The Czech Republic (Czech: Česká republika), in short Czech Republic (Czech: Česko), emerged as part of the old Czechoslovakia (Ceskoslovenska Socialisticka Republika, ČSR or ČSSR, Czechoslovak Socialist Republic) after the separation from Slovakia in 1993. The separation took place mainly at the request of the Slovaks and largely peacefully, if not without emotional injuries on both sides. The relationship between the two countries is now relaxed. Since May 1, 2004, both states have belonged to the European Union (EU), which currently consists of 28 member states. The Czech Republic comprises the three former countries of Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia.
The Czech Republic is divided into 76 districts (“okres”, roughly equivalent to the German administrative district) and three urban districts (Brno, Ostrava, Plzen). The capital Prague is an independent administrative unit. The republic became a member of NATO in 1999, a few years after the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc, in contrast to the Federal Republic of Germany, the Republic of Austria and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which its residents call Germany, Austria and “UK” for short, the Czech Republic is always called “Czech Republic” by its residents. The name sparked an unusually passionate discussion in the republic, which has been a sovereign state since January 1, 1993. Like their neighbors, the Czechs wanted a confidential one-word designation. A favorite candidate for this was the name “Cechy” – but since this actually means “Bohemia”, it would ignore the Moravian fellow citizens. Another name was Cesko. The endeavor to find a loving, own name stems from the long and eventful history of a people and country in the former center of the world, in the middle of Europe.
In the center of the Czech Republic is Prague, perhaps the most beautiful metropolis in the world. The first university in Central Europe was founded here, which is also the first “German” university, Mozart’s adopted home here, Jan Hus, the “reformer without theses”, lived in Prague, the city was also home to one of the most important German-speaking authors of the 20th century, Franz Kafkas. Hardly anyone who does not remember Genscher’s appearance at the German embassy in Prague in autumn 1989. And: Dubcek and the Prague Spring – he, too, who was one of the most famous political “Pragueers” of the last century, was not a Czech, but a Slovak.
In the Czech Republic there is a law that goes something like this:
Anyone who publicly denies, doubts, approves or seeks to justify the Nazi or communist genocide or any other crimes committed by the Nazis or communists is punished with imprisonment from 6 months to 3 years.
|Name of the country||Czech Republic/Česká republika|
|Form of government||Parliamentary republic|
|Geographical location||Central Europe|
|National anthem||Kde domov muj|
|Population||about 10.5 million (Credit: Countryaah: Czech Republic Population)|
|Ethnicities||approx. 90.1% Czechs, 3.7% Moravians and Silesians, 1.8% Slovaks, 0.5% Poles, 0.4% Germans and others|
|Religions||approx. 56.5% atheists, approx. 39% Catholics, 2.5% Protestants, 1.7% Czech Hussites|
|Highest mountain||Schneekoppe with a height of 1,602 m|
|Longest river||Moldau (Vltava) with a length of 433 km|
|Largest lake||Schwarzsee (Cerne jezero) with an area of 18.47 ha km²|
|International license plate||CZ|
|National currency||Czech crown (CZK) = 100 hellers|
|Time difference to CET||= CET|
|International phone code||00420|
|Mains voltage, frequency||230 volts, 50 hertz|
|Internet Top Level Domain (TLD)||.cz|
Czech Republic: history
At this point, the most important historical facts should be presented, backed up with numbers as far as possible, in order to get an overview of the historical development of this country up to the present day.
Before the year 1000
According to Abbreviationfinder website, the first representatives of Homo sapiens appeared in what is now Central Europe, probably around 40,000 years ago. It is very likely that they immigrated from Africa, where Homo sapiens probably already existed 190,000 years ago. But the Neanderthals lived about 200,000 to 30,000 years ago, although they are not considered the ancestors of today’s humans.
In the following millennia, different cultures developed, e.g. the Celtic La Tène culture and a Germanic culture in the north. Grave finds, stone tools, ceramic remains and cave paintings are evidence of this. In the younger Iron Age, which started around 450 BC. until approx. 30 BC lasted, the Germans invaded the Celtic area. In the period that followed, the Germans ruled a large part of what is now Central Europe.
Moravia, in Czech Morava, describes the historical area between Bohemia and Slovakia. It was until the 1st century BC. settled by Celts. Subsequently, Germanic tribes lived here, such as the Heruli and the Longobards, who were expelled by Slavic tribes in the 6th century. The Great Moravian Empire came into being in the 9th century and was destroyed by the Magyars (Hungarians) in 906/07.
Bohemia, today’s heartland of the Czech Republic, was since the 5th millennium BC. inhabited by the so-called band ceramists. In the 2nd millennium BC. it became one of the most important habitats in Europe. Around 500 BC. it came to Celticization. The Celtic Boier gave the area its name – Latin Boiohaemum. They left the region around 60 BC, and then into the 6th century AD. Bohemia was settled by the Teutons. Slavic tribes immigrated from the northeast at the end of the 6th century. After Charlemagne (747-814) had defeated the Avars, these tribes were incorporated into Christian Europe around 805, they became tributaries to the Franconian Empire. In the 9th century, Bohemia came under the rule of the Great Moravian Empire.
Under the Premyslids dynasty, the Czech tribe settling around Prague won in the 9th-10th centuries. Century the leadership over the other West Slavic tribes and gave them his name. Despite changing dependencies, Bohemia was largely able to maintain independence in the Middle Ages. In 973 Boleslaw II established the diocese of Prague.
From the year 1000 to the 17th century
Bohemia developed rapidly under the support of the Premyslids. In the 13th century there was a great wave of German craftsmen, farmers and miners immigrating – new cities were founded under German law. Gold and silver deposits increased the country’s wealth. With Wenceslaus III. (1289-1306) the Premyslids died out and Bohemia fell to Johann von Luxemburg (1296-1346). His son Charles I (1316-78), as Roman Emperor Charles IV, ruled from Bohemia and led the area into a heyday. Bohemia, Moravia, Upper and Lower Lusatia and the Silesian principalities were combined as the countries of the Bohemian Crown. In 1344 the diocese of Prague was made an archbishopric, in 1348 Charles I founded the first university in Prague, which is also the oldest in the empire and thus, in the opinion of many historians, was also the first German university. However, this is not without controversy, since there was no Germany at that time and the university language was Latin. In 1356, in the Golden Bull, the King of Bohemia was given priority among the secular electors.
Under Wenceslas IV (1361-1419), the decline of Bohemian power came. The Czech national consciousness was strengthened in the Hussite Wars, which were directed against the wealthy strata consisting mainly of Germans. The rule of the Habsburgs began in the 16th century, and at the same time there was a renewed wave of German immigration. The largely Lutheran religious affiliation contributed to pronounced religious conflicts between Catholics and Protestants. On the occasion of a meeting of the Protestant estates in Prague, the “Second Prague Lintel” led to an uprising of the Protestant nobility against the Catholic Habsburg rule, which ended in the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48).
In 1620 the emperor won the battle on White Mountain near Prague. Absolutism and Counter-Reformation prevailed in the period that followed, Protestants emigrated and the peasants were forced to accept Catholicism. The up-and-coming classes who reshaped Bohemia and some of them came from abroad turned to the German language, and Czech was no longer used as a literary language.
In the 18th and 19th centuries
In 1749 the state reform of the Empress Maria Theresias (1717-1780) abolished the constitutional unity of the countries of the Bohemian crown. Bohemia was subordinated to the Vienna central authorities. The education system was reformed, whereby the German language continued to be decisively favored. In addition, internal tariffs and serfdom were abolished.
The Czech national consciousness reawakened. The Slavists PJ Safarik and J. Kollar conveyed the idea of national awakening from Jena, and Czech history was transfigured as a counterpart to German history. The industrialization of the German-Bohemian regions that began in the 18th century also promoted the national consciousness of the Czechs. The Bohemian region became the industrial center of the Habsburg monarchy. Social inequalities sparked unrest among workers and peasants and culminated in the March 1948 revolution, centered in Prague. From now on, the Czech and German speaking sections of the population announced different national programs. The Czechs refused to take part in the German National Assembly in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt. They demanded a Czech state of their own. Between 1864 and 1868, the separate national major banks were formed, and the University of Prague split into a Czech and a German-speaking institution. In 1880 the bilingualism of the courts was introduced. Various attempts by the Austro-Hungarian government to mediate between the parties failed.
In the 20th century
The founding of the state in
1907, the introduction of universal suffrage replaced the previously existing privilege suffrage. This benefited the Czech population, which in the meantime had developed an independent economic and social structure. The Bohemian Landtag was partially unable to work because of the majority. For this reason, the Austro-Hungarian imperial government suspended the Bohemian state constitution in 1913 and abolished Bohemian autonomy.
During the First World War (1914-1918), Bohemia was ruled by a state of emergency. In 1915 a Czechoslovak National Council was convened. The Czech military forces who fought on the side of the Entente against the Central Powers were subordinate to him. On May 30, 1918, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (1850-1937) signed the Pittsburgh Treaty with representatives of the Slovak emigration in the USA on the union of the Czech and Slovak nations. On October 28, 1918, Czechoslovakia was founded, the first President of which was Masaryk. In the Czech-settled areas of Bohemia and Moravia, the new government prevailed immediately after the establishment of the state, in the German-speaking peripheral areas (Sudetenland) only after military conflicts in the winter of 1918/19. From 1919 Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Carpathian Russia and the Hultschiner Ländchen belonged to Czechoslovakia. Czechs, Slovaks, Sudeten Germans, Hungarians, Poles and Ukrainians now lived in the multinational state.
The 1920s and 1930s
On February 29, 1920, a republican, parliamentary-democratic constitution was passed. The government endeavored to consolidate the ties between Czechs and Slovaks through strict centralism. This met with resistance from the Slovak autonomy movement, which saw it as a breach of earlier promises to have its own Slovak official language, its own parliament and its own judiciary. The other minorities in the country also felt increasingly disadvantaged compared to the Czechs, which, in addition to the different socio-political concepts, ultimately led to the emergence of a wide-ranging party landscape in Czechoslovakia.
After a brief upswing, the economic decline followed, triggered by the global economic crisis of 1929. Unemployment and poverty increased even in the industrial regions. In terms of foreign policy, Czechoslovakia was integrated into the French European security system through the Czechoslovak-French alliance of 1924. In 1935, when the National Socialists came to power in Germany, the Czechs signed an assistance pact with the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, Czechoslovakia came under increasing pressure, especially from 1937 onwards, due to Hitler’s aggressive expansion policy. The Sudeten German Party (SdP) under the leadership of Konrad Henlein (1898-1945) was instrumentalized by the National Socialists, which after the annexation of Austria to the German Reich in March 1938 demanded the takeover of the Sudetenland (Sudeten crisis April to September 1938). In the Munich Agreement of September 29, 1938, France and Great Britain gave in to the German demands through the mediation of Italy, but without the participation of the Czechs – Czechoslovakia had to cede the Sudeten German territories to Germany. In November 1938, Slovakia and Carpathian Ukraine were given autonomous rights under pressure. Nevertheless, Slovakia declared its independence on March 14, 1939. One day later, German troops occupied the remaining Czech territory, and the (Reich) Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was established. Although the protectorate treaty provided for limited self-government in the Czech Republic,
After the Second World War in
early May 1945, the government in exile of Edvard Beneš (1884-1948) returned to Prague and the sovereignty of Czechoslovakia was theoretically restored. The Czechs renounced Carpatho-Ukraine in favor of the Soviet Union. In 1946/46 there was a great wave of expulsions of the Sudeten Germans from their home areas. Edvard Beneš was elected President in 1946. The communists won an election and now appointed the prime minister in the country. In the period that followed, industry, banking and insurance were nationalized. The property of the expelled Sudeten Germans and the Czech and Slovak “collaborators” of the National Socialist era was confiscated.
In terms of foreign policy, it came closer to the Soviet Union. In 1948 the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KP) took sole responsibility for government. Czechoslovakia became a so-called people’s democracy, in which the Communist Party was increasingly entitled to sole leadership. At the beginning of the 1959s show trials were held in which prominent KP members such as Rudolf Slansky (1901-1952) were sentenced to death or long prison terms for alleged “Titoist and Zionist activities”. Agriculture was collectivized and Czechoslovakia joined the Council for Mutual Economic Aid (Comecon) and the Warsaw Pact.
In the 1960s, popular dissatisfaction with the country’s economic policy grew. In January 1968, a group of reformers led by Alexander Dubček (1921-1992) won a majority in the Central Committee of the Communist Party and pushed through the election of Dubček as general secretary of the party and general Ludvík Svoboda (1895-1979) as president. The new leadership had the aim of realizing “socialism with a human face”, also known as the “Prague Spring”. The idea was to combine market economy elements with state economic planning in the sense of a socialist market economy according to the “New Economic Model”. Tensions between the central government and Slovakia should be reduced.
Politically based on the principle of the limited sovereignty of the socialist states, the Soviet Union intervened. On August 21, 1968, Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia, with the exception of Romania. The reforms had therefore failed. Only the formation of the partial republics of the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic under the Total Republic of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic (ČSR, ČSSR or ČSFR) took place on January 1, 1969. The reformers were removed from office. The failure of the Prague Spring was greeted with sadness and horror by reform forces across Europe.
The “soft revolution”
After 1975, under the influence of the Helsinki Final Act, the Charter 77 civil rights movement developed in the Czech Socialist Republic, with Vaclav Havel (born 1936) as its spokesman. The party and state leadership tried to suppress the movement through arrests and reprisals, but it received a decisive boost from 1980 onwards from the Solidarnosc movement in Poland and finally from the reform process (glasnost) initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union. In November 1989 the newly established Citizens’ Forum forced the Communist Party to renounce its leadership role in the state by organizing peaceful mass demonstrations and a general strike. In December 1989 Vaclav Havel was elected President of Czechoslovakia and remained in this office until 1992.
On January 1, 1993, the Czechs and Slovaks separated for good – the ČSFR was dissolved into the Czech and Slovak Republics. The separation was peaceful, if not without significant mutual harm. Both countries have been members of the EU since May 1, 2004 and the relationship between the two countries can be described as friendly and harmonious. Václav Klaus (born 1941) has been President of the country
since 2003. His term of office ended in 2008. On February 15, 2008 he was elected President of the Czech Republic for the second time after several ballots.