The history of the Czech Republic is the country’s history from the first state formation in the area in the 8th and 9th centuries until the Czech Republic joined with Slovakia in the Czechoslovakia federation in 1918. Although the Czech Republic (Czech Republic) was first established in 1993, Bohemia (Čechy) and Moravia (Morava), the landscapes that make up the modern Czech Republic, for much of its ancient history have been units of various forms of autonomy, primarily the Kingdom of Bohemia.
The first state formation in the present Czech Republic was the Great Moorish Empire, which also included today’s Slovakia, in the 800s. The Kingdom of Bohemia developed into a separate state in the 9th century. Bohemia was subject to the Eastern Franconian Empire until 962, then the German-Roman Empire to 1806 (and directly under the Austrian Habsburgs of 1526), and then under the Empire of Austria-Hungary from 1867 to 1918.
In 1918, the Czech Republic joined with Slovakia in the Czechoslovakia federation. This continued until 1 January 1993, when the Czech Republic and Slovakia became independent republics. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Czech Republic.
In the centuries before our era, the Czech Republic was inhabited by Celtic tribes: the Bois, who gave their names to Bohemia, and the cotins of the Moravia. In the period around year 0, they were displaced by Germanic tribes, especially the Quad (Latin Quadi) in Moravia and the Markomans in Bohemia. The first two centuries after our time, these tribal relations with the Roman Empire alternated between peaceful client relationships and war. Slavic immigration probably began in the first centuries possibly while the Germans lived in the area, but was long spread and modest.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Provides latest population data about Czech Republic. Lists by Year from 1950 to 2020. Also includes major cities by population.
As the Germans began to move on in the 300s and 400s, the main immigration of Slavic tribes came in the late 400s and early 500s. The slaves were periodically subject to the avars, which around 560 had established themselves in present-day Hungary. A short-lived Slavic tribal union led by the Frankish merchant Samo emerged in the mid-600s in parts of Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia in defense of the Avars. However, the power of the Apes was not permanently broken until the 7th century, when they were defeated by the Franks under Charlemagne.
The Great Kingdom
In the 800s, the so-called Great Moorish kingdom had its core area in parts of Moravia and Slovakia. It was loosely composed and had a short duration, but at its largest, during the prince Svätopluk (870–894), had a wide geographical extent and extended into Bohemia, Poland and Hungary. It is disputed how the kingdom had its political center; Staré Město at Uherské Hradiště in eastern Moravia is one of the possible places, Nitra in Western Slovakia another. The relatively sparse information about the empire has enabled different interpretations of nationalist historical writing.
The first known Christian trials were in the 7th century with Irish-Scottish missionaries from Bavaria and in the 8th century from Frankish diocesan sites. When the Frankish activity also involved political influence, it was tried, under the great-Moorish prince Rostislav (846-870) from 863, to balance with Slavic-speaking missionaries from Byzantine under the leadership of the brothers Constantine (later named Kyrillos) and Methodios. They continued Christianity, translated and wrote religious texts and introduced Slavic liturgy. They worked primarily in Moravia and Pannonia (present-day Hungary) and did not come to Bohemia. In Moravia it seemed for a while that Slavic should replace Latin as a church language, but in the late 800s, Latin was reintroduced.
The Great Moorish Empire collapsed shortly after the year 900, and the people of the East (the Slovak) came under Hungarian rule. The Hungarian regime lasted for about 1,000 years, until 1918.
Kingdom of Bohemia
Czech tribes (named after their first leader Čech) were led by princes of the Přemyslide family in the area around the later capital of Prague. In 895 they gave allegiance to the East Frankish king Arnulf. It marked the beginning of the millennial political separation from the Slovaks and the equally long but changing ties to the German political space, first the East Frankish Empire to 962, then the German-Roman Empire to 1806 (and directly under the Austrian Habsburgs of 1526), and then the Empire of Austria until 1918.
In the 9th century, Bohemia evolved into a separate Czech state unit, although in 929 the prince Václav (the saint) had to acknowledge German King Henrik 1’s supremacy. Václav was murdered in 935 by his brother Boleslav 1; he and several other princes tried in the following centuries to disassociate themselves from the Germans, especially Prince Břetislav 1 (1034–1055), but without success.
The German supremacy involved Czech payment of tribute and support to the emperor in war, restrictions on foreign policy and sometimes German interference in the first elections. By the way, Bohemia was self-governing, and Czech princes eventually took part in the German royal elections. Some Czech princes received the emperor’s permission to call themselves king (first Vratislav 2 in 1085), but it did not become common until the beginning of the 13th century, when Bohemia became one of the strongest political entities in the empire.
The relationship between Bohemia and the German-Roman Empire was then regulated in a ” golden bun ” (1212), where King (later Emperor) Frederick 2 reduced King Přemysl Otakar 1’s feudal obligations to a minimum and approved Bohemia as an heir to the Přemyslites. From the 13th century, the King of Bohemia was one of the seven spa chiefs of the German Empire.
German immigration to Bohemia accelerated in the 1100s and especially the 13th century. The German settlements were scattered, only the border regions of West Bohemia (Sudetenland) got larger areas with compact German population (known as Sudetis in the 20th century). Especially in the 12th century Jewish economically and culturally significant colonies were established. Over the centuries, their treatment alternated between discriminatory acceptance and blatant persecution (including a pogrom in 1389 in which 3,000 were killed).
After the dissolution of the great-Moorish kingdom around 900, both the Bohemian Priests and Polish kings sought to gain control of the Moravia. From the 11th century, Moravia was permanently united with Bohemia during the Priory slides. But Moravia continued to be a separate province, ruled by a field tomb, and with its own institutions even in those cases where the field tomb and the Bohemian prince were the same person. The Bohemian princes ruled for shorter periods also in Poland (among others Václav 2, 1300–1305), in Austria (Přemysl Otakar 2, 1251–1276) and in Hungary.
In 1306, the male line of the Premyslide genus died out, and after four years of throne-fighting, Johan of Luxemburg, who married a Bohemian princess, was elected new king. The Luxembourg family remained seated on the throne until 1437. Under Johan’s son, Karl 4 (1346–1378), Bohemia reached the peak of power and prestige. Karl was elected German-Roman emperor in 1355 and made Prague an imperial residence. The city grew and attracted scholars and artists from many countries. An archdiocese was established, and in 1348 the first university north of the Alps and east of the Rhine was founded in Prague. Under Johan and Karl, both Silesia and Lausitz came under Bohemian supremacy.
Around 1360 a reform movement arose within the church. Both the accumulation of ecclesiastical wealth and moral decay among the clergy was attacked by repentant preachers, among others Jan Milíč of Kroměříž. They wanted spiritual awakening and practical charity. The turmoil over this coincided with the weakening of the church central authority (” the great schism ” between the popes in Avignon and Rome in the period 1378–1417).
In 1391–1394, the Bethlehem Chapel (really a large church) was erected in Prague to promote the preaching in the vernacular Czech, and in 1402 Jan Hus became rector of the university and pastor of the Bethlehem Chapel. After fighting with the Catholic Church, Hus was arrested under the Konstanz council in 1414 and burnt on the fire which herds the following year. The martyrdom of the House led to a radicalization of the reform movement, the Hussites, which became a broad popular movement throughout Bohemia and the Moravia, primarily among the Czechs. The Germans adhered more to the traditional church, although the Hussites’ use of Czech as a church language was not directed at German but Latin.
Between 1420 and 1431 the Hittites fought back five campaigns (the Hittite wars) initiated by the Catholic King Sigismund of Germany and Hungary, who also claimed the throne of Bohemia. Negotiations between the moderate Hussites, the Utraquists, and the Catholics led to an agreement at the Basel Council in 1436, the so-called compact, which accepted both Catholicism and Hittite Utraquism as beliefs in Bohemia. King Sigismund was then accepted as a Bohemian king, but he died the following year. Utraquism became the dominant form of Christianity among the Czechs for about 200 years (until 1620). The compact was never approved by the Pope, and the Catholics eventually tried to tighten the interpretation of the agreement. At the same time, radical housites, taborites, continued, even though they were significantly impaired in numbers.
The only king who was a householder was Georg (Czech Jiří) of Poděbrady. He was elected regent in 1452 and then king (1458–1471), and his rule was characterized by a religious tolerance unique to contemporary Europe (though it did not include the Bohemian brothers), and Prague was given a new boom after the wars. But in 1466 he was banned by Pope Paul 2, and the Hungarian King Mattias Corvinus (Georg’s son-in-law) went to war (” crusade “) against Georg in 1468. He gained control of much of Moravia, Silesia and Lausitz, and in 1469 the Catholic nobility chose Mattias as counter-king to Georg in Brno.
Personnel union with Hungary
There were thus two competing kings. Georg received support from Poland, and when he died in 1471, Vladislav 2 of the Polish Jagiello genus was elected Bohemian king. When Mattias died in 1490, Vladislav was also elected Hungarian king. Through this union of personnel with Hungary, the Bohemian national unit was restored. To be elected, the Catholic Vladislav had to accept the compact and in 1485 entered into a nobility agreement in Kutná Hora on continued religious tolerance (except for the Bohemian brothers).
The king stayed a lot in Budapest. This made it easier for the nobility to strengthen their position in relation to both the king, the townspeople and the peasants. Moreover, in the reign of king without obvious successors, the noble-dominated country day could more easily set conditions for the new king. The noble strengthened position also appeared in relation to the peasants. From the end of the 1400s, many uses were placed under large earthenware as domain land, the goods were often freed from the king’s direct authority (immunity), the peasants’ duties became harsher, and they were tied to the earth as viable. This was also a blow to the citizens by reducing the flow of cheap labor to the cities. At the same time, the nobility sought to limit the political positions of the citizens. A compromise between nobles and citizens was made in 1517.
From that time, Martin Luther’s reformist ideas began to become known in Bohemia. They led the Hittite Utraquists to split. “The old Utraquists” were against Luther, “the new Utraquists” were for, as are many of the German-speakers in the country. Later in the 16th and 16th centuries, the royal power’s commitment to Catholicism became a decisive factor in the religious struggles in Bohemia.
Under the Habsburgs of 1526
King Louis of Bohemia and Hungary drowned during the retreat from the defeat of the Ottomans (Turks) at the Battle of Mohács in 1526, and Austrian Archduke Ferdinand 1 of Habsburg was elected new king (1526-1564). A new phase had begun in the political life of Bohemia, and the country remained under Habsburgs until 1918. The Habsburg regime meant a strengthening of the royal central government and a stronger Catholic pressure. During a war between the Habsburgs (Ferdinand was the brother of Emperor Karl 5) and the Protestant schmalkaldiske federations in Germany from 1546 to 1547 was stone baths in Bohemia unwilling to join the German Protestants, and Ferdinand punished them for it by attacking Prague.
The king’s support for Catholicism was also shown by an invitation to the new Jesuit order to begin work in Bohemia in 1556. Religious tolerance continued to be official politics, expressed, inter alia, in the Bohemian Confession (1575). Rudolf 2 was king and emperor in 1576–1612 and chose Prague as the city of residence. The hope became a cultural center (including Tyge Brahe and Johannes Kepler), and the city flourished again. Under Rudolf’s rule, the pressure on the Protestants was sharply sharpened. In 1609, however, he had to issue a “Majesty” letter on religious tolerance.
The Thirty Years War and the Counter-Reformation
An open conflict broke out when Rudolf’s successors tried to restrict religious freedom, and in 1618 two Catholic councilors deployed by the emperor, thrown out of the window of the Prague Castle, were accused of violating the tolerance rules. This episode triggered the Thirty Years War in Europe. The emperor was deposed as king of Bohemia, and a Protestant prince, Frederick 5 of Palatinate, was elected new king (the “winter king”). The Czech uprising was struck in Bílá hora (White Mountain) on November 8, 1620. Prague was captured and looted, Fredrik fled.
Emperor Ferdinand 2’s revenge was fierce. Twenty-seven Protestant noble and bourgeois leaders were executed in Prague. Those who had supported the rebellion had much of their property confiscated; the Czech upper class was ruined. Catholicism became the only permitted confession (formally from 1627). A large part of the Czech nobility, along with thousands of other Protestants, emigrated many of them to Slovakia. The properties were taken over by imperial Catholic families from Austria, Italy and Spain. All Protestant priests were eventually banished, among them the great educator Johann Comenius (Jan Amos Komenský).
The Counter-Reformation started in full from the 1620s, and the Jesuits took over the educational system. On the surface, Bohemia gradually became Catholic, but some Protestant communities nevertheless persisted.
Increased influence from German culture and language
Another consequence of the Czech defeat to the emperor was that the German language was strengthened at the expense of the Czech. By the end of the 18th century, the Czech language was almost completely removed from public contexts. During these centuries, the relatively few remaining Czech noble families were also Germanized. In other words, the Czechs were left without a social upper class that felt nationally in line with people otherwise, and without the religious form that had constituted a Czech character in the 15th and 16th centuries.
In Czech history writing, therefore, the 17th and 18th centuries, under Austrian rule, have often stood as “the dark age”. Some have nevertheless believed that the strong orientation towards Vienna would rather act as a brake on what could have been an even stronger influence from politics and culture in Germany if the Protestants had won in Bohemia. As part of the Counter-Reformation, many magnificent churches were erected in a triumphant Baroque style, followed by the palaces of the Germanized nobility in the same style. To finance this, the farmers became even more profitable, and on several occasions peasant revolts broke out.
The weakening of the position of the Czech language in the 18th century was also linked to the ideas of the Enlightenment that characterized the Austrian regime under Maria Theresia (1740–1780) and Joseph 2 (1780–1790). The ideal was a centralized state with one common administration language, and it had to become German in the Habsburg Empire. Another side of Maria Theresia’s reign was that Bohemia was drawn into several costly wars. One of them led in 1742 to the loss of most of Silesia. Lausitz was previously surrendered to Saxony (1635).
The enlightened monarchy of the 18th century was also a time for reforms that benefited ordinary people, with the state expanding its sphere in several areas at the expense of the privileges of the higher classes. The peasants’ duty for the landlords was reduced, and in 1781 the peasants regained their personal freedom. In the same year, a certain religious tolerance was introduced. Other reforms included education, the judiciary, local government and the distribution of tax burdens. After Emperor Leopold 2 (1790-1792) followed a reactionary period in which the monarchy no longer stood for reforms in the spirit of the Enlightenment.
From the end of the 18th century, a national Czech movement emerged, also with some support from the country’s German-speaking, “Bohemian-patriotic” nobility in opposition to Vienna. Both new philosophical ideas and the French revolution stimulated new thinking about the national. During the Napoleonic Wars, many acts of war took place on Czech soil (including the Battle of Austerlitz, now Slavkov, in 1805), and the presence of one of the Russian soldiers raised awareness of Slavic cohesion. But only after 1815 did the national movement gain any particular scope, and the peasants, who made up the bulk of the Czech-speaking people, showed little interest until the 1840s.
Several national institutions and organizations were founded in the 19th century, including the National Museum in 1818. Leading personalities were historian František Palacký and philologists Josef Dobrovský and Josef Jungmann. While the goals of the national movement were first cultural (including language, historical writing), from the 1840s a liberal political program with self-government within the Habsburg empire was also developed as a goal.
Industrial development in Bohemia began in the first half of the 19th century. Although the authorities initially tried to limit the industry’s growth for fear of the social and political consequences of mass production and proletarianization, the reforms of the 18th century helped to create conditions just for industrial development. Napoleon’s mainland blockade of 1806 also stimulated self-production.
From the 1820s several factories existed with mechanized production, including steam engines. The textile industry developed the fastest. The first railways came in 1832 (horse-driven) and 1839 (steam locomotive). From the 1840s there were a considerable number of industrial workers, and there were, among other things, regulations against child labor (under 9 years). The growth of the factory led many Czech speakers to move from the villages to the quite Germanized cities, which thereby gained a more Czech character, both by workers and citizenship.
The year of the revolution of 1848 (the February revolution) meant a general crisis for the Habsburg Empire. The wave of revolution came to Prague in March, and the government made promises of autonomy and free constitution. Although liberal Germans and Czechs in Bohemia had opposed the reactionary imperial rule, they disagreed with the future of Bohemia.
After the dissolution of the German-Roman Empire in 1806, Bohemia had joined the loosely organized German Confederation from 1815. In 1848, the Germans in Bohemia wanted to take part in the attempts at German assembly and elected representatives to the Frankfurt Parliament. But the Czechs were afraid to join a new state based on national German principles, and said no. Instead, they invited to a pan-Slavic Congress in Prague. While assembled, in June a riot of Czech radicals broke out. It was knocked down after a few days by Austrian commander Prince Alfred Windischgrätz. The congress was dissolved at the same time.
The Czech leaders wanted a federal solution with autonomy for Bohemia in the Habsburg Empire, and therefore joined in that work to draft a constitution that was begun in Vienna in July 1848 and still in Kroměříž in Moravia. When the reactionaries in Vienna felt strong enough, the entire constitutional work was interrupted by Prime Minister Prince Felix Schwarzenberg in March 1849. Under the new Emperor Franz Josef (1848–1916), Austria (and thus Bohemia) from 1852 again switched to a single government. The only lasting result of the 1848 revolution was that the peasant liberation was fully accomplished (taking over the land they had cultivated for the landlords, and ending the duty work).
Bohemia and Moravia in the double-monarchy of Austria-Hungary, 1867-1918
From the 1860s, the conditions of Czech nationalism changed in several ways. While Czech nationalism in Moravia also had a certain sting towards Bohemia, not just against Vienna, an approximation took place between the Czechs in Moravia and Bohemia in the 1860s. In 1860–1861 a cautious constitutional overthrow of the monarchy began, and in 1867 the empire was transformed into the double-monarchy of Austria-Hungary. It met resistance from Czech nationalists, who demanded increased autonomy with reference to the historical rights of the Kingdom of Bohemia. Attempts to get a three-part organization of the empire (Vienna-Budapest-Prague) stranded in 1871, not least because of Hungarian resistance.
The strengthened Czech nationalism increased the distance to the Germans in Bohemia, who feared that increased self-government for Bohemia would go beyond them. Through the narrow, property-based voting rights from 1861, however, the Germans gained far greater political influence in the days of Bohemia, Moravia and (remnant) Silesia than the number would indicate. As voting rights were expanded (until universal suffrage for men in 1907), the Germans lost this advantage. While they had long wanted a centralized German-dominated government from Vienna, a strengthening of the Czech in some contexts in the 1880s led the Germans to a stronger division of the country in order to create zones with German as the only administrative language. While Czech nationalism had initially attracted little interest among most people, from around 1870 it had a mass scale that appeared in large crowds, newspapers and patriotic organizations such as the sports movement Sokol.
There were also divisions in the national movement. From the 1860s there were tensions within the National Party between the more conservative “old Czechs” and the more liberal “young Czechs”. In 1874 the young Czechs left the National Party and formed the National Liberal Party. The Old Czechs went back in the 1880s and were almost wiped out in the 1891 elections. But when workers and small farmers also got the right to vote, the position of young Czechs became weaker. New parties were formed, first and foremost the Social Democrats, from 1878 a fraction of the Austrian party, but from 1896 with autonomous status.
From the Young Czechs was split a separate labor party, the National Socialist Party (1898), and a peasant party (the agrarians) (1899). The growth of the labor movement was a consequence of the continued industrialization. Although the European economic depression of 1873 also hit Bohemia, industrial growth picked up again from the 1880s. The industry was characterized by new industries being constantly developed, and Bohemia became the strongest industrialized part of the empire. The majority of the capital was German and Austrian.
World war one
The outbreak of the First World War in 1914, in which Austria-Hungary and Germany faced, among others, Slavic Russia, put the Czechs in a difficult situation. Many Czech soldiers deserted to Russia. Tensions with the Germans in Bohemia, who supported the Austro-Hungarian and German sides in the war, increased.
It respected Tomáš G. Masaryk, who belonged to one of the smaller parties, the “Realists”, went into exile and eventually became a strong advocate for Czech and Slovak independence. Several politicians worked for the same goal at home. Many were arrested, and strict press censorship and ban on public meetings were introduced. Other politicians (the “activists”) believed that the empire would continue as before the war, and negotiated with the authorities to protect national interests. Masaryk established contacts with Czechs and Slovaks abroad, and in 1916 a Czechoslovak National Council was founded under Masaryk’s leadership. Other key figures were the Czech Edvard Beneš and the Slovakian Štefánik.
At home, during 1917 and 1918, public opinion was more clearly voted for a real national liberation, while the Entente powers eventually accepted the idea of Czechoslovak independence. The new state of Czechoslovakia was proclaimed in Prague on October 28, 1918.