The national day of the Czech Republic, celebrated on 28 October every year, is a bit of an oddity, as technically it’s celebrating the independence of a state that no longer exists!
Before the First World War the Czech lands – Bohemia and Moravia – were possessions of the Austrian crown in the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary, a sprawling empire covering much of central and south-eastern Europe and incorporating at least 11 different nationalities, most of whom resented overlordship by the privileged Germans and Hungarians and wanted self-rule. Slovakia, under the Hungarian crown, was in a similar position. Austria-Hungary’s defeat in the First World War offered the Czechs and Slovaks the opportunity to declare their independence, which they did on 28 October 1918 as the new state of Czechoslovakia.
The federation between the Czechs and the Slovaks was an uneasy affair, resented by some Slovaks who perceived the numerically dominant Czechs to be governing the country in their own interests. So after the collapse of Communism in Czechoslovakia at the end of the Eighties, it wasn’t too long before the two halves went their separate ways as the Czech Republic and Slovakia – on 1&January 1993, the date of the “Velvet Divorce” (named in keeping with the “Velvet Revolution” which peacefully overthrew the Communist regime).
However, the Czech Republic retained the flag of the former Czechoslovakia (although in negotiations over the break-up it had been agreed that neither side would use the national symbols of Czechoslovakia) and its national day.