The Czech Republic (/ˈtʃɛk/ CHEK;Czech: Česká republika, pronounced [ˈtʃɛskaː ˈrɛpuˌblɪka] ( listen), short form Česko Czech pronunciation: [ˈtʃɛskɔ]) is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the north, Germany to the west, Austria to the south and Slovakia to the east. Its capital and largest city, with 1.3 million inhabitants, is Prague.
It is a pluralist multi-party parliamentary representative democracy, a member of the European Union, NATO, the OECD, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the Visegrád Group.
The Czech Republic includes the historical territories of Bohemia and Moravia and a small part of Silesia. Bohemia appeared as a political entity in the late 9th century as a small duchy around Prague, at that time under the dominance of the powerful Great Moravian Empire (which reached its greatest territorial extent during the reign of Svatopluk I from the House of Mojmír). After the fall of the Empire in 907, the centre of power was transferred from Moravia to Bohemia, under the Přemyslids. In 1212 the duchy was raised to a kingdom and during the rule of Přemyslid dukes/kings and their successors, the Luxembourgs, the country reached its greatest territorial extent (13th–14th century).
Life in the kingdom was significantly affected by the Hussite wars, during which it faced economic embargoes and crusades from all over Europe. Following the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the Crown of Bohemia was gradually integrated into the Habsburg monarchy as one of its three principal parts, alongside the Archduchy of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary. The Bohemian Revolt (1618–20) led to the further centralization of the monarchy including forced recatholization and Germanization. During radical reforms in the 18th century the Bohemian Crown was even de facto abolished (1749). In the 19th century the Czech lands became the industrial powerhouse of the monarchy and the core of the Republic of Czechoslovakia which was formed in 1918, following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire after World War I.
After the Munich Agreement, Polish annexation of Zaolzie and German occupation of Czechoslovakia and the consequent disillusion with the Western response and gratitude for the liberation of the major portion of Czechoslovakia by the Red Army, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia won the majority in the 1946 elections. In the 1948 coup d'état, Czechoslovakia became a communist-ruled state. In 1968, the increasing dissatisfaction culminated in attempts to reform the communist regime. The events, known as the Prague Spring of 1968, ended with an invasion by the armies of the Warsaw Pact countries (with the exception of Romania); the troops remained in the country until the 1989 Velvet Revolution, when the communist regime collapsed. On 1 January 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved into its constituent states, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.
The Czech Republic is the first former member of the Comecon to achieve the status of a developed country according to the World Bank. In addition, the country has the highest human development in Central and Eastern Europe, ranking as a "Very High Human Development" nation. It is also ranked as the third most peaceful country in Europe and most democratic and healthy (by infant mortality) country in the region (see Democracy Index and List of countries by infant mortality rate).
The traditional English name "Bohemia" derives from Latin "Boiohaemum", which means "home of the Boii". The current name comes from the Czech endonym Čechy using the antiquated spelling Czechy, similar to the Polish spelling.
The country has been traditionally divided into lands, namely Bohemia proper (Čechy) in the west, Moravia (Morava) in the southeast, and Czech Silesia (Slezsko; the smaller, south-eastern part of historical Silesia, most of which is located within modern Poland) in the northeast. Known officially as the "Crown of the Kingdom of Bohemia" since the 14th century, a number of other names for the country have been used, including the Lands of the Bohemian Crown, Czech/Bohemian lands, Bohemian Crown, and the Lands of the Crown of Saint Wenceslas. When the country regained its independence after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918, the new name of Czechoslovakia was coined to reflect the union of the Czech and Slovak nations within the one country.
Following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia at the end of 1992, the Czech part of the former nation found itself without a common single-word name in English. In 1993, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggested the name Czechia /ˈtʃɛkiə/ (Česko Czech pronunciation: [ˈtʃɛskɔ] in Czech) as an official alternative in all situations other than formal official documents and the full names of government institutions; however, this has not become widespread in English.
Archaeologists have found evidence of prehistoric human settlements in the area, dating back to the Neolithic era. In the classical era, from the 3rd century BC Celtic migrations, the Boii and later in the 1st century, Germanic tribes of Marcomanni and Quadi settled there. During the Migration Period around the 5th century, many Germanic tribes moved westwards and southwards out of Central Europe.
Slavic people from the Black Sea-Carpathian region 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). In the sixth century they moved southwards into Bohemia, Moravia and some of present day Austria. During the 7th 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 8th century and reached its zenith in the 9th, when it held off the influence of the Franks and won the protection of the Pope.
The Bohemian or Czech state emerged in the late 9th century, when it was unified by the Přemyslid dynasty. The Kingdom of Bohemia was, as the only kingdom in the Holy Roman Empire, a significant regional power during the Middle Ages. It was part of the Empire from 1002 till 1806, with the exception of years 1440–1526. In 1212, King Přemysl Otakar I (bearing the title "king" since 1198) extracted a Golden Bull of Sicily (a formal edict) from the emperor, confirming the royal title for Otakar and his descendants and the Duchy of Bohemia was raised to a Kingdom. Czech king should be exempt from all future obligations to the Holy Roman Empire except for participation in the imperial councils. The German immigration occurred in Bohemian periphery in 13th century. The Germans populated towns and mining districts and, in some cases, formed German colonies in the interior of the Czech lands. In 1235, the mighty Mongol army launched an invasion of Europe. After the Battle of Legnica, the Mongols carried their devastating raid into Moravia, but they were beaten by the Czech royal army in a battle of Olomouc, where they killed Genghis Khan grandson Baidar and continued into Hungarian lands.
King Přemysl Otakar II earned the nickname "Iron and Golden King" because of his military power and wealth. He acquired Austria, Styria, Carinthia and Carniola, thus spreading the Bohemian territory to the Adriatic Sea. He met his death at the Battle on the Marchfeld in 1278 in a war with his rival, King Rudolph I of Germany. Ottokar's son Wenceslaus II acquired the Polish crown in 1300 for himself and the Hungarian crown for his son. He built a great empire stretching from the Danube river to the Baltic Sea. In 1306, the last king of Přemyslid line was murdered in mysterious circumstances in Olomouc while he was resting. After a series of dynastic wars, the House of Luxembourg gained the Bohemian throne.
The 14th century, particularly the reign of Czech King Charles IV (1316–1378), who became also King of Italy, King of the Romans and Holy Roman Emperor, is considered the Golden Age of Czech history. Of particular significance was the founding of Charles University in Prague in 1348, Charles Bridge, Charles Square and were completed much of the Prague Castle and cathedral of Saint Vitus. He acquired the territory of Brandenburg (until 1415), Lusatia (until 1635), and Silesia (until 1742) under Czech crown. The Black Death, which had raged in Europe from 1347 to 1352, decimated the Kingdom of Bohemia in 1380, killing about 10% of the population.
In the 15th century, the religious and social reformer Jan Hus formed a movement later named after him. Although Hus was named a heretic and burnt in Constance in 1415, his followers seceded from the Catholic Church and in the Hussite Wars (1419–1434) defeated five crusades organized against them by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund. Petr Chelčický continued with Czech Hussite Reformation movement. During the next two centuries, 90% of the inhabitants became adherents of the Hussite Christian movement.
After 1526 Bohemia came increasingly under Habsburg control as the Habsburgs became first the elected and then the hereditary[when?] rulers of Bohemia. The Defenestration of Prague and subsequent revolt against the Habsburgs in 1618 marked the start of the Thirty Years' War, which quickly spread throughout Central Europe. In 1620, the rebellion in Bohemia was crushed at the Battle of White Mountain, and the ties between Bohemia and Habsburgs' hereditary lands in Austria were strengthened. The war had a devastating effect on the local population; the people were given the choice either to convert to Catholicism or leave the country.
The following period, from 1620 to the late 18th century, has been often called the "Dark Age". The population of the Czech lands declined by a third through war, disease, famine and the expulsion of the Protestant Czechs. The Habsburgs banned all religions other than Catholicism.Ottoman Turks and Tatars invaded Moravia in 1663. In 1679–1680 the Czech lands faced a devastating plague and an uprising of serfs.
The reigns of Maria Theresa of Austria and her son Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor and co-regent from 1765, were characterized by enlightened absolutism. In 1742, most of Silesia, then the possession of the Bohemian crown, was seized by King Frederick II of Prussia in the War of the Austrian Succession. The Great Famine, which lasted from 1770 until 1771, killed about one tenth of the Czech population, or 250,000 inhabitants, and radicalized countrysides leading to peasant uprisings.
After the fall of the Holy Roman Empire, Bohemia became part of the Austrian Empire and later of Austria–Hungary. Serfdom was not completely abolished until 1848. After the Revolutions of 1848, Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria instituted an absolute monarchy in an effort to balance competing ethnic interests in the empire.
An estimated 1.4 million Czech soldiers fought in World War I, of whom some 150,000 died. More than 90,000 Czech volunteers formed the Czechoslovak Legions in France, Italy and Russia, where they fought against the Central Powers and later against Bolshevik troops. 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 the Bohemian Crown (Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia) and parts of the Kingdom of Hungary (Slovakia and the Carpathian Ruthenia) with significant German, Hungarian, Polish and Ruthenian speaking minorities.
Although Czechoslovakia was a unitary state, it provided what were at the time rather extensive rights to its minorities and remained the only democracy in this part of Europe in the interwar period. The effects of the Great Depression including high unemployment and massive propaganda from Nazi Germany, however, resulted in discontent and strong support among ethnic Germans for a break from Czechoslovakia. Adolf Hitler took advantage of this opportunity and, using Konrad Henlein's separatist Sudeten German Party, gained the largely German speaking Sudetenland (and its substantial Maginot Line like border fortifications) through the 1938 Munich Agreement (signed by Nazi Germany, France, Britain and Italy), despite the mobilization of 1.2 million-strong Czechoslovak army and the Franco-Czech military alliance. Poland annexed the Zaolzie area around Český Těšín. Hungary gained parts of Slovakia and the Subcarpathian Rus as a result of the First Vienna Award in November 1938.
The remainders of Slovakia and the Subcarpathian Rus gained greater autonomy, with the state renamed to "Czecho-Slovakia". After Nazi Germany threatened to annex part of Slovakia, allowing the remaining regions to be partitioned by Hungary and Poland, Slovakia chose to maintain its national and territorial integrity, seceding from Czecho-Slovakia in March 1939, and allying itself, as demanded by Germany, with Hitler's coalition.
The remaining Czech territory was occupied by Germany, which transformed it into the so-called Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. The protectorate was proclaimed part of the Third Reich, and the president and prime minister were subordinate to the Nazi Germany's Reichsprotektor ("imperial protector"). Subcarpathian Rus declared independence as the Republic of Carpatho-Ukraine on 15 March 1939 but was invaded by Hungary the same day and formally annexed the next day. Approximately 345,000 Czechoslovak citizens, including 277,000 Jews, were killed or executed while hundreds of thousands of others were sent to prisons and concentration camps or used as forced labour. Perhaps two–thirds of the Czech nation was destined either for extermination or removal. A Nazi German concentration camp existed at Terezín, north of Prague.
There was a strong Czech resistance to Nazi occupation, both at home and abroad, most notably with the assassination of Nazi German leader Reinhard Heydrich by Czechoslovakian soldiers Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš in a Prague suburb on 27 May 1942. The Czechoslovak government-in-exile and its army fighting against the Germans were acknowledged by the Allies; Czech/Czechoslovak troops fought from the very beginning of the war in Poland, France, the UK, North Africa, the Middle East and the Soviet Union. The German occupation ended on 9 May 1945, with the arrival of the Soviet and American armies and the Prague uprising. An estimated 140,000 Soviet soldiers died in liberating Czechoslovakia from German rule.
In 1945–1946, almost the entire German minority in Czechoslovakia, about 3 million people, were expelled to Germany and Austria. During this time, thousands of Germans were held in prisons and detention camps or used as forced labour. In the summer of 1945, there were several massacres. The only Germans not expelled were some 250,000 who had been active in the resistance against the Nazi Germans or were considered economically important, though many of these emigrated later. Following a Soviet-organised referendum, the Subcarpathian Rus never returned under Czechoslovak rule but became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, as the Zakarpattia Oblast in 1946.
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, with a general disillusionment with the West, because of the pre-war Munich Agreement, and a favourable popular attitude towards the Soviet Union, because of the Soviets' role in liberating Czechoslovakia from German rule. In the 1946 elections, the Communists gained 38% of the votes 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 41 years, Czechoslovakia was a Communist state within the Eastern Bloc. This period is characterized by lagging behind the West in almost every aspect of social and economic development. The country's GDP per capita fell from the level of neighboring Austria below that of Greece or Portugal in the 1980s. The Communist government completely nationalized the means of production and established a command economy. The economy grew rapidly during the 1950s but slowed down in the 1960s and 1970s and stagnated in the 1980s. The political climate was highly repressive during the 1950s, including numerous show trials and hundreds of thousands of political prisoners, but became more open and tolerant in the late 1960s, culminating in Alexander Dubček's leadership in the 1968 Prague Spring, which tried to create "socialism with a human face" and perhaps even introduce political pluralism. This was forcibly ended by invasion of all Warsaw Pact member countries with the exception of Romania and Albania on 21 August 1968.
The invasion was followed by a harsh program of "Normalization" in the late 1960s and the 1970s. Until 1989, the political establishment relied on censorship of the opposition. Dissidents published Charter 77 in 1977, and the first of a new wave of protests were seen in 1988. Between 1948 and 1989 more than 250,000 Czechs and Slovaks were sent to prison for "anti-state activities" and over 400,000 emigrated.
Velvet revolution and independence
In November 1989, Czechoslovakia returned to a liberal democracy through the peaceful "Velvet Revolution". However, Slovak national aspirations strengthened and on 1 January 1993, the country peacefully split into the independent Czech Republic and Slovakia. Both countries went through economic reforms and privatisations, with the intention of creating a capitalist economy. This process was largely successful; in 2006 the Czech Republic was recognised by the World Bank as a "developed country", and in 2009 the Human Development Index ranked it as a nation of "Very High Human Development".
From 1991, the Czech Republic, originally as part of Czechoslovakia and now in its own right, has been a member of the Visegrád Group and from 1995, the OECD. The Czech Republic joined NATO on 12 March 1999 and the European Union on 1 May 2004. It held the Presidency of the European Union for the first half of 2009.
The Czech Republic is a pluralist multi-party parliamentary representative democracy, with the Prime Minister as head of government. The Parliament (Parlament České republiky) is bicameral, with the Chamber of Deputies (Czech: Poslanecká sněmovna) (200 members) and the Senate (Czech: Senát) (81 members).
The President of the Czech Republic is selected by a joint session of the parliament for a five-year term, with no more than two consecutive terms. The president is a formal head of state with limited specific powers, most importantly to return bills to the parliament, nominate Constitutional court judges for the Senate's approval and dissolve the parliament under certain special and unusual circumstances. He also appoints the prime minister, as well the other members of the cabinet on a proposal by the prime minister.
The Prime Minister is the head of government and wields considerable powers, including the right to set the agenda for most foreign and domestic policy, mobilize the parliamentary majority and choose government ministers.
The members of the Chamber of Deputies are elected for a four year term by proportional representation, with a 5% election threshold. There are 14 voting districts, identical to the country's administrative regions. The Chamber of Deputies, the successor to the Czech National Council, has the powers and responsibilities of the now defunct federal parliament of the former Czechoslovakia.
The members of the Senate are elected in single-seat constituencies by two-round runoff voting for a six-year term, with one-third elected every even year in the autumn. The first election was in 1996, for differing terms. This arrangement is modeled on the U.S. Senate, but each constituency is roughly the same size and the voting system used is a two-round runoff. The Senate is unpopular among the public and suffers from low election turnout, overall roughly 30% in the first round and 20% in the second.
Membership in the European Union is central in Czech Republic's foreign policy. The Czech Republic held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first half of 2009.
Czech officials have supported dissenters in Burma, Belarus, Moldova and Cuba.
The Czech armed forces consist of the Army, Air Force and of specialized support units. The president of the Czech Republic, currently Václav Klaus, is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. In 2004 the army transformed itself into a fully professional organization and compulsory military service was abolished. The country has been a member of NATO since 12 March 1999. Defence spending is around 1.8% of the GDP (2006). Currently, as a member of NATO, the Czech military are participating in ISAF and KFOR operations and have soldiers in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Main equipment includes: multirole fighters JAS-39 Gripen, combat aircraft Aero L-159 Alca, attack helicopters Mi-24, armoured vehicles Pandur II, OT-64, OT-90, BVP-2 and Czech modernized tanks T-72 (T-72M4CZ). Main foreign industry suppliers are Russia, the United States and Germany.
Since 2000, the Czech Republic is divided into thirteen regions (Czech: kraje, singular kraj) and the capital city of Prague. 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 and the mayor.
The older seventy-six districts (okresy, singular okres) including three "statutory cities" (without Prague, which had special status) lost most of their importance in 1999 in an administrative reform; they remain as territorial divisions and seats of various branches of state administration.
The Czech Republic lies mostly between latitudes 48° and 51° N (a small area lies north of 51°), and longitudes 12° and 19° E.
The Czech landscape is exceedingly varied. Bohemia, to the west, consists of a basin drained by the Elbe (Czech: Labe) and the Vltava (or Moldau) rivers, surrounded by mostly low mountains, such as the Krkonoše range of the Sudetes. The highest point in the country, Sněžka at 1,602 m (5,256 ft), is located here. Moravia, the eastern part of the country, is also quite hilly. It is drained mainly by the Morava River, but it also contains the source of the Oder River (Czech: Odra).
Water from the landlocked Czech Republic flows to three different seas: the North Sea, Baltic Sea and Black Sea. The Czech Republic also leases the Moldauhafen, a 30,000-square-metre (7.4-acre) lot 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 down river could be transferred to seagoing ships. The territory reverts to Germany in 2028.
Phytogeographically, the Czech Republic belongs to the Central European province of the Circumboreal Region, within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the territory of the Czech Republic can be subdivided into four ecoregions: the Central European mixed forests, Pannonian mixed forests, Western European broadleaf forests and Carpathian montane conifer forests.
There are four national parks in the Czech Republic. The oldest is Krkonoše National Park (Biosphere Reserve), Šumava National Park (Biosphere Reserve), Podyjí National Park, Bohemian Switzerland.
The Czech Republic has a temperate continental climate, with relatively hot summers and cold, cloudy and snowy winters. The temperature difference between summer and winter is relatively high, due to the landlocked geographical position.
Within the Czech Republic, temperatures vary greatly, depending on the elevation. In general, at higher altitudes, the temperatures decrease and precipitation increases. The wettest area in the Czech Republic is found around Bílý Potok in Jizera Mountains and the driest region is the Louny District to the northwest of Prague. Another important factor is the distribution of the mountains; therefore, the climate is quite varied.
At the highest peak of Sněžka (1,602 m/5,256 ft), the average temperature is only −0.4 °C (31 °F), whereas in the lowlands of the South Moravian Region, the average temperature is as high as 10 °C (50 °F). The country's capital, Prague, has a similar average temperature, although this is influenced by 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 in the major cities and lowlands. During March, April and May, the temperature usually increases rapidly, especially during April, when the temperature and weather tends to vary widely during the day. Spring is also characterized by high water levels in the rivers, due to melting snow with occasional flooding.
The warmest month of the year is July, followed by August and June. On average, summer temperatures are about 20 °C higher than during winter. Temperatures above 30 °C (86 °F) are not unusual. Summer is also characterized by rain and storms.
Autumn generally begins in September, which is still relatively warm and dry. During October, temperatures usually fall below 15 °C (59 °F) or 10 °C (50 °F) and deciduous trees begin to shed their leaves. By the end of November, temperatures usually range around the freezing point.
The coldest temperature ever measured was in Litvínovice near České Budějovice, at −42.2 °C (−44.0 °F) and the hottest measured, was at 40.4 °C (104.7 °F) in Dobřichovice.
Most rain falls during the summer. Sporadic rainfall is relatively constant throughout the year (in Prague, the average number of days per month experiencing at least 0.1 mm of rain varies from 12 in September and October to 16 in November) but concentrated heavy rainfall (days with more than 10 mm per day) are more frequent in the months of May to August (average around two such days per month).
The Czech Republic possesses a developed,high-income economy with a GDP per capita of 80% of the European Union average. One of the most stable and prosperous of the post-Communist states, the Czech Republic saw growth of over 6% annually in the three years before the outbreak of the recent global economic crisis. Growth has been led by exports to the European Union, especially Germany, and foreign investment, while domestic demand is reviving.
Most of the economy has been privatised, including the banks and telecommunications. The current centre-right government plans to continue with privatisation, including the energy industry and the Prague airport. It has recently agreed to the sale of a 7% stake in the energy producer, CEZ Group, with the sale of the Budějovický Budvar brewery also mooted. A 2009 survey in cooperation with the Czech Economic Association found that the majority of Czech economists favor continued liberalization in most sectors of the economy.
The country is part of the Schengen Area from 1 May 2004, having abolished border controls, completely opening its borders with all of its neighbours, Germany, Austria, Poland and Slovakia, on 21 December 2007. The Czech Republic became a member of the World Trade Organisation.
The last Czech government led by social democrats had expressed a desire to adopt the euro in 2010, but the current centre-right government suspended that plan in 2007. An exact date has not been set up, but the Finance Ministry described adoption by 2012 as realistic, if public finance reform passes. However, the most recent draft of the euro adoption plan omits giving any date. Although the country is economically better positioned than other EU Members to adopt the euro, the change is not expected before 2019, due to political reluctance on the matter.
The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks the Czech education system as the 15th best in the world, higher than the OECD average.
Ruzyně International Airport in Prague is the main international airport in the country. In 2010, it handled 11.6 million passengers, which makes it the busiest airport in Central and Eastern Europe. In total, Czech Republic has 46 airports with paved runways, six of which provide international air services in Brno, Karlovy Vary, Mošnov (near Ostrava), Pardubice, Prague and Kunovice (near Uherské Hradiště).
České dráhy (the Czech railways) is the main railway operator in the Czech Republic, with about 180 million passengers carried yearly. Its cargo division, ČD Cargo, is the fifth largest railway cargo operator in the European Union. With 9,505 km (5,906.13 mi) of tracks, the Czech Republic has one of the densest railway networks in Europe. Of that number, 2,926 km (1,818.13 mi) is electrified, 7,617 km (4,732.98 mi) are single-line tracks and 1,866 km (1,159.48 mi) are double and multiple-line tracks. In 2006 the new Italian tilting trains Pendolino ČD Class 680 entered service. They have reached a speed of 237 km/h setting a new Czech railway speed record.
In 2005, according to the Czech Statistical Office, 65.4% of electricity was produced by steam, combined and combustion power plants (mostly coal); 30% in nuclear plants; and 4.6% from renewable sources, including hydropower. Russia, via pipelines through Ukraine and to a lesser extent, Norway, via pipelines through Germany, supply the Czech Republic with liquid and natural gas.
The Czech Republic is reducing its dependence on highly polluting low-grade brown coal as a source of energy. Nuclear power presently provides about 30% of the total power needs, its share is projected to increase to 40%. Natural gas is procured from Russian Gazprom, roughly three-fourths of domestic consumption and from Norwegian companies, which make up most of the remaining one-fourth. Russian gas is imported via Ukraine (Druzhba pipeline), Norwegian gas is transported through Germany. Gas consumption (approx. 100 TWh in 2003–2005) is almost double electricity consumption. South Moravia has small oil and gas deposits.
The road network in the Czech Republic is 55,653 km (34,581.17 mi) long. and 738,4 km of motorways and 439,1 km of expressways. The speed limit is 50 km/h within towns, 90 km/h outside of towns and 130 km/h on expressways.
The Czech Republic ranks in the top 10 countries worldwide with the fastest average internet speed. The Czech Republic has the most Wi-Fi subscribers in the European Union. By the beginning of 2008, there were over 800 mostly local WISPs, with about 350,000 subscribers in 2007. Plans based on either GPRS, EDGE, UMTS or CDMA2000 are being offered by all three mobile phone operators (T-Mobile, Vodafone, Telefónica O2) and internet provider U:fon. Government-owned Český Telecom slowed down broadband penetration. At the beginning of 2004, local-loop unbundling began and alternative operators started to offer ADSL and also SDSL. This and later privatisation of Český Telecom helped drive down prices.
On 1 July 2006, Český Telecom was acquired by globalized company (Spain owned) Telefónica group and adopted new name Telefónica O2 Czech Republic. As of April 2012, VDSL and ADSL2+ are offered in many variants, without with speeds up to 25 Mbit/s. Cable internet is gaining popularity with its higher download speeds beginning at 2 Mbit/s up to 120 Mbit/s.
The Czech Republic has a rich scientific tradition. Important inventions include the modern contact lens, the separation of modern blood types, and the production of the Semtex plastic explosive. Prominent scientists who lived and worked in historically Czech lands include:
- John Amos Comenius (1592–1670), teacher, educator and the founder of modern education.
- Václav Prokop Diviš (1698–1765), inventor of the first grounded lightning rod.
- Bernard Bolzano (1781–1848), noted mathematician, logician, philosopher, and pacifist.
- Jan Evangelista Purkyně (1787–1869), anatomist and physiologist responsible for the discovery of Purkinje cells, Purkinje fibres and sweat glands, as well as Purkinje images and the Purkinje shift.
- Josef Ressel (1793–1857), inventor of the screw propeller.
- Gregor Mendel (1822–1884), often called the "father of genetics", is famed for his research concerning the inheritance of genetic traits.
- Jakub Husník (1837–1916), inventor of the improved photolithography.
- Karel Klíč (1841–1926), painter and photographer, inventor of the photogravure.
- František Křižík (1847–1941), electrical engineer, inventor of the arc lamp.
- Jan Janský (1873–1921), serologist and neurologist, discovered classification of blood into the four types.
- Bedřich Hrozný (1879–1952), deciphered the Hittite language.
- Jaroslav Heyrovský (1890–1967), inventor of the polarography, electroanalytical chemistry and recipient of the Nobel Prize.
- Otto Wichterle (1913–1998) and Drahoslav Lím (1925–2003), Czech chemists responsible for the invention of the modern contact lens.
- Stanislav Brebera (* 1925), inventor of the plastic explosive Semtex.
- Antonín Holý (1936–2012), scientist and chemist, in 2009 was involved in the creation of the most effective drug in the treatment of AIDS.
A number of other scientists are also connected in some way with the Czech Lands, including astronomers Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe, the founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychiatry Sigmund Freud, physicists Ernst Mach, Nicola Tesla, Albert Einstein, engineer Viktor Kaplan and logician Kurt Gödel.
The Czech economy gets a substantial income from tourism. In 2011, Prague was the sixth most visited city in Europe. 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. In 2008, however, there was a slump in tourist numbers in Prague, possibly due to the strong Czech koruna (crown) making the country too expensive for visitors, compared to the level of services that were available.
The country's reputation has also suffered with guidebooks and tourists reporting overcharging by taxi drivers and pickpocketing problems. Since 2005, Prague's mayor, Pavel Bém, has worked to improve this reputation by cracking down on petty crime and, aside from these problems, Prague is a safe city. Also, the Czech Republic as a whole generally has a low crime rate. For tourists, the Czech Republic is considered a safe destination to visit. The low crime rate makes most cities and towns safe to walk around even after dark.
There are several centres of tourist activity. The historic city of Prague is the primary tourist attraction, as the city is also the most common point of entry for tourists visiting other parts of the country. Most other cities in the country attract significant numbers of tourists, but the spa towns, such as Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně and Františkovy Lázně, are particularly popular holiday destinations. Other popular tourist sites are the many castles and chateaux, such as those at Karlštejn Castle, Český Krumlov and the Lednice–Valtice area. Away from the towns, areas such 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 with a number of puppet festivals throughout the country.
Aquapalace Praha in Čestlice near Prague, is the biggest water park in central Europe
The Czech Republic also has a number of beer festivals, including: Czech Beer Festival (the biggest Czech beer festival, it is 17 days long and held every year in May in Prague), Pilsner Fest (every year in August in Plzeň), The "Olomoucký pivní festival" (in Olomouc) or festival "Slavnosti piva v Českých Budějovicích" (in České Budějovice).
According to preliminary results of the 2011 census, the majority of the inhabitants of the Czech Republic are Czechs (63.7%), followed by Moravians (4.9%), Slovaks (1.4%), Poles (0.4%), Germans (0.2%) and Silesians (0.1%). As the ‘nationality’ was an optional item, a substantial number of people left this field blank (26.0%). According to some estimates, there are about 250,000 Romani people in the Czech Republic.
There were 436,116 foreigners residing in the country in October 2009, according to the Czech Interior Ministry, with the largest groups being Ukrainian (132,481), Slovak (75,210), Vietnamese (61,102), Russian (29,976), Polish (19,790), German (14,156), Moldovan (10,315), Bulgarian (6,346), Mongolian (5,924), American (5,803), Chinese (5,314), British (4,461), Belarusian (4,441), Serbian (4,098), Romanian (4,021), Kazakh (3,896), Austrian (3,114), Italian (2,580), Dutch (2,553), French (2,356), Croatian (2,351), Bosnian (2,240), Armenian (2,021), Uzbek (1,969), Macedonian (1,787) and Japanese (1,581).
The Jewish population of Bohemia and Moravia, 118,000 according to the 1930 census, was virtually annihilated by the Nazi Germans during the Holocaust. There were approximately 4,000 Jews in the Czech Republic in 2005. The former Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, is of Jewish origin and faith.
Estimates of Czech fertility rate in 2012 are among the lowest in the world at 1.27 children per woman.Immigration increased the population by almost 1% in 2007. About 77,000 new foreigners settle down in the Czech Republic every year.Vietnamese immigrants began settling in the Czech Republic during the Communist period, when they were invited as guest workers by the Czechoslovak government. In 2009, there were about 70,000 Vietnamese in the Czech Republic. In contrast to Ukrainians, Vietnamese come to the Czech Republic to live permanently.
At the turn of the 20th century, Chicago was the city with the third largest Czech population, after Prague and Vienna. According to the 2006 US census, there are 1,637,218 Americans of full or partial Czech descent.
The Czech Republic has one of the least religious populations on Earth. Historically, the Czech people have been characterised as "tolerant and even indifferent towards religion". According to the 2011 census, 34.2% of the population stated they had no religion, 10.3% was Roman Catholic, 0.8% was Protestant (0.5% Czech Brethren and 0.4% Hussite), and 9.4% followed other forms of religion both denominational or not (of which 863 people answered they are Pagan; 45.2% of the population did not answer the question about religion. From 1991 to 2001 and further to 2011 the adherence to Roman Catholicism decreased from 39.0 to 26.8 and then to 10.3; Protestantism similarly declined from 3.7% to 2.1% and then to 0.8%.
According to a Eurobarometer Poll in 2005, 19% of Czech citizens responded that "they believe there is a God" (the second lowest rate among European Union countries after Estonia with 16%), whereas 50% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 30% said that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force".
Music in the Czech Republic has its roots in more than 1,000 year old sacred music (the first surviving references come from the end of the 10th century), in the traditional folk music of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia and in the long-term high-culture classical music tradition. Since the early eras of artificial music, Czech musicians and composers have often been influenced by genuine folk music. Notable Czech composers include Antonín Dvořák, Bedřich Smetana, Adam Michna, Jan Dismas Zelenka, Josef Mysliveček, Leoš Janáček, Josef Suk, Bohuslav Martinů, Erwin Schulhoff and Petr Eben. The most famous music festival is "the Prague Spring" ( Pražské jaro), that has been organized annually since 1946.
Czech literature is the literature written by Czechs or other inhabitants of the Czech state, mostly in the Czech language, although other languages like Old Church Slavonic, Latin or German have been also used, especially in the past. Czech authors who had written in the German language, such as Franz Kafka, are usually excluded from the corpus of Czech literature, regardless of their own national self-identification.
Czech literature is divided into several main time periods: the Middle Ages; the Hussite period; the years of re-Catholicization and the baroque; the Enlightenment and Czech reawakening in the 19th century; the avantgarde of the interwar period; the years under Communism and the Prague Spring; and the literature of the post-Communist Czech Republic. Czech literature and culture played a major role on at least two occasions, when Czechs lived under oppression and political activity was suppressed. On both of these occasions, in the early 19th century and then again in the 1960s, the Czechs used their cultural and literary effort to strive for political freedom, establishing a confident, politically aware nation.
Theatre of the Czech Republic has rich tradition with roots in the Middle Ages. In the 19th century, the theatre played an important role in the national awakening movement and later, in the 20th century it became a part of the modern European theatre art.
The Czech Republic is known worldwide for their individually made, mouth blown and decorated art glass and crystal. One of the best Czech painter and decorative artist was Alphonse Mucha (1860–1939) mainly known for art nouveau posters and his cycle of 20 large canvases named The Slav Epic, which depicts the history of Czechs and other Slavic peoples. The Slav Epic can be now seen in Veletržní Palace in Prague until 2013.
Czech cuisine is marked by a strong emphasis on meat dishes. Pork is quite common; beef and chicken are also popular. Goose, duck, rabbit and wild game are served. Fish is rare, with the occasional exception of fresh trout and carp, which is served at Christmas.
Czech beer has a long and important history. The first brewery is known to have existed in 1118 and the Czech Republic has the highest beer consumption per capita in the world. The famous Pilsener style beer originated in the western Bohemian city of Plzeň, and further south the town of České Budějovice, known as Budweis in German, lent its name to its beer, eventually known as Budweiser Budvar. Apart from these and other major brands, the Czech Republic also boasts a growing number of top quality small breweries and mini-breweries seeking to continue the age-old tradition of quality and taste, whose output matches the best in the world: Štiřín, Chýně, Oslavany, Kácov. Tourism is slowly growing around the Southern Moravian region too, which has been producing wine since the Middle Ages; about 94% of vineyards in the Czech Republic are Moravian. Aside from Slivovitz, Czech beer and wine, the Czechs also produce two uniquely Czech liquors, Fernet Stock and Becherovka. Kofola is a non-alcoholic domestic cola soft drink which competes with Coca Cola and Pepsi in popularity.
Unique Czech dishes include roast pork with bread dumplings and stewed cabbage Vepřo-knedlo-zelo, roast sirloin beef with steamed dumplings and cream-of-vegetable sauce Svíčková na smetaně, tomato sauce Rajská or dill sauce Koprovka, roast duck with bread or potato dumplings and braised red cabbage, a variety of beef and pork goulash stews Guláš, fried cheese Smažák or the famous potato pancakes Bramboráky, besides a large variety of delicate local sausages, wurst, pâtés and smoked meats and other traditional local foods. Czech desserts include a wide variety of whipped cream, chocolate and fruit pastries and tarts, crepes, creme desserts and cheese, poppy seed filled and other types of traditional cakes buchty and Kolache.
Sports play a part in the life of many Czechs, who are generally loyal supporters of their favorite teams or individuals. The two leading sports in the Czech Republic are association football and ice hockey, both drawing the largest attention of both the media and supporters. Tennis is also a very big sport in the Czech Republic. The many other sports with professional leagues and structures include basketball, volleyball, team handball, track and field athletics and floorball. The Czech ice hockey team won the gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics and has won six gold medals at the World Championships including three straight from 1999 to 2001. In total the country has won 10 gold medals in summer (plus 49 as Czechoslovakia) and five gold medals (plus two as Czechoslovakia) in winter Olympic history.
Sport is a source of strong waves of patriotism, usually rising several days or weeks before an event. The events considered the most important by Czech fans are: the Ice Hockey World Championships, Olympic Ice hockey tournament, UEFA European Football Championship, FIFA World Cup and qualification matches for such events. In general, any international match of the Czech ice hockey or football national team draws attention, especially when played against a traditional rival:Germany and Netherlands in football; Russia, Finland, Sweden, United States, and Canada in ice hockey; and Slovakia in both. Matches against Germany and Russia possess an additional element of rivalry due to historically political friction, while matches against Slovakia are in large part considered significant because the two countries had been united prior to their separation from each other in 1993. The Czech Republic also has great influence on tennis with such players as, Ivan Lendl, 8 times Grand Slam singles champion, 2010 Wimbledon Championships – Men's Singles finalist Tomáš Berdych, 2011 Wimbledon Championships – Women's Singles champion, Petra Kvitova, 1998 Wimbledon Women's Singles title Jana Novotná, 2011 Wimbledon Championships – Women's Doubles champion Květa Peschke and 18 time Grand Slam Champion Martina Navratilova.
- List of Czech Republic-related topics
- Outline of the Czech Republic
- Hochman, Jiří. Historical dictionary of the Czech State (1998)
- Czech Republic.
- Governmental website.
- Presidential website.
- Portal of the Public Administration.
- Chief of State and Cabinet Members.
- General information
- Czech Republic entry at The World Factbook
- Czech Republic information from the United States Department of State.
- Portals to the World from the United States Library of Congress.
- Czech Republic at UCB Libraries GovPubs.
- Czech Republic at the Open Directory Project
- Czech Republic profile from the BBC News
- Wikimedia Atlas of the Czech Republic
- Geographic data related to Czech Republic at OpenStreetMap
- Key Development Forecasts for the Czech Republic from International Futures
- The Prague Post.
- Czech News Agency News.
- Prague Daily Monitor.
- Radio Prague.
- Czech Statistical Office.
- Czech Tourism Official travel site of the Czech Republic.
- Czech Republic travel guide from Wikitravel
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