As a consequence of historic and social factors, ethnic minorities are represented in the Czech Republic. In democratic countries, all minorities must enjoy identical rights and the possibility to develop their own cultural identity as majority society. Identifying ethnic structure is necessary in order to map where and for whom certain measures need to be developed chiefly in education and social services.
Certain rights of ethnic minorities derive directly from the number of members of the specific nationality established in the census (for example, the establishment of a committee for ethnic minorities, the right to multi-language names and signs in villages, streets or state authorities’ buildings, the right to eduction in the language of ethnic minority etc.).
After World War I in 1918 ended, the independent Czechoslovak Republic was formally construed as a national state of the Czechs and the Slovaks. But, in fact, the existence of ethnic minorities was always taken into account. The republic assumed the obligation to make possible natural cultural development to its ethnic minorities. This was agreed in peace treaties, in national legislation (Srb 1990). Today, when the Czech Republic integrated into the European Union, it must meet all criteria in the area of national policy standard in the developed countries.
A clear definition of the “nationality” notion is difficult. Giddens describes ethnicity as “cultural values and norms differentiating members of a certain group from other people” (Giddens 1999). Ethnic group is formed by members consciously sharing the feeling of cultural identity common to them and, at the same time, externally differentiating them. It is the awarness of the affiliation to a certain nation that Ortega y Gasset (1993) stresses as well. Generally speaking, “nationality is understood as an affiliation to certain nation, while we understand nation to be a community in the creation of which common history, common culture and common territory have the greatest influence” (Velký sociologický slovník 1996 – Big Social Sciences Dictionary).
A more detailed view shows that the Big Social Sciences Dictionary defines nation as a three-dimensional notion, with individual nations defined by three aspects – in cultural, political and psychological terms:
1) Most frequently, cultural identification includes the common language (mainly in Europe and in greater part of Asia), common religion (Near East) or common historical experience (mainly America and partly Africa);
2) Political existence of a nation is given either by its own country or by federative or autonomous status within a multi-national state;
3) Psychological dimension consists in subjective awarness of individuals of their affiliation to a specific nation.