The Czech Republic before The Czech Republic

I wanted to understand Czech history, the construction of Prague, and understand why there is such a large German community in the country. I also wanted to know what were the reasons for defenestration in Prague and the Hussite wars. The article does not pretend to go into full details but to highlight the main steps of the construction of a Czech state until the 20th century.

Origins until XXth century

Whether founding city of Bohemia origins, or now the capital of a country, Prague has often been at the center of events in Czech history. Founded in the 9th century, the seat of the Dukes of Premyslid dynasty, it became a royal city and capital of an empire under the Habsburgs. But the image of the country’s destiny, Prague was rarely only Czech. In the 20th century, just out of the womb with the Austrian establishment of Czechoslovakia, it falls into the hands of the Soviets. They do little interested, except to suppress any attempt at rebellion, and until begins in 1989, the famous Velvet revolutions. It is only since 1993, with the creation of an independent Czech has got their own country.


Scattered remnants show that the human presence in the basin of Bohemia dates back more than 500,000 years. Much later, in the late 6th millennium BC, the Neolithic farmers from the south-east of Europe settled there. But the region enters the historical record with the Romans advanced northwards and their meet with the Celtic populations.

The Romans gave them the name Boii and call their country Boiohaemum, the names Bohemia and Bohemian comes from this period. Belonging to the “Tène” culture, the Boii are not far from a state worthy of the name, but in the 1st century BC, under pressure from Germanic tribes less advanced, they are scattered by the Marcomanni Germanic invading the Bohemia after being expelled from their territories in 9 BC by the Roman general Drusus.

4th and 5th century Bohemia does not seem to be very affected by the early stages of the migration, but the sixth century saw the arrival of the first Slavs in the region. Between 620 and 659, during the reign of Samo, they establish a kingdom and lead campaigns against invasions of nomads such as the Avars and the Franks.

On the death of Samo, the kingdom disappears and no trace of the slave dynasty before a century and a half. It was not until the 9th century to the emergence of a great empire Moravian Slavs, including much of Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia today. The Emperor Ratislav encourage the conversation of his people to Christianity, especially through such missionaries Cyril and Methodius, sent by Byzantium in 863. At the end of the 9th century, the tribe supersedes the Czech Moravian.

Prince (or Duke) Borijov built the fortress of Levy Hradec downstream of Prague, then moves his capital on the Hill Hradcany, Prague embryo of the future. It belongs to the Premyslid dynasty.


The birth of a medieval state

The young dynasty Přemyslid strengthens and affirms under Duke Vaclav (Wenceslas 923-929). Placing itself under the dual protection of Henry I the Fowler, King of Saxony, and the pope, he pursued a policy in favor of Christianity. But these choices are not without causing tensions and Prince attracts the animosity of nobles. In 929, the young king was murdered by his brother Boleslav the heathen. This fratricidal gives rise to several interpretations: would he have been killed to reverse the progress of Christianity? Because of his efforts to forge an alliance with its Germanic neighbors? Because of rivalries within the court Přemyslid?

The latter explanation seems more plausible. Successor Wenceslas, Boleslav first (935-972) began a war against the fourteen Holy Roman Emperor Otto 1 which results in a failure. It conquers Bohemia, passing under the dominion of the Holy Roman Empire in 962. Premyslid princes then ruling the country under the supervision and should expect 1212 to be eligible for the new royalty.

The alliance with the Holy Roman Empire mark at the end of the 10th century, the victory of Christianity in Bohemia. A cult of Wenceslas develops. He was soon canonized along with his grandmother Ludmilla who raised a Christian. It is also murdered by his stepdaughter pagan Drahomira. Wenceslas and Ludmilla become the first patron saint of Bohemia, thereby sanctifying Přemyslid dynasty and giving the country a place of honor in Christian Europe.

In 973, Boleslav II (972-999) obtained from the Pope the foundation of a bishopric in Prague, dependent on the archbishopric of Mainz. The Saxon Thietmar was appointed first bishop. His successor, from 983, Vojtech (Adalbert), is a slave of the powerful family of Slavnik Eastern Bohemia, only real rivals Premyslid. He founded the first monastery in 993 men of the country Brevnov and died a martyr in 997 in East Prussia. He was canonized in 999, becoming the third patron saint. In 1085, Vratislav I move for a short period the royal palace Hradschin to Vysehrad. The reign of Ladislaus II (1140-1173) is marked by the foundation of numerous monasteries, including one at Strahov Premonstratensian.

The Knights of St John of Jerusalem to build a beautiful Mala Strana commander, with the church of Notre-Dame-sous-la-Chaîne. In 1204, Procope, popular priest who founded the monastery in 1032 Slavonic rite Sazava is canonized. He now trains with Vojtech, Ludmilla and Wenceslas group of four patron saints of Bohemia. In 1212, with the “gold bubble of Sicily,” the Emperor grants Ottokar I and his successors the inheritance of the crown of Bohemia and a voice in the election of the emperor they are now ” prince-electors “of the Holy Roman Empire.

The 13th century was marked by the reign of Ottokar II (1253-1278), “King of Gold and Iron”. It contributes significantly to extend the sovereignty of Bohemia, whose territories are now going to Austria and to the south to the Adriatic. Taking part in the crusade of the Teutonic Knights in Prussia (1255), he founded Königsberg (Kaliningrad).

It also undertakes a struggle for the throne of the Holy Roman Empire, but was rejected by voters in favor of Rudolph I of Habsburg. At the end of the war that followed, he loses all his conquests in the Alps before being defeated by Rudolph I of Habsburg at the Battle of Dürnkrut on the Moravian-Austrian border.

Under his reign, and for much of the next century, Bohemia experienced a period of prosperity and Prague became one of the great cities of Europe, home of courtly literature and Gothic architecture. Wenceslas II succeeded him from 1283 to 1305, and Wenceslas III, was assassinated in 1306 by a noble Olomouc.

The Luxembourg

In 1310, John of Luxembourg (1310-1346), son of the Emperor Henry VII and husband of Princess Elisabeth Přemyslid, was elected king of Bohemia. This little monarch, he focuses his kingdom as financial support for his adventures abroad. It nevertheless manages to enlarge and attaches land of Silesia and Lusatia, and the Eger region around the current Cheb.

In 1338, he granted the city facing the castle on the other side of the Vltava (future “Old Town”), permission to build a Town Hall, marking the development and independence of bourgeois traders Prague. In 1344, the church is freed from the tutelage of Mainz in becoming seat of an archbishop. The new archbishop presided at the laying of the first stone of the new St. Vitus gothic cathedral. In 1346, Jean de Luxembourg fight at the Battle of Crécy and died in the French army.

Jean de Luxembourg

The son of King Wenceslas, better known under the name of Charles because he was educated in France, was elected to both the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia under the name of Charles IV (1346-1378). Prague becomes “capital” of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1348, Chrles founded the first university in Central Europe.

Charles IV

It builds and strengthens a further extension of the city, called Nove Mesto (New Town). It elevates churches and monasteries, rebuilt the fortress of Vysehrad, and replaces Judith Bridge, ruined by a beautiful Gothic bridge (which will be named the Charles Bridge in 1870).

Charles Bridge

To provide work work workers threatened by famine, he built Hladova zen, “the wall of hunger” on Petrin Hill. It is also building a large castle Karlstejn, south of Prague, to house the crown jewels and holy relics he collected fervently. Polyglot, fluent in French, German, Italian and Latin, Charles keen to promote his mother tongue: Czech enjoys high esteem during his reign.

In 1378, Wenceslas IV (1378-1419) succeeded his father Charles. This is a weak ruler, leaving bishops and barons lead the kingdom to his place while the people are oppressed. In 1380, the plague ravaged Prague. Scorned as “servants of the king” scapegoats of these misfortunes, the Jews suffered many pogroms. The ghetto was destroyed during one of them.

The Hussite revolt

Began in the reign of Charles IV and Wenceslas IV, a religious reform movement led by the preacher Jan Hus takes its full extent under Sigismund of Luxembourg (1419-1437) and leads to a religious and social crisis and civil war . The death of Jan Hus at the stake July 6, 1415 gives strength to the movement instead of weakening it. In 1419, protesters Hussites broke into City Hall New Villeet rush Catholic councilors from the windows.

This is the first Defenestration of Prague, which marks the beginning of the Hussite revolution. These require a return to the early church, sermon freedom and punishment of mortal sins by the civil authorities. Over the clashes, Mala Strana is looted, destroyed Vysehrad. The Hussite Prague leaving the strongest to found the city of Tabor.

The first defenestration of Prague

In July 1420 the first organized crusade against the Hussites. But the army of Emperor Sigismund was defeated at Prague on the Vítkov hill, by the troops of Jan Zizka, the noble southern Bohemia. In 1434, the split between moderates and Utraquists Taborites radical causes Lipany battle, which saw the defeat of the latter.

In 1436, the signing of the Basel Compacts compromise between Catholics and Utraquists, allowing peace to return to a country ravaged by war, depleted by the flight of many German inhabitants, but the nobility grew rich at the expense of the Church. The Bohemian Diet elects King George of Podie brad in 1458. This “Hussite king” will strive to maintain harmony between different religious trends.

The arrival of the Habsburgs

From 1471 to 1526, Bohemia was led by Polish Jagiellon dynasty, leaving the Assembly of States, combining noble and royal cities, increasing its power and influence. On the death of the last king Jagiello, Louis II was killed in 1526 while fighting the Turks at the battle of Mohacs in Hungary, the United insist elect the ruler of the country. Among many candidates, they chose Ferdinand I of Austria (1526-1564), brother of Louis II and representing Habsburg dynasty only capable, in their eyes, to stop the Turkish advance into Central Europe.

But Ferdinand has most to consolidate and centralize the power of the Habsburgs and the Catholic Church to its former status, that respect the rights and privileges of a historic Bohemian Protestant majority. In 1547, it suppresses a rebellion of states, and further humiliation, depriving the royal cities, including the four cities of Prague, their powers. He moves his capital at Vienna, naming his son Ferdinand of Tyrol Governor Prague Pavilion de l’Etoile, mannerist, and initiates the Bohemian nobility and elegance of the Renaissance.

Ferdinand of Tyrol

In 1556, Ferdinand I becomes emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. He brought the Jesuits in Prague, founded in 1562 to counteract the Clementinum the oldest university Carolinum (Charles University), utraquist trend. Their influence is spreading throughout the country. In 1575, Maximilian II (1562-1576) approves the “Bohemian Confession” which gives protection to the Protestants, it will be done subsequently withdrawn.

Under Emperor Rudolf II (1576-1611), a passionate collector, patron of the arts and sciences are restored and built churches and aristocratic palaces and the Hradschin in Mala Strana. Noble families of the empire amounted to Prague, returned to the imperial capital in 1583. The Catholic influence grows. In 1609, allied with the moderate Catholics supported by Mathias, brother of Rudolph the Protestant party forced the emperor to sign the letter of majesty, which guarantees freedom of worship.

Wishing restores its authority over the states and repel the claim to the throne of his brother, Rudolf II commits the blunder to invade Prague by his nephew Archduke Leopold, an adventurer at the head of an army of mercenaries from Passau, Bavaria. But “the army of Passau” is banished from the city and Rodolphe forced to abandon the Bohemian crown in favor of Mathias. Always emperor, but alone and ill, Rodolphe Hradschin turns off in January 1612.

Rudolf II

The Thirty Years War

Born complex conflicts, religious and dynastic this war, which took place for many in Bohemia, has left the country devastated, depopulated, and emptied of its Protestants. It begins May 23, 1618, with the second defenestration of Prague and rebellion states. this second defenestration took place in part to Catholicism exacerbated trying to remove privileges to the Protestants.

The scene takes place in the wing where Louis Catholic governors serve in the absence of the emperor. Two governors known for their intransigent Catholicism were thrown out the window but miraculously survived. The population of the Old City raises burning Catholic churches and looted the Jewish town, announcing the horrors more frightful still the Thirty Years War.

The second defenestration of Prague

A provisional government was formed by thirty directors, and an army under the command of Thurn and Mansfeld counts. Ferdinand II became king in 1618 is replaced by Frederick V

Be called the “King of Winter” into Prague with great ceremony, with his wife, Elizabeth Stuart. At the Battle of White Mountain. The Catholic Imperial army and the troops of the United Bohemian Protestants clash on the morning of November 8, 1620. The U.S. Army collapsed, panic, low “winter king” Frederick V and his wife fled the city. For Catholics the victory is complete but it is a disaster.

The 27 leaders of the rebellion of the states, including many Catholics, are executed on the site of the Old City June 21, 1621, near the astronomical clock you can see 27 ork cross ground that represents the executions.

27 crosses for martyrs

The property of those who participated in the rebellion was confiscated and sold at low prices to noble families of Bohemia and foreign faithful to the imperial cause: German, Spanish, Italian, Flemish, and Croatian. The defeat of the White Mountain remains in the minds of Czech as the darkest day in their history. It marks the beginning of the period known Temno (the “dark times”).

German gets the same official status as Czech and Archbishop Harrach rudely impose the re-Catholicization. Protestants are allowed to choose between conversion or exile. the Thirty Years’ War ended in 1648 after defeating the Swedes who came to defend the Protestant cause.

In 1650 Marian column was erected on the place of the Old City to commemorate the victory over the Protestant forces.

Bohemia, Austrian soil

The period following the defeat of the White Mountain sees the Habsburgs a policy of Germanization and choking of Protestantism. In 1683, is also placed on the Charles Bridge statue of January Nepomucky canon (Nepomuk), martyred in 1393, canonized in 1729 with great ceremony, and encourages his cult. This new saint “Jan” should help erase memories of the memory of Jan Hus.

Jan Nepomucky

The Empress Marie (1740-1780), the heir to the Habsburg states, faces Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, France and Spain during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748). Prague was occupied by the French and Bavarian troops. Supported by most of the states of Bohemia, the Duke of Bavaria was crowned king. But in 1742, the city was taken over by the Austrian army, under the command of Prince Lobkowicz. In 1744, the Prussians have forced Prague, Frederick annex Silesia. The Empress tries to recover this territory during the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), in vain. Prague undergoes a second Prussian occupation in 1757, even harder.

On the death of the Empress, in 1780, Emperor Joseph II (1780-1790), “enlightened despot”, has a policy of centralization, refusing to be crowned in Prague and establishing German as the first language of the empire. He ordered the dissolution of many monasteries and banished the Jesuits. He is an advocate of education and removes much of the discriminatory rules imposed on the Jews, however, must adopt German names.

Joseph II

The awakening of a nation

Reforms agreed by Maria Theresa and Joseph II, encouraging trade and industry, cause the emergence and development of a middle class. It codifies and revives the Czech language, we rediscover the country’s history: it gives life to the concept of a Czech nation, rich aboriginal rights a bright future.
Menes by Napoleon, in 1805 the French won a great victory over the Russians and Austrians at Austerlitz (Slavkov) in Moravia. Unlike the Thirty Years’ War that had devastated Bohemia is virtually unaffected by the Napoleonic wars.

In 1848, Vienna and Budapest revolt against the policy of Metternich. A pan-Slavic Congress held in Prague. Frantisek Palacky there develops the concept of “Austro-Slavism,” which advocates the autonomy of the Bohemian part of the Habsburg Empire, which would Bohemian autonomy protected from Germanic nationalism.

An uprising of radical students and workers quickly suppressed by General Windischgrätz. Emperor Franz Joseph ascended the throne in Vienna, but will not be crowned in Prague despite its promises. The hopes of reformers and revolutionaries of 1848 were disappointed, while in Vienna establishes a reactionary regime. The emancipation of the peasants is the only concrete step.

František Palacký

In 1866, the Prussian army entered Bohemia and Austrian troops to crush Sadowa, near Hradec Kralove (Königgrätz). By the Treaty of Prague, the Austrian Empire deviated from German affairs, subject now to Prussia.
In 1868 began the construction of the National Theatre. Unlike the National Museum, whose purpose is to showcase the richness of Bohemia both Czech and German, this is the first major institutions dominated by the spirit Czech intended to consolidate the National Revival.

The crowd manifest contra the Ausgleich, Austro-Hungarian Kompromiss of 1867 which established the dual monarchy to Hungary and leaves full control of its affairs, painful contrast with the situation of the Czechs and other Slavs in the empire. In 1871, following protests from Germany and Hungary, the proposal “fundamental articles” aimed to give the Czechs a certain autonomy and equal representation with their fellow Germans, is removed.
The great Jubilee Exhibition opens at Prague in 1891 to commemorate the first event of its kind, a century earlier. Despite a boycott by the German exhibitors, it attracts around 2.5 million.

A state composed of Czechs and Slovaks eventually born at the end of the First World War which Tomas Garrigue Masaryk be President.

Tomas Garrigue Masaryk

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