On Wednesday, the Czech news server Novinky.cz published the article
Let me say a few things about the history and the present of migration related to Czechia.
We've had various tribes on the Czech territory, including the Celtic Boii which gave the name to Bohemia through Latin (Bohemia is the Boii's home). Some 1500 years ago, Slavic tribes began to have the upper hand. Some 1,000 years ago, the Orthodox Christianity brought from the Balkans was gradually replaced by Catholicism, the Czech kingdom was established, won some autonomy from the Holy Roman Empire (of the German nation), and has been the most stable component of it for many following centuries.
In the early 15th century, priest John Huss turned the Czech lands into the hotbed of the very early protestantism; the Hussite warriors were proud, skillful, and musically talented terrorists who claimed to defend Huss' heritage. Patriotic Czech aristocracy was naturally leaning to some forms of Protestantism in the following centuries. But the 1620 Battle of the White Mountain meant a big defeat for the Czech elite and for Protestantism. Several centuries of intense re-Catholization followed. The Catholic influence began to be associated with the German power over the Czech lands.
You may imagine that lots of Czech Protestants have faced some problems here and emigrated – that was the case of John Amos Comenius, the teacher of nations, who moved to Holland. In the 19th century, most Czechs were gradually switching to atheism of a sort. Communism has only strengthened that trend.
Communism sent about half a million people (not counting expelled ethnic Germans) to emigration in the first 20 years and additional 300,000 people after the 1968 occupation by the Warsaw Pact armies. These numbers sound huge but at the end, you may see that the Czechs have been significantly less likely to leave their country than other nations in the region – Poles, Slovaks, Hungarians etc. (But our probability to emigrate specifically to German-speaking countries may be higher.) Our ancestors were always sort of satisfied with our "little stinky Czech pond", a term we often use for the structural basin of the Czech lands (which could have been created as a crater by a meteor impact 2 billion years ago).
The tendency of Czechs to leave their homeland is also reduced by the language barrier. The Czech language has been optimized to be usable in all human activities you may imagine (for example, Czech is the only language aside from Latin that has the two-word names for all species), thanks to the process of the National Revival started in the late 18th century. This cultural compactness makes Czechs lousier in foreign languages (although the contemporary Czech teenagers are already more Cosmopolitan than older generations). It improves the quality of products in our language. And it creates a certain shield against memes that penetrate from other countries.
Concerning the migration into Czechia, our tradition is limited. But because this blog post is meant to be about the Western European professionals, I must say that we have quite some tradition with that setup. Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe were among those hired by the Prague Castle – and they did lots of the important work in Czechia. One may find other examples in science – and some less famous examples from other occupations. Well, a famous non-scientific example is Josef Groll, a cheeky Bavarian brewmaster who was chosen as the #1 pick and invited to my hometown by the distinguished citizens of Pilsen to create a new chapter in the history of beer in 1842.
It's natural that this influx of the elite existed, although to a lesser extent than in Vienna, for example. After all, Prague was the administrative capital of the Holy Roman Empire in 1355-1437 and 1576-1611 – over a century in total. Some influx of the elite is unavoidable given this status.
At a lower level, one may count all the Sudetenland ethnic Germans – largely expelled in 1945 – as additional examples of the "Western European professionals" who were actively invited to the Czech lands, some 800 years ago. The Germans could do lots of things that the Czechs sucked at. For example, the Czech agriculture was almost completely restricted to the problem-free lowlands. It was the Germans who knew how to grow crops in the mountains. And they knew other things.
What about the immigration from the less lucky parts of the world? What are the minorities in Czechia?
The most numerous minority in Czechia are Slovaks. I still often consider myself a Czechoslovak and Slovaks aren't "real" foreigners. They may learn Czech easily. When the Slovak-born billionaire finance minister Babiš is under pressure and becomes angry, he starts to speak Slovak. In semi-excited situations, he speaks a Czechoslovak language similar to that of the Slovak-born Czechoslovak communist president Gustáv Husák. But even when they speak Slovak, we understand virtually everything.
The second most represented groups are the gypsies. They have been coming to Czechia from the East, mostly through Slovakia, in several waves. Between the wars, they would still live in nomadic settlements at the boundaries of towns. The communists worked hard to assimilate them but the efforts have largely failed, anyway. Most of the gypsy ghettos look terrible. Gypsies remain the most important reasons why various far left NGOs often present the Czechs as a nation of racists. They haven't integrated and the unemployment rate is much closer to 100% than 0% among them.
What is the third largest ethnic minority in Czechia? Well, it's the Vietnamese. I think that this fact must sound bizarre to many people – a relatively small Asian nation makes it to the #1 spot among the "truly foreign" minorities. They were being invited as guest workers during communism and it became a big enough fad among the Vietnamese so the immigration to Czechia and Slovakia continued even after the fall of communism.
The number of Vietnamese is about 80,000, about 0.8% of the population. After the fall of communism, they were the kings in the sale of cheap things on the street. They have some restaurants today, and so on. I am sure that many of them haven't paid and don't pay taxes (and Babiš's terror fight against tax evasion is partly a racist fight against the Vietnamese) but I just don't care. They have surely contributed positively to the material well-being of the people in our country. They have economically assimilated. These days, we can meet lots of ethnic Vietnamese teenagers who speak perfect Czech. This is still a qualitatively new experience for most of us. For centuries, we were trained to think that exotically looking people just can't speak our not-quite-global language. It wasn't a correct conclusion, we're shown in the most explicit ways today.
I must emphasize that the number of the Vietnamese is vastly higher than the number of all Jews (10,000 now) and all Muslims (10,000-20,000) combined. The Czechoslovak Jewish minority of 300,000 was nearly eliminated by the Holocaust. And we have never had any significant numbers of Muslims here at all.
The other important sources of immigration are the Ukrainians, Russians, some Yugoslav nations – all these nations are Slavic and in this sense "just a little bit poorer cousins" who have a high chance to integrate.
Back to the modern Western European immigration
But I didn't want to review those demographic and historical facts. I wanted to mention the growing immigration of the Western European youth. Right now, there are over 180,000 people from the rest of the EU who live in Czechia, a 2.3-fold increase since 2004. They're here because of some of the reasons below:
- they have fell in love with a Czech girl
- they appreciate the low unemployment
- they appreciatethe decent wages, on the purchase parity basis
- they appreciate the safety, also from the Muslim world immigrants
Let me spend some time with the advantages above.
Czech girls. Well, many of them are beautiful. More generally, Czech women are sort of self-confident, genuinely emancipated (not avoiding sports, beer, driving, and many other things that could be considered "male" elsewhere), employed but proud to be the queen of the household at the same time, ready to defend their rights and pleasures, eager to admit that "they want it too", and not excessively protecting their virginity and honor, if I put it mildly yet concisely. ;-) I have discussed this theme many times. Some external links could be fun, e.g. what female Americans should learn from the Czech women.
Low unemployment. We have the same lowest unemployment rate in the EU (6.3% or so) as Germany, with good chances that it will drop below 5% again. This must be very unusual for some people from traditional Western European countries where the youth unemployment rate may oscillate around 50%. Companies are hiring and they need workers. This difference is clearly related to the fact that our currency isn't overvalued – on the contrary, it's underpriced.
The wages are good enough. The average monthly wage in Czechia exceeds $1,000 which doesn't sound as a lot but you must understand that lots of things are much cheaper than in the West; and the average salary is substantially higher in Prague. On the purchase parity basis, the incomes in Prague (although nominally around $1,500 in average) already exceed those in Vienna, the capital of Austria.
The Czech crown is kept artificially weak. For a year or two, the exchange rate was kept (by the controversial anti-crown interventions of the Czech National Bank) at 27 crowns per euro. Without this distortion of the forex market, the crown would arguably quickly strengthen past 25. But I believe that in the equilibrium, the crown should be stronger than 20 crowns per euro. At any rate, the artificially weakened crown obviously does encourage hiring and employment – I would never question that. What I disagree with is the idea that the low unemployment is the only consideration that should play a role. I think that it's a disadvantage that Czech workers can buy less for what they earn.
Finally, the most politically sensitive thing is the safety. Czechia is among the 10 safest countries in the world according to many surveys. For example, in 2015, Czechia was the #10 safest country in this survey won by Iceland. Iceland is the most peaceful country in the world but the price you pay is that you freeze over and become a glacier that doesn't move – it's easy to be peaceful in that way.
As I said, the number of Muslims is certainly below 20,000 although the exact number isn't known accurately. And most of these Muslims are more or less integrated and they arrived individually (or are converts). The number of the "recent Muslim immigrants" is basically zero. You don't have to be afraid to listen to music – or walk naked on the street, for that matter. As a recent blog post argued, Czechia is a country where no one gives a f*ck. This is manifested by the relatively high tolerated amounts of drugs (watch also Heroin holiday in CzechRep) – but also by the nearly unmatched tolerance or indifference of the Czechs towards lots of things that instantly inflame emotions and opposition elsewhere. Check a Muslim's perspective on Prague, the city of vice.
At the end, most of the typical Czechs are really materially oriented, pragmatic, and down-to-Earth. Even relatively minor issues affecting the ordinary people's budgets (like the now-abolished $1 fee when you visit a doctor) may decide about the result of the elections etc. This is the attitude – primarily of the pensioners – that makes the Czech nation low-brow in a sense, despite the advantages, and you may see that the country badly needs some people with greater ambitions and less down-to-Earth values.
(You should understand that I am not a typical Czech in many respects although I am typical in others. You surely shouldn't mindlessly overgeneralize.)
In late 1989, when communism was collapsing, I and my classmate speculated how much time it would take to catch up with Western Europe. 20 years? 25 years? 50 years? Never? We're living through the years we used to speculate about. And it's clear that the answer depends on how the question is exactly defined. When you look at the average nominal wages, we're very far from Western Europe, perhaps by a factor of 3. When you look in Prague and the purchase parity basis, the wages are already way above the EU average.
But there are many things that aren't captured by these financial numbers. Some kind of existential safety is almost priceless.
Most importantly, we remained a nation where it hasn't become a taboo to say what you really want. And it's a fact that most people would prefer to be wealthier; and almost no one wants immigrants from problematic countries to arrive. It's really a matter of common sense that people want to avoid problems associated with poverty and problem-makers among the immigrants.
In the West, people have gotten used to lots of hypocrisy. They hide lots of things they really want and they pretend to want lots of things they don't give a damn about – or they don't want – in order to improve their image. Because of a combination of genetic and historical influences, Czechs have avoided this trap. Most visibly, this helps us to defend itself against some suicidal policies that have become popular in the traditional Western, not post-socialist, world.
The political correctness has run amok in many traditionally Western countries. While the "Muslims are welcome", the nations don't seem to care whether the young people from the original nations feel welcome in their own homes. Many no longer feel welcome and some of them decide that it's time to move elsewhere, perhaps Czechia.
If these migration trends continued, it isn't hard to predict which countries would be better off in the future. A country where 1/4 of the young people will be recent Muslim immigrants, or a country where 1/4 of the young people will be recent Western European immigrants who escaped the problems that were growing in their homelands?
Bonus: Salah Abdeslam, a terror attacker from Paris, will be injured and caught alive in Brussels later today. Explosions will accompany the search for another suspect. Patricia Janečková dedicated "Ave Maria" to Paris. Yup, this is how every other Czech and Slovak woman sings. ;-)