Czech Republic Brief History
The first time I visited Czechoslovakia, which later became the Czech Republic, was in 1967. I immediately fell for the country’s charm and interesting medieval atmosphere. Then, before the Russian occupation in August 1968, there was great enthusiasm among the people and the whole country breathed optimism. Unfortunately, this optimism was repulsed in a brutal and cruel way and Czechoslovakia fell back into the gray Eastern Depression. But the people came back after the fall of the “Wall” and today there is a development in the country that will surely give back the prosperity that previously existed. After internal conflicts, the country was divided in 1993 into two smaller countries; Czech Republic and Slovakia. I have visited the charming little country several times.
Czech Republic history in brief
On January 1, 1993, according to cheeroutdoor, Czechoslovakia was officially divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia after only 74 years of existence. Before the formation of Czechoslovakia in 1918, the First Republic, after the First World War, the states of Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia had largely completely different developments. Bohemia and Moravia were influenced by German and Austrian influence. Slovakia of Hungarian culture.
Czech Republic history, ancient times
About 25,000 years ago, when Scandinavia still had an ice age, mammoth hunters lived in the former Czechoslovakia. Traces of these cultures have been found in several different places. In Predmosti, in northern Moravia, remains of a settlement with about 900 mammoth skeletons have been found. Traces of cavemen and hunters date back to more than 5,000 years before Christ.
Czech Republic history, older history
Around 500 BC, the Celtic tribes Boiner settled in Bohemia, hence the name, and the Cotins in Moravia and parts of Slovakia. Very little is known about them. It is known, however, that they were driven out of their areas around the year 100 BC by two Germanic tribes, the Markomannas and Kvader
In the 400s AD, Central Europe was attacked by Huns
In the 6th century AD, the Avars were successful and pushed back the Huns. At about the same time, the first Slavic tribes entered Europe from areas east of the Carpathians. At first they seem to have been crushed by the avars
In the eighth century, the existence of the slaves is documented again when reports of Moravians on the Morava River. Their alliance with the Franks drove the Avars towards Central Europe
In the 10th century, Bohemia begins to develop as a cohesive political entity and one of its leaders, Prince Vaclav, worked to Christianize the country.
During the 1,000s, Bohemia and Moravia were permanently united
1200s – 1700s
The discovery of gold and silver deposits in the 13th century set in motion large population movements and German immigration was encouraged. German miners and craftsmen founded cities in the interior of the country where they were guaranteed civil rights. At the same time, the territories of the Bohemian Crown were expanded. In the early 14th century, the Bohemian throne went to the German prince Johan of Luxembourg and German relations were expanded. However, tensions arose between Germans and Czechs that led to the Hussite War between 1419 and 1434. The goal of the Hussite movement was to abolish the influence of the Catholic Church, the emperor and the German nobility in the country. The tensions and contradictions continued. Different intermezzos took turns. On May 23, 1618, two Catholic nobles were thrown out of one of the windows of Prague’s royal city. This event is considered to be the trigger for the start of the “Thirty Years’ War”, which ended with the “Peace of Westphalia”. The war meant, as always, great suffering for people all over most of Europe, including Sweden. Thereafter, Bohemia and Moravia became provinces of the Austrian Empire.
Bohemia-Moravia eventually became the most industrialized part of the Habsburg Empire. With the beginning of the 18th century and a continuation of the 19th century, Austria increasingly sought to Germanize Bohemia-Moravia. The backlash came in the form of a growing national movement. But despite the social, economic and cultural upswing of the 19th century, the Czechs remained politically weak.
After the devastation of the Thirty Years’ War, with the exception of an uprising in Prague in 1848, the Czechs lived largely peacefully under Habsburg rule until 1918.
Some important years in the modern history of the Czech Republic
1914 – 1918
In connection with the outbreak of the First World War, the nationalist movement was radicalized, and after the collapse of Austria-Hungary in the autumn of 1918, Czechoslovakia was declared an independent state on 28 October. Slovakia joined two days later and the following year the so-called Carpathian Ruthenia in the east was also incorporated. Tomás Masaryk became the first president of Czechoslovakia. The country’s 3 million Germans thus became Czech citizens, which led to dissatisfaction among many
1918 – 1938
The interwar period was stable and successful for the new state. Most of the old Habsburg industry was located on Czechoslovak territory, especially in the western parts. The country had a democratic constitution and a parliamentary system of government. However, the Slovaks were dissatisfied with the Czechs’ dominance and with the centralized government. The leaders of the new state had not dared to give autonomy to the Slovaks, as it was feared that the large German population in Bohemia would also demand autonomy and that the country would then be divided.
Following the Nazi takeover of Berlin, opposition to Germany intensified. Many of the German population, the so-called Sudeten Germans, collaborated with the Nazis in Germany
Edvard Benes succeeded Tomás Masaryk as president. Benes collaborated with the leadership of the Czechoslovak Communists in Moscow
The German Chancellor Adolf Hitler demanded that the Sudeten German territories be incorporated into Germany. Under strong pressure from the Germans, Britain and France signed the Munich Agreement in September 1938, agreeing to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. Areas where more than half of the population were Germans went to Germany. Later, Poland also took over a small area of land in northern Moravia, while Hungary, following the same pattern, gained large parts of southern Slovakia, where the majority of the population was of Hungarian origin.
President Edvard Benes goes into exile and forms a government in exile in London
However, the Germans were not satisfied with the Sudeten German territories. On March 15, Hitler occupied the rest of Bohemia and Moravia, which was transformed into a German protectorate. The day before, Slovakia, with Hitler’s support, had declared itself an independent state. The leader of the new Slovak state became the priest Jozef Tiso, whose strongly nationalist party with fascist-Catholic overtones had already in November 1938 become the only one allowed in Slovakia.
Shortly after the outbreak of World War II, there were protests against the occupying forces, followed by German terror in Bohemia-Moravia. An organized resistance movement was formed by the Czechs
After an assassination attempt on the German National Protector, the Nazi retaliation culminated, among other things, with the annihilation of the village of Lidice near Prague.
1944 Soviet troops invade Slovakia in October
US forces enter western Bohemia in April
After the liberation from the Germans, Edward Benes again became president of the re-established Czechoslovakia and the former borders were restored, with the exception of Carpatho-Ruthenia which was annexed by the Soviet Union. Slovakia gained autonomy with its own parliament. By some of the Benes decrees, provisional laws, most Sudeten Germans, between 2 and 3 million people, were expelled to Germany and their property confiscated. At least 40,000 Germans died during the expulsion. Thousands of Hungarians were forced to leave Slovakia
The Communists became the largest party in the parliamentary elections and its leader Klement Gottwald was appointed to lead a coalition government. A number of radical reforms were implemented, including the nationalization of all major industrial companies. The Communists soon strengthened their position, not least by controlling the security services
1947 The Communists, led by Gustáv Husák, take power in Slovakia
When the bourgeois parties in protest left the government at the beginning of the year, the Communists “cemented” their grip on power in the so-called Prague Coup. A new constitution was adopted and in practice other parties were banned. Klement Gottwald replaced Edvard Benes as president and Czechoslovakia was incorporated into Moscow-dominated Eastern European cooperation
Late 1940s – early 1950s
For a number of years, the country was marked by terror and purges. A dozen communist leaders were hanged after mock trials
At the beginning of the year, the leader of the Slovak Communists, Alexander Dubcek, became party chairman. He represented a pro-reform group within the party that wanted to introduce freedom of expression and relax the planned economy. The intention was to create “a socialism with a human face”.
Democratization during the so-called Prague Spring was followed by concerns about the leaders in Moscow, who were afraid that it would spread to other countries in Eastern Europe. They tried to persuade the Prague leadership to end its reform policies. When this failed, Czechoslovakia was invaded by Warsaw Pact troops, Soviet, Polish, East German, Bulgarian and Hungarian forces, on the night of 21 August. From the West came large protests against the fact that 600,000 soldiers had invaded the country.
Extensive purges were then carried out within the Communist Party. Dubcek’s supporters were removed from office and virtually all reforms were repealed. Half a million of the 1.6 million members were expelled or left the Communist Party. About 150,000 Czechoslovaks, many of them well-educated, fled abroad. Alexander Dubcek was forced to become a forest worker!
Student Jan Palach showed what many people felt when he burned himself to death on Wenceslas Square in Prague on January 16.
Gustáv Husák took over as party leader in April
1975 Gustáv Husák is appointed President of the country
Czech Republic history, modern
A manifesto, Charter 77, was published, in which 242 critics of the regime protested against political repression and human rights violations. Many of the signatories were sentenced to prison or deportation
Just over a week after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November, 50,000 people in Prague demonstrated against the regime. When the police forcibly tried to disperse the protesters, more than 500 people were injured, which led to more and more protests around the country. Everything was happening quickly and without violence, and without the regime really having anything to oppose. Its legitimacy had been undermined during the autumn by events in East Germany, Hungary and Poland, as well as by Gorbachev’s distancing himself from the invasion of the Warsaw Pact in 1968. On December 10, Gustáv Husák resigned as president. His last action was to install a new government in which the Communists were in the minority.
The driving force during the velvet revolution was the Citizens’ Forum, ie the opposition with Charter 77 at the helm that Václav Havel gathered around him. Havel, who had become a symbol of the newfound freedom, was elected president in December. Alexander Dubcek had previously been appointed Speaker of Parliament. Democratic freedoms and rights were introduced, the victims of the dictatorship were re-established, the church was liberated, borders were opened and the economy was liberalized. A number of new parties were formed or re-emerged
In June, the first multi-party election since 1946 was held. 97 percent of voters voted. The Citizens’ Forum received over half of the Czech votes, while its Slovak counterpart, the Public Against Violence (VPN), received 35 percent in Slovakia. The two movements formed a federal government together with the Slovak Christian Democrats. Havel was re-elected president.
The majority of the Citizens ‘Forum was soon transformed into the right-wing Democratic Citizens’ Party (ODS), with Finance Minister Václav Klaus as its leader. Two small liberal parties also emerged from the movement, and some members joined the resurrected Social Democratic CSSD. In Slovakia, VPN split when Slovak nationalists gathered in the new party HZDS
In the parliamentary elections, the bourgeois ODS received the most votes in the Czech Republic. In the Slovak part of the country, HZDS won. The election winners’ perceptions of how the country should be governed differed greatly. The Czechs wanted a rapid transition to a market economy in a cohesive, centrally governed state. The Slovaks advocated continued state subsidies in a confederation of two basically independent states. The disagreements led to Parliament deciding to divide the country, which happened despite opinion polls showing that a majority of the population wanted to keep the federation
On January 1, two new states were born, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. The division was surprisingly easy and a right-liberal coalition government led by Václav Klaus took office in the Czech Republic. Vaclav Havel was re-elected president.
To begin with, most things looked bright in the new state. The economy grew steadily and the state had a surplus in its budget, gradually dissatisfaction arose with growing corruption and shortcomings in education and health care.
In the parliamentary elections, the governing coalition lost its majority. The Social Democrats made strong progress and became the second largest party. However, the ODS was able to form a new bourgeois government
Economic difficulties with the banking and currency crisis forced austerity during the year, cooperation in the coalition did not go well. A corruption scandal in ODS contributed to Václav Klaus being forced to resign during the autumn. A transitional government temporarily took over
The parliamentary elections were won by the Social Democrats, but negotiations to form a new coalition government failed. The ODS then decided to support a Social Democratic minority government led by Milos Zeman.