The first state in this territory, which was inhabited by Slavonic tribes, was Samoa’s Empire. The Great Moravian Empire the followed. It was very famous and the capital was probably situated in southern Moravia near the village of Mikulčice. Even while the Great Moravian Empire still existed, another state formed in the region of Bohemia. It was called the Czech Crown Kingdom. During the 9th century, power was acquired by the Přemyslid Dynasty. When the Přemyslid Dynasty died out due to battles, the Czech throne went by way of a dynastic wedding to the Luxembourgs. Under the rule of Charles IV, the Czech Kingdom became the centre of the Holy Roman Empire, and the city of Prague was the capital town. Charles IV built the second oldest stone bridge in our Republic which is in Prague, and established an archbishop there as well as founded Charles University, the oldest university in central Europe. The first part of the 15th century was marked by the Hussite Movement. It was named after John Huss, who was a rector of Charles University and a preacher, who tried to reform the Catholic Church. He was burnt at the stake as a heretic. After the reign of Jiří of Poděbrady, who is known for his appeal to other European kings to make a treaty securing peace, the Jagiellonian Dynasty was established on the Czech throne. They reigned only for a short time however and the throne was passed on to the Habsburg Dynasty. The centre of culture and politics moved from Prague to Vienna and we became a part of the big Austrian-Hungarian Empire. They oppressed the Czech nation for almost 400 years. They tried to re-catholicize and germanize as well as to eliminate Czech literature. Then WWI began. Austria lost this war and it was split into five states. One of them was the newly established Czechoslovak Republic with its first president, Tomáš Garigue Masaryk. This state was destroyed by the German occupation and it appeared again after WWII. Power was however taken over by the communists directed by the Soviet Union. In 1968, Czechoslovakia was oppressed by the invasion of the Soviet army and the “normalization” lasted about another 20 years until the “Velvet Revolution” in 1989. That resulted in the splitting of the Republic and in 1993, two new states appeared – the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. Our president was Václav Havel.
The Czech Republic is situated in the centre of Europe and sometimes it is called the heart of Europe. It has a population of 10 million people and covers an area of about 80,000 sq. km. The Czech borders are the oldest ones in Europe. We share borders with Germany on the west, which is a natural border made by the Ore Mountains, the Czech Forest, and the Šumava Range. The border with Poland is made up by the Jizerské Mountains, the Giant Mountains, the Eagle Mountains, and the Jeseníky Range. The border with Austria is made up by the Dyje River and the border with Slovakia is made up by the Morava River and the White Carpathian Hills. The Czech Republic consists of three regions: Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. A natural border between Moravia and Bohemia is created by the Bohemian-Moravian Highland. The biggest mountain in the Czech Republic is Sněžka (1612m) located in the Giant Mountains, and the longest river is the Vltava. Other important rivers are the Labe, Jizera, Ohře, Svitava, Svratka, Dyje, Morava, and the Oder. In southern Moravia, fertile lowlands can be found. Our Republic lies in the temperate climate zone. We don’t have a sea. The warmest areas are in Southern Moravia and the coldest areas are in the Giant Mountains. The average annual rainfall is about 600cm.
The biggest city is the capital, Prague, and it has about one million inhabitants. Other big cities are Brno, Ostrava, Plzeň, České Budějovice, and Hradec Králové. The major nationalities living here are Czech and Moravian. There are also minority groups here such as the Silesians, Romes, Poles, Germans, Ukrainians, and the Russians.
The most important part of our economy is engineering (machines, tools, locomotives, tractors, and agricultural machines). Other important economical branches are metallurgical and chemical industries and tourism. Textile and glass industries have a long tradition. One of our most significant raw materials is coal. Black coal and anthracite can be found mainly in the Ostrava Coal Basin, but also in the area of Kladno and elsewhere. Because of intensive mining, these regions are the most polluted ones in the Czech Republic. Supplies of brown coal or lignite can be found in the North Bohemia Coal Basin and in Western Bohemia in the Sokolov Basin. We also hove minor supplies of iron ore, uranium, and oil. Our rich deposits of kaolin and clay are important for the ceramics and glass industries. Limestone is important for the building industry. Agriculture in our Republic is well developed. The most fertile soil is in southern Moravia. The main items grown there are wheat, sugar-beets, maize, grapes, hops, and fruit. In animal production, the most important aspects are cattle-breeding and pig-breeding. Fish-breeding, especially carp-breeding, can be found in southern Bohemia, in the region called Třeboňsko. Bohemia and Moravia are quite rich in mineral springs and spas (Karlovy Vary, Mariánské lázně, Františkovy lázně, Poděbrady, Luhačovice,…).
There are many spots of great natural beauty in the Czech Republic as well as areas totally spoiled by industries. Southern Bohemia is particularly rich in ponds. The most beautiful natural places are the Czech Paradise, “rock town” in Prachov rocks, the Děčín Walls, Czech Switzerland, the Boubín virgin forests, Macocha Abyss, and so on. We have also protected areas, some of which are really very nice (for example the region near the river Dyje). We also have some National parks. There are also many places associated with our history. Among the most beautiful historical towns, we can count Prague, Kutná Hora, Tábor, Telč, Olomouc, Kroměříž, and others. Many castles, ruins and chateaus can also be found in our Republic. The most interesting ones are Karlštejn, Křivoklát, Bezděz, Hluboká, Zvíkov, Loket, Kuks, Lednice, and of course the Prague castle.
The Czech Republic is a democratic country. Its government is divided into three branches. The legislative branch is represented by the Parliament. The executive branch is represented by the president and the government. The judicial branch is represented by courts. Our Parliament, according to the constitution, consists of two chambers – the Chamber of Deputies (200 deputies each serving for four years) and the Senate (81 senators of which 1/3 is renewed every two years). Elections are public, secret, democratic, equal, direct, and universal. Everybody, who is above 18 and who has a Czech nationality can take part in them. The parliament can make a bill, but it must be approved by the government and signed by the president before it can become a law. The president is elected every five years by the Parliament and he can serve only for two terms in a row. Our current president is Václav Havel. He represents the country abroad, is the commander-in-chief of the army, has the right to veto or refuse a bill, can declare amnesty, call a general election, and appoints all of the members of the government. The leader of the winning party becomes the Prime Minister. The government is composed of the premier, the vice-premier and ministers. There are many ministries headed by ministers, eg. of the Interior, of Foreign Affairs, Defense, Justice, Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, Finance, Transport, Labor and Social Affairs, Education, Culture, and Health. Judicial power is divided into a system of courts. There is a Constitutional court and a Supreme Court. They are at the highest level. Courts go down to the regional level where they are known as district courts. During elections, citizens can choose from a variety of political parties from three main groups – the left wing, the moderate, and the right wing. Our current parties are: the Civic Democratic Party, the Civic Democratic Union, the Christian Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Liberal Social Union, the Left Block, the Czech-Moravian Communist Party, and others. Our national anthem is called “Kde domov můj?” (Where is my home?). Our flag consists of three colors: red, blue and white. The red is at the bottom, the white is at the top and the blue makes a triangle at the left side.