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17 Feb, 2020 14:20

'Chechenophobic:' Clueless Czech PM Babis upsets Grozny with snobbish reaction to name confusion

'Chechenophobic:' Clueless Czech PM Babis upsets Grozny with snobbish reaction to name confusion

What do you call a prime minister who doesn't know the name of his country? Well, it appears the answer is Andrej Babis, the billionaire premier of Czechia.

He believed he was governing 'the Czech Republic,' until he discovered differently during a Wall Street Journal interview.

In 2016, the previous Prague government agreed to make Czechia the official short name of the country, and since then, the United Nations and the European Union have officially used the new designation. Google Maps and other cartography services have also fallen into line.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Babis said: "I didn't know this. I don't like it at all. It's because then you will confuse Czechia, Chechnya, I don't know. I don't like this. We are the Czech Republic. We are Czechs. And I don't know who came up with such a stupid idea. Crazy."

While the incident occurred last March, it's now beginning to make waves in Chechnya. The minister of national policy and external relations and information of the Muslim Republic, Dzhambulat Umarov, is especially unhappy.

He told radio station 'Moscow Talks' that Babis' comments were to "please the Russophobic and Chechenophobic public in the West." Umarov spoke about the history of the Chechen Republic during the Napoleonic War, and continued: "The language of ultimatums or threats is alien to Chechens. It makes us laugh. You don't have to be a great historian to know how such trips ended for those who called us "Czechs." He was apparently referring to Genghis Khan's Golden Horde, which appeared in the region long before it became part of Russia. 

The minister concluded: "I can reassure [Babis] with the words: let [the Czechs] not worry. They are very far from the Chechens. The Chechen people will not worry much if someone finds it distasteful to call themselves Chechens."

Babis is not the only one to note a similarity between Czechia and Chechnya. In 2016, as the change was happening, then-Czech minister of regional development Karla Slechtova tweeted: "I disagree with the name 'Czechia.' I don't want people to confuse our country with Chechnya."

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