A Brief History of the Czech Republic

30. 9. 2019 | News

karelThe present-day Czech Republic was first populated by Celts in the 4th century B.C. The Celtic Boii tribe gave the country its Latin name = Boiohaemum (Bohemia). The Celtics were later replaced with the Germanic tribe (around 100 A.D.) and the Slavic peoples (6th century).

In 863, the Byzantine Christian missionaries Constantin and Methodius came to the part of the present-day Czech Republic, Moravia. They introduced Slavic liturgy there. However, the influence of the Roman Catholic Church expanded and became decisive in the course of the history of Bohemia and Moravia.

A gradual strengthening of the Czech state occurred during the reign of the Přemyslid dynasty which began in the 9th century. Nevertheless, the Germans overshadowed them and in 950 Bohemia became part of the Holy Roman Empire.

The 14th century is referred to as the golden age for the Czechs.  Under the reign of Charles IV Bohemia became rich and powerful. In 1355, Charles IV was even elected Holy Roman Emperor. The Holy Roman Empire ruled over the land for many years until the 1800s when the Austrians and the Habsburg Empire took over the control.

In the early 19th century, Czech industry grew rapidly – the textile industry boomed, and so did the sugar industry and the iron industry. Interest in Czech culture and history was also growing, thanks to the leading minds of the 19th century such as Josef Dobrovský (a linguist) and František Palacký (a historian). The great Czech composer Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) wrote operas, concertos and symphonies in the same period, too.

The defeat of the Austria-Hungary in World War I cleared the way for the foundation of an independent state of Czechoslovakia, which was founded on October 28, 1918. The first president of Czechoslovakia was Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk.

The end to Czechoslovakia was brought as the result of the Munich Conference which was held in 1939. In Munich, the Great Britain, France and Italy (without the presence of Czechoslovakia) agreed to sacrifice the state of Czechoslovakia and allowed Adolf Hitler’s Germany to annex certain parts of the country.

After World War II, the restored republic became part of the Soviet sphere of power. From the Communist coup d’état in February 1948 to the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Czechoslovakia was ruled by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. During the era of Communist Party rule, thousands of Czechoslovaks faced political persecution, and some were even tortured to death.

The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalization and mass protest in Czechoslovakia which began on 5 January 1968 and continued until 21 August 1968. The Prague Spring reforms were a strong attempt by Alexander Dubček, a president of that time, to grant additional rights to the citizens of Czechoslovakia in an act of partial decentralization of the economy and democratization. The freedoms granted included a loosening of restrictions on the media, speech and travel. However, the attempt to change and humanize the Communist totality failed when the Soviet Union and other members of the Warsaw Pact invaded the country to suppress the reforms in August 1968.

It was only in 1989 that the Communist regime finally collapsed thanks to the Velvet Revolution. The Velvet Revolution was a non-violent transition of power taking place from 17 November to 29 December 1989. Massive demonstrations against the one-party government of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia led by students and dissidents resulted in the end of 41 years of one-party rule in Czechoslovakia, and the subsequent conversion to a parliamentary republic.

On January 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia was peacefully divided into two independent states: Czech and Slovak Republics. Václav Havel was elected the first president of the Czech Republic. In the following years, the Czech Republic joined the OECD (1994), the NATO (1999) and the EU (2004).

Today, the Czech Republic is a pluralist multi-party parliamentary democracy, with the President as head of state and Prime Minister as head of government. The Parliament consists of the Chamber of Deputies (200 members) and the Senate (81 members).

 

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