The Czech Republic lies at the very hearth of Europe, covering an area of 78,864 square kilometres. It borders Slovakia in the east, Poland in the north, Germany in the north and west and Austria in the south. In most of the territory, the broad, flat mountain ranges of the Bohemian Massif and the Carpathian Mountains provide the natural frontier of the country. The highest peak of the Czech Republic, Sněžka (1602), is in the Krkonoše Mountains where the river Elbe also originates. Other major Czech rivers include the Vltava, Odra and Morava.
The Czech Republic is a fairly densely populated country with approximately 10 million inhabitans.
The Czech Republic, as it is now, came into existence in January 1993 after the peaceful split-up of the former Czechoslovakia, resulting from the different views of Czechs and Slovaks on how to form a new democratic state. The country consists of three historical areas (Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia) which are often referred to as the Czech lands. Their position on a political dividing line between empires of the West and East shaped much of their history and the fate of their peoples.
In the 6th century Slavic tribes came here from the East and in the 9th century united in the first significant political unit in this region, the Great Moravian Empire, from which an independent Czech state developed. Until the early 14th century the Czech lands were ruled by the native Premyslid dynasty. Under Charles IV the country became a part of the Holy Roman Empire and the capital, Prague, became the political and cultural centre of Europe.
The defeat of the uprising of the Czech Estates at the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620 marked the beginning of a long period of political, religious and cultural oppression. An important step towards the establishment of the modern Czech nation was the National Revival Movement in the early 19th century. Adding to a break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the First World War, the Czechoslovak Republic, a common state of the Czechs and Slovaks was proclaimed on 28 October 1918. The first president was T. G. Masaryk, followed in 1935 by Eduard Beneš, who later headed a government-in-exile in London during World War II. Claiming the border regions of the Czech lands, the Sudetenland in 1938, Nazi Germany occupied the rest of the country in March 1939, turning it into the so-called "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia". Czech soldiers fought with the Allied forces on all fronts. In 1945, U.S. troops liberated western Bohemia while the Red Army brought freedom to the rest of the country. The next few years after the war were marked by the struggle for the future political orientation of the republic. Eventually, the Communists seized the power in February 1948, beginning a 40 year period of totalitarian regime. The 1968 reformist movement known as the "Prague Spring" led to a political crisis resulting in the intervention of Warsaw Pact troops. However, some twenty years later, with changes in the Russian foreign policy, the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe proved inevitable. The dramatic events of November
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1989, known as the "Velvet Revolution" because of their non-violent character, brought the Czech lands back among democratic European countries.
Places of interest, Prague
The country's rich history and culture as well as its natural beauty attracts a large number of visitors every year. They come to admire the well-preserved historic towns, romantic castles and mansions or enjoy pleasant walks in the mountains. The country abounds in rolling hills and thickly wooded mountain ranges ideal for hiking as well as skiing. The Northern Bohemian ranges offer extraordinary landscapes featuring sandstone rock formations around the area called the Bohemian Paradise.
As for history, architecture and entertainment, the capital and the largest city, Prague, has the most to offer. It is also the political and commercial centre of the country. Its cultural heritage features outstanding examples of all major styles of architecture, from early Romanesque to Gothic and Baroque. Prague Castle, probably the city's best-known sight, is over a thousand years old. Once the seat of kings, it is still the official residence of the President of the Republic. It is dominated by the exquisite St. Vitus Cathedral. The Old Town Square, the core of old Prague, has retained its historic quality. The main attractions are the astronomical clock in the Old Town Hall and two fine churches, the Gothic Týn Church and the Baroque St. Nicholas Church. From Old Town Square it is not far to the very centre of the modern part of the city, Wenceslas Square. Some other major sights include the 14th century Charles Bridge, the Vyšehrad Citadel, the former Prague Jewish Ghetto with its old cemetery, the Baroque Loreta Convent, the greatest Baroque building in Prague University founded by Charles IV in 1348. Prague has been a centre of cultural life during various periods. Pragues finest art galleries are in the castle area, especially the fine collections of the National Gallery in the Šternberský Palace and the Basilica of St. George. The largest of the many galerries and museums is the National Museum at the upper end of Wenceslas Square. Both theatre and music have played a prominent role in the city's tradition. Traditional scenes include the National Theatre staging opera, ballet as well as classical drama, and the neo-Classical Stavovské Theatre, where Don Giovanni, Mozart's masterpiece, was performed for the first time. Contemporary Prague is the political, administrative, financial and commercial centre of the Czech Republic. It is also an industrial city, producing goods ranging from machinery to foodstuffs.
Though dominated by Prague, Central Bohemia has numerous other places worth a visit. First and foremost, there are fine castles rising out of forests, such as Karlštejn, Křivoklát and Konopiště.
The Czech republic is well-known for its spa towns. The oldest and most renowned are Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) and Mariánské lázně (Marienbad) in West Bohemia. Karlovy Vary is also where the world-known Bohemian crystal and herbal spirit Becherovka come from. The capital of West Bohemia, Plzeň (Pilsen), is also konwn all over the world as the home of the famous beer.
With its picturesque little towns and villages and pleasant countryside dotted with almost 5000 carp ponds, South Bohemia is to many people the most beautiful part of the Czech Republic. Its regional capital, České Budějovice, is a charming medieval city. Its great central square lined with 18th century arches is one of the largest of its kind in Europe. A real jewel among Czech and Moravian towns is Český
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Of the large number of old castles and chateaux, both ruined and restored, the most splendid are Hluboká, Orlík and Rožmberk.
Moravia is the other historic region of the Czech Republic, with its own history and natural beauties. Brno, the capital of Moravia and the second largest city of the Czech Republic, has many historical buildings, interesting museums and a rich cultural life. It is situated in a natural basin at the crossroads of European highways, it has an international airport and is considered an important railway junction. Brno has an exceptionally long and rich industrial tradition and was among the most significant industrial bases at the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A leading representative of Brno's trade activities, and at the same time a significant gateway to the town for foreign business, is the joint-stock company Brno Trade Fairs and Exhibitions (BVV), holding more than 50 events every year, most of them international. Brno is situated in beautiful countryside, with a very pleasant microclimate, while simultaneously providing most of the advantages of a big town. It has a broad retail network, good public transport and health services. There are 6 universities in Brno with 25,000 students. Brno also offers a broad spectrum of high-quality leisure activities. Its main attractions include the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Capuchin monastery and Špilberk Castle which for many years served as a prison and is now the city museum. Not far from Brno is Slavkov (Austerlitz) where the famous "Battle of the Three Emperors" took place.
Czech culture has a long and distinguished history. Prague especially, has been a centre of cultural life during various periods and the work of Czech musicians, composers, architects, artists and writers has been widely recognized abroad.
Bohemian and Moravian towns have also been venues of various events of international importance, such as the annual Prague Spring Music Festival and the international film festival held every year in Karlovy Vary.
The Czech System of Government
The Czech republic is a sovereign, united, and democratic state. Its government is divided into three branches – the legislative, represented by the Parliament, the executive, represented mainly by the president and the government, and the judicial, represented by courts at various levels.
The Parliament consists of two chambers – the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The parliament is a law-making body.
The president is elected every five years by the Parliament but no can serve more than two terms in office in a row. The president represents the state abroad and concludes foreign treaties.
The government is composed of the premier, the vice-premiers, and the ministers.
The judicial power is divided into a system of courts, starting with the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court and going down to the courts at all levels of regional government.
In the elections the citizens can choose from a variety of political parties. Among these three groups can be distinguished: the left wing, moderate, and right wing. In our country the majority in the Chamber of Deputies and all the seats in the government are retained by members of the coalition parties.