30 years after the 'Velvet Divorce'

STORY: 30 years ago, on January 1st, 1993 – the dissolution of Czechoslovakia came into effect.

In its place – two new countries were formed: the Czech and Slovak republics.

The split has been dubbed the "Velvet Divorce" – for the peaceful manner in which it was achieved.

Former Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, who negotiated the split, says the dissolution was inevitable.

“In Czechoslovakia, the Slovaks had a feeling that the Czechs are the bigger brother, big brother and older brother, and the Slovaks are in the second, second, secondary position in the country."

"I think that my task was to make the split, which I considered at that moment inevitable, to make the split friendly, peaceful and fair.”

Journalist Jiri Skacel recalls being in the Slovak capital city of Bratislava, when he learned about the news.

"The Slovaks had very much wanted to become independent. I was in Bratislava on January 1st 1993 and there was a huge queue in front of the main post office. When I asked what they are waiting for they told me they are waiting for the first Slovak post stamps. But the main post office was only opened for the first time that year on the second and those people had to wait there for another whole day."

It remains untested whether the general public supported the breakup.

At the time, the dissolution of Czechoslovakia was not put to a popular vote.

Klaus and his Slovak counterpart – Vladimir Meciar, refused to hold a referendum on the issue – a decision that some are still unhappy about.

"I think Vaclav Klaus is probably one of the people who destroyed Czechoslovakia, and it makes me sad to say that."

American diplomat Cameron Munter worked at the U.S. embassy in Prague in 1993.

"I think most public opinion polls at the time were not in favor of splitting, but Mr. Meciar and Mr. Klaus, for their own reasons, felt they should know. Now, with all this being said, I think we're fortunate that it was a peaceful split and that people have made... people are still friendly with their Slovak friends.”

The peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia stood in stark contrast to the wider state of Eastern European affairs following the fall of communism.

Blood was shed in Yugoslavia when that state collapsed into warfare and ethnic cleansing.

Klaus, who went on to serve as the Czech President between 2003 and 2013, says that the Czechoslovak example shows that states can divide peacefully, without the need for warfare.

"I would add to Kosovo and other countries, I would add and even Ukraine, you know. I... My understanding and my experience tells me that you have to negotiate. You have to negotiate as long as possible. That's the only way how to avoid fighting or a war or a dramatic situation in a country."