Brief History of the Czech Republic

Learn something new so you better understand locals in Prague.

4th century B.C.


The present-day Czech Republic was populated by Celts. They were the first ethnic group to arrive in the area, according to historical evidence. The Celtic Boii tribe gave the country its Latin name – Boiohaemum (Bohemia = Czech). They were pushed out by the German tribes (Marcomanni, Quidi) before the beginning of our era.

5th – 7th century


From one to two centuries later, Slavs arrived to the present-day Moravia and Slovakia (east from Prague). In the 7th century, Slavonic tribes were united into the so-called Samo’s kingdom.
Slavs Samo

9th century

Christian Missionaries

In 863, the Byzantine Christian missionaries Constantin and Methodius came to the part of the present-day Czech Republic, Moravia. They introduced Slavic liturgy there.
However, the influence of the Roman Catholic Church expanded, proving to be decisive in th  e course of the history of Bohemia and Moravia.
Christian Missionaries

9th century – 1306

Premyslid Dynasty

A gradual strengthening of the Czech state occured during the reign of the Premyslid dynasty.
Nevertheless, the Germans overshadowed them and in 950 Bohemia became part of the Holy Roman Empire.
Premyslid Dynasty

14th century

Charles IV

The 14th century is considered to be a golden age for the Czechs.  John, who ruled until 1346 spent most of his time abroad but his son Charles IV was a great ruler. Under his reign Bohemia became rich and powerful. In 1355, Charles IV was even elected Holy Roman Emperor. In 1356 he issued a golden bull which confirmed that the Holy Roman Empire was a commonwealth of sovereign states and not just a single empire.
More efficient farming methods from France together with gold and silver mines made Bohemia prosperous. Charles built many new public buildings and under him the arts flourished. Furthermore in 1348 he founded a university in Prague, the Charles University. It is the oldest university in central Europe.
Charles IV

15th century


Economic and political crisis during the reign of Wenceslas IV, the successor of Charles IV led to the creation of the Hussite reform movement. This crisis was exacerbated by the criticism of the Church in Europe. The Hussite movement was inspired by the ideas of Master Jan Hus, a preacher who was burnt at the stake in 1415 at Constance for his critism of the Church. Despite his death, his supporters successfully continued in their efforts to reform the Church. Heir to the crown of Bohemia, the Roman Emperor Sigismund, tried to defeat the growing revolution with force, but the Hussites defeated his five consecutive crusades. Only the victory of 1434, when the moderates defeated the radicals, opened the way for a temporary agreement between Hussite Bohemia and Catholic Europe. This agreement, The Compacts of Basle was proclaimed in 1436 and confirmed the Hussite denomination, and would later be paralleled by the Reformation of the 16th century.
The Hussite movement changed the structure of society in many ways. It created religious dualism for the first time in Christian Europe. There was a decline in the power and prosperity of the Church from which the nobility and towns were able to profit. The Czech nation and Czech culture came to the forefront of social life. In the years of unrest, a Czech noble – George of Podebrady, a skillful diplomat and a man of outstanding personality, became the leader of Czech political life. He was elected King of Bohemia in 1458. His diplomatic activities – notably his effort to establish a peace confederation of the European sovereigns – even reached beyond the horizon of central Europe.

16th century


The Habsburgs of Austria succeeded to the throne of Bohemia when the Jagellon line died out. The Habsburg rule brought the re-introduction of the Roman Catholic faith, centralization and the construction of a multi-national empire. The Habsburgs included the Crownlands of Bohemia in their monarchy, and they remained a part of the Habsburg empire until 1918.

17th century

Thirty Years War

When Rudolf II the Habsburg during his reign, left Vienna for Prague, Prague grew into an important center of European culture. The Czech Estates forced Rudolf II to issue a decree – so called “Maiestatus” – proclaiming freedom of religious confession. The Emperors Matthias and Ferdinand tried to limit this freedom and their efforts sparked a civil war between the Estates and the Catholic Emperor which later spread into Europe underthe name of the Thirty Years’ War. It began in 1618 when rebels threw Catholic nobles out of a window in Prague – the so-called defenestration of Prague.  However, the Estates were defeated in 1620 at the Battle of the White Mountain and the Kingdom of Bohemia lost its independence for the following almost 300 years. The period of the Thirty Years’ War brought political disorder and economic devastation to Bohemia which had far-reaching consequences on the future d  evelopment of the country. The people of Bohemia were forced to accept the Catholic faith or to emigrate. The throne of Bohemia was made hereditary in the Habsburg dynasty and the most important offices were transferred permanently to Vienna. To make it even worse a mass execution of 27 leaders of the Bohemian Revolt happened on June 21, 1621 at the Old Town Square in Prague. The lost Battle of the White Mountain lead to centuries of fear and happened to negatively affect the Czech spirit until today.
Thirty Years War

18th century


Czech fortunes revived in the mid-18th century. From 1740 Maria-Theresa was empress of Austro-Hungary and she was more sympathetic to the Czechs than previous rulers. In 1773 the empress banned the Jesuits but in 1781 her successor introduced religious toleration.
Marie Theresa

19th century

Czech National Revival

In the early 19th century Czech industry grew rapidly. The textile industry boomed. The sugar industry and an iron industry also prospered. Meanwhile interest in Czech culture and history grew. Among the leading minds of the 19th century were Josef Dobrovsky (a linguist) and Frantisek Palacky (a historian). Furthermore during the 19th century the great Czech composer Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) wrote operas, concertos and symphonies.
Although the Czech national revival movement aspired at first  only to a revival of the Czech language and culture, it soon began to strive for political emancipation. In the revolutionary year 1848, Czech politicians made the first coherent political propositions aimed at rebuilding the empire into a federalist state. A desire for national emancipation was supported by the quick industrialization of Bohemia, which made the country the most developed land of the monarchy in the second half of the 19th century.

20th century


In the years during World War I Czech politics took a turn towards radicalism as a result of the activities abroad of T. G. Masaryk (that bald man in the right picture) and E. Benes, the future presidents. The defeat of the Austria-Hungary cleared the way for the foundation of an independent state of Czechs and Slovaks (28.10.1918). Then the Czechoslovak Republic became one of the ten most developed countries of the world.

1939 – 1945

World War II

The end to Czechoslovakia was brought as the result of the Munich Conference which was held in 1939. The Great Britain, France and Italy agreed with Adolf Hitler (without the presence of Czechoslovakia) to sacrifice the state of Czechoslovakia and factically devoted its territory to Adolf Hitler’s Germany because they selfishly thought this would mean peace for their nations. But it proved to bring exactly the opposite. The Czechs feel this betrayal until today and this was the second biggest shock for the Czech people after what happened as a result of the defeat at the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620. .
World War II



After World War II, something even worse happened – the restored republic became part of the Soviet sphere of power. A period of “limited” democracy was ended by a Communist takeover in February 1948. All private property was expropriated and political and human rights were supressed. An attempt to change and humanize Communist totality and to weaken ties to the Soviet Union failed when the Soviet Army invaded the country in August 1968.
The era of communism was the third and the last dark time for the people of Czech. The most intelligent people of the time were persecuted and some were even tortured to death. The wealthy people lost all their property. The heroes of the World War II fighting against the Hitler’s Germany were proclaimed as the state’s enemy and after that they were tortured and murdered. Rest of the population was brainwashed by the Communist Party. Czech politians were factically controlled by the Soviet Russia and the law was absolutely misused so it mainly served for political purposes of the Soviets.


Foundation of the Czech Republic after the split of Czechoslovakia

On January 1, 1993, the Czechoslovak state was peacefully divided and the independent Czech and Slovak Republics were founded. Václav Havel was elected the first president of the Czech Republic. In the following years the Czech Republic joined the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development-OECD (1994) and joined the NATO (1999) and EU (2004). The Czechs have now completed the transformation of the formerly centralized state system into a parliamentary democracy and market economy.
However, it will take time before the Czechs get over the 1620, 1939 and the 41 years of terror under the communist regime.