Czech Republic Country Information

Established in 1993, the Czech Republic is a magnificent stage where historical moments mark every corner. Graced with an array of ancient castles, monasteries and stately mansions, and even entire towns that give the impression of being comprehensive artifacts, this country is a Europhile's dream come true.

A long list of cities with tongue-twisting names offer a range of activities. From the colourful Old Town square and sumptuous Art Nouveau facades of UNESCO World Heritage Site Prague; to the vibrant riverside university town of Olomouc with a 1000 year history and a rich collection of historical architecture including the UNESCO-listed column of the Holy Trinity, six stone baroque fountains, several churches and the renaissance town hall; to the historical town of Kutna Hora with its famous St. Barbora cathedral, old silver mines and the Chapel of All Saints, which is decorated with thousands of human bones; to Pilsen, which is home to the original Pilsner Urquell beer; to the sobering city of Terezin, where a red-brick baroque fortress was used during WWII as a Jewish ghetto and concentration camp, there is a overwhelming range of things to see and do. So put on your travel togs and tell Prathvi which part of the Republic beckons and we shall transport you into this country that is slowly emerging as an important travel destination.

The first Czechoslovak Republic was founded on October 28, 1918. Under the leadership of Tomas Masaryk, it was a relatively stable and democratic state. In September1938, the Sudeten lands (areas bordering Germany and Austria with a predominantly ethnic German population) were ceded to Germany under the Munich Agreement, and in March 1939, six months before the outbreak of World War II Germany occupied the remainder of Czechoslovakia. After it was liberated in 1945 Czechoslovakia fell under the Soviet sphere of influence, and a Communist government took control in February 1948. The August 1968 invasion by other Warsaw Pact countries ended a short period of reform known as the Prague Spring and was followed by a period of harsh repression. The 1989 Velvet Revolution saw the Communists ousted and a democratic government installed with Vaclav Havel as President. Differences between the Czechs and Slovaks led to the separation of the two countries ('the Velvet Divorce') on 1 January 1993 and the formation of the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic became a member of NATO in March 1999 and the European Union on 1 May 2004, after a referendum on 13 and 14 June 2003 revealed nearly 80% support for EU membership on a turn-out of 55%.

Longer Historical Perspective
The development of the Czech nation is rooted in the 9th century when the Kingdom of Bohemia emerged. Bohemia was a major medieval and early modern political, cultural and economic state. The power of Bohemia reached its zenith with the reign of Charles IV in the 14th century. The religious reform movement (1419-1436) of Jan Hus created religious dualism for the first time in Christian Europe and was a precursor to the Reformation of the 16th century. From 1526 until 1918 Bohemia was part of what was to become the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Thirty Years War that devastated Central Europe started with a revolt by Bohemian nobles in 1618. Their defeat at the Battle of the White Mountain, on the outskirts of Prague, ushered in a period of Germanic domination until Czech and Slovak nationalist movements gained greater momentum in the nineteenth century.

Membership of International Groupings/ Organisations:

Member of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO); European Union (EU); International Monetary Fund (IMF); Interpol; Organisation for Co-operation and Security in Europe (OSCE); Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); United Nations (UN); United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO); Western European Union (WEU) (associate).

Czechoslovakia's main cultural achievements took place primarily in the Middle Ages and after the 18th century. In the intervening three centuries, control by Germans resulted in the suppression of native achievement and forced many artists, musicians, and philosophers to live abroad.

The 14th century laid the basis for a national style in painting. The 19th century witnessed a revival and further development of painting, music, and sculpture. The National Theatre in Prague (1883) and the Bratislava National Theatre are also held in high regard throughout Europe. The 1960's saw a return to prominence of Czechoslovakian films. "The Shop on Main Street", (1966), and "Loves of a Blonde" (1967), won general acclaim in the West.

Traditional painting in Czechoslovakia during the 19th century was best exemplified by the works of Josef Manes. The portrait painter Max vabinsky and the sculptor Josef Myslebeck gained recognition around the turn of the 20th century. Josef Drahovsky, who sculpted in various media, including glass, achieved prominence after World War I. Later in the 20th century Franticek Kupka achieved a posthumous reputation as one of the pioneers of abstract painting.

Czech contribution to music has been of notable international importance. The composer Bedrich Smetana is known as the father of Bohemian national music; Antonin Dvorak, who was born in Czechoslovakia, lived and worked in the United States for several years; Leos Janacek is noted for his operas and songs, some of which were based on folk themes.
While the Communists ruled Czechoslovakia, the film, radio, television, telephone, and telegraph services were all state-owned. The ministry of information oversaw the editorial operations of all newspapers, and the ministry of communications was in charge of distribution. Besides the major Communist newspaper, Rude Pravo (Red Justice), nationally distributed daily newspapers included the organs of two parties allied with the Communist party. The combined circulation of the country's 30 daily newspapers was about 4.4 million. In the late 1980s there were 4.3 million radios, 4.4 million television sets, and 3.8 million telephones in use.

In the late 1980s the Central Council of Trade Unions, the governing body of the Revolutionary Trade Union Movement, encompassed 97 percent of the labor force. It was charged specifically with encouraging productivity, informing the government about labor needs, and providing recreation for workers. Membership and monthly dues were generally compulsory.

Germanic, Jewish, and Czech cultures were combined through centuries of history into what is now the Czech Republic. What resulted was a rich and diverse culture with distinct art, music, and literature. The new republic's president, Vaclav Havel, was a famed playwright and leader in the Czech art world before becoming involved in government. Poet Jaroslav Seifert won the Nobel Prize for poetry in 1984. {Follow links for Czech Literature.}

The Czech Republic retained the largest libraries and document and treasure collections from the former Czechoslovakia. In particular, the National Museum and its library, the library of the Charles University, and the library of the Czech Republic all have extensive collections. In addition, the Premonstratensian Monastery of Strahov in Prague is well known for its collection of notable documents and treasures.