klub. The BCEO has some 2,000 members, most of them Bulgarians with Czech citizenship or permanent residence in the CR.

Although there seems to be no literary production in Bulgarian in the CR, the BCEO issue the periodical Roden glas (bi-monthly), the association Vazraždane the magazine Balgari, and the St. Cyril and St. Methodius Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Club occasionally publish the bulletin Rodna reč. The Prague BCEO issues at times the bulletin Inform.

There is no specific broadcasting in Bulgarian: but BCEO clubs in Prague, Olomouc and Mladá Boleslav are equipped to receive every day from 1,00 p.m. to 12,00 p.m. satellite programmes of the Bulgarian National Television, and the programmes of the Bulgarian National Radio and Christo Botev Radio. There is apparently a high degree of intergenerational transmission of the language; but mixed couples tend to use Czech.

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2. Croatian

Croatian [hrvatski jezik] is a southern Slavonic language of the Indo-European family, together with Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbian and Slovene. It is written in the Latin alphabet. Croats originally came to South Moravia as early as the 16th century, fleeing from Turkish invasions. After World War II the Croats were considered as a hostile minority which had collaborated with the Germans and were displaced to several villages and cities throughout the territory of the CR. At first they were relocated to places formerly inhabited by the German population (e.g. Moravský Šternberk, Hůzová, Uničov etc.), but later movements brought them to Austria (Vienna in particular) and other countries. The Croatian community in the CR have recently asked the government to redress the wrongs caused by those historical events. While they have traditionally used a local variety of Croatian (that also makes use of a mixed Czech-Croatian orthography), communication also occurs in Burgenland Croatian [Gradišcansko Hrvatski], which is intelligible to the majority of Croats that have dispersed in the CR, Slovakia, Austria and Hungary. However, both are languages that have evolved separately from standard Croatian as is now used in Croatia, which is poorly intelligible for Moravian Croats.

According to the 2001 census, 1,585 people have declared Croatian nationality. Some of them are also newcomers to the CR following events in the former Yugoslavia. Members of the Croatian minority live scattered throughout the territory of the CR, but many live in large cities such as Prague, Brno, Olomouc, and Ostrava. Moravian Croats [Moravski Hrvati] were to be found particularly in the villages of Jevišovka, Dobré Pole and Nový Přerov near the Austrian border. According to a recent survey (2002), the number of those who have competence in Croatian is extremely low (400), with only 150 actively using the language; the average age is above 30.

The Sdružení občanů chorvatské národnosti v ČR [Association of the citizens of the Croatian Minority in the CR] (established in 1991 in Brno) is the only organisation representing the interests of the Croats of the CR. The main activity of the Association is the annual festival of Croatian culture Kiritof, which takes place since 1948 each September in Jevišovka (Břeclav district); it is also known as the “Croatian Cultural Day”. The festival, supported within the programme of the Ministry of culture, is prepared in cooperation with the local authorities of Jevišovka and is attended by Croats from Burgenland (Austria) and Slovakia, as well as by representatives of the government of Republic of Croatia. The meeting is also an occasion to divulge publications in Burgenland Croatian. The Association has published also several texts in local Croatian vernacular, for example Bedřich Sič, Spominanje na rodni kraj (Brno 1991). There are no schools in Croatian, but the language may be offered in Slavic departments in universities. As far as media are concerned, there is Hrvatske Novine, a weekly (almost entirely in Croatian) which is published in Austria and is available during the Kiritof festival. Each Sunday it is possible to pick up the one-hour programme Dobar dan, Hrvati, broadcast in Burgenland Croatian by the Austrian ORF II. Satellite programmes from Croatia have the disadvantage that modern standard Croatian is poorly understood by Moravian Croats.

After 1989 there has been a renewed interest in Croatian culture and language in those countries affected by Croatian migration. The Agreement between the Government of the CR and the Republic of Croatia on Co-operation in the Field of Culture, Education and Science, for example, was made to ensure preservation of the cultural and historical heritage in its various aspects. The newly developed contacts with Croats from Austria and Slovakia have helped retain the existing level of the language knowledge. In the CR, however, the dispersal of the community makes the situation very difficult. Only children born to couples who had married before the displacement from South Moravia were brought up (to some extent) in Croatian; the intergenerational transmission of the language has been discontinued.

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3. Greek

Greek [Ellinika] represents an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. The Greek-speaking community was originally made up of refugees from the civil war in the 1940s. Almost 75% of them opted to return to their homeland between 1975 and the end of the 1980s. The 2001 census reported 3,219 people declaring Greek nationality (though community representatives give an estimate of 7,000); they live scattered throughout the territory of the CR, but most live in Moravia-Silesia (Krnov, Ostrava, Šumperk, Jeseník, Třinec, Karviná, Bohumín, Havířov, Vrbno pod Pradědem, Albrechtice, Osoblaha, Dívčí Hrad, Rudoltice, Krásné Loučky, Staré Purkartice, Jindřichov, Zlaté Hory), in South Moravia (Brno, Znojmo, Mikulov, Hevlín) and Prague. Individual families also live in other places (for example Jablonec nad Nisou, Liberec, Hradec Králové, Jihlava, Vyškov, Olomouc, Strážnice).

The Greek minority is represented in the Government Council for National Minorities — since 2002 — also in the Committee of Government Council for National Minorities for grant policy, in the consultative body of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports for the affairs of national minorities, in the consultative body of the Deputy Ministry of Culture for the affairs of minority culture and in the Media Commission of the Radio. The chairman of Prague Greek Community and one member of the board of directors are the members of Commission for National Minorities on the Territory of the Capital Prague of the Council of the Capital Prague. The chairman of the Brno Greek Community is the member of the committee for National Minorities of the Brno Council, the member of Karviná Greek Community is the member of the Committee for National Minorities in Karviná. The Jeseník Greek Community is represented in the Commission for the Solution of the Problems of National Minorities in the municipal authority of Jeseník. Because many Greeks who arrived in the CR as refugees expected to return to their homeland, Greek schools were organised but are now disappering, following the repatriation of many. However, in 2001/02 the teaching of Greek as a subject was still active in seven cities of Northern Moravia, in Bron and Prague, for a total of 190 students.

The cultural activities of regional organisations of the Greek national minority are focused on the preservation and development of traditional culture. Main activities are carried out by the Association of the Greek Communities in the Czech Republic, which in 2002 organised the 7th Greek Festival in the CR and the project “Important Days of the Greek Nation”. Traditional culture is preserved also by the civil association Lycée of the Greeks with Greek folk costumes, dance and folk traditions. In the CR there are ensembles of the Greek minority Gorgona, Akropolis and Prométheus, which take part in all socio-cultural activities of the Greek minority as well as in festivals of other national minorities every year. At the Seventh Greek Festival in Krnov in June 2002, a partnership agreement was signed between Krnov and Athens (Pefki). Apart from a certain presence on the net (www.sweb.cz/hellenika, www.rokm.aktualne.cz, http://mujweb.cz/www/csspnk/index.htm), the Greek Community Prague issues the quarterly Kalimera, supported by the Prague Metropolitan Authority; the Greek Community Brno presents the summary of events in electronic form under the title Mantaforos tou Brno. There are no TV or radio programmes in Greek.

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4. Hungarian

Hungarian [magyar nyelv] is an Ugrian language of the Uralic family, written in the Roman alphabet. When Czechoslovakia was established in 1918 the Hungarian autochthonous minority counted a million members, mainly inhabiting Slovakia and Sub-Carpathia along the border with Hungary. A sizable presence of Hungarians in Czechia can be traced throughout the interwar years (7,000 members in 1921 and 11,500 in 1930). With the first Vienna Award of 1938 that followed the Munich Agreement most of the Hungarian minority was annexed to Hungary, but the Trianon borders were restored at the end of World War II and many Hungarians were expelled. Some 50,000 were resettled in areas to replace the German population (especially in 1946-47), but most of them returned home in the subsequent years. It was in the post-war years that the current Hungarian minority in the CR moved to Czech industrial areas: with the division of Czechoslovakia in 1993 they thus became a small, non-autochthonous minority of the CR, removed from their kin state. According to the 2001 census 14,672 people have declared Hungarian nationality, as against 19,932 in 1991. Qualified estimates, however, suggest higher numbers (approximately 19,300). Hungarians live scattered in the territory, with concentrations in Prague and the surrounding area, as well as in the Northen Bohemia and Moravia-Silesia region.

The Hungarian community is represented in the Government Council for National Minorities. The civil association of the members of the Hungarian national minority is the Association of the Hungarians Living in Bohemia. It carries out several cultural activities and runs a library and a videoteque to collect information relating to the Hungarian minority in the CR. The most important project of this organisation is the festival “Days of Hungarian Culture”, which involves cultural activities in Prague, Brno, Ostrava and Pilsen. At the level of education, Charles University has been teaching Hungarian philology for more than a century; while the Svaz Madaru zijicich v ceskych zemich [Association of Hungarians living in the Czech Lands], in cooperation with the Madarske kulturni stredisko [Hungarian Cultural Centre] in Prague, offers courses in Hungarian for children from Hungarian families. Other linguistic initiatives for the minority include the publication of Prágai Tükor, a periodical which is issued five times a year by the Union of the Hungarians Living in Bohemia (96 pages, 1,000 copies). Prágai Tükor is the most important Hungarian periodical (published since 1993): it focuses on the cultural and social life of the Hungarian minority and deals with cultural/historical Czech-Hungarian relations. Every copy includes a summary in Czech and English. The attitude of the Hungarians to language maintenance does not seem to be particularly positive: surveys conducted in 1992 revealed that more than two-thirds of Hungarians spoke Czech at home, but 41% of the sample were not interested in transmitting the language to their children.

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5. Russian

Russian [russkij jazyk] is an eastern Slavonic language, related to Belorussian and Ukrainian and written in the Cyrillic alphabet. Russians first arrived in the CR in the 1920s as a consequence of the Russian revolution; the Czechoslovak state had established a refugee assistance programme. Their number apparently rose to more than 20,000 in the 1920s and 1930s; some of them were deported by the Soviet Army at the end of World War II. According to the results of the 2001 census, 12,369 people have declared Russian nationality, more than double the figure (5,062) recorded in 1991; as many as 18,746 persons have indicated Russian language as their mother tongue, and 670 persons consider both Czech and Russian as their mother tongues. This is consistent with former estimates ranging between 16,000 and 20,000 people. Members of the Russian national minority live scattered throughout the territory of the CR; most live in larger cities such as Prague, Brno, Karlovy Vary, Olomouc, Ústí nad Labem and in Pardubice.

The chairman of the civil association Russian Tradition is active as a member of the Commission of the Council for National Minorities of the Capital Prague. Russian is still being taught at a number of primary and high schools and the re-opening of the bilingual Czech-Russian high school is scheduled for 2004. Most Russian organisations are civil associations (“Russian Tradition”, “Russian Institute”, Russian Občina, Očag, Ruske stredisko vedy a kultury v Praze [Russian Centre of Science and Culture in Prague]); some of them are informal and unregistered. Activities are essentially festival meetings, cultural programmes (concerts of classical music, the presentation of prose and poetry by Russian authors etc.) and the issue of periodicals and works of local authors in Russian language. In 2002 the civil association “Russian Tradition” gained the financial support of the Metropolitan Authority to several projects, like the publication of books on Russian emigration, concerts of classical music and the publication of the magazine Russian Word. The Russian Institute publishes Vesti, a periodical issued 5 times a year (12 pages, 3,500 copies). The Czech Radio broadcasts a 30-minute programme in Russian language, but there are no TV programmes in Russian.

The Russian minority has been traditionally active more in the Ortodox church than in civil associations. Indeed, the Orthodox church is the only church in Bohemia where the number of memers seems to have increased (they are estimated to be 100,000). In Bohemia, this church unites both the Russian and the Ukrainian and Belorussian communities. In private life the Russian language seems to be used to a large extent.

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6. Ruthenian

Ruthenian [rusyn’skyj jazyk] is an Eastern Slavonic language that belongs to the Indo-European family. Until World War II the Ruthenians were a distinct component of the Chzechoslovak state (the Podkarpatská Rus); when the Czechoslovak state was founded it was even suggested that the country be called Česko-slovenská-rusínská republika [Czecho-Slovak-Ruthenian Republic]. The territory of Sub-Carpathian Ukraine was later annexed by the USSR (now part of Ukraine); Ruthenians in the CR were identified as as subset of Ukrainians and registered as such. In the 2001 census 1,106 people have declared Ruthenian nationality (they were 1,926 in 1991). Estimates provided by the community itself indicate 10,000 members. Members of the Ruthenian national minority live scattered throughout the territory of the Czech Republic; most live in larger cities such as Prague, Brno, Český Těšín, Jindřichův Hradec and in Northern Bohemia. Over the years Ruthenians seem to have lost motivation and need to identify themselves with an ethnicity, and many have assimilated with the Czechs.

The Ruthenian minority is represented in the Government Council for National Minorities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Czech Foreign Institute, Prague and Brno Metropolitan Authorities and elected authorities of other towns (for example Karviná). The Association of the Friends of Sub-Carpathian Ukraine (AFSU) with its Ruthenian section (the Spolecnost pratel Podkarpatske Rusi) was founded in 1990. The AFSU serves both the members of the Ruthenian minority and the Czech sympathisers of the Sub-Carpathian region, its natives and people who are interested in the history, present and nature of Sub-Carpathia and tourism on its territory. AFSU is a member of World Organisation of the Ruthenians and has representatives in the World Council of the Ruthenians. It has branches in Brno, Jindřichův Hradec and Český Těšín. Every year it organises a general meeting to evaluate activities and to adopt the action programme. Other organisations include Obščestvo Rusinov. The main priorities of the community are the restoration and development of the Ruthenian identity, the study of the history and problems of the Ruthenians, cultural, educational and editorial activities and co-operation with the organisations of Ruthenian national minorities in Slovakia, Hungary, Sub-Carpathian Ukraine, Poland, U.S.A. and Canada. Further priorities are the collection of documents, photographs and artefacts from their history of the Ruthenians. Other activities include lectures and informal meetings and co-operation with other organisations (National Museum, Masaryk Democratic Movement, cultural institutions). Exhibitions have been held in Jindřichův Hradec, Nové Strašecí, Mělník and many other localities of the Czech Republic. AFSU issues the magazine Podkarpatská Rus which includes scientific studies, memorial volumes, documents, historical and politological studies and even belles lettres (within the edition Verchovina). The magazine is issued six times a year, since 2003 partly in the Ruthenian language. Together with other Ruthenian organisations in the Trans-Carpatian region, AFSU publishes a bilingual Czech-Ruthenian Calendar.

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7. Ukrainian

Ukrainian [ukrajins’ka mova] is an Eastern Slavonic language of the Indo-European family. Ukrainian students and intellectuals started coming to Bohemia in the 19th century, but many of them arrived in the CR in the 1920s, as a consequence of the Russian revolution. A Ukrainian university used to operate in Czechoslovakia. According to the results of the 2001 census, 22,112 people declared to belong to the Ukrainian national minority (they were 8,220 in 1991). Members of the Ukrainian minority live scattered throughout the territory of the Czech Republic; most live in larger cities such as Prague, Karlovy Vary, Děčín, Brno and Ostrava. At primary school level there is the Ridna Škola supported by the Ukrainian Initiative in the Czech Republic, but its relevance to Ukrainian language is unknown.

The Ukrainian community is represented in the Government Council for National Minorities. The largest civil association is the Ukrajinska iniciativa v CR [Ukrainian Initiative in the Czech Republic]. In 2002 the Ukrajinska iniciativa carried out the project “Preservation of the Identity and the Development of the Ukrainian (Ukrainian-Ruthenian) National Minority in the Czech Republic” which included the yearly activities of this association, i.e. concerts, film projections, exhibitions and meetings. The Association of Ukrainian Women is active in the presentation of Ukrainian culture, especially literary traditions. It organises lectures and issues publications focused on the history of the Ukrainians and the contribution of the personalities of Ukrainian minority in Bohemia since the end of 19th century. In 2000 this association received a grant for the issue of “Ukrainian Necropolis” in the Czech Republic, a publication on important Ukrainian personalities who lived and died in the CR. The Association of the Ukrainians and the Friends of Ukraine focuses on the preservation and development of Ukrainian music. They include the St.Vladimir Choir, which gives concerts and participates in Orthodox liturgical services in Prague. The Ukrainian Initiative in the Czech Republic publishes four times a year the magazine Porohy (36 pages, 850 copies) with the support of the government. The periodical is focused on the activities of the Ukrainian minority in the CR and all over the world. The broadcasting of Regina Radio station in the Ukrainian language was discontinued in 2002 after 10 years.

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8. Other language groups

The 2001 census recorded the presence of Albanians (609), Chinese, Kalmycks, Macedonians, Romanians (1,238), Serbs (1,801) and Vietnamese (17,462) among others; some of these groups were not counted separately but included in the category “other”. They are mostly recent immigrant communities. Albanians and Serbs appear to have arrived in the CR following the unrest in the Balkan peninsula (1990s). The Serbian community, living mainly in Prague, has been building organizational structures since the late 1990’s and it seems that in 2004 they will have a representative at the Council. The Kalmyck are a West Mongolian ethnic group — originally from a territory between Russia and China — who apparently first came to the CR as refugees following the Russian Revolution, although a distinct group arrived after the II World War. They are of Buddhist religion. Kalmyck (or Kalmuck) is a Mongolian language now written with Roman characters, and is the language of the Kalmyk Republic (Russian Federation). This group has apparently maintained their own publications in Řevnice, close to Prague. Macedonians arrived in the CR at the beginning of the 1950s, following the civil war events in Greece. There are no statistics available, but their membership may be estimated at 1,000. The community is dispersed throughout the CR, and the average age is high. The language has no legal status, nor any presence in the education system or the media; because Macedonian is a Slavonic language, assimilation may have been stronger than in the case of the Greek community. The Spolecnost pratel jiznich Slovanu [Society of Friends of the South Slavic Peoples] in Brno is the umbrella organisation that promotes activities for Macedonian. Romanians, like Bulgarians, were resettled in areas where Germans had been evacuated after World War II. The first Vietnamese arrived in the CR as a consequence of the 1955 agreement on economic, scientific and technical cooperation between Czechoslovakia and the Vietnamese Democratic Republic. At the beginning of the 1980s they reached a peak of 30,000 residents. In 1989 the agreement was cancelled and the community fell to 421 members (1991), but the trend later reversed — also because of a massive influx from the former East Germany — and the 2001 census reported 17,462 Vietnamese (including those with long-term visas). The largest concentrations are in areas bordering with Germany.

 

Last update: 27-10-2006