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.
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Jan 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.

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Wenceslas 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.