The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in the middle of Europe. Rather than as a country in the middle of Europe, we should speak of the Czech Republic as a country in the heart of Europe ... after all, the heart is not to be found precisely in the center of the human body either :-)
Facts and figures
- Language: Czech
- Area: 78,866 sq km
- Borders with: Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Austria
- Population: 10,4 million
- Political system: parliamentary republic
- EU member state: since 2004
- Currency: Czech crown / CZK
- Capital: Praha (Prague)
- Climate: seasonal variations (warm summers, chilly autumns and cold winters)
- Average temperatures: January -4 °C; July 24 °C
- Official website of the Czech Republic
- Places to visit in the Czech Republic
- Czech Republic at Wikipedia
- Czech Republic at Lonely Planet
The Czech Republic is historically divided into three regions: Bohemia, Moravia, and a part of Silesia. The total area is 78,866 square kilometres and the country’s population is around 10,4 million people. The capital city is Prague, with 1,2 million inhabitants, and there are 5 other metropolitan cities with a population exceeding 100,000: Brno, Plzeň, Olomouc, Ostrava, and Liberec. The Czech Republic shares borders with Germany, Poland, Austria and Slovakia. The country is surrounded by extensive mountain ranges, which form most of the border: the Krkonoše Mountains in the northeast; the Krušné Hory Mountains in the northwest; the Šumava Mountains in the west; the Hrubý Jeseník Mountains in Moravia and the Moravian-Silesian Beskydy Mountains. The highest point of elevation is the peak of Mt. Sněžka (1,602 m above sea level). Many important European rivers (the Labe, Oder, Morava, Vltava etc.) flow through the country.
The Czech Republic as a landlocked country has moderate climate with four seasons corresponding to the temperate climate zone. The climate varies among the various regions of the Czech Republic, and throughout year. The average temperature in January, the coldest winter month is -4 °C. Summer weather can be very warm with temperatures around 24 °C in July. A nice time of the year to visit the Czech Republic is spring (mid-May to mid-June) and fall (September to mid-October), when the weather can be quite pleasant, although it can also be unpredictable.
The first evidence of a Czech state dates back to the early Middle Ages. A kingdom was established in the Czech Lands in the 13th century and its significance peaked in the 14th century under the rule of Charles IV, the Czech king and Holy Roman Emperor. He established a University in Prague in 1348. After 1620, the Czech Lands became part of Austria and part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after 1867.
Following the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the First World War, the Czechs and Slovaks declared independence in 1918 and Czechoslovakia was established as a sovereign country. During the 1920s and 1930s, Czechoslovakia ranked among the ten most developed countries in the world. After Hitler's occupation of the country in 1938, Czechoslovakia was split into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and the Slovak state. Czechoslovak statehood was restored after the Second World War, which ended in 1945, but with a territorial loss. The most eastern part, Transcarpathian Ukraine, was annexed by the Soviet Union. The Communist Party won the 1946 parliamentary elections in Czechoslovakia. This resulted in a change of regime and brought the country under the international communist movement, led by the Soviet Union.
November 1989 was a turning point in the history of the country. Under pressure from the citizens, the socialist regime handed over power during the so-called Velvet Revolution, initiated by students and intellectuals. Free parliamentary elections in June 1990 confirmed the course of democratic development. The unitary state became a federation and the new name of the country was the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic.
At the end of 1992 Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Both countries went through economic reforms and privatisations, and this process was largely successful. From 1991, the Czech Republic, originally as part of Czechoslovakia and now in its own right, has been a member of the Visegrad Group and from 1995, the OECD. The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004. It held the Presidency of the European Union for the first half of 2009.
System of Government
The Czech Republic is a parliamentary democracy. Every citizen over the age of 18 has the right to vote. The highest executive authority is the president, who is the formal head of state and is elected jointly by both houses of parliament for a term of five years. The supreme legislative body is the Parliament, which consists of the House of Deputies, the lower house of the legislature, and the Senate, which is the upper house. The supreme executive body is the government. The prime minister heads the government and is appointed by the president of the republic. The president also appoints other cabinet members based on the prime minister's recommendations.
The Czech Republic respects equal rights for all its citizens. Human and civil rights including freedom of speech and the freedom of the press are guaranteed by the Constitution. Many organizations have been established to promote, protect and monitor abuse of human rights within the Czech Republic, including the Czech Helsinki Committee and the Czech office of Amnesty International.
The Czech Republic is a secular state and every citizen enjoys freedom of religion. The number of people practising religion is low. More than 50% of the population describe themselves as agnostic or atheist while in northern Bohemia the proportion rises to about three quarters of the population. The main reasons for this are the suppression of the reformation movement followed by forcible mass re-catholicisation (after 1627), and forty years of the official suppression of religion during the communist period (1948 – 1989).
The official language is Czech. Czech belongs to the Indo-European family of languages. The Slavonic languages are divided into the eastern, western and southern branches. Czech belongs to the western Slavonic family, along with Slovak, Polish and Wendish. The Czechs and Slovaks understand each other without major problems. Czech has a difficult grammatical structure but reading and pronunciation are fairly easy.