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Czechia

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Map of Czechia.
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.[1]

Czechia (Czech: Česko), officially the shortened version of its formal name Czech Republic[2] (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.[3] 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.

History[edit]

An ancient Czech church.

Slavic settlement[edit]

Slavic peoples first started showing up around the fifth century CE, and they formed a settled, agricultural lifestyle. This was disturbed by the invasion of the Avar nomads from further east, who eventually settled in what is now Hungary. The Czech Slavs allied with Charlemagne to destroy the Avar state in 796 CE, and their subsequent alliance allowed the Czechs to solidify into an actual Medieval state (called Great Moravia).[4] Caught between their Slavic brethren and the powerful German lands to the west, the Czechs struggled to maintain their Slavic culture while also adopting Roman Catholicism.[4] After myriad power-struggles in the region, the Czechs eventually became quite distinct from the other Slavic groups and fell into the German sphere of influence. This was, after all, back when the different Christian offshoots really, really hated each other.

The Czechs were smashed again by eastern nomads in 907 CE, this time by the Magyars (who would eventually also settle in Hungary).[5] This event had some long-term ramifications, as it caused the dissolution of Great Moravia and thus prompted the rise of its successor, the Kingdom of Bohemia.

Kingdom of Bohemia[edit]

Interior of the infamous Sedlec OssuaryWikipedia, established 1278 and gradually filled with victims of Czechia's violent history.

Rising influence[edit]

Bohemian Crown Jewels.

Bohemia became a Medieval powerhouse after its rise to influence. Long existing in the shadow of the Holy Roman Empire, Bohemia became a part of that realm in 950 when the imperialist Germans arrived with an army to demand tribute.[6] Even this event didn't put a damper on things for long, though, as the Germans rewarded the Bohemians' peaceful capitulation with great political influence within the empire. The ruling Přemyslid dynasty also cheerfully used their new German allies as a hammer by which they were able to crush uncooperative nobles, thus eliminating a major flaw that plagued other European feudal realms.[6] (Anybody who has played Crusader Kings knows that noble vassals can go fuck themselves).

While most of the population suffered under the usual Medieval standard of living, the privileged classes got to enjoy an era of prosperity and construction in the Czech capital of Prague. Notable landmarks erected during this period included the Saint Vitus Cathedral and the Prague Castle, which would go on to be the seat of power of many Bohemian kings as well as the Holy Roman Emperors themselves.[7] Today, these buildings give tourists some cool shit to look at.

Meanwhile, the Přemyslid dynasty encouraged German immigration into the frontier regions of Bohemia in order to further weaken the traditional power-bases of their own Czech nobility.[6] You can probably see what historical events we're foreshadowing here.

Hussite Wars[edit]

Jan Hus burned at the stake for heresy.

Like other European realms, Bohemia was not free from religious shenanigans. Around 1380 CE, the theologian Jan Hus began raising a stink over the Catholic Church's corruption and the fact that there were then no less than three antipopes who were struggling for power within it.[8] The Church authorities solemnly took Hus' criticism to heart and resolved to better itself. Ha, who are we kidding? No, the Medieval Church responded to criticism the way it always did, by branding Hus a heretic and then having his ass burnt at the stake in 1415.[9]

Hus proved to be even more troublesome dead than alive. After his execution, many Bohemian knights and nobles published a formal protest and then kicked off the Hussite movement, which evolved into an entirely different branch of Christianity.[10] Many of their beliefs probably sound familiar to those familiar with the Protestant Reformation, such as the rejection of selling indulgences, belief in Biblical primacy over Church officials, and the belief in lay peoples' right to read the scriptures for themselves.[11] Then, as later, the Church shat a brick at this show of opposition. Church efforts to suppress the Hussite movement created an atmosphere of religious crisis, culminating in an outright religious coup by the Hussites in 1419.[12] Amid repression, the Hussite movement branched out even further, leading to the rise of the Táborites. The Táborites were a peasant sect that sought to eliminate hierarchy, private property, debts, and the Antichrist.[13] They were Christ's communists.

As the Hussite Wars began against the Catholics, the moderate Hussites also turned against the Táborites, crushing them in 1434.[13] Shortly thereafter, the moderates compromised with the Catholic Church to win certain religious freedoms in exchange for acknowledging the broader authority of the church and the Bohemian crown.[14]

After being weakened horribly by religious crap, Bohemia was promptly plunged back into the religious crap by Pope Pius II, who declared the agreement that ended the Hussite Wars to be invalid.[15] War continued for decades afterwards until the conclusion of the Peace of Kutná Hora, which reestablished the religious compromise in 1485 and was made legal by the Holy Roman Empire.[16] What a stupid clusterfuck.

Hapsburg rule[edit]

Prague Castle, seat of the Hapsburg emperors.

More religious war[edit]

With things sorted out at home, King Vladislaus of Bohemia made the decision in 1526 to join the East European effort to halt the expansion of the Ottoman Empire at the fateful Battle of Mohács.[17] Despite being a crushing Christian defeat, the battle proved to be one of the greatest things that ever happened to Austria's ruling Hapsburg dynasty. Killed in battle by the Turks, Bohemia's ruling dynasty was extinguished, allowing the Hapsburgs to claim the thrones of both Bohemia and neighboring Hungary.

Karlštejn Castle, built 1348 by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV to safeguard imperial treasures.

Austrian rule unsurprisingly proved burdensome to the Czechs, who tried to resist the centralization and authoritarianism of the foreign rulers. Hapsburg rulers gutted and divided Bohemian institutions and then declared themselves to be the permanent hereditary dynasty of Bohemia. Prolonged struggle between the Austrians and the Czech nobility/people re-inflamed religious tensions between the zealous Catholic Hapsburgs and the unorthodox Catholics of Bohemia.[18] Because of course. Bohemia's history made it fertile ground for the Protestant Reformation, which easily swayed many Czechs into becoming Protestants who were now even more furiously opposed to the Catholics.

Hapsburg authorities behead Bohemian Protestants.

Armed conflict exploded for the first time in 1547, resulting in an easy Hapsburg victory. In retaliation, the Hapsburgs confiscated Hussite property, rescinded the religious compromise, and had a bunch of people executed.[18] This predictably did nothing to win the loyalty of the Czech people. Things reached a head once more with the rise of the famously intolerant Hapsburg emperor Ferdinand II, who was already hated by Protestants for his previous career as a Hapsburg inquisitor.[19] In 1618, Ferdinand II sent some goons into Prague to shut down Protestant churches, resulting in some of said goons being tossed out of a tower window.[20] Matters quickly escalated into outright warfare, beginning the horrific bloodbath that was the Thirty Years War.

Bohemia declared itself independent, invited a German Protestant king to lead it, and then mobilized armies for its defense.[21] They were promptly destroyed at the Battle of White Mountain.[22] The Hapsburg victory ushered in a period of catastrophe for the Bohemian Protestants, who were either mass executed or forced into exile throughout the 1620s, and the Bohemian education system was placed under total Catholic theocratic control.[23] Catholic oppression provoked and prolonged the next phases of the Thirty Years War as other Protestant German princes rose up to defend their own rights alongside foreign support from France, Sweden, and Denmark. Bohemia slipped into a dark age whereupon their population declined by a third due to Hapsburg reprisals, warfare and slaughter, and the usual scourges of disease and famine.[24] Attempting to offset this and bolster their own rule, the Hapsburgs encouraged mass immigration into Bohemia by German Catholics, who took over from the exiled Czech Protestants and became the new ruling class.[23]

Going for Baroque[edit]

Baroque-style Vranov nad Dyjí Castle. Pretty sweet.

After the long process of reconstruction, the Hapsburg pseudo-empress Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II spent the 1700s implementing Enlightenment-era policies by abolishing serfdom and de-emphasizing religion while simultaneously tightening the screws on political opposition.[25] During this time period, the Czech lands underwent the Baroque architectural period, which was encouraged by Catholic authorities in opposition to Protestant and Calvinist austerity.[26] Baroque architecture turned Czechia into the uniquely picturesque tourist haven that it is today.[27] On the more negative side, the German state of Prussia used Maria Theresa's ascension as a sexist excuse to attack Austria and steal the historically Bohemian territory of Silesia in the War of the Austrian Succession.[28]

This period of modernization saw Bohemia become an industrial haven thanks to its coal deposits and glass industry. With serfdom abolished, Czech peasants increasingly moved into the cities, mingling and competing with the German ruling class.[25] The Germans didn't appreciate this much (the ruling class never appreciates equality), and tensions between the two groups defined Bohemian politics and the region's relationship with its Austrian overlords for the following centuries.

Rising nationalism[edit]

Czechia's national museum, established 1818.

Thanks to the freedoms granted to the Czechs, an intellectual Czech movement grew in the shadow of the traditional German-led order. In one of those universal patterns that you see followed everywhere (some variant of "rising nationalism" is a subtitle in many of our country articles), this resulted in said intellectual class becoming nationalistic. Czech scholars created organizations to revive their native language, long cast aside in favor of German.[29] Their biggest challenge was crafting the Czech language into a literary medium, as it had survived only in peasant agrarian communities.

Czech National Library hall.

The greatest achievement of the nationalists was in establishing the Museum of the Bohemian Kingdom in 1818, having forced authorities to acknowledge that Czechs had a history and that said history should be recognized.[29] In 1827, the museum began a periodical publication, one of the first Czech-language nationalist pamphlets circulated amongst the public.

Nationalism manifested most violently in the 1848 revolutions, which occurred across the German-speaking world.[30] Germans and Czechs were united in their opposition to Austrian tyranny, but the Germans vehemently opposed any efforts to remove Bohemia from German rule.[31] The movement ultimately collapsed into infighting with Czechs and Germans blaming each other for the failure. Some version of that story is also a universal historical pattern.

Further German dominance in Czechia made the nationalists increasingly determined to break free. The later 1800s saw Czechs and Germans furiously compete with each other for dominance over Bohemian institutions, causing inter-ethnic relations to deteriorate into hatred.[32] Obstructionism by both sides ground Bohemia to a halt, stagnating things until 1918.

The most important development, though, was the favorable contact between the Czechs, who felt oppressed by the Germans, and the Slovaks, who felt oppressed by the Hungarians. Considering that the Czechs and Slovaks had a fairly similar history, closely-related languages, and notable cultural contacts, a Czecho-Slovak cooperation framework became an increasingly favored concept.[33]

World War I[edit]

Czechoslovak Legion fighting for Russia.
See the main article on this topic: World War I

Czechs and Slovaks were very unhappy with the concept of dying for the Austrian Empire, and large numbers of them went so far as to defect and fight for Russia instead.[34] The Czechs played all sides during the war with different personalities, some going to Western Europe to advocate the dismembering of the lumbering Austrian beast, and others remaining loyal in the hopes of winning autonomy. Czech intellectual Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk teamed up with his Slovak allies to create the Czechoslovak exile legions to fight for the Entente and advocating for an independent Czech and Slovak state.[35] During the negotiations and double-dealing, "Czecho-Slovakia" went from being a cooperation framework to an actual entity when the Entente recognized it as a future nation. Horrified by this idea, Germans in the border regions (the Sudetenland) attempted to remain with Austria or form their own state, but the newly-formed Czechoslovak military swiftly occupied it.[34] Again, this is foreshadowing. After scuffling with Hungary over the fate of Slovakia, Czechoslovakia formalized its existence in October of 1918.

Czechoslovakia[edit]

Linguistic map of Czechoslovakia in 1930.

First republic[edit]

Being a hastily-assembled construct of various ethnic groups, including a not-insignificant chunk of Slovakia that was mostly populated by Ukrainians, Czechoslovakia wasn't exactly the most stable postwar state. In order to appease the Germans, Czechoslovakia signed a treaty that guaranteed the rights of its minorities under the League of Nations.[36] Elections for the new republican government had to be conducted based on the old Austrian census because of the rapid circumstances of its creation. On the plus side, though, the new nation had inherited some 80% of the old Austrian Empire's industry, making it an instant forefront industrial power while the Austrians and Hungarians entered a period of mental and economic depression.[36] The bad part was that much of this industry was in the Sudetenland and was thus controlled by the Germans, who were still disloyal and hoping to secede. Surely that wouldn't cause any problems.

In 1920, Czechoslovakia made itself into a parliamentary democracy, but there were still some problems thanks to the government being quite centralized around Prague and Czechia.[37] National minorities had guaranteed freedoms, but their participation in the highest levels of government was fairly limited. Again, we're sure that wouldn't cause any problems.

The Sudetenland problem[edit]

The Germans proved to be the republic's downfall, which you probably already guessed. Germans were heavily impacted by government efforts to combat social inequality, they were further impacted by economic problems in neighboring Germany, and heavily influenced by the eventual rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.[38] The Czech government entered a period of stiff conflict with the Nazis, attempting to dissolve the Sudeten Nazi party only to have it reform under different names (Nazis can be annoying like that). The successor parties made no secret of their agreement with Hitler's pan-German agenda.

Under Nazi German misrule[edit]

German tanks enter Prague, 1939.

After Hitler took Austria in 1938, he started screeching about reuniting with the Sudeten Germans. In May 1938 it became known to the international community that Hitler was drawing up plans to invade Czechoslovakia, which was a major problem since Czechoslovak independence was theoretically guaranteed by the British and French.[39] We said theoretically. In reality, British and French leaders considered any capitulation preferable to a repeat of the Great War. Thus, with no input from the Czechoslovak government, the Allies agreed at the so-called Munich Conference that all Czech provinces with more than 50% German population would be handed off to Germany with a plebiscite to be held in the rest.[40] The Munich Agreement was celebrated by Europe, as it seemingly prevented another continental war.[41] (It did not.)

Prague citizens shot by German occupiers.

As you might expect, the loss of the resource- and industry-rich Sudetenland catastrophically weakened Czechoslovakia. As you also might expect, the two-faced Hitler promptly broke the Munich Agreement and sent the German army to occupy the rest of Czechoslovakia, which had no way of resisting.[42] Czechoslovakia was then carved up between Germany, which took Bohemia-Moravia, the "Slovak Republic", a German puppet, and Poland, which annexed the Polish-majority region called Zaolzie.[43]

During World War II, Czech and Slovak partisans violently resisted German occupation. The Germans retaliated with their typical brutality, most infamously in a 1942 massacre of 340 civilians in the village of Lidice.[44] The German government also carried out the Holocaust in Czech territory, implementing discriminatory laws at first, but then building the Theresienstadt Ghetto to the north of Prague and using it as a transit facility to begin holding Jews before shipping them into death camps.[45] After Czech partisans heroically killed the monstrous Reinhard Heydrich, German crackdowns became even harsher and more murderous. Some 80,000 Jews were murdered by the German authorities.[46]

In the final days of the war, the Czech resistance rose up in Prague, fighting the Waffen-SS and hoping to weaken German rule ahead of the incoming Soviet Union's armies. The German retaliation was severe, with tanks and artillery guns running people over and blowing them up while German air forces bombed the city.[47] The uprising ended inconclusively, but Soviet forces arrived just a day later.

Communist rule[edit]

Portraits of Czech leader Klement Gottwald alongside Joseph Stalin.

Stalinization[edit]

Sadly, Czechoslovakia had been "liberated" by the Soviet Union (who also took the Ukrainian chunk of Slovakia as a war prize[48]). Since communist forces aligned with Joseph Stalin were fairly powerful in Czechoslovakia, the Soviets didn't really feel the need to clamp down as urgently as they had done elsewhere.[49] Sure enough, the communists won big in the 1946 elections and then launched a coup two years later to seize total control of government and eliminate the minority democratic opposition.[50] Czechoslovakia became a dictatorship aligned with the Eastern Bloc with the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSC) in total control.

Political participation became subject to KSC approval, the legislature became a simple rubber stamp for the dictatorship, and Czechoslovak interests were subordinated to the interests of the Soviet Union.[51] Stalin was the top dog in Czechoslovakia, and his natural paranoia and shittiness translated into an era of mass purges and show trials. Over a six-year period, from 1949 to 1954, thousands of military leaders, Catholics, Jews, and democratic politicians went before a series of kangaroo courts, and 180 of them were ultimately sentenced to the death penalty.[52] The defendants had been declared guilty before the trials had even begun and were ordered to rehearse their testimonies.

Censorship became ubiquitous, as independent publications were shut down and state-run media filled the air with bullshit. Dissidents and religious clergy were persecuted and often executed. On the other hand, previously poor working class people were given quality housing and a decent pension, and loyal people even got paid vacations to resort towns elsewhere in the Eastern Bloc.[53] Those benefits still came at a steep price, though, as the communist cult of productivity led to long hours and long workweeks to meet production quotas.[51] Land was collectivized, and wealthy farmers had their estates turned into state farms.

Prague Spring[edit]

Teletubbies on parade
Leading children in Prague, 1967.

This totalitarian model persisted even after Stalin's death, as the KSC leadership remained unchanged and committed to suppressing the Czech people.[54] Despite efforts at increasing production, the Czechoslovak economy stagnated, and the whole country became reliant on food imports from elsewhere in the Eastern Bloc. In response to the growing unrest this caused (economic problems always cause political problems), the Czechoslovak regime started to explore the possibility of following the semi-liberalization that was taking hold elsewhere in the Eastern Bloc.

In 1968, this resulted in the rise of Alexander Dubček, who got support for economic reforms and then implemented policies that gave greater freedom to Czechoslovak media and reviewed the show trials to rehabilitate those who had been unfairly sentenced.[55] Instead of being a simple reformist like the KSC and their Soviet minders expected, Dubček said "fuck y'all" and revealed that he was actually a full-on democratic socialist. He revealed plans to federalize and democratize Czechoslovakia, and he allowed the media to shit-talk the Soviet Union while social democrats made plans to split from the KSC and form their own party.[56] These sweeping changes made the conservatives shit a brick. The Soviet leadership also shit a brick and declared that Dubček was a counter-revolutionary.

Warsaw Pact invasion[edit]

Czech resistance to the invasion.

Determined to put a stop to the dangers of free speech and free thought, the Soviets got the Warsaw Pact together and launched an invasion of Czechoslovakia aimed at deposing Dubček and restoring the communist conservatives to power. They moved troops from Hungary, Poland, East Germany and Bulgaria near the Czechoslovak border under the guise that they were simply performing exercises; at the Soviet command, the forces struck quickly.[57] Warsaw Pact forces seized control of Prague and major cities and then shut down communications throughout the country.

108 Czech and Slovak civilians were killed during the first four months of the invasion, many run over by tanks and trucks while trying to negotiate or figure out why the fuck they were being invaded by their 'allies'.[58] Those who survived and didn't flee the country were faced with the choice of publicly denouncing Dubček's program or being totally ostracized from society. Dubček himself was hauled off to Moscow in handcuffs and eventually demoted to a minor forestry official.[59]

A prolonged political winter[edit]

The Czechoslovak people were understandably not too happy with their socialist comrades at this point. Soviet troops remained stationed throughout Czechoslovakia throughout the 1970s in order to suppress dissent and make sure that the reformists could be easily disposed of.[60] The brief experiment with less-shitty government was replaced with all the shit. Full censorship, total centralization, you name it. Everything went back as it was before Dubček ruined it all by not being a piece of shit.

Gustáv Husák took power as the new communist leader of Czechoslovakia. Husák stressed conformity with both his own rules and those of the Soviet Union, and he set about crushing the humanities, social sciences, and ultimately the pure sciences.[61] Art had to adhere to a rigid socialist realist formula based on the Soviet example. The new/old government also returned the country to the crusty old command economy, setting the stage for more economic problems further down the road. The oil crisis of 1973-74, caused by shenanigans in the Middle East, gave their economy the push it needed to go into free-fall.[61] Living standards crumbled. Instead of changing course, Husák doubled down on the idea that maintaining ties with the Soviet Union would, somehow and at some point, make things better again.

Velvet Revolution[edit]

Protesters in Prague, November 1989.

It turned out that deriving all political legitimacy from another country wasn't a very good policy. In 1989, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev outlined the amusingly termed "Sinatra Doctrine", which explained that the Soviet Union was no longer interested in violating the sovereignty of its fellow Warsaw Pact members.[62] In other words, no more violent acts like the invasion that ended the Prague Spring.

The Sinatra Doctrine basically spelled doom for the Eastern Bloc, as one by one the communist regimes found themselves absent Soviet aid and thus forced to peacefully negotiate a democratic transition. Late that year, a state-ordered commemoration of a martyr killed by the Nazis transformed into a mass protest movement that swept Prague.[63] Riot police promptly beat the shit out of the protesters, although this only dumped gas on the flames of public resentment. Police violence tends to do that.

Unable to take to the streets without violence, much of the Czechoslovak workforce instead went on strike, finally demonstrating the depth of the political opposition and convincing the Politburo to resign.[63] A compromise government quickly came into existence, and a democratic transition could begin. The country held its first democratic elections in 1990. Soviet forces withdrew from Czechoslovakia at the new government's request. Frankly, the Russians had bigger problems to deal with.

Dissolution[edit]

Three presidents in Iowa (l. to r.): Michal Kováč of Slovakia, Bill Clinton of the US, and Václav Havel of Czechia. 1995.

Czechoslovakia, a hastily-constructed experiment, was basically on its last legs at this point. When democratic government resumed, the Czechs and Slovaks abruptly realized that they had a wide variety of differences in their ideas of governance.[64] The Czechs especially thought that the Slovaks were overrepresented based on their respective populations, and the dysfunctional government left behind by the communists meant that an integrated political system was impossible.[64]

Thus, the so-called "Velvet Divorce", where Czechoslovakia split in two on December 31st, 1992. Ultimately, the move seemed to be the best option for stability, as it allowed the Czechs and Slovaks to avoid what would have been years of fighting over how to rework the government.

Modern republic[edit]

The Czech Republic underwent a rapid transition from command economics to market capitalism, one that has been broadly considered a success based on the country's modern economic indicators.[65] Closer to the ground, though, it's apparent that deep scars still remain. Despite the existence of a fairly comprehensive welfare state, Czechs are plagued by low wages, ridiculously long work hours, and a shortage of jobs.[66] People who have shitty jobs are just glad to have jobs.

The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999 and joined the EU in 2004. Czechia ranks quite highly on the Global Peace Index,Wikipedia just below Switzerland.

Government and politics[edit]

Straka Academy building, seat of the Czech government.

Structure[edit]

Czechia is a semi-presidential democracy with a constitution that guarantees most of the rights outlined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.[67] Its parliament is bicameral, split between the Chamber of Deputies (elected on a proportional basis for four-year terms) and the Senate (elected on a district basis for six-year terms). The Czech president is directly elected by popular vote to a five-year term and appoints the prime minister to run the government.

Corruption[edit]

Corruption is a huge problem in the Czech Republic, constantly stymying the European Union's efforts to help them get their shit together. In 2019, Czechia actually came in last place for meeting anti-corruption recommendations according to an evaluation of 42 countries by the Council of Europe's anti-corruption unit.[68] Damn. Current prime minister Andrej Babiš himself was accused by the European Parliament of funneling state funds into one of his companies; he retaliated by calling them "insane".[69]

Unfortunately, corruption is quite pervasive in the Czech judicial system. Bribes and irregular payments in return for favorable judicial decisions are common, and political influence on the judiciary is high.[70] Police also often expect bribes in exchange for protection, and bribes are often necessary to get access to quality public services.[70]

In 2020, a Prague court bizarrely ruled that PM Andrej Babiš has the right to lie about his political opposition in a case that targeted anti-corruption group Transparency International.[71]

Discrimination against Roma[edit]

Roma activists in České Budějovice.
The widespread segregation of Romani children is a horrifying example of systematic prejudice, with schools introducing children to bitter discrimination at an early age. By failing to properly address this issue for years the Czech government is not only breaching European Union and human rights law but is restricting the life chances of tens of thousands of Czech citizens. Let's call this what it is: racism, pure and simple.
—Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General.[72]

Typically for Central Europe, the Roma people face extensive discrimination in Czechia. According to Amnesty International, "Romani children face daily discrimination and segregation in schools due to the Czech government’s longstanding failure to address deeply ingrained prejudice within the education system".[72] Roma children are placed in separate classes, buildings, and schools and are even often placed in schools for pupils with "mild mental disabilities".[72] Romani children who are placed in regular schools face racist bullying. Amnesty International interviewed a young Romani boy named Petr who stated that, "They call me names because I’m Roma. The teacher doesn't deal with it and when I tell her, she accuses me of starting it. She treats us differently".[72]

Even Romani who are lucky enough to graduate from university and get good jobs still face discrimination in housing and personal economics, which forces them onto the outskirts of society and into debt.[73] Racism sometimes escalates into violence, most horrifically demonstrated in 2009 when far-right fuckwits fire-bombed a Romani house and burned a three year-old girl nearly to death, permanently disfiguring her.[74]

A 2019 Pew Research poll found that 66% of Czechs have strongly negative views towards Romani people.[75] Romani children in orphanages are almost never adopted due to the racist belief that they will inevitably grow up to be thieves and lazy.[76]

High-level government officials also frequently direct their scorn towards Romani. Czech president Milos Zeman caused a stir in 2018 when he stated that one of the things he missed about the old communist regime was the fact that they "made the Roma people work."[77] Upon criticism, he doubled down and stated without evidence that 90% of Romani refuse to work.

Famous Czech mates[edit]

Other things[edit]

  • Robots!Wikipedia
  • The Golem of Prague (a Jewish[78] 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
  • SemtexWikipedia — the 2nd word Czech(oslovakia) gave to the world.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Prague History: A Story Of Bad Times And Good Times. Travel Prague: your Prague guide by someone who lives here.
  2. Czech Republic to be known as 'Czechia'. BBC News.
  3. See the Wikipedia article on Religion in the Czech Republic.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Czech Republic: Early History. Country Studies.
  5. Czech Republic: Magyar Invasion. Country Studies.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Czech Republic: Bohemian Kingdom. Country Studies.
  7. See the Wikipedia article on Prague Castle.
  8. Jan Hus. Britannica.
  9. See the Wikipedia article on Jan Hus.
  10. Hussite. Britannica.
  11. The Hussites
  12. Hussites. Encyclopedia.com
  13. 13.0 13.1 Christ’s communists: the radical religious sect that challenged the Holy Roman Empire. History Extra.
  14. See the Wikipedia article on Hussite Wars.
  15. See the Wikipedia article on Bohemia § Hussite Bohemia.
  16. See the Wikipedia article on Religious peace of Kutná Hora.
  17. See the Wikipedia article on Battle of Mohács.
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