In This Review

Czechoslovakia: The Short Goodbye
Czechoslovakia: The Short Goodbye
By Abby Innes
Yale University Press, 2001, 334 pp

Far from being a logical, natural, or happy turnabout, Innes contends, the 1992 breakup of Czechoslovakia was a manipulated and historically unnecessary outcome. Neither Czech nor Slovak nationalism explains it. No reason can be found in their differences over what kind of state Czechoslovakia should be or in the political dynamic of a fledgling democracy's two separate party systems. The country was quietly and quickly dismantled, despite contrary popular preference, by leaders who "concocted" the separation for power-seeking reasons. The habits and detritus of the long period under communism permitted the Czech leader Vaclav Klaus ("a Lenin for the bourgeoisie") and his Slovak counterpart, Vladimir Meciar, to pull the separation off. In the aftermath, Innes argues with equal vigor, neither people has been well served by the partitioners, who have licensed systems short on democracy and civil society and long on corruption and rent-seeking. Whether the manipulation was this stark may be debated, but there is much to her basic argument.