Czech Republic

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Česká republika
Czech Republic
Flag of Czech Republic Coat of arms of Czech Republic
Flag Coat of arms
Pravda vítězí  (Czech)
"Truth prevails"
Kde domov můj
Location of Czech Republic
Location of the  Czech Republic  (orange)

– on the European continent  (camel & white)
– in the European Union  (camel)  —  [Legend]

(and largest city)
50°05′N, 14°28′E
Official languages Czech
Government Republic
 -  President Václav Klaus
 -  Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek
Independence (formed 9th century
 -  from Austria-Hungary October 28, 1918 
 -  Czechoslovakia dissolved January 1, 1993 
Accession to EU May 1, 2004
 -  Total 78,866 km² (117th)
30,450 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 2.0
 -  20061 estimate 10,287,189 (77th)
 -  2001 census 10,230,060 
 -  Density 130 /km² (77th)
337 /sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2006 IMF estimate
 -  Total $198.931 billion (46th2)
 -  Per capita $19,428 (37th2)
GDP (nominal) 2006 IMF estimate
 -  Total $139.814 billion (41th2)
 -  Per capita $13,654 (42nd2)
Gini? (1996) 25.4 (low) (5th)
HDI (2004) 0.885 (high) (30th)
Currency Czech koruna (CZK)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 -  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Internet TLD .cz3
Calling code +4204
1 31 December.
2 Rank based on 2005 IMF data.
3 Also .eu, shared with other European Union member states.
4 Shared code 42 with Slovakia until 1997.

The Czech Republic (officially Czech: , short form in Czech: Česko, IPA: [ʧεsko]) is a landlocked country in Central Europe and a member state of the European Union. The country has borders with Poland to the north, Germany to the northwest and west, Austria to the south, and Slovakia to the east. The capital and largest city is Prague (Czech: Praha), a major tourist destination. The country is composed of two entire historic regions, Bohemia and Moravia, and parts of Silesia.

The Czech lands were under Habsburg rule since 1526, later becoming part of Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary. The independent republic of Czechoslovakia was created in 1918, following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire after World War I. After the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, disillusion with the Western response and sympathy toward Soviet Union, the Communist party received a plurality of the vote in 1946 elections. Czechoslovakia was a communist state from 1948 until the 1989 Velvet Revolution. On 1 January 1993, the country peacefully split into the Czech and Slovak republics.

The Czech Republic is a pluralist multi-party parliamentary representative democracy. President Václav Klaus is the current head of state. The Prime Minister is the head of government (currently Mirek Topolánek). The Parliament has two chambers — the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004. It is also a member of OECD, the Visegrad group and the Council of Europe.


[edit] Name

See also: Names of the Czech Republic and Czech lands

After the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the Czech part found itself without a common single-word name. In 1993, The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggested the name Czechia as an official alternative in all situations other than formal official documents and the full names of government institutions, however this has not caught on in English usage. The official website of the Czech Republic ( run by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not use the name Czechia any longer as of 2007. Its Czech equivalent is Česko.

[edit] History

Prague Castle
Prague Castle

Archaeologists have found evidence of prehistoric human settlement in the area dating back to the Neolithic era. In the classical era, from the third century BC Celtic migrations, the Boii (see Bohemia) and later in the first century Germanic tribes of Marcomanni and Quadi settled there. During the Migration Period around the fifth century, many Germanic tribes moved westward and southward out of Central Europe. In an equally significant migration, Slavic people from the Black Sea and Carpathian regions settled in the area (a movement that was also stimulated by the onslaught of peoples from Siberia and Eastern Europe: Huns, Avars, Bulgars and Magyars). Following in the Germans' wake, they moved southward into Bohemia, Moravia, and some of present day Austria. During the seventh century the Frankish merchant Samo, supporting the Slavs fighting their Avar rulers, became the ruler of the first known Slav state in Central Europe. The Moravian principality arose in the eighth century (see Great Moravia).

The Bohemian or Czech state emerged in the late ninth century when it was unified by the Přemyslids. The kingdom of Bohemia was a significant local power during the Middle Ages. It was part of the Holy Roman Empire during the entire existence of this confederation.

Religious conflicts such as the fifteenth century Hussite Wars and the seventeenth century Thirty Years' War had a devastating effect on the local population. From the sixteenth century, Bohemia came increasingly under Habsburg control as the Habsburgs became first the elected and then hereditary rulers of Bohemia. After the fall of the Holy Roman Empire, Bohemia became part of Austrian Empire and later of Austria-Hungary.

Following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire after World War I, the independent republic of Czechoslovakia was created in 1918. This new country incorporated regions with majority German, Hungarian, Polish and Ruthenian speaking populations. Although Czechoslovakia was a centralist state, it provided what was at the time rather extensive rights to its minorities. However, it did not grant its minorities any territorial political autonomy, which resulted in discontent and strong support among some of the minorities to break away from Czechoslovakia. Adolf Hitler used the opportunity and, supported by Konrad Henlein's Sudeten German National Socialist Party, gained the almost wholly German speaking Sudetenland through the Munich Agreement. Poland occupied areas with Polish minority around Český Těšín, while Slovakia gained greater autonomy, with the state being renamed to "Czecho-Slovakia". Eventually Slovakia broke away further in March 1939, allied to Hitler´s coalition and the remaining Czech territory was occupied by Hitler who installed the so-called Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, which was proclaimed part of the Reich and where the Protectorate President and Prime Minister were subordinate to the Nazi Reichsprotektor ("imperial protector"). Approximately 390,000 citizens, including 83,000 Jews, were killed or executed, and hundreds of thousand of others were sent to prisons and concentration camps or forced labour. There was Czech resistance to Nazi occupation both home and abroad. The Czechoslovak government-in-exile and its army fighting against the Germans were acknowledged by Allies (Czech troops fought in Great Britain, North Africa, Middle East and Soviet Union). Prague uprising ended the war.

Václav Havel, the first President of the Czech Republic.
Václav Havel, the first President of the Czech Republic.
Václav Klaus, current President of the Czech Republic.
Václav Klaus, current President of the Czech Republic.

In 1945-1946 almost the entire German minority of Czechoslovakia, about 2.7 million people, were expelled to Germany and Austria. During this time, thousands of Germans were held in prisons, detention camps, and used in forced labour. In the summer of 1945, there were several massacres. Only 250,000 Germans who had been active in the resistance against the Nazis or were necessary for the economy were allowed to stay, though many of them emigrated later.

Czechoslovakia uneasily tried to play the role of a "bridge" between the West and East. However, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia rapidly increased in popularity, particularly because of a general disappointment with the West (due to the pre-war Munich Agreement) and a favourable popular attitude towards the Soviet Union (due to the Soviets' role in liberating Czechoslovakia from German rule). In the 1946 elections, the Communists received a plurality of the vote (38%) and became the largest party in the Czechoslovak parliament. They formed a coalition government with other parties of the National Front, and moved quickly to consolidate power. The decisive step took place in February 1948. During a series of events characterized by communists as a "revolution" and by anti-communists as a "takeover", the communist People's Militias secured control of key locations in Prague, and a new, all-communist government was formed.

For the next forty-one years, Czechoslovakia was a Communist state within the eastern bloc (see Czechoslovakia: 1948-1989). This period was marked by a variety of social developments. The Communist government nationalized the means of production and established a command economy. The economy grew rapidly during the 1950s and 60s, but slowed down in the 1970s and stagnated during the 80s. Meanwhile, the political climate was highly repressive during the 1950s (including numerous show trials), but became more open and tolerant in the 1960s, culminating in the Prague Spring. This was forcibly ended on 21 August 1968 when an invasion by Warsaw Pact troops ended the efforts of the country's leaders to introduce political pluralism and create "socialism with a human face". From then until 1989, the political establishment returned to censorship of opposition, but without the highly repressive measures of the 1950s.

In November 1989, Czechoslovakia returned to a multi-party political system through a peaceful "Velvet Revolution". However, Slovak national aspirations strengthened until on January 1, 1993, the country peacefully split into the independent Czech and Slovak republics. Both countries went through economic reforms and privatizations, with the intention of creating a market economy.

From 1991 the Czech Republic, (originally as part of Czechoslovakia, and now in its own right), has been a member of the Visegrad Group and from 1995 of OECD. The Czech Republic joined NATO on March 12, 1999 and the European Union on May 1, 2004.

[edit] Geography

Map of the Czech Republic
Map of the Czech Republic
See also: Protected Areas of the Czech Republic

The Czech landscape is quite varied; Bohemia to the west consists of a basin, drained by the Labe (German: Elbe) and Vltava rivers, surrounded by mostly low mountains such as the Sudetes with its part Krkonoše, where one also finds the highest point in the country, the Sněžka at 1,602 metres (5,256 ft). Moravia, the eastern part, is also quite hilly and is drained predominantly by the Morava river, but also contains the source of the Odra (German: Oder) river. Water from the landlocked Czech Republic flows to three different seas: the North Sea, Baltic Sea and Black Sea. The Czech Republic also possesses a 30,000 m² exclave in the middle of the Hamburg docks which was awarded to Czechoslovakia by Article 363 of the Treaty of Versailles to allow the landlocked country a place where goods transported downriver could be transferred to seagoing ships; this territory reverts to Germany in 2018.

[edit] Demographics

[edit] Population

Population of Czech Lands[1]
Year Total Change Year Total Change
1857 7,016,531 - 1930 10,674,386 6.6%
1869 7,617,230 8.6% 1950 8,896,133 -16.7%
1880 8,222,013 7.9% 1961 9,571,531 7.6%
1890 8,665,421 5.4% 1970 9,807,697 2.5%
1900 9,372,214 8.2% 1980 10,291,927 4.9%
1910 10,078,637 7.5% 1991 10,302,215 0.1%
1921 10,009,587 -0.7% 2001 10,230,060 -0.7%

The vast majority of the inhabitants of the Czech Republic are Czechs (94.2%, out of which 3.7% claimed Moravian ethnicity and 0.1% Silesian in the 2001 census). The largest minorities are Slovaks (1.9%), Poles (0.5%), Germans (0.4%), and Roma people.

[edit] Religion

The Czech Republic, along with Estonia, has one of the least religious populations in the European Union. According to the 2001 census, 59% of the country is agnostic, atheist, non-believer or no-organized believer, 26.8% Roman Catholic and 2.5% Protestant.[2] According to a 2005 Eurobarometer poll, 30% of Czech respondents do not believe in a god, spirit, or life forces. 50% believe in some sort of spirit or life force, and 19% believe in a god.[3]

[edit] Weather and climate

A building off the Sazava river in summer, 2005.
A building off the Sazava river in summer, 2005.

The Czech Republic has a temperate, continental climate with relatively hot summers and cold, cloudy winters, usually with snow. Most rains are during the summer. The temperature difference between summers and winters is relatively high due to the geographical position - no access to sea.

Even within the Czech republic, temperatures vary a lot depending on the altitude. In general, at higher altitudes the temperatures decrease and precipitation increases. Another important factor is the distribution of the mountains. The climate therefore is very diverse.

The annual average temperatures differ a lot with the altitude. At the highest peak (Snezka, 1602 m) the average temperature is only -0.4°C, whereas in the lowlands of South Moravia, the average temperature is as high as 10°C and this also applies for the country capital Prague, but this is due to urban factors.

The coldest month is usually January followed by February and December. During these months there is usually snow in the mountains and sometimes also in the major cities and lowlands, but this snow tends to melt very quickly and so most of the winter is just wet.

During March, April and May, the temperatures usually increase rapidly and especially during April the temperatures and weather tend to vary a lot during the day. Spring is also characterized by high water levels in the rivers due to the snow melting and there are often floods.

The warmest month of the year is July, followed by August and June. On average, the summer temperatures are about 20°C higher than during winter. Especially in the last decade, temperatures above 30°C are not unusual. Summer is also characterized by rains and storms.

Autumn usually begins in September, which is still relatively warm, but much drier. During October, temperatures usually fall back under 15 or 10°C and deciduous trees begin to drop off leaves. By the end of November, temperatures usually range around the freezing point.

[edit] Politics

Ceremonial guards outside the Prague Castle.
Ceremonial guards outside the Prague Castle.

[edit] Political system

The Czech Republic is a pluralist multi-party parliamentary representative democracy, where the Prime Minister is the head of government. The Parliament is bicameral, with the Chamber of Deputies (Czech: Poslanecká sněmovna) and the Senate.

[edit] Military

The Czech Armed Forces consist of Land and Air Forces and of specialized support units. In 2004, the Czech military completely phased out conscription and transformed into a fully professional military force. The country has been a member of NATO since March 12, 1999. Military spending is around 1.8% of GDP (2006).

[edit] Administrative divisions

The Czech Republic is divided into thirteen regions (kraje, singular kraj) and the Capital City of Prague (Hlavní město Praha). Each region has its own elected Regional Assembly (krajské zastupitelstvo) and hejtman (usually translated as hetman or "president"). In Prague, their powers are executed by the city council (Zastupitelstvo Hlavního města Prahy) and the mayor of Prague (primátor Hlavního města Prahy).

The older seventy-three districts (okresy, singular okres) including three 'statutory cities' with the status of districts and the city-district-region of Prague (Hlavní město Praha) remain as territorial division and remain the seats of various branches of state administration [1].

Map of the Czech Republic with regions.
Map of the Czech Republic with regions.
(Lic. plate) Region Capital Population (2004 est.) Population (2006 est.)
A Capital of Prague (Hlavní město Praha) 1,170,571 1,188,126
S Central Bohemian Region (Středočeský kraj) offices located in Prague (Praha) 1,144,071 1,175,254
C South Bohemian Region (Jihočeský kraj) České Budějovice 625,712 630,006
P Plzeň Region (Plzeňský kraj) Plzeň 549,618 554,537
K Karlovy Vary Region (Karlovarský kraj) Karlovy Vary 304,588 304,602
U Ústí nad Labem Region (Ústecký kraj) Ústí nad Labem 822,133 823,265
L Liberec Region (Liberecký kraj) Liberec 427,563 430,774
H Hradec Králové Region (Královéhradecký kraj) Hradec Králové 547,296 549,643
E Pardubice Region (Pardubický kraj) Pardubice 505,285 507,751
M Olomouc Region (Olomoucký kraj) Olomouc 635,126 639,894
T Moravian-Silesian Region (Moravskoslezský kraj) Ostrava 1,257,554 1,249,290
B South Moravian Region (Jihomoravský kraj) Brno 1,123,201 1,132,563
Z Zlín Region (Zlínský kraj) Zlín 590,706 589,839
J Vysočina Region (Vysočina) Jihlava 517,153 511,645

[edit] Economy

[edit] General situation

One of the most stable and prosperous of the post-Communist states, the Czech Republic has been recovering from recession since mid-1999. Growth in 2000-2001 was led by exports to the European Union, especially Germany, and foreign investment, while domestic demand is reviving. The rate of corruption remains one of the highest among OECD countries.

Fiscal deficit is becoming a problem, with the 2007 deficit estimate having been recently raised to 4.0% of GDP from 3.3% previously. The government is currently looking over several reform plans to cut the deficit to 3.0% (required for Euro adoption by the Stability and Growth Pact).

Moves to complete banking, telecommunications, and energy privatization will add to foreign investment, while intensified restructuring among large enterprises and banks and improvements in the financial sector should strengthen output growth. Government has recently agreed to the sale of a 7.0% stake of CEZ, the energy producer.

The country is scheduled to fully implement the Schengen Agreement and therefore abolish the border controls with all of its neighbours (Germany, Austria, Poland, Slovakia) as of 31 December 2007.

The Czech government has expressed a desire to adopt the euro currency in 2010, but its introduction is only in the early planning stages and there are growing doubts whether budget deficit will not force postponement. More likely dates are 2011 or 2012.

[edit] Tourism

Charles Bridge, Prague, at night.
Charles Bridge, Prague, at night.

The Czech economy gets a substantial income from tourism: in 2001, the total earnings from tourism reached 118.13 billion CZK, making up 5.5% of GNP and 9.3% of overall export earnings. The industry employs more than 110,000 people - over 1% of the population.[4]

There are several centres of tourist activity: The historic city of Prague is the primary tourist attraction, and the city is also the most common point of entry for tourists visiting other parts of the country.[5] Most other cities in the country attract significant numbers of tourists, but the spa towns such as Karlovy Vary and Mariánské Lázně are particularly popular holiday destinations. Other popular tourist sites are the many castles and chateaux, such as those at Karlštejn, Konopiště and Český Krumlov. Away from the towns, areas as Český Ráj, Šumava and the Krkonoše mountains attract visitors seeking outdoor pursuits.

The country is also famous for its love of puppetry and marionettes. The Pilsner style beer originated in Western Bohemian city of Plzeň.

[edit] International rankings

[edit] See also

[edit] Culture

[edit] Reference

  • Some of the material comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.

[edit] External links

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[edit] Statistics

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Coordinates: 49°45′N, 15°45′E