“”All parties must come to an end. Usually it is when the beer runs out or somebody suffers a black eye. In Prague, the party ended when...Jan Hus started preaching.... He believed that people did not need the Church to abolish their bad behavior. People could save themselves. Grab a Bible, look up to the sky, and make your wish—no church required. This is the same message Martin Luther, with the help of the printing press, made famous a hundred years later. Not surprisingly, the Church did not react kindly to Hus's message and his band of rowdy brothers. They asked him to come for a pleasant sit-down and discuss the matter. He arrived for tea, but before the sugar dissolved, they burned him at the stake. This started the Hussite Wars, which lasted for over 20 years.
|—Roman Jelinek, Prague historian.|
Czechia (Czech: Česko), officially the shortened version of its formal name Czech Republic (Czech: Česká republika), is a landlocked country in Central Europe and a member of the European Union. Like other places in Central Europe, it is notable for an exceptionally violent history, having been sandwiched by geography between Germany and Poland. Today, though, it's a democratic republic more remembered abroad for hot women and beer than it is for warfare. Its capital is Prague (Czech: Praha), and some 80% of its citizens are either undeclared or unaffiliated with any religion. Given some of the awful shit that's gone down in Czechia over its long history, it's not too surprising that many Czechs don't put much stock in God.
Czechia started off as a Slavic region, but in the early Middle Ages it shaped up into the Duchy of Bohemia (Czech: České knížectví) and became a Catholic-majority region. Bohemia came under the rule of the Holy Roman Empire and became a kingdom in 1212 CE. During that time, ethnic Germans started to settle across its periphery areas. During the late 1300s, theologian Jan Hus called for reforms in the Catholic Church, and the church retaliated by declaring him a heretic and having him burned at the stake. His followers rose up in the violent Hussite Wars between 1419 and 1434, greatly weakening the Bohemian state. This weakness paved the way for Austria's Hapsburg dynasty to seize control, and the Hapsburgs proved to be even more zealous Catholics than those who had come before.
Lingering resentment from the Hussite fiasco made Bohemia fertile ground for the Protestant Reformation. As the Hapsburgs cracked down against Protestants with increasing intensity, tensions there escalated and resulted in the Thirty Years War in 1618 when the Protestants rose up. After decades of hideous bloodbath and destruction, the Hapsburgs regained control and expelled huge numbers of Czech Protestants and killed many others. This period saw Bohemia go from the political center of the empire to a wasteland. Still, the Hapsburgs maintained their power there despite rising Czech resentment, and Bohemia remained an integral part of Austria's empire up until World War I.
After the Austrian empire collapsed in 1918, the Czechs joined the victors table and managed to be officially recognized as the newly-created Czechoslovakia, incorporating Slovakia into their territory. Czechoslovakia might have gone somewhere, but in 1938, Adolf Hitler kicked up a fuss over the ethnic Germans living in the Czech mountains and used that as a pretext to annex Czechia into Nazi Germany. Under Generalplan Ost, the Germans hoped to commit total genocide against most Czechs. German brutality sparked Czech resistance in turn, and Czech fighters heroically assassinated the evil bastard Reinhard Heydrich.
Unfortunately, things still didn't get better for the poor Czechs. The Soviet Union steamrolled in from the east in 1945 and used their occupation forces to transform Czechoslovakia into a communist satellite regime within the Eastern Bloc. The heavy blanket of dictatorship lifted briefly under the Prague Spring reforms of Alexander Dubček, but the Warsaw Pact put that to a violent end by invading in 1968. True liberalization wasn't realized until 1989, when the Velvet Revolution peacefully caused a transition of power and Mikhail Gorbachev declined to intervene.
Now a democracy, Czechoslovakia peacefully split up in 1993 due to Slovakian aspirations for independence. Czechia is today a highly developed NATO and EU member. Things seem to be going fairly well in Prague so far, but Czechia's history shows that the good times only last for so long there.
Czechia has had a tortuous history:
- 800—915: Consisted of the Duchies of Bohemia and Moravia (the latter controlled what present-day eastern Hungary, but lost it to the Hungarians during the tenth century), both of which maintained power by building forts all over the place. Things got a little nervous after Duke Mieszko (died 992) united Poland. Although Moravia was initially the senior Czech state, it declined and was eventually conquered by Bohemia, which explains why Prague (rather than Mikulčice) became the capital of Czechia .
- 915—938: Ruled by Duke Vaclav I of Bohemia, immortalized in the song "Good King Wenceslas". He allied himself with Henry the Fowler, possibly in order to get a free turkey every Christmas.
- 1419, 1618: The two defenestrations of Prague, the second one (in 1618) kickstarting the Thirty Years War.
- 1914—1918: Austria-Hungary (Bohemia and Moravia were Austrian possessions) declares war on Serbia, initiating the First World War.
- 1918—1993: Formation of Czechoslovakia. It is worth noting that from 1939 to 1945 the government was in exile, due to Nazi occupation.
- 1992—1993: Slovak politician Vladimír Mečiar wants to be Prime Minister, but his Slovak party is too small to form a government. He craftily (and successfully) agitates for Slovakian independence, and gets to be PM after all. The Czech Republic is born.
- 2004: The Czech Republic decides that it's far too interesting, so it joins the European Union.
- 2016: The Czech decide that their English name (Czech Republic) is too long so they choose Czechia as their new shorthand.
Famous Czech mates
- Good King Wenceslas
- Lake Malawi, who managed to get to the Eurovision finals in 2019.
- Franz Kafka (German-speaking)
- Karel Čapek, an author who gave us the word "robot"
- Václav Havel
- Milan Kundera
- A shitload of tennis players
- A shitload of gymnasts
- Wilhelm Steinitz, World Chess Champion (1886-1896), was born in Prague, but became a US citizen shortly after winning the title
- Petr Čech! You get it!
- Bedřich Smetana, composer of Ma Vlast
- Antonín Dvořák, a composer who had to go to America and tell them how good their own music was and to stop listening to European composers all the time (so naturally, when the Moon landing happened, his symphony was played for celebration).
- Miloš Forman, director of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
- Eva Herzigova
- Ivana Trump
- Sigmund Freud, great psychologist even if he wasn't really Czech even if he was born there (German-speaking ethnic Jew)
- Gustav Mahler, a great composer or the worst who ever put music onto a score, depending upon one's view… largely honored in the Czech Republic even if culturally German.
- The Golem of Prague (a Jewish robot made of clay. Or something...)
- Budweiser and Pilsner beer — the proper one[citation NOT needed], not the shitty American stuff.
- Škoda — the car that became the butt of a thousand jokes — Now bought up by VW and basically the same car as the equivalent VW for half the price (outside of Czech Republic at least; inside, the company prices their product as high as people's sense of nationalism allows).
- The White Shorthair and Brown Shorthair goats
- The Gypsy wall
- Semtex — the 2nd word Czech(oslovakia) gave to the world.
- Prague History: A Story Of Bad Times And Good Times. Travel Prague: your Prague guide by someone who lives here.
- Czech Republic to be known as 'Czechia'. BBC News.
- See the Wikipedia article on Religion in the Czech Republic.
- See the Wikipedia article on Mieszko I of Poland.
- See the Wikipedia article on Henry the Fowler.
- Edward rothstein, "'A Legendary Protector Formed From a Lump of Clay and a Mound of Terror", The New York Times, 10 June 2018