History of the Czech Republic

History of the Czech republic to 1918

The "First Republic" 1918 - 1939

World war II 1939 - 1945

Cold War Era

History of the Czech Republic from 1989 to present day:

The Velvet revolution 1989

Separation 1993


History to 1918

The early and middle Stone Age represent the oldest period in the evolution of human culture. This period witnesses the physical development of humans all the way up to the current form of Homo sapiens sapiens. The economic basis of this time was a predatory mode of subsistence - gathering of plants and hunting. For the first time, we can see the oldest human products from the time of more than one million years ago.

The next period of the later Stone Age is primarily characterized by a productive economy based on the agricultural production. Here we can see the emergence and spread of textile production, woodworking with the use of stone tools, production of ceramics, etc. Settlements and villages of a longer-term nature appeared.
The main occupation of the inhabitants of the latest Stone Age continued to be agriculture, with a greater use of domesticated animals and hunting. The first objects of metals were produced during this period. The knowledge of metal elements, i.e. copper and bronze, gradually spread with the beginning of the Bronze Age, although the agriculture and of all the related and indispensable ever developing branches of work continued to be of fundamental significance, just as in every other prehistoric period.
At the end of the Bronze Age and in the early Iron Age, the previously common use of bronze gave way to the discovery and gradual predominance of the use of iron. At this time, Central Europe is greatly affected by the ancient Mediterranean region and under this influence the Halts culture arises. A number of new manufacturing fields appears and the use of bronze and later iron is perfected.

In the late Iron Age , the Celts became the decisive force in Central Europe. Our "oldest cities", represent the climax of the entire prehistoric period.
With the beginning of the 6th century, the first Slavs come to our lands. In the 7th century the Samo empire and in the 9th century the Greater Moravian empire arose, and in the early Middle Ages (10th century ), we see the Czech state emerge headed by the Premyslides.
Great Moravian empire

770 - 960 The "Roman" Emperor Charlemagne annexed Bavaria, uprooted the Avar dominion and established East Mark (Austria). Frankish missions entered west Slovakia and Moravia. The first church was established in Nitra by Prince Pribina, a protagonist of the Frankish influence. He was driven out by Moravian Prince Mojmir who annexed his Principality. East Frankish king Luis the German appointed Pribina the Prince of a part of Pannonia, inhabited by Slavonic population. He deposed Mojmir and appointed his nephew Rastislav the Prince of Moravia.
Rastislav asked for priests in Roma, but received no answer. Then asked in Constantinopolis. Two missionaries, brothers Constantin and Methodius were sent. They knew the language of southern Slaves and invented a new alphabet for it. They translated the most important liturgical texts. They arrived to Moravia in 863 and founded a school for priests there.

They were denounced to the Pope. They had to travel to Rome and defend there their Slavonic liturgy. Constantin (Cyril) died in Rome. Methodius was appointed Arcibishop of Pannonia and Great Moravia. However, he was captured by Bavarians and released only after the interventions of the Pope and the new Moravian Prince Svatopluk, who immediately started to christianize and annex the neighbouring Slavonic territories (Cracow region, Silesia, Bohemia, Lusatania, Pannonia). Svatopluk sent Methodius to Rome to ask for direct protection independent of the Frankish Empire. The Pope agreed and sent Svatopluk a letter entitled "Industrie tue". After Methodius died in 885, no new arcibishop was immediately appointed and the new Pope demanded abolition of the Slavonic liturgy. After the pupils of Methodius were expelled from the country in 886, a high-rank papal delegation failed to find suitable candidates for higher church posts. New frankish attacks followed soon, as well as theones of Magyars, who invaded Pannonia. After Svatopluk died in 894, Czech princes offered their submission to Franks. Svatopluk's sons quarreled over whether the country should submit to Franks or defend its independence. In 899, another papal delegation arrived and appointed an archbishop and bishops, but it was too late. Franks and Moravians denounced each other to the Pope for the use of Magyar mercenaries in their permanent wars. The third party (Magyars) won. The Great Moravia ceased to exist in 906 and Bavarians lost the battle of Bratislava in 907. This enabled Magyars to attack various parts of Europe (sometimes as mercenaries) before they were heavily beaten near Augsburg in 955 by Otto I.

The policy of direct agreement with Rome avoiding the dependence on the East Frankish Empire was successfully applied by many Hungarian and Polish kings thanks to an early establishment of arcibishoprics in their countries, which remained a dream of Czech dukes and kings from the ruling Premyslid dynasty. After the collapse of the Slavonic mission in Moravia, the Slavonic culture spread to Bulgaria and Russia, where the original Cyrilic script has been further developed and is presently used by more than 200 million of people.

Premyslid dynasty 870 - 1306
Bohemia first began to develop as an independent state in 880s. Prince Borivoj established the first wing of the Prague Castle around 873, and Prague became the seat of the dynasty. His grandson Prince Wenceslas (Vaclav), later reigned (921-935) as the fabled "Good King Wenceslas", and even later, the patron saint of Bohemia. King Otto of Germany conquered Bohemia in 950, incorporating it within the Holy Roman Empire.
870s the founding of the Prague Castle by Prince Borivoj
935(?) murder of prince Wenceslas, later he became St. Wenceslas the patron saint of Bohemia
950 the German King Otto conquered Bohemia and incorporated it into his Holy Roman Empire
1198 Bohemia became the Bohemian Kingdom, the first king being Premysl Otakar I.
1212 Roman King Frederick II affirms independence of the Bohemian Kingdom and heredity of the title of "king"
1253 – 1278 the reign of King Premysl Otakar II, who became famous as the "iron and golden" king and who expanded the Czech kingdom beyond Bohemia and Moravia into what is now Austria and Slovenia, Premysl was killed in the Battle of Moravske Pole
13th century German colonization
1306 murder of Wenceslas III, his death marked the end of the Premyslid dynasty (he had four sisters, but female succession was not recognized in Bohemia)
Luxembourg dynasty 1310 - 1378
The reign of the dynasty began when John of Luxembourg (1310 - 1346) was elected the King of Bohemia in 1310. The Luxembourg kings added new regions to their kingdom. This realm was named The Crownlands of Bohemia, a term made official by a decree of Charles IV in 1348. The official Crownlands were made up of the kingdom of Bohemia and the so-called adjoining lands - the margravate of Moravia, the Silesian principalities, Upper Lusatia and, from 1368 Lower Lusatia too.
The kingdom of Bohemia reached its height of power and prestige during the reign of Charles IV (1346-1378), the second Luxembourg on the throne of Bohemia: In 1344, the Prague Archbishopric was founded. He established Charles University in 1348 - it was the first university founded north of the Alps. Charles IV was crowned Roman Emperor in Rome in 1355.
In 1310, the Holy Emperor John of Luxembourg became the King of Bohemia by marrying Wenceslas III's sister Eliska Premyslovna; he moved to Bohemia and made Prague the new seat of the Holy Roman Empire .
1346 - 1378 the reign of John´s son Charles, Charles became the Holy Roman Emperor (1355); during his rule Prague grew into one of largest and most important cities; in this time the Charles University was founded (1348); the Charles Bridge, St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague's New Town and Karstejn Castle started to be built
1310 – 1346 John of Luxembourg
1346 – 1378 Charles IV
1378 – 1419 Wenceslas IV
1420 – 1437 Sigmund of Luxembourg
1438 – 1439 Albrecht II Habsburg
1453 – 1457 Ladislav Posthumous
Hussite wars 1378 - 1526
Jan Hus, preacher and rector of Charles University, led a church reform movement against the corruption of the Catholic Church a century before Martin Luther. Between 1420 and 1431, general Jan Zizka and the Hussite forces defeated five crusades ordered by the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor. But the radicals ultimately lost the fight in 1434.
1378 – 1419 the reign of Charles IV's son Wenceslas IV, his reign was also characterized by religious division within the Czech Lands and Europe as a whole
1380 the plague which has raged in Europe from 1347 - 1352 decimated the Kingdom of Bohemia
1402 Jan Hus, Rector of University of Prague, inspired by the English thinker John Wycliffe, preaches against the corruption of the Church
1409 Vaclav IV signed the Decree of Kutna Hora, giving Hus's group control over Prague higher education. In protest, German teachers and students leave the the country and found a university in Leipzig
July 6th, 1415 Jan Hus was burned at the stake in Constance; Hus preached against wealth, corruption and hierarchical tendencies; his martyrdom spared a religious - as much as a nationalist - rebellion in Bohemia
1419 first Prague defenestration - several Catholic councilors were killed by being thrown from the windows of Novomestska radnice
1420 the Battle of Vitkov in Prague - the Hussites under the military leadership of Jan Zizka against the royal army called "crusaders"; the foundation of Tabor by Hussites
1419 – 1437 the reign of the Emperor Sigismund - brother of Wenceslas IV; Sigismund was not accepted as the Bohemian King from the Bohemian Estates
May 30th, 1434 Defeat of Hussite radicals at the Battle of Lipany. Agreement reached between Hussites, Basil Council and Sigismund of Luxembourg
1458 – 1471 the reign of Georg of Podebrady; he was called the "Hussite King"; this king had a great idea to make an alliance of European kings against Turkish attacks
1485 religious conciliation at Died in Kutna Hora concludes religious peace with Hussites "for eternity". Czech lands become the region of religious tolerance.
1471 – 1526 the reign of the Polish Jagiellonian dynasty
1526 Ferdinand of Habsburg elected King of Bohemia; the reign of the Habsburg dynasty begins.
Habsburg dynasty 1526 - 1867
There is a list of some historical events of the Habsburg dynasty which has influenced our history for a long time.
1526 the Habsburg dynasty takes up the Bohemian throne, the fist king being Ferdinand I.
1583 Habsburg Emperor Rudolf II moves the court to Prague
1592-1670 Jan Amos Komensky, author of books on education and the first "children's book"
1609 Johanes Kepler, astronomer, publishes the Laws of Planetary Motion
1618 - 1648 the Thirty Years' War; this war devastated much of central Europe and shattered Bohemia' s economy; Czechs lost their rights and property and due to the forced Catholicisation and Germanisation they almost lost also their national identity.
1618 the second Prague's defenestration - two Catholic nobles were thrown out of the windows of the Prague Castle
1620 the Battle of Bila hora - the Czech Estates lost the battle against the imperial army
1740 - 1780 peace reign of Maria Theresa, which marked the beginning of the Enlightenment in the empire
1774 compulsory education instituted in a network of schools created by the Empress
1780 - 1790 the reign of Maria's son Josef II; he brought about the most radical changes to the social structure of the Habsburg lands
1781 the Edict of Tolerance was published; it allowed a large degree of freedom of worship for the first time after more than 150 years
1787 Mozart's Don Giovanni premieres, under his condurctorship, at the Estates Theatre
1789 V. M. Kramerius published the first Czech revival newspaper
1791 - the first industrial exhibition in Europe took place in Prague's Klementinum
18th/19th century Czech National Revival was confident to the new Czech intelligentsia
1818 the foundation of the Patriotic (today National) Museum in Prague
1825 - 1832 the first long-distance horse railway in Europe built between Ceske Budejovice and Linz
1835-1839 Josef Jungmann published a five-volume Czech-German dictionary in Prague
1848 - 1916 the reign of Franz Joseph I.
1851- 1859 Bach's absolutism
1867 the establishment of the so-called Dual Monarchy of Austro-Hungary (two independent states united under one rule)
World War I. 1914 - 1918
1914 assassination of Ferdinad D’Este in Sarajevo - the beginning of the 1 World War; Czechs were not interested in the Austrian war, but they had to fight
1917 the Battle of Zborov in which the Czechoslovak Legion successfully fought for the first time
October 28th,1918 the new Czechoslovak Republic was declared with the Allied support; Prague became the capital and the popular Tomas Garrique Masaryk became the first president; the German-speaking border regions (later to become the Sudetenland) declared their own Deutch-Boehmen government, loyal to the Austrians Pittsburg declaration - approval of joining Czech and Slovakia in one state, Washington declaration of Czechoslovak independency.

The First Republic 1918 - 1939

1919 - 1938 the first Czechoslovak provisional constitution was adopted on November 13, 1918. It vested all power in a (unicameral) National Assembly. It had 256 deputies 216 of which represented Czech political parties on the basis of their electional results in 1911. Only 40 deputies (later 54) representing Slovakia were chosen in an arbitrary manner by V. Srobar, the only Slovak in the government. Half of them were Protestants, although Protestants constitued only 12% of Slovak population. Seven so-called Slovak deputies were Czechs (including E. Benes) chosen "for their Slovakophile activities". Germans, Hungarians, Ruthenians and Poles were not represented at all. This "revolutionary" National Assembly passed many important laws (before being replaced after the elections in April 1920) as e.g.:
1. the currency separation law
2. the land reform laws
3. the nostrification law
4. the (definitive) Constitution of Czechoslovakia.

Under the currency separation law - the only successful stabilization policy among the Successor States, prepared by the Ministre of Finance A. Rasin - - 50 % of all privately hold banknotes were withdrawn; the bank and savings accounts were blocked and converted into a 1 per cent compulsory loan. The administration of currency and coin monopoly was transferred from the Austro-Hungarian Bank in Vienna to the Banking Office in Prague. The national currency (the Czechoslovak crown - Kc) was introduced in April 1919.

The land reform empowered the government to expropriate (for financial compensation) all large estates exceeding 150 ha of arrable land or 250 ha of land in general. It did away with the huge aristocratic estates of the largely German and Hungarian nobility but the major part of the allotments was too small and economically inexpedient. It allowed the creation of the so-called "residual estates" in the hands of the Land Office and throughout it of the Agrarian Party, which used their sale to promote its political interests. The Nostrification Law forced joint-stock companies to transfer their head offices to the territory of the new state where they had their factories and plants. This law created favorable conditions for Czech banks, above all the Zivnostenska Bank. It provided a strong financial base for the Agrarian Party, which was the most stable political force of the Czechoslovak State. From 1922 to 1938, Agrarians were the core of all coalition governments, occupying the ministries of interior and agriculture, and holding the office of the prime minister.

The constitution adopted in February 1920, defined Czechoslovakia as a "democratic republic headed by an elected president". It entrusted the legislative powers to the National Assembly, elected both on the basis of universal suffrage and by a direct and secret ballot; the executive powers to the president and the cabinet of ministers; and judicial powers to an independent judiciary. Following the Western models, the constitution provided for the protection of fundamental civil and political rights of all citizens on a completely equal basis and for special protection of national and religious minorities. The Language Law designed "Czechoslovak" as the country's official language. Since, in reality, a single Czechoslovak language never existed, the Czech and Slovak enjoyed the status of official languages. However, neither of them has ever been taught in the partner part of the country, which gave rise to increasing dualism. The law assured full freedom to national minorities in the use of their languages in everyday life and in schools, as well as in dealing with authorities in a district in which they constituted at least 20 % of the population. By identifying the Slovaks with Czechs under the label "Czechoslovak", the constitution ignored the Slovak national identity. The relative political stability of Czechoslovakia was above all due to the solid administration and the political tradition it inherited from the Habsburg Monarchy. Czechoslovakia inherited about 80 % of the industries of the Habsburg empire, but the partition of the empire deprived them of their natural markets. The Sudeten area had traditionally been the center of Bohemia‘s highly developed consumer industries, especially textiles and glass. The growth of protectionism among the successor states forced a shift in emphasis in Czechoslovak industrial production, from consumer goods to heavy industrial goods, especially machinery and reorientation of Czechoslovak export from Central Europe to Western Europe and overseas. This had the undesirable effect of increasing the social and political discontent of the Sudeten Germans.

World War II. 1939 - 1945

There is a list of some historical events of World War Two that influenced our history:

March 15th, 1939 the Nazi occupation - the rise of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
November 1939 Czech students began a series of demonstrations against the Nazis; Student Jan Opletal died
May 27th, 1942 the assassination of the leading SS officer Reinhard Heydrich; arrests and deportations followed; the final solution was meted out on the country's remaining Jews, who were transported first to the ghetto of Terezin, and then on to the extermination camps in Poland
June 1942 Lidice and Lezaky were burnt down; all inhabitans were killed or transported to extermination camps
August 1944 Slovak National Uprising in the central mountains
April 30 1945 Adolf Hitler commited suicide
May 5th, 1945 the population of Prague together with many Russian renegades under General Vlasov rose against the German forces; US troops reached Plzen, but held back in deference to their Soviet allies
May 8th,1945 the German leadership capitulated - the end of the war in the country
October 28th, 1945 sixty percent of the country was nationalized following the defeat of Germany in 1945.

Cold War Era

Czechoslovakia was reestablished with its pre-1938 borders, except for RUTHENIA (Carpatho-Ukraine), which was ceded to the USSR. Eduard Benes, who had led the Czechoslovak liberation movement abroad during the German occupation, was allowed to resume his position as the head of state. Czechoslovakia had been largely liberated by Soviet troops, and Soviet influence was strong in the postwar period. The Communists won 38 percent of the vote in the 1946 elections, and held many of the most important posts in the government. Many political groups agreed that it was necessary to have a special relationship with the USSR. In February 1948, Communists provoked a crisis in the government and formed a new government in which they were clearly dominant. President Benes resigned and was replaced by the Communist party leader Klement Gottwald.

The country's new leaders created a system modelled on Soviet political institutions and practices. Although other political groups were allowed to exist, the only real political force was the Communist party. The legal system and the judiciary were subordinated to political ends and the opposition to the government was prevented by the secret police. Show trials of party leaders accused of being enemies of the system were held in the 1950's, and many were imprisoned or executed. A centrally planned economy was established: the agriculture was collectivized and almost all private ownership was eliminated. Unified mass organizations dominated by the party replaced the wealth of voluntary associations and interest groups that had existed previously. An effort was made to politicize all areas of life, including education, culture, the arts, science, and leisure time.

In the late 1960s, intellectuals and party leaders, including Slovak Communist Alexander Dubcek, tried to reform the Communist system in what came to be known as the "Prague Spring", or "socialism with a human face". This effort was partly motivated by a desire to improve the performance of the economy and also reflected Slovak demands for greater recognition of their needs in the common state. The reforms, an attempt to create a form of socialism more suited to a developed, European country, included an end to censorship, greater intellectual freedom, and allowing non-Communist groups a greater role in public life. The economy was also to be decentralized. The USSR and its allies feared that the reform would spread to their countries, and Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia on Aug. 21, 1968. In April 1969, Gustav Husak replaced Dubcek as head of the Communist party. Husak set about eliminating all traces of the reforms. This process, which came to be known as "normalization", ushered in nearly 20 years of political stagnation. Many who had supported the reform lost their jobs, and most people lost interest in politics. Certain individuals, however, continued to oppose the regime. Clustered around groups like Charter 77 and VONS (The Committe to Defend the Unjustly Persecuted), they called on the leadership to respect human rights and allow more freedom.

History of the Czech Republic from 1989 to present day:

The Velvet Revolution (1989)

Called "The Velvet Revolution" because no one was killed. On the 17th November, as the Berlin Wall was coming down, a student demonstration confronted the police. There were larger demonstrations, with Havel at the forefront, until the Communist government resigned on the 3rd December. Havel was elected president on the 29th of December.

Separation (1993)

Although the Czechs did not want the country to be separated from Slovakia, the economic realities of the new competitive capitalism were different for these two nations. The Slovaks had the burden of many former state heavy industries that face closure and loss of employment. But, again, it was a peaceful evolution in the Czech history. Havel had resigned his post rather then preside over the break up of Czechoslovakia, but he was re-elected as the first president of the Czech Republic.

Entry of the Czech Republic to NATO (1999)

Czech Republic started to be a member of NATO on the 12th of March 1999.
"The admission of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland into NATO is a recognition of the strategic changes in Central and Eastern Europe and a manifestation of NATO's adaptation to the challenges of the post-Cold War period," the Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic Jan Kavan said in that time.

Entry of the Czech Republic to EU (2004)

On May 1, 2004 the Czech Republic became together with nine other Central and Eastern European Countries a new EU Member State. However, this historic moment of the European reunification had been preceded by a long way of everyday efforts by the new EU Member States. From the very first months following the fundamental political changes in Czechoslovakia in 1989, accession to the European Communities was regarded and declared as one of the main strategic objectives of the then Czechoslovak foreign policy. This attitude was also adopted by independent Czech foreign policy, which proceeded from the history, cultural tradition, and economic relations, which clearly ranked the Czech Republic among the advanced countries of Central and Western Europe. This was interrupted for more than forty years, particularly from an economic perspective, and the Czech Republic lost its position in Europe. In the last 14 years, however, the country has been striving to place itself back among the advanced European countries where it rightly belongs.