Image: Edgard Hörz
Author: Carla C. Degen
Keywords: history

Of course, one can fill books with Czech history; starting way back with the first settlements of Slavic tribes in what today is central Europe or maybe looking back at the Holy Roman Empire in which the Czechs played an important role. However, within the scope of this article, it seems more sensible to start at the verge of modernity.

After the First World War, Czechs and Slovaks, formerly both part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, merged to form Czechoslovakia in 1918.
Czechoslovakia had a vocal German minority making up about 15% of the total population. Those ethnic Germans lived predominately in the Sudetenland. With the years, claims of independency from Czechoslovakia grew louder, especially with the formation of an own party, the SdP.

In Germany the National socialist party was in government and Dictator Hitler was generally in favour of the Sudetes striving for autonomy from Czechoslovakia. In 1938, after a conference in Munich – in which Czechoslovakia did not take part – the Munich Agreement adjudicated the Sudetenland to Germany .

Merely two years later World War II broke free. At the end of the war in 1945, Czechoslovakia was formally resurrected and the remaining German population expelled. On May 9, 1945 Soviet troops marched into Prague.

The demarcation line between the American and USSR protectorate was drawn along Budweis, Pilsen and Karlsbad. Czechoslovakia effectively fell within the Soviet sphere of influence marking the start of 40 years of Communism. The Czech Communist Party (KSČ ) grew stronger with the years, until finally in 1948 it prevailed and the constitution was changed to fit Soviet principles. Religious freedom was no longer granted; the country was ideologically and physically shut away from Western cultures.

In the late 1960s the Czechs made efforts to break with Soviet Socialism and tried to establish "socialism with a human face", this period became known as Prague Spring. In 1968, an invasion by Warsaw Pact troops violently ended these efforts of liberation.

Only with the collapse of Soviet authority in 1989, Czechoslovakia regained its freedom through a peaceful revolution, the so-called "Velvet Revolution".

On 1 January 1993, the country underwent a "velvet divorce" splitting up into its two national components, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Czech Republic joined the NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004.