One time a few years back I went to record vox pops outside Prague’s Nový Smíchov shopping centre. However, a strikingly high percentage of the men and women in the street whose opinions I was attempting to elicit were not what I was looking for. They weren’t Czech but were from Ukraine or other states east of here.
But one thing that struck me when I arrived off the metaphorical boat from homogenous pre-boom Ireland was Prague’s relative multiculturalism; in the hospoda I frequently found myself surrounded by people from around the globe, while I encountered other nationalities when going about my daily business.
Once it almost struck me as cool that I was having a heated argument in Czech with a dozy Russian cobbler who had destroyed my shoe by idiotically using the wrong coloured thread.
Since the 1990s, the country has, if anything, become considerably more mixed in terms of ethnicity. For instance, the Vietnamese began coming here pre-1989, and they were numerous – in the main running market stalls – when I arrived. But their numbers are surely far higher now, with many having kids who speak fluent Czech and go by “unofficial” Czech names at school.
The trend of foreigners moving here is apparently set to continue, at least in Prague. It was a pretty big story recently when a new demographic study projected a steep decline in the population of the Czech Republic. Indeed, it could well fall by almost a third in the next 90-odd years.
But, according to a subsequent article in Mladá fronta Dnes, that decline will not be felt in the capital, which has around 1.2 million residents. Here the fall-off in the number of Czechs should be cancelled out by a marked rise in the number of immigrants. Indeed, the majority of Prague’s population could well be non-Czech by the year 2100, the paper quoted one expert as saying.
Sociologist Tomáš Kostelecký told Mladá fronta that nations such as the Ukrainians and the Slovaks had similar demographic behaviour to the Czechs, meaning they are having fewer children and their populations are aging.
Therefore, according to Kostelecký, future waves of immigrants could come instead from African or Arab states. So, who knows, perhaps the ethnic makeup of Prague will one day resemble that of the most colourful Western capitals after all.
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