|Among the first inhabitants of the area were members
of a Celtic tribe called the Boii. This word is the origin of the old name
for this area, Bohemia. Slavic peoples settled in the area between the
1st and the 6th centuries A.D. From 830 to 907, the land was part of the
Great Moravian Empire, which included present-day Slovakia, as well as
parts of Germany, Austria, Poland and Hungary. In 863, the Greek missionaries
Cyril and Methodius converted the area to Christianity.
|In the late 9th century, the Bohemians seceded
from the Great Moravian Empire and formed the Principality of Bohemia.
It was ruled first by members of the Premyslid family and then by the Luxembourg
family. In the early 15th century, Jan Hus called for reforms to the wealthy
Catholic church. He was executed in 1415, but his followers, the Hussites,
continued to promote reform. Many Bohemians became Protestants. In 1526,
the Habsburg dynasty became the rulers of Bohemia.
Hus's work preceded the Protestant reforms of Martin Luther in the 16th
century by more than 100 years.
|In 1618, Ferdinand II tried to suppress Protestantism
in the country. This was the beginning of the Thirty Years' War in Europe
between Catholics and Protestants. The Protestants were defeated at the
Battle of the White Mountain in 1620. Freedom of religion was restored
in 1781. The Habsburgs remained in power until 1918.
The 19th century saw increased industrialization,
the rise of a middle class, and growing nationalism. In 1918, at the end
of the First World War, the Austro-Hungarian Empire fell apart and Czechoslovakia
was formed. Its first president was Thomas Masaryk. In 1938, Nazi Germany
invaded Czechoslovakia. The other European nations allowed Germany to annex
the country, but a year later, when the Germans invaded Poland, they went
to war. The Czechs fought against the Nazi occupation. After the war, the
Communists came to power.
|In 1968, Czechoslovakia's leader, Alexander Dubcek,
introduced democratic reforms. This period was known as the Prague Spring.
The Soviet leaders opposed these reforms. On the night of August 20-21,
1968, troops from the Soviet Union and other Communist countries invaded
the country and brutally suppressed the reform movement. Czechoslovakia
remained under Communist rule for another 20 years.
In 1989, in what is known as the Velvet Revolution,
the Czechs overthrew the Communist regime. Czechoslovakia became a democratic
country on December 29. Václav Havel, a playwright and former dissident,
became president. In 1992, the Czechs and Slovaks decided to form separate
states. The Czech Republic was created on January 1, 1993. The Republic,
like other formerly Communist countries, is undergoing political and economic
reform during the transition from a socialist state to a democratic one.
was a Bohemian prince of the Premyslid dynasty who lived in the 10th century
A.D. and promoted Christianity in Bohemia. After he was killed by his brother,
who opposed his beliefs, he became the patron saint of Bohemians. Although
he is remembered as "Good King Wenceslas" in the popular carol, he reigned
as a prince, not as a king.