CZECH REPUBLIC

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On the territory of today’s Czech Republic and other states, there were German tribes up to the 5th century AD. Then the Slavonic tribes started coming from the east and reached the area of the Czech Republic in the 6th century.

In the 7th century Sámo’s empire arose. Sámo was a Franc merchant who became the ruler of the Slavonic tribes. After his death his empire fell apart.

Famous Czech princes, like Přemysl and Libuše, lived and ruled between the 7th and the 9th century.

Prince Mojmír I. established a new empire called Velká Morava in 830. Mojmír’s nephew Rostislav ruled after him. He invited the evangelists Konstantin (Cyril) and Metoděj in 863. They evangelised the people, translated the Bible and invented characters for the Slavonic script called Hlaholice. During the reign of Mojmír II. Velká Morava was destroyed by Hungarians.

The Czech state formed by Bořivoj I. at the end of the 9th century became the successor of Velkomoravská říše (the Big Moravian Empire). Bořivoj was the first ruler of the Přemysl dynasty.

He and his wife Ludmila converted to Christianity. The next ruler, Václav, was very educated and peaceful. He founded the church of Saint Vitus and paid duty to king Jindřich I. Ptáčník so that there would be no war between them. But the Czech nobility and Václav’s brother Boleslav didn’t agree with it. So Boleslav murdered Václav and became prince. At the time of the rule of Boleslav II. a bishopric was founded in Prague. He also killed the Slavníkovci clan with the exception of the bishop Vojtěch. After Boleslav’s death several candidates fought for the Czech throne. The winner was Břetislav I. He established the law which stated that the oldest man of the Přemysl dynasty would automatically become prince. Vratislav II. founded the bishopric in Olomouc. He helped the Emperor Jindřich IV. and therefore was given the title of king. He was the first Czech ruler who became king, but the title was only for him. It was not hereditary so his son was prince again. Vladislav II. sent the Emperor Fridrich I. Barbarosa military help when he fought in Italy. In return for this help Vratislav II. got the title of king in Regensburg but again this title was not hereditary. In 1197 Přemysl Otakar I. became prince. He introduced the primogeniture system in the Czech state. It meant that the next ruler would be the son of actual ruler. Přemysl Otakar I. was the first Czech ruler who acquired the hereditary title of king. It was signed in the document called Sicilian Golden Bull in 1212. After Přemysl Otakar I. died, his son Václav became king. Under Václav’s rule the Czech state rose economically. Přemysl Otakar II. was called the golden and iron king because he was a very good warrior so he gained a lot of land and the Czech country became rich. He died in the battle of Moravian Field in 1278. His son Václav II. became king when he was 12 years old. Under his rule the Czech state still expanded. He introduced a new coin called groš. In 1306 his son Václav III. was murdered when he was still very young and therefore had no children. That was the end of the rule of the Přemysl dynasty.

In 1310 Jan Lucemburský inherited the Czech country after his father, The Emperor Jindřich VII. But Jan had conflicts with the Czech nobility and therefore lived in France. He got the nickname “King Foreigner”. At the end of his life he fought with France against England in 100 years war. He died in a battle near Kresčak. His son Karel was educated in France. He was responsible for the advancement of the Prague bishopric to archbishopric. Under his supervision the basilica of Saint Vitus was rebuilt to a gothic cathedral. He also became a Czech king. In 1355 he became an Emperor. He was the fourth Emperor of this name so he was called Karel IV. He introduced Prague as a cultural and political centre of Western Europe. He founded the Prague University in 1348, build a new stone bridge over the river Vltava named after him Charles bridge, and the castle Karlštejn. He also gave the order for new coronation jewels to be made. Under the rule of Václav IV. the Czech country was not admired and he was rejected the title of Emperor. He edited the document called Dekret kutnohorský in 1409. This patent changed the rate of votes at Charles University; the Czechs had three votes and the others only one. On the 6th July 1415 master Jan Hus was burned to death. Then the action of the Hussite movement called defenestration followed. The Hussites went to the town hall and threw all councillors down from a window. When the king Václav heard the report about the Hussites, he had a heart attack and died. Zikmund Lucemburský should have become king after Václav, but the Hussites did not want him to. And so the war between Zikmund and the Hussites began. The Hussites were led by a very good general called Jan Žižka and were not defeated until battle near Lipany in 1434. After the war, Zikmund Lucemburský became king. He died the following year. Then there were 14 years without any ruler in the Czech country. The next famous ruler was Jiří z Poděbrad. He was fighting for the Czech throne against his son-in-law Matyáš Korvín, who was supported by the Pope. The war finished when Jiří z Poděbrad died. The next famous king was Ludvík Jagellonský. He was crowned to be the Czech king when he was three years old. He united the Czech state with Hungary. He died in the battle near Moháč where he fought against the Turks. He had no heir, and so the next Czech king had to be elected.

The Czech parliament elected Ferdinand Habsburský. This act meant the beginning of the rule of the Habsburg dynasty on the Czech throne, which continued for 400 years. The next king, Rudolf II., liked astrology, alchemy, magic and arts. During his rule there were outstanding personalities in Prague e.g. E. Kelley, J. Dee, Tycho de Brahe, and J. Kepler. The legend about Golem made by rabbi Löw comes from this time. Rudolf II. had big collections of art and inventions. In 1618 the second Prague defenestration began the Thirty-Year War. Catholics and non-Catholics fought against themselves at the battle on the White Mountain in 1620. The Catholics won, and so Ferdinand II. became king. He announced Catholicism as the only religion and executed 27 Czech lords who fought against him back in 1620. In 1627 non-Catholics had to leave the Czech state or convert to Catholicism. It meant that a majority of properties in the Czech country was owned by foreign nobility. During and after his reign the absolutism triumphed. Charles VI. was the last man in the Habsburg dynasty and so his main problem was his heir. He had a child but it was a woman. So he issued a document which said that if there was no man in the Habsburg dynasty, a woman could become heir to the throne.

Marie Terezie became Empress. She was very well educated. She reformed the state administration, judiciary and education systems. She introduced compulsory school attendance. She ruled together with her first-born son Josef II. After her death, Josef II. became Emperor. He liked to travel incognito, under the name of Falkenstein. He was very popular. The next ruler František was not so liberal as his father or grand father was. He had to fight against the French Emperor Napoleon. František I. defeated him together with Russia. He again introduced absolutism. During the revolution in 1848, František Josef I. became Emperor. He defeated the revolution. That started the World War I.

The war began in 1914. Germany and the Austro-Hungarian federation fought against France, Great Britain, and Russia. During the war, Italy converted to France, Great Britain and Russia and the United States of America also joined these states. However, Germany and the Austro-Hungarian federation were defeated two years later and it meant the end of the Empire. The Hungarians constituted their own state. The Czechs constituted their state together with the Slovaks in the autumn of 1918. It was called Czechoslovakia. At the birth of Czechoslovakia there was one of outstanding Czech personality of all times, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. After founding the Czechoslovak Republic he became the first president. He was president until 1935. Czechoslovakia became a fully democratic state. After T. G. Masaryk, Edvard Beneš became president. It was a difficult time for the Czech nation because of Germany. At the congress in Munich in 1968, an agreement was signed that a part of Czechoslovakia became German.

In one year the World War II began. Edvard Beneš went to London where he founded the exile government in 1940. In Czechoslovakia the president was Emil Hácha, who did what Hitler wanted. Shortly after the end of the war in 1945, he died. Edvard Beneš became president again. But he resigned because of the communists supported by J. V. Stalin in 1948. Klement Gottwald was the leader of the Czech Communist Party, so he became president. It was the beginning of the socialistic regime in our country. People who wanted democracy were arrested and executed. The following presidents were Antonín Zápotocký, Antonín Novotný, general Ludvík Svoboda and Gustav Husák. He was the first Slovak to hold this function. He resigned in 1989 after the revolution in November. This revolution brought back democratic principles to our country. The next president of Czechoslovakia was the dramatist and writer Václav Havel. He fought against communism his whole life. He was one of the authors of the document Charta 77, for which he was constrained for several years. On the 5th July 1990 he became president of the Czechoslovak Federative Republic and after the separation of this Republic into the Czech and Slovak Republics, he became the president of the Czech Republic on the 1st January 1993.

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