History

Historical fencingThe Czech Republic, made up of Bohemia and Moravia, is home to some 10 million people, living on the edge of Germanic and Slavic worlds. Despite many common historical links with Germans and Austrians, the result being part of the Soviet communist block for more than 40 years is that the Czech Republic is now commonly referred to as an east European Country.

The Czech and Moravian lands have a long history. The first attempt to establish a state in this region was made in the 7th century AD by the merchant Samo, who unified the Slavonic tribes to protect them against the Avars. The Przemysloid Dynasty started with the unification of the Bohemian tribes, which led to the foundation of the Bohemian Principality in the 10th century.

Bohemia became a Kingdom known as ‘Lands of the Czech Crown’. The greatest territorial extent was reached in the 13-th century in the time of the rule of King Przemys l Otakar II, when the Kingdom’s borders reached the Baltic and Adriatic seas. The greatest cultural and political significance came in the 14-th century under the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, who also founded in Prague the first university in Central Europe, known as Charles University. In 1526 Ferdinand, from the Austrian Habsburg dynasty, was elected as a king and all the Lands of the Czech became a part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and remained so for more than 300 years.

In 1938 the German dictator Adolf Hitler invaded the region of Czechoslovakia known as Sudetenland, using the presence of Sudeten Germans there as a pretext. This violation was agreed at the meeting in Munich by both England and France, despite the fact that France had a military treaty with Czechoslovakia. Despite the resolve of all Czech people to protect their border with Germany, the Czechoslovak government and president Benes, who followed Masaryk, decided to give up the unequal fight with Germany when it was clear there would be no help from any other country. This event represented a huge disappointment for the Czech people and probably influenced, not only the development of the political situation after the World War II, but also some recent characteristics of the Czech nation. During the War the Czech lands were occupied by Germany, while Slovakia declared independence under German influence. The Yalta conference of February 1945 was important in determining the post-war situation. Stalin and Roosevelt agreed that Czechoslovakia would be in the Soviet zone and so Prague had to wait for liberation by Soviet Army. After the War the Czech lands and Slovakia rejoined to form Czechoslovakia again, but Carpatho-Ruthenia was annexed by the USSR.

The repeated bad experiences of a small nation in the centre of interests from West and East led to lethargy and the majority of people preferred to save their own families and jobs instead of joining a risky political fight. The Communist Party remained in power until November 1989, when Czechs and Slovaks joined in mass demonstrations that forced the government to resign in the “velvet revolution”.Vclav Havel became the country’s new president, and in 1990 Czechoslovakia held its first free elections since 1946. (Source: M. Kuba)