CAPITAL: Prague (Praha)
FLAG: The national flag consists of a white stripe over a red stripe, with a blue triangle extending from hoist to midpoint.
ANTHEM: Kde domov můj (Where Is My Native Land).
MONETARY UNIT: The koruna (kc) is a paper currency of 100 haléru, which replaced the Czechoslovak koruna (Kcs) on 8 February 1993. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 heller and of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 koruny, and notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, and 5,000 koruny. kc1 = $0.04216 (or $1 = kc23.72) as of 2005.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.
HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Anniversary of Liberation, 9 May; Day of the Apostles, St. Cyril and St. Methodius, 6 July; Christmas, 25 December; St. Stephen's Day, 26 December. Easter Monday is a movable holiday.
TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.
The Czech Republic is a strategically located landlocked country in Eastern Europe. It sits astride some of the oldest and most significant land routes in Europe. Comparatively, the Czech Republic is slightly smaller than the state of South Carolina with a total area of 78,866 sq km (30,450 sq mi). It shares boundaries with Poland (on the ne), Slovakia (on the se), Austria (on the s), and Germany (on the w and nw) and has a total boundary length of 1,881 km (1,169 mi). The capital city of the Czech Republic, Prague, is located in the north central part of the country.
The topography of the Czech Republic consists of two main regions. Bohemia in the west is comprised of rolling plains, hills, and plateaus surrounded by low mountains. Moravia in the east is very hilly. The country's highest point is Mt. Snezka at 1,602 m (5,256 ft) in the Krkonose Mountains along the north central border with Poland. The Elbe River is the nation's longest with a distance of 1,165 km (724 mi); located in the northwest, it runs north into Germany.
The Czech Republic has a Central European moderate and transitional climate, with variations resulting from the topography of the country. The climate is temperate with cool summers, and cold, cloudy, and humid winters. The average temperature in Prague ranges from about -1°c (30°f) in January to 19°c (66°f) in July. A generally moderate oceanic climate prevails in the Czech lands. Rainfall distribution is greatly influenced by westerly winds, and its variation is closely correlated to relief. Over three-fifths of the rain falls during the spring and summer, which is advantageous for agriculture. The precipitation range is from 50 cm (20 in) to more than 127 cm (50 in); rainfall is below 58 cm (23 in) in western Bohemia and southern Moravia.
Plants and animals are Central European in character. Almost 70% of the forest is mixed or deciduous. Some original steppe grassland areas are still found in Moravia, but most of these lowlands are cultivated. Mammals commonly found in the Czech Republic include the fox, hare, hart, rabbit, and wild pig. A variety of birds inhabit the lowlands and valleys. Fish such as carp, pike, and trout appear in numerous rivers and ponds. As of 2002, there were at least 81 species of mammals, 205 species of birds, and over 1,900 species of plants throughout the country.
The Czech Republic suffers from air, water, and land pollution caused by industry, mining, and agriculture. Lung cancer is prevalent in areas with the highest air pollution levels. In the mid-1990s, the nation had the world's highest industrial carbon dioxide emissions, totaling 135.6 million metric tons per year, a per capita level of 13.04 metric tons. However, in 2000, total carbon dioxide emissions had decreased to about 118.8 million metric tons. Like the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic has had its air contaminated by sulfur dioxide emissions resulting largely from the use of lignite as an energy source in the former Czechoslovakia, which had the highest level of sulfur dioxide emissions in Europe, and instituted a program to reduce pollution in the late 1980s. Western nations have offered $1 billion to spur environmental reforms, but the pressure to continue economic growth has postponed the push for environmental action.
The Czech Republic has a total of about 13 cu km of freshwater resources, of which 2% is used for farming and 57% is used for industry. Both urban and rural dwellers have access to safe drinking water. Airborne emissions in the form of acid rain, combined with air pollution from Poland and the former GDR, have destroyed much of the forest in the northern part of the former Czechoslovakia. Land erosion caused by agricultural and mining practices is also a significant problem.
In 2000, about 34% of the total land area was forested. In 2003, about 16.1% of the total land area was protected by the government. There are 11 Ramsar wetland sites in the country.
According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 6 types of mammals, 9 species of birds, 7 species of fish, 2 types of mollusks, 17 species of other invertebrates, and 4 species of plants. Endangered species include the Atlantic sturgeon, slender-billed curlew, and Spengler's freshwater mussel.
The population of Czech Republic in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 10,212,000, which placed it at number 78 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 14% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 15% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 95 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 2005–10 was expected to be -0.1%, a rate the government viewed as too low. The country has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. The projected population for the year 2025 was 10,217,000. The population density was 129 per sq km (335 per sq mi), with the most densely populated areas in North Bohemia, Central Bohemia, and in Moravia.
The UN estimated that 77% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 0.05%—essentially a standstill. The capital city, Prague (Praha), had a population of 1,170,000 in that year. Other major cities and their estimated populations include Brno, 400,000; Ostrava, 331,448; and Plzen (Pilsen), 175,049.
After World War II, nearly 2.5 million ethnic Germans were expelled from the Sudeten region, which was part of Czechoslovakia and Poland. The emigration wave from Czechoslovakia after the Communist takeover in February 1948 included some 60,000 people; another 100,000 persons left the country after the invasion of the Warsaw Pact countries in August 1968. Emigration slowed during the 1970s to about 5,000 annually, but during the 1980s, some 10,000 people (according to Western estimates) were leaving each year. Migration News reported that in mid-2004 legal foreign workers numbered 170,000, mainly Slovaks (72,000), Ukrainians (39,400), and Vietnamese (21,400). This was an strong increase from 20,000 legal foreign workers 10 years earlier. Migration Information estimated the illegal migrant population as ranging from 300,000 to 340,000.
The Czech Republic encountered its first refugee influx in 1990. From 1990–2000 there were more than 22,000 applicants. In 2004 there were 1,144 refugees. In 2004, 1,119 people sought asylum. The net migration rate for 2005 was estimated as. 97 migrants per 1,000 population. In 2000 there were 236,000 migrants living in the Czech Republic. The government views both the immigration and emigration levels as too high.
Between 1945 and 1948, the deportation of the Sudeten Germans altered the ethnic structure of the Czech lands. Since the late 1940s, most of the remaining Germans have either assimilated or emigrated to the West. In 2001, Czechs constituted 90.4% of the total population, Moravians accounted for 3.7%, and Slovaks made up 1.9%. Other ethnic groups include Germans, Roma, and Poles.
Czech, which belongs to the Slavic language group, is the major and official language. In addition to the letters of the English alphabet, the Czech language has both vowels and consonants with acute accents (indicating length) and háčeks: á, é, í, ó, ú, č, dč, ě, ň, ř, š, t', ž, as well as ů (the circle also indicates length). In Czech, q, w, and x are found only in foreign words. There are numerous dialects. Many older Czechs speak German; many younger people speak Russian and English. Slovak is also spoken.
Though the country has a strong tradition of Christianity, the Communist rule of 1948 to 1989 greatly repressed religious practice so that many citizens do not claim membership in any religious organizations. In 2001, only about 38% of the population claimed to believe in God. About 52% claimed to be atheist. Only about 5% of the population are practicing Roman Catholics, while about 1% are practicing Protestants. The Islam community has about 20,000–30,000 members while the Jewish community has only a few thousand people.
The constitution provides for religious freedom, and the government reportedly respects this right in practice. Religious affairs are handled by the Department of Churches at the Ministry of Culture. In 2002 the Religious Freedom and the Position of Churches and Religious Associations established a tiered registration system for religious organizations. There is no requirement to register; however, officially registered groups are granted certain legal rights and various subsidies from the government.
There are some 9,543 km (5,936 mi) of standard and narrow gauge railroads in the Czech Republic, connecting Prague with Plzen, Kutná Hora, and Brno, as of 2004. Of that total, 9,421 km (5,860 mi) are standard gauge. The Czech Republic had 127,672 km (79,412 mi), of roadway in 2002, all of which were paved, including 518 km (322 mi) of expressways. In 2003, there were 3,706,012 passenger cars and 445,000 commercial vehicles registered for use. As a landlocked nation, the Czech Republic relies on coastal outlets in Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, and Germany for international commerce by sea. As of 2004, there were 664 km of navigable inland waterways, on the Elbe, Vltava, and Oder rivers. The principal river ports are Prague on the Vltava and Děčin on the Elbe. In 2004 there were an estimated 120 airports. As of 2005, a total of 44 had paved runways, and there were also two heliports. Principal airports include Turany at Brno, Mosnov at Ostrava, and Ruzyne at Prague. Ruzyne is the nation's primary commercial airlink. In all, Czech airports in 2003 performed 36 million freight ton-km of service. In that same year, domestic and international flights carried 3.392 million passengers.
With the separation of Czechoslovakia, the new Czech Republic has rapidly replaced its former Eastern European trading partners with Western ones (primarily Germany and the rest of the EU). Th is shift in the direction of transportation of goods into and out of the Czech Republic has overloaded the current infrastructure of roads, airports, and railroads. In 1993, the government targeted several goals to develop the transportation network, including: the development of priority connections between Prague and Vienna, Berlin, Warsaw, Nuremberg, Munich, and Linz; the construction of 264 km (164 mi) of new highways over the next 8–10 years for improved trucking links; expansion of the Prague Ruzyne airport; connection to Western Europe's high-speed rail system; and the acquisition of better rolling stock.
Most goods are shipped by truck. Currently, underdeveloped railroads and waterways often cannot accommodate intermodal transport. As of 2001, a $3.5 billion project was underway to modernize the rail system.
The first recorded inhabitants of the territory of the present-day Czech Republic were the Celtic Boii tribe, who settled there about 50 bc. They were displaced in the early modern era by German tribes (Marcomanni, Quidi) and later by Slavs, who pushed in from the east during the so-called Migration of the Peoples. The new settlers kept the Roman version of the name Boii for that region, Boiohaemum, which later became Bohemia. The first unified state in the region was that of a Frankish merchant named Samo, who protected his lands from the Avar empire in Hungary and the Franks of the West, reigning until his death in 658. Th is mercantile city-state lasted until the 9th century, when it grew into the Moravian Empire. The fidelity of this new empire had strategic importance to both the Eastern and the Western Church, who sent missionaries to convert the Moravian people. Beginning in 863, two Orthodox monks, Cyril and Methodius, succeeded in converting large numbers of people to the Byzantine church (introducing a Slavic alphabet named "Cyrillic" after one of the monks), but Roman Catholic missionaries gained the majority of converts.
The Moravian Empire was destroyed at the end of the 9th century (903–907) by invading Magyars (Hungarians), who incorporated the eastern lands into their own, while the Kingdom of Bohemia inherited the lands and peoples of the west. The Premyslid Dynasty took control of the Bohemian kingdom, allying with the Germans to prevent further Magyar expansion. In the year 1085, Prince Vratislave was the first Bohemian prince to receive royal status from the Byzantine Empire, gaining his title by supporting Henry IV against Pope Gregory VII. A century later, in 1212, Premysl Otakar I was given the Golden Bull of Sicily, proclaiming Bohemia a kingdom in its own right, and the Bohemian princes the hereditary rulers of that land. During the 13th century, the powers gained by the Premyslid Dynasty through the German alliance waned as this relationship brought the substantial migration of Germans into Bohemia and Moravia. The next line to rule Bohemia, starting with John of Luxembourg (1310–1346), came to power before a time of great social and religious strife. Charles IV of Luxembourg was not only King of Bohemia (1346–1378), but Holy Roman Emperor as well, ushering in the Czech "Golden Age," but his ties to the Roman Catholic Church would later tear the Kingdom apart. In 1348 he founded the Charles University in Prague, one of the first learning institutions to operate outside of the Church's monasteries, which nourished the minds of Bohemian intellectuals. As the citizens of Prague began to learn of the intransigence of the Roman Catholic Church, Wenceslas IV, successor to Charles IV, experienced a series of economic and political crisis (1378–1419) that escalated with The Great Schism of the Church. Bohemia became a center of passionate opposition to the Catholic Church, and to German domination, led by Jan Hus in the Hussite movement. Burned at the stake for heresy in 1415 by German Emperor Sigismund, Hus became a national martyr and hero, and the country was in open rebellion (1420–1436). During this time, Sigismund conducted six crusades in Bohemia to end the revolution, until he finally succeeded in 1434. By 1436, tired of fighting, both sides signed the Compacts of Basle. These documents allowed the Hussite denomination, and became the model of religious tolerance, which did not last for long. In 1462 Hungary extended its control over Bohemia, ruling through the Jagellon Dynasty until 1526, when Ferdinand of Hapsburg was elected to the Crown of St. Wenceslas, making Bohemia the property of the House of Hapsburg.
The Czechs were predominantly Protestant, while their new rulers were bent on introducing the Roman Catholic faith to Bohemia, exacerbating civil tensions. Although Protestants were able to secure certain civil rights, and the freedom to worship, peace was fragile. In 1618 two Protestant churches were closed, leading Protestants to throw two royal governors out of the windows of Prague Castle, an act known as the "Defenestration of Prague." At the same time, 27 Protestant nobles were executed by the Habsburgs. In the Thirty Years' War, which followed, the Czechs deposed their Catholic king, replacing him with Frederick of the Palatinate, a Protestant. The Protestant forces of the Bohemian Estates were defeated by the Catholic Emperor in 1620, at the Battle of White Mountain, and the Catholics again took the throne. Th is represented a disaster for the Czechs, who had their lands seized and their leaders executed, while nearly 30,000 of their number fled. The war ended in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia, which sanctioned the large-scale immigration of Germans, resulting in the gradual Germanification of Czech territory. Under Empress Maria-Theresa (1740–1780) Bohemia became part of Austria, and the most industrialized part of the Austrian Empire, but Czech culture and language were suppressed.
Political tranquility was ended by the riots, which broke out across Europe in 1848. On 11 March 1848, a demonstration in Prague demanded freedom of the press, equality of language, a parliament to represent Czech interests, and an end to serfdom. A Pan-Slavic Congress was convened in Prague in June of the same year, under Francis Palacky, a Bohemian historian. The Austrian authorities responded by imposing a military dictatorship, which struggled to restrain a steadily rising tide of nationalist aspirations. When World War I began, thousands of Czech soldiers surrendered to the Russians, rather than fight for the Austro-Hungarians. They were transformed into the Czech Legion, which fought for the Russians until the Russian Revolution of 1917. Although Austria retained nominal control of Bohemia until the war's end, a separate Czech National Council began functioning in Paris as early as 1916.
It was the members of that Council, especially Eduard Benes and Tomas Masaryk, who were instrumental in gaining international support for the formation of an independent Czech and Slovak state at war's end. The Czechoslovak Republic, established 28 October 1918 under President Tomas Masaryk, was a contentious mix of at least five nationalities—Czechs, the so-called Sudeten Germans, Slovaks, Moravians, and Ruthenians—who created one of the 10 most developed countries in the world, during the interwar period. All these nationalities were granted significant rights of self-determination, but many groups wished for full independence, and some of the Sudeten Germans hoped for reunification with Germany. In 1938 Adolph Hitler demanded that the Sudeten German area, which was the most heavily industrialized part of the country, be ceded to Germany. A conference consisting of Germany, Italy, France, and Great Britain, was convened, without Czechoslovakian representation. Ignoring the mutual assistance pacts, which Czechoslovakia had signed with both France and the USSR, this conference agreed on 30 September 1938 that Germany could occupy the Sudetenland. On 15 March 1939, Hitler took the remainder of the Czech lands, beginning an occupation that lasted until 9 May 1945.
Many prominent Czechs managed to escape the Germans, including Eduard Benes, the president, who established Provisional Government in London, in 1940, and Klement Gottwald, the communist leader, who took refuge in Moscow. In 1945, negotiations between Benes, Gottwald, and Josef Stalin established the basis for a postwar government, which was formed in the Slovak city of Kosice in April 1945 and moved to Prague the following month.
The government was drawn entirely from the National Front, an alliance of parties oriented toward Soviet Russia, with whom Czechoslovakia now had a common border, after the USSR incorporated Ruthenia. Although deferring to the communists, the National Front government managed to run Czechoslovakia as a democracy until 1948. The communists had been the largest vote getter in the 1946 elections, but it seemed likely that they might lose in 1948. Rather than risk the election, they organized a putsch, with Soviet backing, forcing President Benes to accept a government headed by Gottwald. Benes resigned in June 1948, leaving the presidency open for Gottwald, while A. Zapotocky became prime minister. In a repeat of Czech history, Jan Masaryk, foreign minister at the time, and son of T. Masaryk, was thrown from a window during the coup, a "defenestration" which was reported as a suicide.
Once Czechoslovakia became a People's Republic, and a faithful ally of the Soviet Union, a wave of purges and arrests rolled over the country (1949–1954). In 1952 a number of high officials, including Foreign Minister V. Clementis and R. Slansky, head of the Czech Communist Party, were hanged for "Tito-ism" (after the Yugoslavian president who had been dismissed from the Cominform) and "national deviation."
After an unsuccessful Army coup on his behalf, Novotny resigned, in March 1968, and Czechoslovakia embarked on a radical liberalization, which Dubček termed "socialism with a human face." The leaders of the other eastern bloc nations and the Soviet leaders viewed these developments with alarm. Delegations went back and forth from Moscow during the "Prague Spring" of 1968, warning of "counterrevolution." By July the neighbors' alarm had grown; at a July meeting in Warsaw they issued a warning to Czechoslovakia against leaving the socialist camp. Although Dubček himself traveled to Moscow twice, in July and early August, to reassure Soviet party leader Brezhnev of the country's fidelity, the Soviets remained unconvinced.
On the night of 20–21 August 1968, military units from all the Warsaw Pact nations, save Romania, invaded Czechoslovakia, to "save it from counterrevolution." Dubček and other officials were arrested, and the country was placed under Soviet control. Repeated efforts to find local officials willing to act as Soviet puppets failed, so on 31 December 1968 the country was made a federal state, comprised of the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic. In April Gustav Husak, once a reformer, but now viewing harmony with the USSR as the highest priority, was named head of the Czech Communist Party. A purge of liberals followed, and in May 1970 a new Soviet-Czechoslovak friendship treaty was signed; in June Dubček was expelled from the party.
Between 1970 and 1975 nearly one-third of the party was dismissed, as Husak consolidated power, reestablishing the priority of the federal government over its constituent parts and, in May 1975, reuniting the titles of party head and republic president. Civil rights groups formed within the country; including a group of several hundred in 1977 that published a manifesto called "Charter 77," protesting the suppression of human rights in Czechoslovakia. These groups did not seriously impinge upon Husak's power, but his successors had difficulty suppressing the liberalization movement.
Once again, it was revolution in the USSR which set off political change in Czechoslovakia. Husak ignored Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's calls for perestroika and glasnost until 1987, when Husak reluctantly endorsed the general concept of Party reform, but delayed implementation until 1991. Aging and in ill health, Husak announced his retirement in December 1987, declaring that Milos Jakes would take his post. Jakes had been a lifelong compromiser and accommodator who was unable to control dissenting factions within his party, which were now using the radical changes in the Soviet Union as weapons against one another.
Even greater pressure came in early autumn 1989, when the West German Embassy in Prague began to accept East German refugees who were trying to go west. Increasingly the East German government was being forced to accede to popular demand for change, which in turn emboldened Czech citizens to make similar demands. On 17 November 1989, a group of about 3,000 youths gathered in Prague's Wenceslas Square, demanding free elections. On Jakes's orders, they were attacked and beaten by security forces; igniting a swell of public indignation, expressed in 10 days of nonstop meetings and demonstrations. This "Velvet Revolution" ended on 24 November, when Jakes and all his government resigned. Novotny resigned his presidency soon after. Although Alexander Dubček was put forward as a possible replacement, he was rejected because he was Slovak. The choice fell instead on Vaclav Havel, a playwright and dissident, and founder of the Charter 77 group, who was named president on 29 December 1989.
Dismantling of the apparatus of a Soviet-style state began immediately, but economic change came more slowly, in part because elections were not scheduled until June 1990. In the interim, the old struggle between Czechs and Slovaks resulted in the country being renamed the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic. In the June elections the vote went overwhelmingly to Civic Forum and its Slovak partner, and economic transformation was begun, although there were continued tensions between those who wished a rapid move to a market economy and those who wanted to find some "third way" between socialism and capitalism. Equally contentious was the sentiment for separation by Slovakia, the pressure for which continued to build through 1991 and 1992. In the June 1992 elections the split between the two parts of the country became obvious, as Czechs voted overwhelmingly for the reform and anticommunist candidates of Vaclav Klaus' Civic Democratic Party (ODS), while Slovaks voted for V. Meciar and his Movement for Democratic Slovakia, a leftist and nationalist party. Legislative attempts to strengthen the federative structure, at the expense of the legislatures of the two constituent republics, failed, and the republics increasingly began to behave as though they were already separate so that, for example, by the end of 1992, 25.2% of Czech industry was been privatized, as opposed to only 5.3% of Slovak industry. The prime ministers of the two republics eventually agreed to separate, in the so-called "velvet divorce," which took effect 1 January 1993.
Havel (who did not subscribe to any party in the interest of political tranquility) was reconfirmed as president by a vote of the Czech parliament on 26 January 1993. Klaus was successful in fostering growth in the newly formed Czech Republic, emerging from close 1996 elections with another term as prime minister, but after the first glow of liberation, major cracks in the system became visible. Milos Zeman of the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) challenged Klaus' policies, during and after the 1996 elections, especially those relating to economic growth (which was slowing). The year 1996 also saw the first elections for the 81-member Senate, the upper body of parliament, which reflected a major split in the attitude of Czech voters. Governmental democracy and a newly liberated economy had not brought about the immediate transformation that Czech citizens wanted to see, and they ended up blaming the ODS party for their woes. This, and charges of corruption in the ODS party, brought about the triumph of the opposition. In the 1998 elections, the majority of votes went to the Social Democratic Party, in a platform that stressed economic regulation and the socialist approach to government. Milos Zeman was appointed as the prime minister by President Vaclav Havel on 17 July 1998. Havel had been reelected president the previous January for another five-year term.
In March 1999, the Czech Republic became a member of NATO. In January 2001, the largest street demonstrations since the overthrow of Communism were held to protest the appointment of Jiri Hodac as the head of public service television. He was seen as a political appointee and was accused of compromising editorial independence. Hodac resigned following the protests. In April, Vladimir Spidla became leader of the Social Democrats; he was more left-wing than Zeman, and was dismissive of ODS leader Vaclav Klaus. When in the June 2002 elections the Social Democrats gained the largest number of seats in the Chamber of Deputies, Spidla became prime minister. Spidla formed a government with the Coalition, composed of the Christian-Democratic Union/Czechoslovak People's Party, and the Freedom Union (Koalice), holding 101 seats in the 200-seat Chamber (70 seats for the CSSD, and 31 for the Coalition). The ODS came in second with 58 seats, and the Communists, in their best showing since the Velvet Revolution, came in third with 41 seats.
In August 2002, Central Europe was plagued by torrential rain, and Prague suffered its worst flooding in 200 years. The city's historic district was spared, but towns and villages across the country were devastated.
The Czech Republic was one of 10 new countries to be formally invited to join the EU in December 2002, and its accession was completed in 2004. Issues to be resolved by the countries include adoption of the euro, migration, and agriculture, among others.
Havel stepped down as president in February 2003, after his second five-year term expired. Havel's rival and former prime minister, Vaclav Klaus, was elected president by a slim majority of 142 votes in the 281-member parliament after two inconclusive elections and three rounds of balloting on 28 February. Although when he left the presidency opinions about his legacy were mixed in the Czech Republic, on the international scene Havel remains eternally popular for being a voice for democracy.
In the 2004 European Parliament elections the CSSD garnered only 8.8% of the votes, signaling that the party's popularity among voters was on a downward spiral. As a consequence, in July 2004, the Socialists decided to sack the prime minister, Vladimir Spidla, and replace him with the minister of interior, Stanislav Gross.
Gross, who was an engine-driver trainee for the state railway company before the Velvet Revolution, became a Social Democrat in 1992 and quickly worked his way up the party ranks. He was only 35 when he replaced Spidla—Europe's youngest prime minister. His reign was short-lived though. Plagued by scandals and corruption and faced with the dissolution of his own government, Gross resigned only nine months after his appointment. Jiri Paroubek, the regional development minister in Gross's government, was appointed as the new Czech prime minister on 25 April 2005. He faced the diffi cult task of cutting public spending in preparation for the eurozone membership while improving his party's popularity among voters in anticipation of the 2006 elections.
The Czech Republic has a democratic government, based on a bicameral parliamentary democracy and the free association of political parties. Human and civil rights are guaranteed by the Bill of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, a part of the constitution. The constitution of the Czech Republic was adopted by the Czech legislature in December 1992. It mandates a parliament; a Senate with 81 members who are elected for six-year terms, and a Chamber of Deputies or lower house of 200 members who are elected for four-year terms. Every two years, one third of the Senate's seats come up for reelection. The first Senatorial elections were held in November 1996. The last Senatorial elections were held in November 2004 with the next being scheduled for November 2006. The Chamber of Deputies was first seated by popular vote in 1992. The last elections took place in June 2002 with the next scheduled for June 2006. A resolution by parliament is passed by a clear majority, while a constitutional bill or an international treaty must be passed by at least a 60% majority. All citizens over the age of 18 can vote.
The head of the executive branch is the president, who is elected by parliament for a five-year term, and may serve two terms successively. The president is the supreme commander of the armed forces and has the power to veto bills passed by parliament under certain conditions. The last successful presidential election was held on 28 February 2003 and named Vaclav Klaus as president. This election came after Vaclav Havel stepped down from office on 2 February 2003 after earlier elections held 15 and 24 January 2003 were inconclusive. The next presidential elections were scheduled for January 2008. The prime minister, or premier, comes from the majority party, or a coalition, and is appointed by the president. The president appoints the ministers of the government on the recommendation of the prime minister.
Before 1996, the strongest political party in the republic was the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), headed by former prime minister Vaclav Klaus, a right-wing conservative party supporting democracy and a liberal economy. Supporters of the ODS are, in general, highly educated business people who come from Prague or other major cities. The ODS right-wing coalition with the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), Christian Democratic Union, and Christian Democratic Party, lost its majority in Parliament by two seats in the 1996 elections. Klaus and his coalition governed in the minority with the blessing of the opposition Social Democrats (CSSD), a socialist left-wing party that focuses on economic reform/growth in a planned economy. Supporters of the CSSD are mainly blue-collar laborers from industrial areas.
In December 1997, the ODS coalition (ODS, Christian Democratic Union/Czechoslovak People's Party or KDU-CSL, and ODA) was forced to resign due to the collapse of the union, government scandals, and a worsening economy. A temporary government was formed in January 1998, led by Mr. Tošovsk, which was given the task to prepare the country for new elections. These were held in June 1998, where the Czech Social Democratic Party gained the majority of votes (32.3%). After negotiating with the ODS, which gained 27.74% of the votes, the CSSD formed a minority government, creating the first left-oriented party since Communist rule.
In the 1998 elections, the CSSD gained 74 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 25 seats in the Senate, while the ODS gained 63 seats in the lower house and 29 in the Senate. The Christian Democratic Union-Czechoslovak People's Party (KDU-CSL, Catholicconservative) took 20 seats in the Chamber and 13 in the Senate, and the Freedom Union (US, break-off party from the ODS) won 19 seats in the lower house and 3 in the Senate. Voters who became disillusioned with the bad policies of the ODS coalition took a significant number of seats away from the party, and gave them to the Freedom Union. The Communist Party won 24 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 2 seats in the Senate.
President Havel, who was reelected on 26 January 1993, did not subscribe to any political party in the interest of political tranquility. He appointed Milos Zeman of the majority Social Democratic Party as prime minister on 17 July 1998.
In the 2002 elections, the CSSD gained 70 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 11 seats in the Senate. The ODS took 58 seats in the Chamber and 26 in the Senate, and the Coalition, a grouping of the KDU-CSL and the Freedom Union (US), won 31 seats in the Chamber and 31 seats in the Senate. The Communist Party, in its strongest showing since the end of Communist rule, took 41 seats in the lower house and 3 seats in the Senate. The CSSD formed a majority government (101 seats) in the Chamber of Deputies with the Coalition. Vladimir Spidla of the CSSD became prime minister; following disastrous results in the 2004 European Parliament elections, he was replaced with Stanislav Gross—the former minister of interior. Accusations of corruption, and threats from the Christian Democrats to leave the coalition, forced Gross to resign after only nine months in office. On 25 April 2005 he was replaced with Jiri Paroubek, his former regional development minister.
Vaclav Klaus of the ODS was inaugurated president on 7 March 2003, after parliament voted him into office in February, after many rounds of voting. Next parliamentary elections were scheduled for June 2006.
The Czech Republic is divided into 6,000 municipalities for local administration, 13 self-governing regions, popularly elected for a four-year period of office, and the capital city of Prague, with a mayor and city council elected for four-year terms. Under Communist rule, Czechoslovakia's government was so centralized that little to no local government existed. Such institutions have become more common since the formation of the 1992 constitution and democratic rule.
Under the 1992 constitution, the judiciary has been completely reorganized to provide for a system of courts, which includes a Supreme Court; a supreme administrative court; high, regional, and district courts; and a constitutional court. The Supreme Court, which is situated in Brno, is the highest appellate court and has national jurisdiction. The High Courts, with seats in Prague and Olomouc, represent the second instance in the judicial system. The District Courts deal with proceedings in the first instance and are situated in the capital towns of the administrative districts. The 15-member constitutional court created in 1993 rules on the constitutionality of legislation. Constitutional court judges are appointed by the president, subject to Senate approval, for 10-year terms.
Military courts were abolished in 1993 and their functions transferred to the civil court system. The new judiciary is independent from the executive and legislative branches and appears to be impartial in its application of the law. Criminal defendants are entitled to fair and open public trials. They have the right to have counsel and enjoy a presumption of innocence.
The Czech Republic had 22,272 active personnel in 2005. The Army numbered 16,663 active members with 298 main battle tanks. The Air Force had 5,609 active personnel, with 40 combat capable aircraft. The Czech Republic also had a 5,600 member paramilitary force made up of 4,000 border guards and 1,600 internal security personnel. The Czech Republic provided support to NATO, UN and peacekeeping missions in nine countries in Asia, Europe and Africa. Military spending in 2005 amounted to $2.19 billion.
The Košice Agreement of 1945 provided for military organization, equipment, and training to be modeled after those of the former USSR. Czechoslovakia was a signatory to the Warsaw Pact of 14 May 1955, which provided for military cooperation with the USSR and other Soviet-bloc countries and for a joint command with headquarters in Moscow.
Czechoslovakia was a charter member of the Untied Nations, admitted on 24 October 1945. The Czech Republic became a member of the UN on 8 January 1993; it is part of the ECE and serves on several specialized agencies, such as the IFC, IMF, WHO, the World Bank, and UNESCO. The Czech Republic was admitted to NATO on 12 March 1999 and became a member of the European Union on 1 May 2004. It is also a member of the OECD, the OSCE, the Central European Initiative, the Council of Europe, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The country is an observer in the OAS and an affiliate member of the Western European Union.
The nation is part of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group), and the Nuclear Energy Agency. It is also a part of the Australia Group and the Zangger Committee. In environmental cooperation, the Czech Republic is part of the Antarctic Treaty, Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Air Pollution, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.
Before World War II, Bohemia and Moravia were among the most agriculturally and industrially developed areas in Europe. In 1993, the Czech Republic emerged from 40 years of centralized economic planning in the Communist era (including the more balanced economic development of the 1960s) with a more prosperous and less debt-ridden economy than most other post-Communist countries. It enjoys an extensive industrial sector strong in both heavy and precision engineering, self-sufficiency in a variety of agricultural crops as well as an exportable surplus of meat, extensive timber resources, and adequate coal and lignite to supply two-thirds of its total energy needs.
After recovering from a recession following the 1993 separation from Slovakia, the republic enjoyed GDP growth of 4.8% in 1995. GDP growth of up to 5.5% was forecast for 1996 and 1997. Unemployment also stabilized at less than 3% through 1996. The annual rate of inflation dropped from 20% in 1993 to 9% in 1996. The thriving economy of the mid-1990s depended upon loans easily secured from state-owned banks to newly privatized companies that did not have effective managers. This method of fueling the economy collapsed in a 1997 currency crisis which caused the economy to go into a three-year recession. Following this collapse, the government rescued and privatized the four largest banks in the Czech Republic, which stabilized the banking sector, now largely foreign-owned. The banks had begun to lend again by 2001.
As of 2001, the country was receiving the highest level of foreign direct investment per capita in Central Europe, and 40% of industrial production was coming from foreign-owned companies. This high level of investment drove the value of the koruna up in 2001, which, coupled with a downturn in the global economy, put a damper on industry. The steel and engineering industries were struggling in the early 2000s, but growth in information technology and electronics diversified the economy. The telecommunications, energy, gas, and petrochemical sectors were due to be privatized by 2002.
Severe flooding in Central Europe in August 2002 negatively impacted the Czech economy. The tourism sector was especially affected.
The country was formally invited to join the EU in December 2002, and it will need to keep its budget deficit below the 3% of GDP mandated by the EU for entering into European economic and monetary union (it was 5.3% in 2002). The deficit is balanced against the influx of revenue from privatization, however, which reached 11.3% of GDP in 2002. Accession to the EU was completed in 2004.
The relatively slow pace of growth from 2001 and 2002 was replaced with moderately high growth rates of the GDP in 2003 and 2004: 3.7% and 4.0% respectively; in 2005 the economy was expected to strengthen even further, with a real GDP growth of 4.3%. This moderate growth is the sign of a maturing economy that is trying to embed the market in a stable system. Inflation remained fairly stable, hovering around 3%. The unemployment rate fluctuated between 9% and 10%.
The Czech Republic remains one of the strongest economies in Central and Eastern Europe. The main growth engines are exports, foreign and domestic investment, and tourism. The state-owned telecommunications company—Cesky Telecom—was to be privatized in 2005, which together with improvements in the financial sector, and better management of EU funds was supposed to strengthen the economy on the short term. Car manufacturing (the Czech Republic is part of the so-called "Detroit of Europe" region), and tourism are two of the country's strongest industries.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Czech Republic's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $184.9 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $18,100. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 4.6%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 2%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 3.4% of GDP, industry 39.3%, and services 57.3% in 2004.
According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $500 million or about $49 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.6% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $263 million or about $26 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.3% of the gross national income (GNI).
The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Czech Republic totaled $45.59 billion or about $4,470 per capita based on a GDP of $90.4 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 2.8%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 24% of household consumption was spent on food, 14% on fuel, 5% on health care, and 12% on education.
As of 2005, the labor force was estimated at 5.27 million. Among wage earners in 2002, an estimated 4% were engaged in agriculture; 38% in industry; and 58% in services. The estimated unemployment rate in 2005 was 9.1%.
The right to form and join unions is protected by law. As of 2005, about 20% of the Czech labor force was unionized, although union membership was on the decline. The major labor confederation is the Czech-Moravian Chamber of Trade Unions. Workers are freely allowed to organize and engage in collective bargaining. Striking is also allowed, but only after mediation efforts fail. However, workers in certain critical sectors cannot strike and are limited only to mediation. Collective bargaining is usually conducted on a company-by-company basis between unions and employers.
In 2005, the standard workweek was 40 hours, with at least two days of rest. There is also a mandatory 30-minute rest period during the eight-hour day. Overtime is limited to eight hours per week and is subject to employee consent. The minimum working age is 15 years with some exceptions allowing legal employment to 14-year-old workers. There are strict standards for all workers under the age of 18, and these standards are routinely enforced. Occupational health and safety standards are prescribed and effectively enforced except in some industries still awaiting privatization. As of 2005, the minimum wage was $287 per month and is considered to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and a family.
Agriculture is a small but important sector of the economy which has steadily declined since the "Velvet Revolution" of 1989. In 2003, cultivated areas accounted for 43% of the total land area. Agriculture contributed 3.4% to GDP in 2004.
The principal crops are grains (wheat, rye, barley, oats, and corn), which support the Czech Republic's dozens of small breweries. Production in 2004 included wheat, 5,042,000 tons; barley, 2,330,000 tons; rye, 313,000 tons; oats, 227,000 tons; and corn, 552,000 tons. At 166 liters (44 gallons) per person, the Czech Republic is the world's highest per capita beer-consuming nation. There is a long tradition of brewing in the Czech Republic; some of the world's oldest brands were invented there. After Germany, the Czech Republic is Europe's largest producer of hops; production in 2004 was 6,311 tons. Other important crops include oil-seeds, sugar beets, potatoes, and apples.
Agriculture lags behind other sectors in the restoration of private properties seized after 1948. As of 1993, agricultural subsidies were restricted to the formation of new farms, and the production of wheat, dairy products, and meat. Over the long term, the government estimates that over 250,000 agricultural workers will need to find employment in other sectors and that arable land in use will decrease by 9%.
Hogs, cattle, and poultry are the main income-producers in the livestock sector. In 2004 there were an estimated 1,428,000 head of cattle and 3,126,000 hogs. The number of chickens that year reached an estimated 14.2 million; sheep, 115,900; goats, 11,900; and horses, 24,000.
Meat, poultry, and dairy production have been oriented toward quantity rather than quality. In 2004, meat production totaled 759,254 tons, with pork accounting for 52%.
Fishing is a relatively unimportant source of domestic food supply. Production is derived mostly from pond cultivation and, to a lesser extent, from rivers. The total catch in 2003 was 5,127 tons, all from inland waters. Aquacultural production amounted to 19,670 tons that year.
The Forest Code (1852) of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was incorporated into the laws of the former Czechoslovakia and governed forest conservation until World War II (1939–45). Most forests were privately owned, and during the world wars, they were excessively exploited. The Czech Republic had an estimated 2,632,000 hectares (6,504,000 acres) of forestland in 2000, accounting for 34% of the total land area. As of 2003, forest ownership was 62% state, 21% private, and 15% municipal. Total roundwood production in 2003 was 14.5 million cu m (512 million cu ft), with exports of 2.5 million cu m (88 million cu ft). Since the Czech government began property restitution, the need for wood products has far outstripped domestic supply, especially for furniture and construction materials.
The mining and processing sector's share of GDP in 2002 was 1.2%, down from 3.7% in 1993. Mining and processing of industrial minerals and the production of construction materials continued to be of regional and domestic importance. Economic resources of most metals have been depleted. As of end 2000 only gold-bearing and tin-tungsten ores were among the exceptions. All the raw materials consumed by the country's steel industry were imported, including iron ore and concentrate, manganese ore, copper, and unwrought lead and zinc. Lead and zinc have not been mined for about seven years, and the number of registered lead deposits declined from 17 in 1998 to nine in 2002, none of which were being worked. The country's eight iron ore deposits were no longer worked. In 2002: kaolin production was 3.65 million metric tons, down from 5.543 million tons in 2001; common sand and gravel, 12.464 million cu m, up from 12.1 million cu m in 2001; foundry sand, 676,000 tons, compared to 771,000 tons in 2001; glass sand, 853,000 tons, compared to 974,000 tons in 2001; dimension stone, 285 million cu m, down from 300 million cu m in 2001; limestone and calcareous stones, 10.186 million tons; building stone, 10.6 million cu m; hydrated lime and quicklime, 1.12 million tons; feldspar, 401,000 metric tons, up from 373,000 metric tons in 2001; diatomite, 28,000 metric tons, down from 83,000 metric tons in 2001; and graphite, 16,000 metric tons, down from 17,000 metric tons in 2001. Output of crude gypsum and anhydrite went from 24,000 metric tons in 2001 to 108,000 metric tons in 2002. The Czech Republic also produced arsenic, hydraulic cement, bentonite, dolomite, crude gemstones and pyrope-bearing rock, illite, iron ore, nitrogen, quartz, salt, basalt (for casting), silver, sodium compounds, sulfuric acid, talc, uranium, wollastonite, and zeolites.
The Czech Republic has only small proven reserves of oil and natural gas, but relatively abundant recoverable reserves of coal.
The electricity production market in the Czech Republic is dominated by Ceske Energeticke Zavody (CEZ), which is majority owned by the state. In 2003, CEZ provided 74% of the country's power, with the remaining 26% of the nation's power provided by 8 regional power companies, of which CEZ holds a majority stake in 5.
In 2002, the Czech Republic had 15.298 million kW of electrical generating capacity. This included conventional thermal at 11.537 million kW; nuclear at 2.760 million kW; hydroelectric at 1.000 million kW; and geothermal/other at 0.001 million kW. For that same year, electricity generation was estimated at 71.8 billion kWh, of which 50.835 billion kWh came from conventional thermal sources; 17.801 billion kWh from nuclear sources; 2.467 billion kWh from hydropower; and 0.655 billion kWh from geothermal/other sources. Electricity consumption in 2002 was estimated at 55 billion kWh. Exports of electricity for 2002 totaled 20.900 billion kWh, with imports for that year at 9.502 billion kWh.
The Czech Republic has two operational nuclear power plants: Dukovany; and Temelin, the latter located 37 miles from the Austrian border. Temelin initially went online in December 2000, with a second reactor placed on trial operation 8 April 2003. The following month, both Temelin reactors became fully operational. Both plants are operated by CEZ and generated 42% of the company's power, accounting for 30% of its installed generating capacity in 2003. In 2002, nuclear power accounted for almost 25% of the electric power produced by the Czech Republic. Nuclear power is an important part of the Czech.
The Czech Republic's crude oil reserves are limited, totaling an estimated 15 million barrels as of 1 January 2004. Oil production in 2003 came to an estimated 13,200 barrels per day, with preliminary figures showing a consumption rate for all oil products of 186,000 barrels per day for that year. According to British Petroleum, oil product consumption totaled 202,000 barrels per day for 2004. As a result, the Czech Republic is heavily dependent upon imported oil. In 2002, total crude and refined oil product imports totaled 191,410 barrels per day While much of the Czech Republic's oil imports come from Russia, the country has been able to tap other sources via the Ingolstadt-Kralupy nad Vltavou-Litvinov (ILK) pipeline, which permits crude oil to be transported from Trieste by way of the Trans-Alpine pipeline. The ILK pipeline is operated by Mero CR.
As with oil, the Czech Republic has only limited reserves of natural gas. In 2002, consumption and production of natural gas was estimated at 337 billion cu ft, and 5.4 billion cu ft, respectively. Imports for that year came to 343.76 billion cu ft. Estimated natural gas reserves have been placed at 0.14 trillion cubic ft, as of 1 January 2004.
The Czech Republic, between 1993 and 2002, has seen its demand for coal fall 23%. In spite of this, coal remains an important source of energy. In 2002, coal accounted for 43% of the nation's primary energy demand. Estimated recoverable coal reserves in the Czech Republic amounted to 6,259 million short tons in 2001. Coal production and consumption of all types in 2002, was estimated at 70.4 million short tons and 65 million short tons, respectively.
Before World War II, Czechoslovakia favored traditional export-oriented light industries, including food processing. Concentration on the production of capital goods since the war has been at the expense of consumer goods and foodstuffs, although there have been increases in the metalworking industry and in the production of glass, wood products, paper, textiles, clothing, shoes, and leather goods. Some of these and other consumer goods—such as the world-famous pilsner beer, ham, and sugar—had figured prominently in the pre-World War II export trade, but machinery was predominant under the Communist regime.
The extent of Czechoslovakian industry still ranks both the Czech and Slovak republics among the world's most industrialized countries. A final wave of privatization begun in 1995 has resulted in an 80% private stake in industry, although the government maintains some control over steel, telecommunications, transport, and energy industries. However, in 2001, the energy utility CEZ was due to be privatized. Industry accounted for 40.7% of GDP and 38% of employment through 1995. However, while industrial wages continued to grow through 1996, output fell 3.5%, forcing the government to implement new austerity measures to spur renewed growth. Nevertheless, industry, which accounted for over 40% of the economy, registered a 4.7% decline in 1998. The recession, which continued into 1999, brought disillusionment to many Czechs who had emerged from the 1989 "Velvet Revolution" as the most prosperous citizens of the former East Bloc. The European recession, which began on the heels of the economic downturn in the United States beginning in 2001, further exacerbated the struggling Czech economy. Industry accounted for 41% of GDP in 2001, and employed 35% of the work force. Although the relative contribution of industry to the economy had begun to decline in 2002, the industrial base remained diversified.
Major industries in the Czech Republic include fuels, ferrous metallurgy, machinery and equipment, coal, motor vehicles, glass, and armaments. The country is particularly strong in engineering. The Czech Republic in 2001 was receiving the highest foreign direct investment in the region, which was devoted to restructuring industrial companies. Forty percent of industrial production in 2001 came from companies with foreign capital, up from 15% in 1997. The Czech Republic produced 465,268 automobiles in 2001, up 2% from 2000. Skoda Auto, now owned by Volkswagen, is a successful Czech enterprise.
In 2004, the industrial sector contributed 39.3% to the overall GDP, and employed 38% of the total labor force; agriculture was not a big contributor to the GDP—only 3.4%, and employed only 4% of the working population; services came in first with 57.3% and 58% respectively. The industrial production growth rate was slightly higher than the GDP growth rate, reaching 4.7% in 2004. Car manufacturing remains the main industrial driving force, and is followed by metallurgy, machinery and equipment, glass, and armaments.
The Czech Academy of Science has divisions of life and chemical sciences, mathematics, and physical and earth sciences, and 43 attached medical, scientific, and technical research institutes. In addition, there are 28 specialized agricultural, medical, scientific, and technical learned societies. There are technology museums in Brno, Mladá Boleslav, and Prague, and the latter also has a natural history museum. The Czech Republic has 13 universities offering degrees in medicine, natural sciences, mathematics, engineering, and agriculture. In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 28% of university enrollment. In 2002, a total of 30.2% of all bachelor's degrees awarded were science degrees (natural sciences, mathematics and computers, and engineering).
In 2003, total expenditures for research and development (R&D) amounted to Kc32,246.6 million, of which 51.5% came from business, 41.8% came from government sources, 2.2% came from higher education, and 4.6% came from foreign sources. In 2002 (the latest year for which this data was available) there were 1,467 researchers and 792 technicians per million people actively engaged in R&D. High technology exports in 2002 totaled $4.494 billion, accounting for 14% of manufactured exports that year.
In the Communist period, marketing and distribution, including price-fixing, were controlled by the federal government; administration on the lower levels was handled by the national committees. Cooperative farms sold the bulk of their produce to the state at fixed prices, but marginal quantities of surplus items were sold directly to consumers through so-called free farmers' markets. Starting in 1958, the government operated a program of installment buying for certain durable consumer goods, with state savings banks granting special credits.
The "Velvet Revolution" of 1989 brought rapid privatization program on an innovative voucher system. Each citizen was given an opportunity to purchase a book of vouchers to be used in exchange for shares in state-owned businesses. As a result, more than 20,000 shops, restaurants, and workshops in both the Czech and Slovak republics were transferred to private owners by public auction in a wave of "small" privatization, and through distribution of ownership shares. Under communism, nearly 97% of businesses were state-owned. Today, about 80% of the economy is wholly or partially in private hands.
The commercial center of the country is Prague. Though there are numerous small shops throughout the city, American and European style supermarkets and department stores are developing and providing stiff competition. Shopping malls have also begun to develop. Though most transactions are still in cash, credit cards are gaining a wider acceptance within major cities. Direct marketing, particularly through catalog sales, has become more popular, particularly in areas outside of the major cities.
Businesses generally adhere to a standard 40-hour workweek, though many may close early on Fridays. Most businesses do not keep weekend hours.
Czechoslovak foreign trade has traditionally involved the import of raw materials, oil and gas, and semi-manufactured products and the export of semifinished products and consumer and capital goods. In 1989, trade with former Eastern bloc nations accounted for 56% of Czechoslovakia's total foreign trade; by the end of 1992 their share had more than halved to 27%.
The Czech Republic engages in the export of numerous manufactured goods that are used in the production of automobiles, furniture, and electrical appliances. The manufacturing of metals, including iron and steel plates and sheets, and base metal bring in 5.7% of export dues. The road vehicle industry results in 15.6% of exports. Other export commodities include textiles (4.3%), glassware (which the country is famous for producing—1.6%), furniture (2.7%), and electrical machinery (2.9%). A majority of these products are exported to Germany.
Total exports grew to $66.5 billion (FOB—Free on Board) in 2004. Machinery and transport equipment made up the bulk of total export at 52%, and were followed by raw materials and fuels (9%), and chemicals (5%). The main destination points were Germany (where 36.1% of total exports went), Slovakia (8.4%), Austria (6%), Poland (5.3%), the United Kingdom (4.7%), France (4.7%), Italy (4.3%), and the Netherlands (4.3%). Imports totaled. $68.2 billion, and came mainly from Germany (31.8%), Slovakia (5.4%), Italy (5.3%), China (5.2%), Poland (4.8%), France (4.8%), and Russia (4.1%). The main import commodities included machinery and transport equipment (46%), raw materials and fuels (15%), and chemicals (10%).
The current account balance in 2001 improved from 2000, when it stood at approximately $3.5 billion, or 4.8% of GDP, due to a narrowing trade gap. Strong inflows of foreign direct investment have led to surpluses in the financial account, which easily cover the current account deficit.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2001 the purchasing power parity of the Czech Republic's exports was $38 billion while imports totaled $41.7 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $3.7 billion.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001 the Czech Republic had exports of goods totaling $33.4 billion and imports totaling $36.5 billion. The services credit totaled $7.09 billion and debit $5.6 billion.
Exports of good and services grew faster than imports in 2004, jumping at $76.6 billion (from $56.5 in 2003); imports expanded from $58.5 to $77 billion. Thus, while the resource balance was -$2 billion in 2003, by 2004 it improved to -$400 million. The current account balance remained fairly stable, reaching -$5.6 billion in 2004. The country's total reserves (including gold) grew to $28.5 billion in the same year, covering almost five months of imports.
The Czech National Bank (CNB) is the country's central bank, charged with issuing currency and regulating the state's commercial banking sector. Since mid-1996 domestic credit and M2 growth have fallen sharply. Growth in M2 stood at 7.8% at the end of December 1996, well below the central bank's 13-17% growth
|Italy-San Marino-Holy See||2,165.3||2,725.7||-560.4|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
|Balance on goods||-2,505.0|
|Balance on services||559.0|
|Balance on income||-4,166.0|
|Direct investment abroad||-242.0|
|Direct investment in Czech Republic||2,514.0|
|Portfolio investment assets||-3,006.0|
|Portfolio investment liabilities||1,753.0|
|Other investment assets||2,279.0|
|Other investment liabilities||2,414.0|
|Net Errors and Omissions||251.0|
|Reserves and Related Items||-442.0|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
target for 1996 and in the middle of its 8–12% target range for 1997.
In the mid-1990s, there were 36 commercial and savings banks in the Czech Republic. The state had one state financial bank, 21 Czech joint-stock companies, 6 partly owned foreign banks, and 7 foreign banks. The new Czech Export Bank commenced operations in late 1996. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate commonly known as M1—were equal to $15.3 billion. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $42.3 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 4.69%. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 4.75%.
The origins of the first exchange in Prague go back to the 1850s when foreign exchange and securities were the principal trading products. An exchange trading securities and commodities was established in 1871. The volumes traded at the exchange fluctuated considerably and in 1938 official trading was suspended. After World War II the operation of the Prague Exchange was not restored and in 1952 the Exchange was officially abolished. In 1990 eight banks became members of the Preparatory Committee on Stock Exchange Foundation. In 1992 this institution transformed itself into a stock exchange. The Prague Stock Exchange has been trading debt securities (mostly government and bank issues) since April 1993. Volume in mid-1993 was Kc18 million, of which two-thirds were listed issues. Leading Czech banks include: Ceskásporitelna (Czech Savings Bank), Investicní a poštovní banka (Investment and Postal Bank), Komercní banka (Commercial Bank), and the Ceskoslovenská obchodní banka (Czechoslovak Commercial Bank). As of 2004, a total of 554 companies were listed on the Prague Stock Exchange. Total capitalization that year totaled $30.863 billion. In 2004, the PX 50 rose 56.6% from the previous year to 1,032.0,
|Revenue and Grants||852.04||100.0%|
|General public services||121.63||12.4%|
|Public order and safety||56.04||5.7%|
|Housing and community amenities||24.62||2.5%|
|Recreational, culture, and religion||9.54||1.0%|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
The pre-World War II insurance companies and institutions of the former Czechoslovakia were reorganized after 1945 and merged, nationalized, and centralized. Since 1952, the insurance industry has been administered by the State Insurance office, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance. Two enterprises conducted insurance activities, the Czech and the Slovak Insurance Enterprises of the State.
Property insurance and car insurance are used by more than 80% of the population in the Czech Republic. By 2001, the Czech Republic's state insurance enterprise, Ceska Pojistovna, had been joined by nearly two dozen other firms, including branches of foreign companies. Most offer standard life and health insurance, as well as property coverage and commercial insurance. Third-party auto insurance, workers' compensation, employer's liability and liability for lawyers, auditors, architects, civil engineers, airlines and hunters are compulsory. By law however, Ceska Pojistovna must write the automobile liability cover, and it maintains control of the market. As of 2003, the value of all direct premiums written totaled $3.714 billion, of which nonlife premiums accounted for $2.290 billion. Ceska pojistovna was the country top nonlife and life insurer in that same year, with gross nonlife and life premiums written totaling $835.9 million and $618.4 million, respectively.
By 1997, proposals to switch the country's pay-as-you-go pension system into one incorporating mandatory private savings and voluntary pension insurance were developed. The introduction of such a scheme drew sharp criticism from the opposition and met with skepticism from the CNB, which has indicated that the quality of capital market regulation would have to improve considerably before pension funds of the kind proposed could be built up.
In the early 1990s, it was estimated that about 97% of businesses were under state control. By 2003, the nonprivate sector accounted for less than 20% of business ownership. In fact, the Czech Republic's economy advanced so quickly out of communism that the country was admitted to the EU in 2004.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Czech Republic's central government took in revenues of approximately $48.1 billion and had expenditures of $53 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$4.8 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 33.1% of GDP. Total external debt was $43.2 billion.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were Kc852.04 billion and expenditures were Kc979.81 billion. The value of revenues was us$30 million and expenditures us$34 million, based on an official exchange rate for 2003 of us$1 = Kc28.209 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 12.4%; defense, 4.7%; public order and safety, 5.7%; economic affairs, 13.8%; environmental protection, 1.3%; housing and community amenities, 2.5%; health, 16.6%; recreation, culture, and religion, 1.0%; education, 9.4%; and social protection, 32.6%.
As of 1 January 2006, the standard corporate income tax rate in the Czech Republic is 24%. Dividends are subject to a withholding tax of 15% and are not included in taxable income. If 25% of the shares have been held for two years, a participation exemption applies. Personal income tax is progressive with four brackets and a top rate of 32% (15% up to yearly income of about $4,000, 20% on income between $4,000 and $8,000, 25% on income between $8,000 and $12,000, and 32% on income above $12,000, with additional lump sums of $600, $1400, and $2400, respectively, paid at the 20%, 25%, and 32% levels). Payroll taxes of 47.5% (35% paid by the employer and 12.5% paid by the employee) cover pension insurance, sickness insurance, and employment insurance. There is a real estate transfer tax of 3%; gift taxes of 1–40%; and inheritance taxes of 0.5–20%. Withholding taxes are applied to income of nonresidents: 15% on income from dividends and interest; and 25% on income from royalties and operating licenses. The Czech Republic has bilateral tax treaties (BITs) with about 65 countries. In the BITs withholding rates are generally lower.
The main indirect tax is a system of value-added taxes (VATs) which replaced turnover taxes as of 1 January 1993. There are three VAT rates: 19% on most goods and some services; 5% on basic foodstuffs, minerals, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, paper products, books, newspapers, and public transport services; and 0% on exports.
On 1 January 1993, Czechoslovakia divided into two independent states, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. Both states maintain a customs union that continues most of the same trade policies of the former Czechoslovakia. All imports into the Czech Republic, except those from the Slovak Republic, are subject to an ad valorem rate of up to 80%, but with an average of 4.6%. There is also a value-added tax (VAT) of 19% for everything except necessities, such as food and pharmaceuticals, for which it is 5%. Preferential treatment is granted to developing countries. The Czech Republic has trade agreements with Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia, which comprise the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA).
Moody's Investors Service gave the Czech Republic the first investment-grade A rating to be awarded to a former Soviet bloc country. As of 2001, foreign direct investment (FDI) stock per capita in the Czech Republic was $2,432, the highest among the Eastern European transitional economies. FDI has served Czech economic development in providing capital and managerial expertise for restructuring its enterprises. National treatment is the general rule, with screening of foreign investment proposals required only in banking, insurance and defense industries. A competitive exchange rate and low wages have been conducive to foreign investment, but in 1998 a six-point incentive package approved by the Czech government helped ratchet annual FDI inflows to about double previous levels. Incentives—tax breaks up to 10 years, duty-free imports, rent reductions, benefits for job creation, training grants, and incentives for reinvestments and expansions—are available for investments above $10 million, or above $5 million in regions where unemployment is over 25%. The Czech Republic has also authorized nine commercial or industrial custom-free zones that operate according to the same rules as those in the European Union. By 2002, the government had negotiated bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with 66 countries, the BIT with the United States in force since 1992.
From 1993 to 2001, the Czech Republic attracted $26.76 billion cumulative FDI inflow, of which 27.6% has come from the Netherlands, 26% from Germany, 10.2% from Austria, 8.6% from France, 6.2% from the United States, 4.1% from Belgium, 3.8% from Switzerland, 3.1% from the United Kingdom, 1.9% from Denmark, and 8.5% from other counties. Annual FDI inflow jumped from about $880 million in 1993 to 2.5 billion in 1995 due to the first foreign investment in the state-owned telecommunications system and German investment in the automotive industry. In 1997, FDI inflow had fallen back to $1.3 billion, but in 1998, with the introduction of incentives for foreign investment, FDI inflow rose to $3.7 billion and then spiked to $6.3 billion in 1999. For 2000 and 2001, annual FDI was just below $5 billion, and in 2002, reached a record $7.5 billion. By economic sector, the principal destinations for FDI flows into the Czech Republic from 1990 to 2000 have been financial intermediation (18%), wholesale trade (15%), nonmetallic mineral products manufacture (7.5%), and motor vehicle manufacture (6.5%). Other significant areas have been food and beverages, energy, and retail sales. In 2000, direct investment outflow from the Czech Republic totaled $726 million, 37.7% to Slovenia, 25.6% to Poland, and 15.9% to Russia.
In 2002, the inflow of capital from abroad reached $9.3 billion—the second-largest FDI per capita in Central and Easter Europe, after Slovenia. The total stock of foreign investment was $41.1 billion in 1993–2003, growing by almost $14 billion between 2002 and 2003, and averaging $4.1 billion annually. Germany and the Netherlands were the main investors, with $11.3 billion (31%) and $9.6% (26.0%) respectively. They were followed by the United States and Austria, with $3.6 billion (10.1%) each, France with $2.2 billion (6%), and the United Kingdom with $1.9 billion (5.2%). Overall, the Czech Republic has received more FDI per capita than any other country in Central and Eastern Europe, most of it going towards manufacturing, financial services, hotels and restaurants, and transportation and telecommunications.
Post-communist economic recovery has been implemented by development of the private sector, particularly in the trade and services areas, increased exports to industrialized nations, control of inflation, and achievement of a positive trade balance. The most promising growth sectors are those involving advanced technology, environmental protection, biotechnology, and, generally, high value-added production. At the end of 1996, approximately 80% of the Czech Republic's large companies had been privatized, most via voucher privatization, through which nearly six million Czechs bought vouchers exchangeable for shares in companies that were to be privatized. By 1997, however, the recovery had petered out and the Czech Republic plunged into a recession which lasted through 1999. Most analysts blamed the downturn on an incomplete restructuring.
In 2002, the nonprivate sector accounted for only 20% of business; however, the state has retained minority shares in many heavy industrial enterprises, and many large firms were placed under the control of state-owned banks due to voucher privatization. (Bank privatization was in the completion stages in 2003.) The EU contributed significant resources to prepare the country for accession, including speeding administrative, regulatory, and judicial reform; accession to the EU was completed in 2004. The government is faced with high unemployment; a need for industrial restructuring; transformation of the housing sector; reform of the pension and healthcare systems; and a solution to environmental problems. The decline in industry's contribution to the economy has led to factory closings and job losses. Real gross domestic product (GDP) growth increased to 2.2% in the first quarter of 2003, despite the global economic recession and in part due to high household consumption.
By 2004 the GDP growth rate reached 4.0%, and its increase was attributed to significant inflows of foreign capital and growing consumer demand. High investment rates have managed to expand productivity, and helped create new jobs and increase real wages. Inflation remained fairly low over this time period, strengthening the national currency, but at the same time undermining the export sector. As part of the EU, the Czech Republic can tap into a large market, and its maturing economy allows it to compete with countries from Western Europe.
Social welfare programs in the former Czechoslovakia dated back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Work injury laws were first introduced in 1887 and sickness benefits in 1888. During the First Republic (1918–39), social insurance was improved and extended. After World War II, new social legislation made sickness, accident, disability, and old age insurance compulsory. The trade unions administered health insurance and family allowances. The government's Bureau of Pension Insurance administered the pension insurance program, which was funded by the government and employers. In 1960, social welfare committees were established within the regional and district national committees to exercise closer control.
Current programs include old age pensions, disability, survivor benefits, sickness and maternity, work injury, unemployment, and family allowances. Employers are required to contribute 21.5% of payroll, while employees contribute 6.5% to the pensions program. The retirement age has been gradually increasing.
In recent years, women have played an increasingly greater role in Czech society and now account for about half of the labor force. Although the principle of equal pay for equal work is generally followed, women hold a disproportionate share of lower-paying positions. The unemployment rate for women is greater than for men, and only a small number of women hold senior positions in the work force. Rape and domestic violence is underreported, although societal attitudes are slowly improving to help victims seek assistance from authorities. In 2004, the Criminal Code was amended to recognize domestic violence as a distinct crime. Crisis centers exist to help victims of sexual abuse and violence. Sexual harassment is prohibited by law. Trafficking in women and children is evident.
The Roma minority, officially estimated to number 150,000–175,000, face discrimination in housing, employment, and often are subject to harassment. Racially motivated crime is on the increase, as is skinhead activity. Religious freedom is generally tolerated. The Czech Republic's human rights record is fairly good, although judicial backlogs result in extended pretrial detention in some cases and sporadic police violence has been reported.
The Czech health care system combines compulsory universal health insurance with mixed public and private care. Health insurance is funded by individuals, employers, and the government. A number of physicians have private practices and maintain contracts with the insurance system for reimbursement of their services. As of 2004, there were an estimated 342 physicians, 946 nurses, 65 dentists, 51 pharmacists, and 48 midwives per 100,000 people. Health care expenditure was estimated at 7.2% of GDP.
Health activities are directed by the Ministry of Health through the National Health Service. Factories and offices have health services, ranging from first-aid facilities in small enterprises to hospitals in the largest. All school children receive medical attention, including inoculations, X-rays, and annual examinations. In 1999, children up to one year of age were immunized for the following diseases: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 98%; and measles, 95%.
Special attention has been devoted to preventive medicine, with campaigns waged against tuberculosis, venereal diseases, cancer, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, and mental disturbances. Diseases of the circulatory system are the leading cause of death. Free guidance and care given to women and children have resulted in a low infant mortality rate of 3.93 per 1,000 live births in 2005, one of the lowest in the world. The total fertility rate in the same year was 1.2. The maternal mortality rate in 1998 was low at 14 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Average life expectancy in 2005 was 76.02 years. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 2,500 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were 10 reported deaths from AIDS in 2003.
Currently, the lack of affordable housing, which inhibits labor mobility, is a major factor slowing economic growth in the Czech Republic. Problems include lack of financing, shortages of materials and labor, and a poorly developed infrastructure. In the mid-1990s the government drafted a new housing policy which, among other things, would lift existing restrictive legal provisions barring occupants from buying and reselling flats and differentiate rents according to quality and location of flats.
According to the 2001 census, there were about 4,366,293 dwelling units within the country with about 87% permanently occupied. About 1,969,568 dwellings are houses. There is an average of 2.69 people per household.
Education is under state control and free, up to and including the university level. Nine years of education are compulsory. There is a general primary school program that lasts for nine years. However, after the fifth year, some students may choose to enter more specialized programs that will include their secondary education studies as well. Secondary programs include general academic studies (gymnasium), vocational studies, technical programs, or art studies (music and drama). The academic year runs from September to June. The primary languages of instruction are Czech, German, and English.
In 2001, about 95% of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 87% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 90% of age-eligible students. Most students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 17:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 11:1.
Universities in the current Czech Republic include the world-famous Charles University at Prague (founded 1348); Palacky University at Olomouc (1576; reestablished 1946); and J. E. Purkyne University at Brno (1919; reestablished 1945). In 2003, about 36% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate is estimated at about 99%.
As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.4% of GDP, or 9.6% of total government expenditures.
The National Library of the Czech Republic (six million volumes in 2005) in Prague is the result of a 1958 amalgamation of six Prague libraries, including the venerable University Library, founded in 1348. It holds a valuable expensive collection of Mozart's papers and manuscripts. Other collections of significance are the university libraries at Brno and Olomouc. The State Research Library, including all six of its branches, holds more than six million volumes. In 1997, the Czech Republic had 6,245 public libraries with 53.7 million volumes and 1.4 million registered users. The Jirí Mahen Library in Brno, established in 1921, is the largest municipal library in the region of Moravia; the library holds about 800,000 books and operates a system of 35 branch locations. The Association of Library and Information Professionals of the Czech Republic had about 1,200 members in 2005.
Castles, mansions, churches, and other buildings of historical interest are public property. Many serve as museums and galleries. The largest museum in the country is the world-famous National Museum in Prague. The National Gallery, also in Prague, contains outstanding collections of medieval art and 17th-century and 18th-century Dutch paintings. Other Prague museums of note include the Jewish Museum, the Antonin Dvorak Museum (celebrating the life of the Czech composer, 1841–1904), and the Museum of Toys, holding the world's second-largest exposition of toys. Other outstanding museums and galleries are located in Brno and Plzen. The Prague Botanical Gardens are among the finest in Europe.
In 2003, there were an estimated 360 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 27,300 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 965 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.
In 2000, there were 31 AM and 304 FM radio stations and 150 television stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 803 radios and 538 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 94.4 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. In 2003, there were 177.4 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 308 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 316 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.
Major newspapers, their publishers (where applicable), and estimated 2002 circulation totals are: Blesk, 420,000; Hospodarske Noviny, 130,000; Mladá Fronta, Socialist Union of Youth, 350,000; Moravskoslezsky Den, 130,000; Obansky Denikof, 109,000; Práce, Revolutionary Trade Union Movement, 220,600; Rudé Právo, Communist Party, 350,000; Svobodné Slovo, Socialist Party, 230,000; Svoboda, 100,000; and Vecernik Praha, 130,000.
Formerly, the Communist Party and the government controlled all publishing. Formal censorship, via the government's office for Press and Information, was lifted for three months during the Prague Spring of 1968, but prevailed after that time until the late 1980s. As of 1999, the government was said to fully uphold the legally provided freedoms of free speech and a free press.
The most important umbrella labor organization is the Czech and Slovak Confederation of Trade Unions, an organization that promotes democracy. The World Federation of Trade Unions has an office in Prague. Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic (est. 1990) is also in Prague. Professional societies representing a wide variety of careers are also active. Important political associations include the Czech Democratic Left Movements and the Civic Movement. The Center for Democracy and Free Enterprise (est. 1991) promotes development of democratic institutions and a free market economy.
The Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic was founded in 1993 to support and encourage research and educational institutions involved in the fields of natural and technical sciences, social sciences, and humanities.
Youth organizations include the Czech Association of Scouts and Guides (CASG), YMCA and YWCA, and chapters of The Red Cross Youth. There are many sports associations in the country, some of which are affiliated with international organizations as well. National women's organizations include the Gender Studies Center in Prague and the Czech Union of Women.
Multinational organizations based in Prague include the International Association for Vehicle Systems Dynamics and the International Union of Speleology. There are national chapters of Amnesty International and the Red Cross.
Prague, which survived World War II relatively intact, has numerous palaces and churches from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. There are many attractive mountain resorts, especially in northern Bohemia. The mineral spas in Prague are popular as well as the historic monuments. Football (soccer), ice hockey, skiing, canoeing, swimming, and tennis are among the favorite sports. A passport is required for all foreign nationals, whether temporary visitors or transit passengers. Visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days.
There were 94,984,476 tourist arrivals in 2003. Hotel rooms numbered 97,282, with 225,288 beds and an occupancy rate of 35%. Tourist receipts amounted to $4 billion, and the average stay was three nights.
In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in Prague at $306 per day.
The founder of modern Czechoslovakia was Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (1850–1937), a philosopher-statesman born of a Slovak father and a Czech mother. Eduard Beneš (1884–1948), cofounder with Masaryk of the Czechoslovak Republic, was foreign minister, premier, and president of the republic (1935–38 and 1940–48). Jan Masaryk (1886–1948), son of Tomáš G. Masaryk, was foreign minister of the government-in-exile and, until his mysterious death, of the reconstituted republic. Klement Gottwald (1896–1953) became a leader of the Czechoslovak Communist Party in 1929 and was the president of the republic from 1948 to 1953; Antonín Zápotock (1884–1957), a trade union leader, was president from 1953 to 1957. Alexander Dubček (1921–92) was secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party and principal leader of the 1968 reform movement that ended with Soviet intervention. Gen. Ludvík Svoboda (1895–1979) was president of the republic from 1968 to 1975. Gustáv Husák (1913–91) was general secretary of the Communist Party from 1969 to 1987; he became president of the republic in 1975. Parliamentary elections at the end of 1989 saw the rise of the playwright Vaclav Havel (b.1936) to power. The Czech and Slovak republics decided to split in 1992. Havel was elected first president of the Czech Republic in parliamentary elections. Vaclav Klaus (b.1941) was elected the second president of the Czech Republic in 2003.
Perhaps the two most famous Czechs are the religious reformer John Huss (Jan Hus, 1371–1415) and the theologian, educator, and philosopher John Amos Comenius (Jan Amos Komensk, 1592–1670), an early advocate of universal education. The History of the Czech People by František Palack (1798–1876) inspired Czech nationalism. Karel Havliček (1821–56) was a leading political journalist, while Alois Jirásek (1851–1930) is known for his historical novels. The most famous woman literary figure is Božena Němcová (1820–62), whose Babi čka (The Grandmother), depicting country life, is widely read to this day. A poet of renown, Jaroslav Vrchlick (1853–1912) wrote voluminous poetry and translations. The Good Soldier Schweik by Jaroslav Hašek (1883–1923) is a renowned satire on militarism. Karel Capek (1890–1938), brilliant novelist, journalist, and playwright, is well known for his play R.U.R. (in which he coined the word robot ). Jan Patočka (1907–77) was one of the most influential Central European philosophers of the 20th century. Bedřich Smetana (1824–84), Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904), Leoš Janáček (1854–1928), and Bohuslav Martinu (1890–1959) are world-famous composers. The leading modern sculptor, Jan Stursa (1880–1925), is best known for his often-reproduced The Wounded.
Prominent 20th-century Czech personalities in culture and the arts include the writers Vladislav Vančura (1891–1942) and Ladislav Fuks (1923–94), the painter Jan Zrzav (1890–1977), and the Czech filmmakers Jirí Trnka (1912–69) and Karel Zeman (1910–89). Leaders of the "new wave" of Czechoslovak cinema in the 1960s were Ján Kadár (1918–79) and Miloš Forman (b.1932), both expatriates after 1968. Josef Koudelka (b.1938) is a Czech photographer who resides in France. The best-known political dissidents in the 1970s and 1980s were the playwrights Pavel Kohout (b.1928) and Václav Havel (b.1936), and the sociologist Rudolf Battek (b.1924). The novelist Milan Kundera (b.1929), who has lived in France since 1975, is the best-known contemporary Czech writer. Czechs have become top world tennis players: Martina Navrátilová (b.1956), expatriate since 1975, Ivan Lendl (b.1960), Hana Mandlíková (b.1962), Jana Novotná (b.1968), and Martina Hingis (b.1980) have thrilled audiences with their skills on the courts.
There have been only two Czechoslovak Nobel Prize winners: in chemistry in 1959, Jaroslav Heyrovsk (1890–1967), who devised an electrochemical method of analysis; and in literature in 1984, the poet Jaroslav Seifert (1901–86).
The Czech Republic has no territories or colonies.
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