Czech census shows jump in ‘Moravians’ and ‘Jedi Knights’

The Czech Republic is increasingly rooted in regional identity, flushing toilets, out-of-wedlock births — and a belief in ‘the Force’

Chris Johnstone | 15.12.2011
Women parade in traditional Moravian folk costumes during the ‘Ride of the Kings’ festival; increasingly more Czech citizens are self-identifying as ‘Moravian’ in official censuses

The population of the Czech Republic is more mixed, solitary, secretive about religion, and more likely to proclaim some racial or regional affiliation than ever before.

Those are some of the main results from the preliminary findings of the massive nationwide census of the Czech population and households carried out at the start of the year. The Czech Statistical Office (ČSÚ) unveiled the first results of its regular 10-year census on Thursday.   

Many findings are far from surprising, for instance there is an ageing, more diverse population, with more people living alone in an increasing proportion of privately owned flats and houses. There are, however, some true surprises.

One of these is the sharp rise in the number of people who prefers to describe themselves as “Moravian” when questioned about national identity. In 2001, just 380,474, or 3.8 percent of respondents, ticked the Moravian box for nationality. At the start of 2011, that total of Moravians had almost doubled, to 522,474 respondent, or 6.7 percent.

At the start of this year that total of Moravians had almost doubled to 522,474, or 6.7 percent.

The stronghold for such sentiment is in South Moravia, where almost a quarter million people proclaimed their Moravian identity out of a total population of just under 1.2 million.

There was also a slight rise in those asserting their Roma identity, with 13,150 ticking the box; most respondents, however, combined Roma identity with another, such as Czech or Moravian, with only 5,199 opting for the stand-alone option.

In the 2001 census, 11,746 gave Roma as their nationality. The latest results, however, give little help in putting a precise figure on the Roma population of the Czech Republic, which is estimated at anything between 200,000 and 500,000. The statistics office was not helped either by the massive refusal to answer this voluntary question, with 2.74 million census fillers refusing to give a reply. In 2001 the figure was only 173,000.

“Czechs” make up the biggest national slice of the cake, with 6.73 million giving the response, followed by Moravians, with Slovaks in third place with 149,000. Foreigners, around half a million in total, have increased since 2001, with the numbers of Ukrainians up a staggering 471 percent (to 117,810), Slovaks increasing by 248 percent (to 84,380), and Russians by 368 percent (to 36,055).

May the Force be with you

On the religious front, the overall picture after a 10-year delay does not seem to have radically changed. The Catholic Church still commands the biggest following with 1.08 million believers, followed by the Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren (at just under 52,000), and the Hussites (at 39,276). Around 700,000 people said they believed in something spiritual but could not identify it.

While almost half the population, 4.8 million, shied away from answering the voluntary religious question, a surprising strong showing was given by those Czechs who described themselves as  Knights of the Jedi and believers in “the Force” as depicted in the Star Wars films.

Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo would feel right at home in the Czech capital

Overall, 15,070 Czechs identified themselves as Knights of the Jedi with the biggest proportion of adherents in the capital, Prague, with 3,977 followers or 0.31 percent of the population. The fewest “knights” were found in the central region of Vysočina, just 0.08 percent of the population. It is probably off most Star Wars intergalactic radars or galactic positioning systems.

On the more mundane issues of life, marriage seems to be losing its appeal for Czechs with divorces surging (there is no breakdown on the divorce rate among Knights of the Jedi). The number of divorced men overal has increased by 37.7 percent over the last 10 years and the number of divorced women by 33.4 percent. The fewest ‘knights’ were found in the central region of Vysočina, just 0.08 percent of the population.

The number of married men is down 6.3 percent and married women down 7.1 percent. The regional divorce center of the country is Karlovy Vary with 11.9 percent of male respondents and 14.1 percent of women saying they were divorced. This compares with 7.3 percent and 8.5 percent in Vysočina.

The number of flats or houses in private ownership has jumped by just over 150 percent  over the last decade to just over 1.0 million with property in collective ownership down by just over 21 percent  and rented property falling by just over 37 percent. The trend reflects the large sell off council-owned flats and property across the country. Other survey statistics showed 96.5 of properties now have a flushing toilet and 97.4 percent a bath.

Wood fires

As regards heating, natural gas is only making a slow advance, coal is on a clear retreat and wood burning is advancing, well, like a forest fire.  Natural gas has grabbed just 1.47 million Czechs as the main heating sources, compared with 1.4 million in 2001; coal use has dropped by 40 percent with around a third of a million users. Wood burning has climbed by 76 percent to almost 294,000 households.

The statistics office is still plowing through the figures. It promises to give definitive census results in the third quarter of 2012 with a breakdown of basic results for local districts in the following quarter. The whole exercise should be wrapped up by the end of 2013 and start of 2014 with the results handed over then to the European Commission for its perusal. 

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