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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.
Formation of the Czechoslovak Republic
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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Shawcross, William. Dubček. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990.
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"Czech Republic." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic
"Czech Republic." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . Retrieved May 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
|Official Country Name:||Czech Republic|
|Number of Primary Schools:||4,889|
|Compulsory Schooling:||9 years|
|Public Expenditure on Education:||5.1%|
|Foreign Students in National Universities:||3,901|
|Educational Enrollment:||Primary: 541,671|
|Educational Enrollment Rate:||Primary: 104%|
|Student-Teacher Ratio:||Primary: 19:1|
|Female Enrollment Rate:||Primary: 103%|
History & Background
Geography: The Czech Republic (Ceska Republika ) is a constitutional parliamentary democracy established in 1993 when the Czech and Slovak Federation ("Czechoslovakia") peacefully separated into two independent states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The country sits in Central Europe to the southeast of Germany. Measuring 78,866 square kilometers—slightly smaller than the U.S. state of South Carolina—the landlocked Czech Republic is bordered by Germany to the northwest and west, Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the southeast, and Austria to the south. With cool summers and cold, cloudy, humid winters, the Czech Republic has an average summer temperature of 20 degrees Celsius and an average winter temperature of 5 degrees Celsius. Bohemia, the western part of the Czech Republic, has a terrain of plains, hills, and plateaus bordered by low-lying mountains; Moravia, the eastern part of the country, has a very hilly landscape. The point of highest elevation in the Czech Republic is Mt. Snezka, measuring 1,602 meters above sea level; the lowest point is at Hoensko on the Elbe River (Labe ), where the elevation is just 117 meters. Forty-one percent of the land in the country is arable, about 2 percent is planted with permanent crops, about one-third of the country is covered with forests and woodlands, and the remaining area includes significant pastureland.
Cultural Background & History: With a population of about 10.3 million in the year 2000, the Czech Republic is composed of diverse peoples from the lands of Central Europe and elsewhere. In March 1991 estimates of the ethnic background of the country's population yielded the following: 81.2 percent Czech, 13.2 percent Moravian, 3.1 percent Slovak, and less than 1 percent each of the Roma, Polish, German, Silesian, Hungarian, and other minorities. Since these estimates the size and proportion of ethnic groups has changed to some extent, with some Slovaks choosing to relocate to Slovakia after the 1993 split and a number of Roma ("Gypsies") leaving the country due to widespread segregation, discrimination, and racist actions directed against them. In the year 2000 about 200,000 to 250,000 Roma were living in the Czech Republic, some 10,000 having left the country between 1997 and 2000. Concerning the religious affiliation of the Czech Republic's population in the 1990s, the estimated breakdown of the population was about 39.8 percent atheist, 39.2 percent Roman Catholic, 4.6 percent Protestant, 3.0 percent Orthodox, and 13.4 percent other.
The Czech Republic emerged as an independent state only in 1993, but the Czech people and most of the ethnic minority groups composing the country's current population have lived in the territory now known as the Czech Republic for centuries. Strategically poised as an historical gateway for traders and military campaigners crossing Europe and Asia, the Czech Republic dates its earliest recorded history with the arrival of the Celts around the fourth century B.C., nearly two and a half millennia ago. The country's Latin name, Boiohaemum, or Bohemia, came from the name the Celtic Boii tribe gave the area. The Celts were later pushed out by Germanic tribes, the Marcomanni and Quidi.
In the late-fifth and early-sixth centuries, the Slavs arrived in what is now Moravia and Slovakia during a time known as the "Migration of Peoples." Slavonic tribes were united in the first half of the seventh century under "Samo's kingdom" of Slavs, who successfully protected themselves from advances by the Avar empire of the Hungarian lowlands and partly defended themselves from attacks by the Franks from the west. In 863 Byzantine Christian missionaries came to the region, by then known as the Great Moravian Empire. It was attacked and destroyed by the Magyars from 903 to 907.
The Roman Catholic Church, becoming more influential in Europe, spread into the region over the next few centuries. However, the growing Czech state, centered in Bohemia and governed by the native Premyslid Dynasty from the ninth century until 1306, preserved its sovereignty while developing feudal ties to the Holy Roman Empire. In 1212 the Bohemian sovereign, Premysl Otakar I, received the Golden Bull of Sicily, a decree announcing Bohemia's status as a kingdom and the Bohemian princes as hereditary kings. One of the Holy Roman Empire's most important states, Bohemia was governed by the Luxembourg Dynasty from 1310 until 1437 and reached the zenith of its power under Charles IV, who reigned from 1346 to 1378.
Prompted by political, economic, and religious crises in the late-fourteenth and early-fifteenth centuries, a religious movement known as the Hussite reform movement emerged, inspired by Master Jan Hus, a preacher later executed in 1415 for his allegedly heretical preaching. From 1420 until 1431 the Roman Emperor Sigismund, heir to the Bohemian crown, attempted to subdue the religious reformers by force. The Hussite revolution ended in 1434 with the victory of religious moderates and an agreement between Hussite Bohemia and Catholic Europe in 1436 known as the "Compacts of Basle," which paved the way for the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century by establishing the validity of an alternative form of Christian practice.
In the second half of the fifteenth century Bohemia grew increasingly politically unsettled. With the emergence of George of Podebrady, a Czech noble whose diplomatic skills enabled the European sovereigns to form a peaceful confederation and who was elected King of Bohemia in 1458, the Czech nation and culture exerted significant influence on European cultural and political life. From 1471 until 1526 Bohemia was ruled by the Jagellon Dynasty. By 1526 the Habsburgs had taken the throne of Bohemia, reintroduced Roman Catholicism to the region, and formed a multinational empire that included the Crownlands of Bohemia. The Habsburg Dynasty would last for nearly three centuries, until the end of the First World War in 1918.
Despite the long reign of the Habsburgs, a Czech national revival movement gradually emerged over time. Beginning with an attempt to revive the Czech language and culture, the movement gradually gained strength in the nineteenth century and looked toward the political freedom of the Czechs. The movement gained momentum during Europe's revolutionary year of 1848, when much of Europe was in political turmoil as capitalism dramatically reshaped social and economic relations and the protests of workers unwilling to tolerate their miserable conditions echoed around the industrial world. By the end of the nineteenth century, Bohemia, quick to industrialize, had become the most economically developed country of the Habsburg Dynasty.
During the First World War, Czech politics became more radical under the leadership of T.G. Masaryk and E. Genes, each of them later becoming president of the Czechoslovak Republic, which was founded in 1918 after the defeat of Austria-Hungary in World War I. As an independent state, the Czechoslovak Republic became one of the ten most highly developed countries in the world. For 20 years the country prospered, until Hitler's invasion in March 1939, the German occupation, the Holocaust, and the Second World War. The Jews of Czechoslovakia, once among the most active intellectuals, political figures, business people, and supporters of the arts in Bohemia, were essentially erased from the country during Hitler's murderous rampage. In October 1941, just two and a half years after the March 1939 Nazi take-over of Czechoslovakia, the Jews of Czechoslovakia numbered about 80,000. By April 1945, after the genocide that specifically targeted Jews, Roma, and other minority peoples, fewer than 8,000 Jews remained.
After the Second World War, Czechoslovakia came under the Soviet sphere of influence, and the brief period of "limited democracy" the country enjoyed after the war ended in February 1948 with a Communist takeover. Private property was confiscated and nationalized, and human rights were widely abused, particularly with the Soviet Army's invasion in 1968 and the reassertion of Soviet control following a brief respite known as the "Prague Spring." During the 1980s, with decaying economic conditions in the Soviet Union and the weakening of Soviet power, advocates of democracy and human rights in Czechoslovakia and other Soviet satellite countries directed their efforts towards the political and economic transformation of their countries. The efforts of the peoples of the Czech and Slovak Federation culminated in their freeing themselves from Communist rule in 1989, followed soon after by the smooth creation of two independent countries on 1 January 1993: the Czech Republic and Slovakia. After gaining independence, the Czech Republic moved rapidly to liberalize its centralized economy and to decentralize its public bureaucracy.
Social Conditions: Approximately 75 percent of the Czech Republic's population of 10.3 million in 1999 lived in urban areas, the largest of which is Prague (Praha ), the capital city, which alone had a population of 1.2 million inhabitants by the year 2000. With an average population density of 133 persons per square kilometer, the Czech Republic had a rural population density of just 84 persons per square kilometer in 1998. During the 1990s the country's population decreased slightly, and by 1999 the population growth rate was zero percent. In 1990 about 10,330,000 people lived in the Czech Republic; by 1997 the population had declined to about 10,304,000. About 31.3 percent of the population in 1997 was of school age (between 3 and 24 years old). The total fertility rate in the Czech Republic in 1999 was one—that is, a woman bearing children for her entire child-bearing years at the current fertility rate would produce only one child. Approximately 16 percent of the population in the year 2000 was 14 years old or younger while 70 percent was between 15 and 64 years of age and about 14 percent of the population was 65 or older. The Czech Republic had an infant-mortality rate of 4.6 per 1000 live births in 1999 and an under 5 years child-mortality rate of 5 per 1000 that year. The life expectancy at birth of the population in the year 2000 was about 74.5 years (71.0 for men and 78.2 for women). In 1995 the adult literacy rate was estimated to be about 95 percent. Specific literacy rates for adult men and women were not available as of early 2001, but the adult population was said to be almost completely literate in 1999.
Economic Status: For centuries the territory now known as the Czech Republic had a primarily agricultural economy based on forestry, livestock-rearing, and family farms. With the arrival of the industrial age in Europe, Czechoslovakia's economy shifted to a more industrial base, and the country became one of the most industrialized countries in Europe by the first decades of the twentieth century. In the 1930s private agricultural enterprise still contributed strongly to the national economy, but Czechoslovakia was a net importer of agricultural products. The Communist-dominated era lasted from 1948 to 1989, except for the short hiatus of the "Prague Spring" in 1968 when liberal Czech reformers temporarily succeeded at freeing up the country's economic and political life before the Soviets reasserted their control through a military invasion. Under the Communists the economy was centrally controlled and depended on the outputs of large, nationalized heavy industry and engineering firms. Nonetheless, under Communist control, Czechoslovakia's collectivized farms produced higher agricultural yields than did any of the other socialist countries. Agricultural yields in Czechoslovakia were lower, however, than in Western European countries where more modern agricultural methods were used.
In 1989 the Communists lost power in what has been termed the country's "Velvet Revolution." During the transition from Communism to democratic independence between 1989 and 1993, the country's agricultural sector continued to diminish in importance. Agriculture's contribution to the GDP declined from 6 to 4.7 percent between 1990 and 1994, and the percent of the civilian workforce employed in agriculture shrank from 10 to 6.9 percent during that period. The Czech Republic also witnessed a gradual shift in the agricultural sector during the 1990s from animal to crop production. By 1998 only 5.5 percent of the civil labor force was employed in agriculture or about 267,000 persons. Because many agricultural workers shifted to non-agricultural jobs during the transition period, the agricultural sector came to operate more efficiently and its productivity increased, exceeding that of over two-thirds of the European Union's 15 member states.
With the change from a state-controlled, centrally planned economy to a more-liberalized production and marketing regime, the Czech Republic in the 1990s dismantled its large-scale, state-owned industrial enterprises and enacted legislation enabling small and medium scale private industries and enterprises to flourish. This change came about rather gradually, however, with the privatization of national assets taking place at a slower pace than initially had been anticipated and the economic gains of the early 1990s slowing significantly by the middle of the decade. In 1997 the national currency was devalued in an attempt to halt significant economic setbacks, though the deliberate measures taken by the World Bank and the national government made these setbacks relatively temporary. During the 1990s foreign investors and firms entered the newly liberalized Czech marketplace and introduced significant investments into the industrial sector. Business people in the Czech Republic developed many joint venture and contractual agreements with foreign investors, mainly the EU partners—especially Austria and Germany. At the same time, rapid growth in the tourist industry contributed to a shift towards greater employment in the service sector where the number of persons employed increased from 39.4 percent to 53.5 percent of the active civil labor force between 1990 and 1997. In 1997 about 32 percent of the labor force was employed in industry, 8.7 percent in construction, 46.8 percent in service jobs (excluding communications), 6.9 percent in communications, and 5.6 percent in agriculture.
The GDP at market prices in U.S. dollars was about $53.1 billion in 1999, with about 5 percent of the GDP derived from agriculture, 42 percent from industry, and 53 percent from services. The national economy became relatively stagnant by the late 1990s, despite a promising start in the nation's transition to a liberalized economy at the beginning of the 1990s. Whereas the economic growth rate was 6 percent of the GDP in 1995, by 1999 the growth rate was a negative half percent of GDP; annual per-capita income in 1999 was only US$5,020, a drop of $250 from the 1997 figure of $5,270. Much of the economic decline was related to the currency crisis that precipitated in May 1997 and the government's inability to spur economic growth despite two austerity packages introduced in the spring of 1997. In the late 1990s persistent and excessive government controls on the newly privatized national economy continued to negatively impact the country's economic situation. In 1999 the net inflow of foreign direct investment was US$5.1 trillion but the debt value was US$22.5 trillion. Imported goods and services that year were equivalent to 65 percent of the GDP, exceeding the value of exported goods and services by 1 percent of the GDP.
A special government economic revitalization program was begun in 1999 that involved the restructuring of enterprises and the improvement of management styles, and at the close of the 1990s, the economy of the Czech Republic had begun a slow recovery. The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic in 1999 was roughly 9 percent with the highest unemployment rates seen among persons with only a primary school education (13.4 percent of the unemployed in 1997). This rate was significantly higher than the country's unemployment rate in the mid-1990s when the general economic situation was considerably rosier and many optimistic analysts of transitional economies looked to the Czech Republic as a role model for other former-Communist states undergoing the transition from state-controlled to liberal market economies. However, unemployment was lower than in a number of other European countries at the time.
Constitutional & Legal Foundations
The Czech Republic is a parliamentary democracy established by the Constitution ratified on 16 December 1992 that became effective 1 January 1993 with the country's formal separation from Slovakia. The Czech Republic has a legal system based on Austro-Hungarian civil codes dating from the years when the country was ruled by the Habsburg monarchy.
Political Participation: All citizens of the Czech Republic 18 years and older are eligible to vote; men are also eligible for military service at that age. At the national level of government, the chief of state is the president, who is democratically elected to a five-year term of office by the Parliament and is eligible for reelection just once consecutively. The executive branch of the national government also includes a prime minister, deputy ministers, and a cabinet of ministers, appointed by the president upon the prime minister's recommendation. Since 2 February 1993 the president of the Czech Republic has been Václav Havel, an ardent supporter of democracy and human rights during the Communist era and one of the country's key campaigners for a more liberal, democratic state. Havel was re-elected as president in 1998 for a second five-year term. Any citizen of the country who has attained the age of 40 and is an active voter is eligible to run for election as president.
At the national level the legislative branch consists of a bicameral Parliament (Parlament ) consisting of a Senate (Senat ) of 81 members elected by popular vote for 6 year terms in office and a Chamber of Deputies (Poslanicka Snemovna ) of 200 seats whose members are popularly elected for 4 year terms. Any citizen of the Czech Republic who is at least 21 years old is eligible to run for election to the Chamber of Deputies; the minimum age for Senators is 40 years. The third branch of the national government, the judicial branch, consists of the Supreme Court, which is the highest court of appeal, and the Constitutional Court, which has final decision-making authority regarding the constitutionality of legislation. Courts exist at district, regional, and higher levels. Since 1998 with the implementation of a new regional administrative system, sub-national affairs have been administered through a network of 14 regions, 86 districts (okresi ), and 6,200 municipalities.
Despite the progress made in the Czech Republic during the 1990s in popular participation in government and the vastly improved climate for the free expression of secular and religious beliefs, international human rights organizations and agencies such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor identified significant human-rights problems in the Czech Republic in the year 2000. For the most part, these problems centered around the trafficking of women and children, gender discrimination and violence, ethnic discrimination and racist violence (especially against the Roma), and infringements on the rights of employees (particularly senior-level executives) who often were required to produce "lustration" or vetting certificates to prove their non-collaboration with the former Communist regime. Although the legal system guarantees women equal rights with men, in practice many women (reportedly almost half the female workforce, including female soldiers) frequently face sexual harassment in the workplace and about one in ten women is subject to domestic abuse. A 1998 study found that about 13 percent of women had been forced to have sex against their will; 51 percent of the abusers were the women's husbands or partners and another 37 percent were persons known to the women who were raped. Legal protection from spousal abuse is inadequate, although the Police Academy and secondary police schools in 1998 introduced training for their students and officers designed to help officers better identify victims of abuse and treat victims more appropriately. Additionally, women typically earn wages lower than those of men because women often are channeled into lower-paying, gender-stereotyped jobs. Few women in the Czech Republic hold high-level management positions in business, and women are significantly underrepresented in the Ministries and in Parliament. In December 2000, for example, none of the 16 government ministers was a woman and of the 200 members of the Chamber of Deputies and the 81 members of the Senate, only 30 deputies were women and only 10 senators were female.
The problems of the Roma minority are equally serious. Long an ethnic minority traveling through and residing in Central Europe, the Roma continued to face very serious human rights abuses in the Czech Republic in the year 2000 in the form of education and employment discrimination, racist attacks, residential segregation, rampant prejudice, and discriminatory treatment, sometimes condoned by government officials and the police. Human Rights Watch declared in their World Report 2001, concerning the problem of racial violence in the Czech Republic, that despite certain encouraging steps taken by the government in the year 2000 to confront these abuses, "increasing racial violence against the ethnic Roma minority demonstrated an alarming pattern of neglect on the part of police and legal authorities to investigate and prosecute hate crime. This pattern included lenient sentences for perpetrators of hate crimes, incompetent and protracted investigations, and little recourse for victims who in many cases feared reprisals."
As in many other European countries, violence against the Romani people and other minorities has increased since the break-up of the Communist system, and in the Czech Republic, prejudice against the Roma is held by many groups. As the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor reported in early 2001, "Roma suffer disproportionately from poverty, unemployment, interethnic violence, discrimination, illiteracy, and disease. They are subject to popular prejudice, as is affirmed repeatedly by public opinion polls. Nearly 65 percent of the respondents in a September  opinion poll admitted to an unfavorable opinion of Roma and to racial intolerance, with more than 50 percent saying that there were too many non-Czechs living in the country."
By the start of the new millennium, the Czech Republic's government was attempting to address these problems more actively by establishing a Human Rights Council headed by a Commissioner for Human Rights. The Council was set up in January 2000 to provide the government with advice on human-rights issues and to develop proposals for legislation oriented toward protecting human rights in the country. In December 2000 former Justice Minister Otakar Motejl was named Ombudsman for Human Rights by the Parliament.
Developments concerning interethnic and international relations of a more-positive sort also have taken place from the 1990s on. The Czech Republic now participates in numerous regional and international organizations, including NATO. The country is expected to become one of the first former-Communist states of Eastern and Central Europe to accede to membership in the European Union (although a setback occurred when a majority of the Irish people voted in June 2001 not to extend EU membership to states beyond the EU's current 15 members). To a significant extent the Czech Republic served as a model in the early 1990s for other postcommunist states, setting precedents for economic reforms where unemployment was kept low and inflation did not skyrocket. The country became one of the first in the region to free up government assets by selling off nationalized industries to foreign investors and to move toward decentralizing its economy. Receiving international assistance in the form of grants, loans, and technical advisors to assist in the transition from a state-controlled, centralized economy to a free-market-based economy and to make further democratic reforms, the Czech Republic officially became a member of the World Bank in 1993 when it separated from Slovakia (already having received a sizable Structural Adjustment Loan from the Bank amounting to US$300 million in 1991). Additional World Bank loans have helped the Czech Republic restructure its economy, privatize industries, and provide greater management training and support to executives seeking to manage enterprises in a dramatically transformed, privatized environment.
Educational Philosophy & Policy: With the split from the Soviet system in 1989 and again shortly after the break with Slovakia in 1993, the Czech Republic's government leaders began efforts to upgrade the quality of the country's education system and to ensure that education and training programs would be more responsive to labor market demands. Under the centralized Communist system, the goal of education had been to produce a uniform workforce narrowly trained in the specific skills needed for particular trades and occupations. The goal of the teacher remuneration system was to maintain a roughly similar wage structure for all those employed in the teaching field. Budgeting and management in education also were to be uniformly performed. As the country has shifted to a free-market-based economy and more democratic functioning, the Czech Republic has sought to develop better programs for preparing a more broadly trained workforce with flexible capabilities applicable across occupations and industries, including newly developing fields. Furthermore, developing a skillful set of teachers able to implement modern teaching methodology has become a priority, and new recruits to the teaching field are very much needed. The country may succeed at training sufficient numbers of new teachers only if the wages for jobs in the education field can be increased, which may be accomplished more easily through private investments in education. Attracting support from the business community—for example, from enterprises wishing to sponsor particular training and retraining or continuing education programs for current or future employees—has been seen as a necessary means to developing a more-skilled labor force in the teaching area that is ready to meet the needs of incoming classes of students.
Additionally, a major goal of educational administrators and school managers in the Czech Republic starting in the 1990s and becoming even more sharply accentuated around the year 2000 has been to harmonize educational standards, examinations, and certificates—and to a certain extent, the training programs themselves—with European standards. As the Czech Republic prepared itself for membership in the European Union, increased attention was given to promoting exchanges of students, teachers, and professors across the EU and EU-affiliated countries and to fostering international cooperation among researchers. The Czech Republic participated actively in planning and implementing policies and legislative initiatives aimed at harmonizing training methods and education systems so the country would fit better into the EU system and could benefit from the information and personnel exchanges facilitated by membership in the EU.
Laws Affecting Education: The Constitution of 1993, the 1993 List of Basic Rights and Freedoms, and a series of education laws enacted in the decades leading up to independence and since independence provide the basic principles for the national education system's mission, structure, and operation. According to the List of Basic Rights and Freedoms, for example, everyone has the right to an education and school attendance is required for a certain legally stipulated period; citizens are allowed a free elementary and secondary education, and, based on individual abilities and societal resources, a higher education as well; non-state schools charging fees for educational services are permitted to operate only according to the conditions provided by law; and legislation specifies how citizens can receive educational assistance.
An education law passed in 1995 introduced a new method for managing education by sectors or professional fields and also established the responsibilities of the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports and other ministries with education-related functions. Previously, the Ministry of the Interior and the Communist Party had managed the country's education system. The 1995 law amended the Act on State Administration and Selfadministration in the Education Sector and established the basis for an official "school network" (registry of schools) administered by the Ministry of Education in order to better determine school functions and manage school principals in a more-active way. Key laws pertaining to higher education before independence included the Acts Concerning Institutions of Higher Education of 1950, 1966, and 1980. However, with the democratic revision of governance after the break with the Soviets in 1989, Czechoslovakia passed a new Act on Institutions of Higher Education in 1990 to reestablish academic freedom (substantially denied under Communist rule) and to limit state influence on higher education. Another Higher Education Act was passed in 1998 to authorize the creation of private institutions of higher education while keeping higher education a state monopoly and the national budget the principal source of financial support. The 1998 act also clarified the role of the bachelor's degree as one culminating a course of study that could lead directly to a career as well as to more-advanced studies. In addition, it enabled schools to generate education funds from other sources, such as the charging of tuition fees.
In the Czech Republic the education system is divided into several levels and types of schools according to age and the kind of training provided. Preprimary education for children between the ages of 3 and 6 is optional, although there were about 6,400 kindergartens in the country in 1998. Compulsory, basic education is provided to pupils between the ages of 6 and 15, with pupils ages 6 to 11, 12, or 13 enrolled in primary schools and pupils 11, 12, or 13 to 15 enrolled in lower secondary schools or gymnasiums. Basic education schools numbered about 5,000 in 1998. Upper-secondary schools include vocational and technical schools as well as general-education schools (gymnasiums) for students extending to age 19, although some shorter programs in vocational education for students ages 15 to 17 also exist. Highereducation institutions of various types provide education and training opportunities for students between the ages of 19 and 22, 23, 24, 25, or 26, depending on the type of training course followed.
In the 1996-1997 school year about 2.2 million children and youth, out of the country's total population of about 10 million, were enrolled in educational institutions. Of these students, about 325,000 were preprimary children, 661,000 were primary pupils, 539,000 were lower secondary students, 513,000 were upper secondary students, and 196,000 were tertiary students. Fifty-two percent of all pupils and students of school age were of compulsory school age (that is, between 6 and 15 years old) or nearly 1.2 million people. About 1,627,500 primary and secondary students were enrolled in public schools and approximately 85,400 additional students went to private schools, which also received government subsidies for education. The total number of primary and secondary students, public and private, was therefore about 1,712,900.
The gross enrollment rate in 1995 for basic compulsory education (the first 9 grades of school) was 95 percent. In 1996 the student to teacher ratio for basic education was 14.5:1. Net enrollment rates were 86.9 percent at the primary level and 87.1 percent at the secondary level. Net enrollment rates for girls, 86.8 percent at the primary level and 88.6 percent at the secondary level, were almost the same as for boys, a tribute to efforts made during the Soviet era as well as in recent years to provide equal educational opportunities for both girls and boys. In fact, the enrollment rate at the secondary level is even a bit higher for girls than for boys.
During the 1990s the level of education of the general population increased, though by early 2001 a breakdown of the adult population in the country by educational attainment levels was not readily available. In 1990 the composition of the economically active adult population (i.e., those working, seeking jobs, or temporarily unemployed) was as follows: 18.7 percent had a primary education; 43.1 percent had a lower-secondary education, mostly through apprenticeship training and some of which had been acquired through technicaltraining programs; 27.7 percent had received higher-secondary education; and just 9.6 percent held university degrees. Through the improvements made in upper-secondary and postsecondary education and training programs by the turn of the millennium, these proportions were expected to gradually shift in favor of a more highly educated workforce.
International Influences & Foreign Languages: During the years the country belonged to the Soviet-controlled Communist satellite system where Moscow was the center of political affairs, the Czech Republic's government was structured as a centralized administrative system. For this reason the public education system in the Czech Republic at the time of independence was infused with many of the principles and structures of centralized, state-controlled socialist education systems. Since the early 1990s, however, education officials, specialists, and practitioners have taken significant steps toward molding the education system into a more responsive, democratic, decentralized system. By the year 2000 the European Union had a far more significant influence on the course of educational thought and structuring than any leftover influence from the Soviet era, atleast as far as the top-level educational officials were concerned. However, because about half of the teaching staff was middle-aged and had been trained before the 1989 break with the Soviet socialist system, Russian and socialist influence on the day-to-day practice of teaching undoubtedly was much stronger than ministry officials would have cared to admit. Nonetheless, educational reforms during the 1990s were substantial enough for the European Commission to write in an abstract of their October 1999 report on education in the Czech Republic that "the Czech Republic had achieved progress in this area by adopting legislation and participating in Community programmes." Their corresponding November 2000 report noted that the country "is continuing to make progress in implementing the legislation adopted in this field, particularly in education, training and participation in Community programmes. It has also made progress in the education of children from socially and culturally disadvantaged backgrounds, although the situation concerning the education of the children of migrant workers has not changed."
Since independence in 1993 Czech has been the only official language of the Czech Republic. However, more than a third of pupils in the primary grades learn a second language and more than half the students in the secondary grades learn second languages. Some primary and secondary students learn a third language, and some secondary students learn a fourth language as well. English and German appear to be far more commonly taught as second and/or third languages than any other non-Czech language at the primary and secondary levels.
Examinations: Students must pass an entrance exam before entering upper secondary-level education in the Czech Republic. Those who fail to pass the entrance exam are allowed to continue their studies in vocational schools where one or two years of training are provided for basic manual occupations. Students in secondary general schools and secondary technical schools are permitted to take the Maturita exam at the conclusion of their secondary studies. However, because the individual schools administering the exams determine the content of the Maturita exams, it is difficult for institutions of higher education to compare students based on their performance on the Maturita. For this reason, students who pass the Maturita must take university entrance exams before they can enter the universities.
Private Schools: Private schools are a relatively new phenomenon in the Czech Republic, considering that all schools prior to the break with the Soviet system in 1989 were state-supported and state-controlled. Between 1990 and 1994 many non-state schools were started, particularly at the upper-secondary level, due to the unwillingness of a number of teachers to make schools reliant on market forces. By the end of the 1990s, private educational institutions included both parochial and non-sectarian schools, all of them eligible for state subsidies provided on a normative (per-pupil) basis, provided that the schools were registered with the government as private companies. In addition, private schools are allowed to request financial contributions from students and their parents for capital investments, since government funding to private schools only covers teacher salaries and operational costs. Competition among private schools has been encouraged, since the amount of subsidy a private school receives is based on the number of students it attracts; this in turn has improved the quality of private educational initiatives.
In terms of training programs available to adults, private initiatives have grown exponentially. By the year 2000 about 2,000 private training organizations were teaching adults new skills or upgrading existing practical and theoretical knowledge. Private training centers need only to be registered as companies to receive government funding, although accreditation by the Ministry of Education is required if educational certificates are to be awarded. With the shift to privatization in the economy and decentralization in schooling during the 1990s, businesses lost their apprentice and training centers attached to the state-supported system as well as certain financing they once received from the state to provide vocational and technical training. Consequently, private industry largely withdrew from financing vocational and technical education. However, by the year 2000, some companies once again had started to fund training programs, particularly those designed to prepare workers with specialized skills such as those needed in the automobile industry and in mining.
Instructional Technology: By the end of the 1990s, the Czech Republic was preparing to support new educational initiatives in computer technology to prepare a workforce better equipped for jobs in the high-technology sector. Although a national policy on the use of information and communications technology (ICT) in education was not yet in place by the 1997-98 school year, ICT courses were included at the lower-secondary level by that time, with ICT taught as a separate subject. ICT classes were taught as a compulsory separate subject in the first year of general upper-secondary education. At lower and upper secondary levels, specialists in ICT were employed to teach these classes. Objectives for ICT classes in secondary schools included developing programming skills in students; teaching them to use word processors, spreadsheets, and other computer software; teaching them to gather information using such tools as CDs and the Internet; and teaching students how to communicate via a network. The curriculum at the lower-secondary level also stressed the importance of information and the place of ICT in society.
Curriculum Development: Curricular innovations in the late 1990s were focused in particular on improving the quality of course offerings and training programs at the secondary level, especially in vocational education. Schools were given a certain measure of freedom to develop their own curricula in the directions they saw fit, with about 10 percent of the curriculum adaptable to local circumstances and about 30 percent of the syllabus changeable by the schools. In addition, schools could propose methods for modernizing curricula with regard to occupations and new sectors of employment. Before 1989 about 500 different curricula were developed by school initiatives and approved by the state for vocational instruction, whereas in the year 2000 over 800 different curricula developed by schools had been approved by the Ministry of Education. As private schools have entered the educational marketplace with the country's privatization efforts, competition for students has increased, resulting in competitive improvements in course offerings across the various schools providing vocational education. On the other hand, one obstacle to the smooth functioning and coordination of vocational programs that has emerged ironically is the ease with which new curricula can be approved by the Ministry, which has resulted in a proliferation of courses highly similar to existing courses and sometimes differing only in name from previous courses. The direct relevance of certain courses to specific occupations also is sometimes questionable, since the government no longer provides a generally accepted list of occupations for which training should be provided as was done in the days of socialist schooling.
Role of Education in Development: Clearly, education at all levels in the Czech Republic—for preprimary students through adults—can lead to an improved climate for economic development and democratic participation in civil society, which in turn engenders a higher quality of life and greater political stability. To this end, the World Bank, the European Union, the Soros Foundation, and other international nongovernmental organizations have provided substantial financial and technical assistance since the Czech Republic attained independence so that schools will become more responsive to the needs of children, youth, and adults in a greatly transformed society. As Peter Grootings, the author of a World Bank report on vocational education in the Czech Republic, wrote in March 2000, the educational experience of the Czech Republic presents several lessons with special relevance for transitional countries: 1) By encouraging private investment in education and limiting the labor supply through early retirements and the extension of schooling opportunities for youth, a better adjustment can be made in the national economy to a liberalized market regime; 2) Making vocational education more general and less terminal increases the appeal of vocational education institutions to students and draws more into this form of training, leading to a better-prepared workforce; 3) Maintaining low registered unemployment by tightening eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits controls public-training program budgets and prevents rampant spending from the national treasury to support workforce training initiatives; and 4) Setting favorable laws to encourage industrial growth encourages private industry to provide training opportunities for vocational students and adults without draining the public treasury.
Preprimary & Primary Education
While preprimary schooling was optional for young children below age six in the Czech Republic in 2001, primary education for children was, beginning at age six, compulsory. Nonetheless, many children of preprimary age were enrolled in education-oriented institutions, both privately supported and public. At the primary level most schools were supported by the state and under the Ministry of Education's jurisdiction. Primary schooling covered the first several grades of school, from ages 6 to 11, 12 or 13, depending on the age at which students entering gymnasiums chose to move on to the lower-secondary level.
In 1997 nearly 83 percent of three to five year olds were enrolled in preschools, a noticeable drop from the enrollment rate of 89.8 percent in 1989, the year Czechoslovakia broke from the Soviet system. In 1997 83 percent of 4 year olds and 90 percent of 5 year olds were enrolled in preprimary education. According to a 1999 World Bank report on the status of the Czech Republic in various sectors as the country prepared for accession to the EU, preschool enrollments by 1996 were equivalent to those in most OECD countries and slightly higher than the preschool enrollment rate in any other Central European country.
About 104 percent of the school-age population in the year 2000 was enrolled in primary education, with gross enrollment rates at the primary level 105 percent for boys and 103 percent for girls. Classes generally ranged in size from 10 to 30 pupils each (sometimes more under exceptional circumstances). Most of the primary schools in the country by 2001 were created by and under the jurisdiction of the municipalities, which financed the schools primarily with subsidies received from the Ministry of Finance and from shares of centrally collected taxes.
In 1995 nearly 87.1 percent of secondary age students were enrolled in lower and upper secondary school programs; 88.6 percent of secondary age girls were enrolled in secondary level educational programs. About 18.8 percent of the 15 to 18 year old age group was enrolled in general upper-secondary education in 1996, while two-thirds of students in this age group were enrolled in vocational or technical training programs. In 1996 approximately 22.1 percent of all students in the upper secondary grades (i.e., ages 15 and higher) were enrolled in general education, while 77.9 percent were enrolled in vocational and technical programs. In 1996-1997 about 538,900 students were enrolled in general education programs at the lower secondary level and only about 300 students were in lower secondary vocational education. For upper secondary students that year, about 31,000 male and 44,900 female students were enrolled in general education programs, and about 9,500 male students and 14,500 female students completed their general upper secondary education. Approximately 223,400 male and 213,200 female students studied in vocational programs in the 1996-1997 school year. As of 1998 at least 98 percent of all secondary level students who completed their compulsory schooling went on to study at the upper-secondary level, most of them in the vocational and technical streams. However, the proportion of students enrolling in the general stream of upper-secondary education (i.e., gymnasiums) gradually increased from 1989 to 1998, from 10 to 20 percent of all upper secondary students. Over the same period technical school enrollments at the upper secondary level increased from 30 to 45 percent, primarily because of the addition of new private schools during this time. Vocational enrollments declined substantially between 1989 and 1998, from 60 percent down to 35 percent of all upper secondary students enrolled in educational institutions.
During the Communist era in Czechoslovakia, enterprises and cooperatives had arranged practical vocational training in apprentice schools attached to specific enterprises. The Ministry of Education had developed the curricula and course syllabi for secondary level professional and technical schools and for the theory taught in apprentice schools with input from enterprise specialists and sector research institutes. A government-controlled central planning body determined how many students should be enrolled in each of the individual study fields. With the split from the Communist-controlled system in 1989, Czechoslovakia experienced a significant transformation in its vocational training system.
The Communist model of vocational education and training had made it difficult for students to change occupational tracks and specialties by transferring across training programs. With the transformation of the vocational education system at the secondary level that began in the 1990s, switching tracks has become much easier for students, particularly as new "integrated" schools, established with funding and technical assistance provided by the EU's PHARE program, have been introduced. The integrated schools offer training courses at the same level as secondary vocational and secondary technical schools. Additionally, some economic and technical secondary schools have been created with PHARE support that cross the lines between secondary general and secondary technical training, offering practical education with more theory than technical schools customarily provide and preparing students for university-level studies after graduation. Since the 1996 parliamentary elections, the Ministry of Education has been responsible for all secondary level vocational schools in the Czech Republic. Although the future direction of vocational training in the country had not yet been fully decided as of March 2000 when World Bank analysts prepared a study report on vocational education in the Czech Republic, it appeared that the national government was interested in continuing to support vocational training at the secondary level that would combine theory and practice and draw support from potential employers and the private sector. The Czech government had not yet fully determined how to overcome the hazard of training students along overly narrow lines, a problem fostered by the traditional style of vocational education in the country.
Apprenticeships: After 1989, state enterprises went bankrupt or were privatized and the directorates of enterprises folded, along with many of the apprenticeship schools. The remaining apprentice schools were consolidated, and the ministries took responsibility for vocational training. State apprenticeships were introduced in which students received state-funded training unattached to specific future employers. After attempts to establish central advisory bodies through government intervention failed to materialize in the first years after the break from the Soviet system, the Ministries of Economy, Agriculture, and Health assumed responsibility for supervising most of the apprenticeship programs, with some responsibilities falling to the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports. Beginning in 1992 the Ministry of Economy became primarily responsible for determining policies and regulations in the area of vocational education, setting the curricula, and providing financing. Professional groups were established to act as advisors as new vocationaltraining curricula were prepared.
Overall, the apprenticeship schools developed separately from the secondary-level professional and technical schools. Nonetheless, as curricula were revised and schools became increasingly competitive with each other for a declining school-age population, apprenticeship schools competed with the other secondary level educational institutions for students. Additionally, numerous private schools emerged to fill the gaps in the privatizing labor market and to attract and absorb students unable to find suitable or appealing training at other facilities. By 2001 private apprenticeship schools constituted about 13 percent of the Czech Republic's total number of schools and were educating about 24,000 apprentices, not quite one-tenth of the total. In the late 1990s because businesses were contributing to state-funded, continuingeducation programs designed to train or retrain adults, many private enterprises were unwilling to dedicate additional financial resources to setting up private training initiatives at the secondary level for apprentices. This was expected to change over the next several years as business associations continued to form and assumed greater responsibility for professional preparation.
In the year 2000 nearly two-thirds of the secondary-school graduates who chose to pursue higher education in the Czech Republic had studied in secondary general schools, while about 30 percent of those going on to higher education had graduated from secondary technical schools and just 4 or 5 percent came from secondary vocational schools. Most students leaving secondary vocational schools entered the job market without further training, although during the 1990s vocational school graduates increasingly were opting to take a two-year course that allowed them to take the Maturita upon completion of their studies.
During the 1990s increasing numbers of students chose to study in institutions of higher learning. The gross enrollment rate of 18 to 20 year olds enrolled in higher education programs in 1997 was 17.3 percent. Of all students enrolled in universities in the Czech Republic that year, 28.1 percent specialized in the humanities, 22.7 percent in the social and behavioral sciences, 7.0 percent in the natural sciences, 6.7 percent in medicine, 29.5 percent in engineering, and 6.0 percent in other fields of study. In 1997 about 13,500 male students and 16,600 female students received degrees from tertiary educational institutions in the Czech Republic, with the ratio of female to male students graduating from higher-education institutions 120 to 100.
Teaching Styles & Techniques: By the year 2000 government officials were recognizing that significant efforts needed to be made to upgrade the teaching methodology in many of the Czech Republic's schools where about half the teachers were middle-aged and had been trained before 1989 under the Soviet socialist style of education. Many of the older teachers were overly rigid in their teaching style and lacked knowledge of more modern teaching methods, a result of the lack of in-service training opportunities provided to teachers during the years under the Communist regime. As the Czech Republic prepared for accession to the EU in the late 1990s and afterward, the need to upgrade teacher training became readily apparent. Reforms supported by the EU and other international education specialists were being planned in order to address this problem and to help teachers promoted to management positions in school administration receive specialized management training. With the lustration certificates required by the post-Communist government to certify that executives had not been part of the Communist system, virtually all the top ministerial level officials in the education system had lost their positions and experienced teachers who had never served in management-level positions were being promoted to take on management tasks. The demand for special management training for these teachers was thus very real.
Professional Education: In the 1990s higher professional education became the fastest-growing sector of the Czech educational system. Started in 1992, this form of training was introduced to remedy the shortage of university level seats. Provided as three- or four-year courses enabling students to gain the practical qualifications needed for middle or high level jobs in professional fields, higher professional education has rapidly grown in popularity. Most courses are delivered at technical secondary school facilities, making better use of what are otherwise often-underutilized educational institutions. In just 2 years, from the 1995-1996 academic year to the 1997-1998 academic year, enrollments increased from 6,300 to 23,500 in higher professional schools.
Administration, Finance, & Educational Research
Government Education Organizations & Agencies: Education policy during the 1990s and at the start of the new millennium was set by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, the government arm primarily responsible for preprimary, primary, secondary, and tertiary school facilities and programs as of the late 1990s, except for certain matters falling under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Economy (and in the case of vocational training, of select other ministries such as the Ministry of Agriculture). The Ministry of Education also oversaw teacher training, scientific policy-making and technological development, advanced research (including educational and other social-science research), international cooperation in research and teaching, state-sponsored care of children and youth, physical education and sports, and tourism. The semi-autonomous Czech School Inspectorship, a subordinate, semi-autonomous entity attached to the Ministry, was charged with the tasks of improving education and educational management, ensuring the efficient utilization of educational resources, and supporting school compliance with education regulations. Beginning in 2001 new regional administrative arrangements involving the 14 regions established in 1998 were to be set in place to oversee educational administration in the Czech Republic, a significant step toward the greater decentralization of decision-making authority in the state. With the new regional administrations assuming their administrative responsibilities, the previously created school offices at the district level attached to the Ministry of Education were to be gradually eliminated. Ideally, this new arrangement would facilitate a more-coordinated network of entities charged with educational administrative tasks, since at the turn of the millennium educational administration in the Czech Republic had become increasingly complex and convoluted, involving arms and offices attached to the ministries, the 6,200 selfgoverning municipalities, school councils established by some schools after the 1995 Education Act to indirectly assist in school decision-making at the local level, school-based principals, and other educational administrators.
Educational Budgets & Expenditures: In 1997 the Czech Republic spent about 4.7 percent of the national budget on education. Financial responsibility for education mainly fell to the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports, which in 2001 was in charge of distributing most of the 80 billion Czech crowns allocated by the national government for education. The Ministry of Finance in 2001 distributed about 1 billion Czech crowns to the municipalities for education costs. The municipalities were responsible for covering 34 percent of investment and operating costs of kindergartens and 37 percent of primary-school expenditures, drawing upon the subsidies received from the Ministry of Finance and on tax shares. Local revenues cover only a very small percentage of expenditures on education. Municipal contributions for education constitute about 20 percent of the entire budget for education. During the 1990s the municipal share of funding for schools decreased as direct funding from the state has increased. In 1997 about 82.5 percent of the expenditures on education came from the state budget while 17.5 percent came from municipal budgets. Municipalities are rarely responsible for funding secondary schools, which for the most part are established by and receive funding from the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports.
As already noted, the public budget also provides a certain measure of funding for non-state schools established by private or denominational legal entities. The national state pays private and denominational schools about 60 to 90 percent of the per-pupil subsidies received by state schools, based on the level of education provided, the type of school established, and other formal criteria. Owners of non-state schools must provide the full capital investment needed to establish their schools but are free to set the wage scales for their educational staff, including teachers. In public schools salaries are determined according to a state salary table. Non-state schools also are permitted to collect tuition fees, something public schools are not allowed to do.
In the late 1990s the need for greater funds for capital expenditures on schools was readily apparent. Although the school-age population was declining in size and no major need existed for new-school construction, many of the existing facilities needed renovations and repairs. As Grootings observed in 1999, in the Czech Republic's vocational education and training system approximately three-quarters of non-investment expenditures went to salaries and social insurance for teachers and other educational staff, leaving little for building renovations or the purchase of equipment and teaching materials. The 1998 state budget for education allocated about 5 percent for capital expenditures, 55 percent for personnel expenses (including about 3 percent for staff subsidies for nonstate schools), and 40 percent for per-pupil expenditures to pay for textbooks, educational supplies, school meals, boarding fees, utilities and heating costs, and building maintenance. As a World Bank study published in 1999 pointed out, "These figures are more a consequence of the low share of salaries, because of low remuneration levels of teachers, than an over-generous provision of services to schools. The low salary level, especially at the entry point, is a deterrent to the recruitment and retention of young teachers. The teaching force, which is about 75 percent female, is predominantly middle-aged, with a majority trained in the pre-1989 system."
Research Centers & Institutes: Between 1953 and 1992 the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences was responsible for research and post-graduate (i.e., beyond the Bachelor's level) education. Additionally, research institutes belonging to various ministries and state-owned enterprises offered training opportunities as well as locations for professional research. In 1989 some 140 industrial research institutes were in existence in Czechoslovakia and the Czech part of the national budget spent 2.2 percent of the GDP on research and developing, providing jobs for 140,000 people. At the same time, research facilities were often overstaffed and poorly equipped, making research an expensive state enterprise.
Over the 10-year period between 1989 and 1999, substantial efforts were made to improve the research environment in the Czech Republic. Twenty-two research institutes were closed, and the new Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, begun in 1992, oversaw about 60 research institutes but assumed a lesser role in postgraduate education. Universities became increasingly involved in the provision of research training at the postgraduate level, employing instructional staff who could fulfill the roles of both professors and researchers. About 100 laboratories formerly attached to institutes were shifted to the universities, where research became more financially productive. A government-sponsored Research and Development Council was established in 1992 to provide oversight for the funding of activities in the areas of research and development, providing grants for specific research projects and programs as well as capital support and operating support for the institutions where research and development functions were carried out.
Adult Education: A Public Employment Service established by the state in 1990 under the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs implements the labor policies of the Czech government, including adult retraining for the labor market. As of the year 2000, secondary vocational education and training schools were receiving state contracts to provide retraining opportunities to adults, since the Public Employment Service had no training centers of its own. Because of the Service's dissatisfaction with the quality and teaching approaches of many of the programs that had been developed, the Service was cooperating increasingly with education authorities by 2000 to find alternative methods for retraining workers. Private training programs for adults became increasingly common during the 1990s, and by the end of the decade, about 2,000 private training organizations were in operation. To a limited extent, private industries such as automobile factories, also had begun to offer training programs to prepare workers with new skills or to fill labor shortages in particular occupational areas needed by the industry.
Distance Education: As noted already, the Czech Republic resembles other European states in that during the 1990s increasing efforts were made to incorporate training in information and communications technology into the school curricula. By 1999 the Czech Republic had 86 Internet hosts for every 10,000 persons with 35 Internet service providers operating in the country. There were 107.2 personal computers for every 1,000 persons in the country in 1999, almost double the rate for 1995, which was 53.4 per 1,000. Televisions and radios, in use since the Communist era, have proliferated with the shift to a more-democratic government and a free-market, consumer-oriented economy, as have radio and television broadcasting stations. In 1999 some 21 AM radio stations were operating in the Czech Republic, 199 FM radio stations, and one short-wave radio station while 102 television broadcast stations (35 of them low-power stations) and about 500 repeaters transmitted television programming around the country. In December 1999 there were about 3.4 million televisions and 3.2 million radios in the Czech Republic—roughly 1 television and 1 radio for every 3 people.
Training & Qualifications: In 1996 approximately 138,500 full and part time teachers provided educational services to 16.6 percent of the country's population or the 1,712,900 students enrolled in primary and secondary schools. During the 1996-1997 school year about 36,000 teachers (approximately 33,000 women and 3,000 men) taught primary students, 46,000 teachers (approximately 35,000 women and 12,000 men) taught at the lower-secondary level, and 57,000 teachers (approximately 31,000 women and 26,000 men) provided instruction in upper-secondary schools.
Although kindergarten teachers in the Czech Republic receive their training in secondary schools and higher pedagogical schools, teachers of primary and secondary school students are initially trained at institutions of higher education. In-service training is provided by schools and paid for by subsidies received from the government for special programming determined at the discretion of the schools themselves. Special pedagogical centers and the pedagogical faculties in institutions of higher education also provide in-service training to teachers. Schools also have the option of sending their teaching staffs to courses in management, languages, and other subject areas. Subnational educational administrative offices or in the year 2000, the district-level school offices attached to the Ministry of Education also have provided and financed a certain number of teacher-education courses.
Because the majority of teachers and educational staff in the Czech Republic are government employees, most teachers are paid salaries relatively lower than those received by other professionals and persons employed in the business sector. This has been a formidable obstacle to attracting new teachers in the years since the Communist system was dismantled, as many young people find the pay levels in the education sector to be unappealing and therefore opt for careers where the wages are higher.
As the Czech Republic prepares to become a member of the European Union sometime in the first few years of the new millennium, the country has been reshaping and improving its education system at all levels by giving consideration to some of the thorniest problems yet to be tackled and making solid progress at transforming a once heavily state-directed system into a more fluid, responsive publicly owned system. Significant problems remain to be overcome as the national economy begins to improve and the country regains some of the economic shine enjoyed in the first few years after independence when so many leaders of other transitional countries marveled at the economic accomplishments of this Central European state that once stood like a gem in the crown of the Holy Roman Emperor. As a 1999 World Bank-sponsored report concluded:
The educational environment in the Czech Republic is dynamic in several respects: (i) overall enrollments are tending to decline as a function of the declining population; (ii) within this broad trend, university and other postsecondary enrollments have increased, along with technical secondary and to some extent gymnasia, whereas vocational secondary education has substantially decreased and kindergarten is slowly declining; (iii) private education has been introduced, especially at the technical secondary level; (iv) extensive decentralization took place, with district education authorities playing a key role, but even municipalities becoming involved in kindergarten and basic education; and (v) normative financing has become the dominant method of allocating educational expenditures.
All of the above seemed to bode well for the positive transformation of a previously state-controlled system relatively unresponsive to the needs or interests of the Czech people into a vibrant and invigorating system ready to deliver educational services to all the population, no matter the age, educational level, or economic circumstances of the individual student. However, at the same time, the World Bank authors identified certain challenges to progress apparent in the education system of the Czech Republic at the end of the 1990s. These were namely, overly numerous public schools, shrinking teaching loads in kindergartens and vocational schools but not a correspondingly shrinking teaching force, a generally conservative teaching force unversed in more-modern and appropriate teaching methods, the failure to recruit sufficient numbers of young people as teachers who could revitalize the system, and significant administrative fragmentation as the educational system attempted to decentralize, which was likely to impede improvements being made system-wide. The upper secondary level in particular appeared to have some rather serious problems in need of correction that were not being adequately addressed, in the eyes of the World Bank analysts.
The European Commission reported in November 2000 that the Czech Republic was making steady progress in implementing legislation related to education, training, and youth as well as legislation concerning participation in European Community-sponsored programs. While continuing problems were noted with the provision of education to migrant workers' children, the Czech Republic was seen as having made improvements in educating children from socially and culturally disadvantaged backgrounds. Undoubtedly, the groups referred to here included the Roma, who had been subjected to substantial educational discrimination in the years after the break with the Soviet system. In the year 2000 the parents of 18 Romani children in Ostrava, one of the largest cities in Moravia in the east of the country, had lodged a formal complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg claiming that the Czech state had regularly practiced discrimination and segregation by placing inordinate and disproportionate numbers of Romani children into special schools for children with mental disabilities. While Romani children constitute only 5 percent of the primary-school population in Ostrava, more than half of the students placed in special schools in Ostrava are Romani. In the nation as a whole, three-quarters of Romani children are taught in special schools, and more than half of students in special schools are Roma. Although many of the Roma decidedly have special language needs and have been reluctant to integrate among other ethnic minority groups and the ethnic majority Czechs, the practice of placing students in schools for the mentally deficient or disabled clearly should raise eyebrows and calls into question the validity of the educational philosophy underlying the Czech educational system. One of the greatest challenges for post-Communist states in Europe and elsewhere appears to be confronting racial and ethnic prejudice and ensuring the equitable distribution of social goods among the people in the society—no matter how small their numbers or how different their cultural traditions. An aspect of democratization that has created trauma in a number of countries around Europe in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries is the allowing of popular participation in governance that ensures everyone the right to express his or her views and preferences without infringing on the rights of the others in their midst. More troubling than the shortage of young teachers interested in entering the field of education and more likely to affect the larger society in terms of how peoples differing from the majority are accepted and treated, this problem of widespread ethnic prejudice and mistreatment of some people by others in the post-Soviet Czech society must be confronted and directly addressed. Admirably, some school administrators, education officials, and teachers, often with internal assistance, were developing educational programs designed to foster tolerance and better ethnic relations in their communities at the start of the new millennium. Such initiatives would be wise to replicate throughout the country with government support and the involvement of civil society groups interested in developing a more respectful civil discourse richly colored with the ethnic contributions of all the members of the Czech Republic.
In terms of the future for the Czech education system, perhaps the greatest need is to find a way to cope with the great administrative bureaucracy that has developed over time through the Communist era and again as the country has sought to reform its political system. Unless a greater streamlining of administrative functions and the clearer delegation of educational responsibilities is accomplished over the next few years, the long-term consequences for the education of the Czech Republic's children and youth are likely to be dismal indeed. By addressing the problems identified not only by school experts within the country but also by international specialists working to facilitate the Czech Republic's integration with the European Union in the coming years, Czech educators can improve their system and provide the means by which future generations may prepare themselves for life in a healthily functioning, politically stable, economically prosperous society. To this end, several recommendations developed by educational specialists in the Czech Republic and presented to World Bank analysts studying the decentralization of education in Europe's transitional countries are worth holding in mind. To address the problems arising in connection with efforts to decentralize the education system and to make it more responsive both to the needs of the people and the labor-market, the specialists suggest that appropriate "support structures and processes" be developed and put in place "to ensure efficient management: management training, ongoing teacher education and room for personal initiative, improved information and evaluation mechanisms, and so forth" (Hendrichova et al.). Additionally, the authors believe "the Ministry of Education must strengthen its analytical, coordinative, conceptual, and strategic functions." Greater public participation in developing and implementing a more-responsive education system is recommended by these educational specialists, who state, "Schools, teachers, parents, municipalities or other levels of regional administration and selfgovernance, employers, trade unions, and politicians—in a word, all stakeholders—should participate in consultative bodies at all levels and should create them where they do not yet exist. The school system and issues concerning education should become public matters."
Assuredly, Václav Havel, first president of the Czech Republic, would agree that every member of the Czech Republic must help create a society where the government responds to the needs of the people and education serves the public. As Havel reminds us, "Responsibility cannot be preached but only borne, and the only possible place to begin is with oneself."
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—Barbara Lakeberg Dridi
"Czech Republic." World Education Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic
"Czech Republic." World Education Encyclopedia. . Retrieved May 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic
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Prague, Brno, Ostrava, Plzeň, Olomouc
České Budějovice, Frýdek-Místek, Hradec Kráové, Liberec, Pardubice, Ústí Nad Labem, Zlín
This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 2000 for the Czech Republic. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.
The Czech Republic has a rich treasure in its own history, with much of it still visible in the bridges, palaces, and streets of Prague. The legacies of Charles IV, the Holy Roman Emperor; of Jan Hus, the religious reformer; of Comenius, the educator; of King George of Podebrady, the one Czech Hussite king; of Hasek and Capek and other writers; of the composers Dvorak and Smetana; of Tomas Masaryk, the philosopher and statesman, are still alive in Prague. Few world capitals have preserved their past so visibly, and few are so picturesque.
Politically, the Czechs have endured centuries of storms and trials. The Czech Republic's people, property, and institutions were decimated by the Thirty Years' War; were dominated by the Hapsburg Austrian Empire for 300 years; experienced a brief but brilliant period of democracy and independence from 1918 to 1938; were occupied by Hitler after the signing of the Munich Pact; had an even briefer period of independence after World War II; came under Communist control in 1948; were invaded by the Warsaw Pact in 1968 after a brief burst of freedom during the "Prague Spring"; threw off communist leadership in 1989 and elected Alexander Dubcek and Vaclav Havel to top governmental posts in the country; and welcomed 1993 by officially splitting their country into two independent states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The political, social, and economic situations here are dynamic as the country completes the dismantlement of old structures and joins the NATO alliance and prepares for EU membership, thereby consolidating the transition to a free market democracy along Western lines.
From 1918 to 1938, the U.S. was intimately involved with Czechoslovak affairs. The millions of Americans of Czech and Slovak ancestry created a special bond, and former President Woodrow Wilson played a vital role in the creation of the Czechoslovak state. Czechoslovakia's first president, Tomas Masaryk, married an American and was a great friend of the U.S. During the Cold War, the U.S. provided political and moral support for the Charter 77 dissidents. Today, the U.S. is an active partner of the young democracy that has been reborn in this ancient land.
Prague is an old city; a medley of Gothic, Renaissance, baroque, and art deco architecture gives the city its particular charm and makes it one of Europe's most beautiful cities. The green of Prague's numerous parks and hills sets off its many historic buildings, making it particularly attractive in late spring, summer, and early autumn.
Prague has a population of about 1.2 million. German and English are the most widely understood foreign languages. Within the Western foreign and diplomatic communities, English, French, and German are spoken in addition to Czech. Americans are currently popular among Czechs, and the opinion that Czechs have of our culture is high. English is rapidly becoming the most-learned language.
The history of Prague began in the ninth century around the castles situated atop the Hraděany and Vysehrad hills, on the left and right banks of the Vltava, that still dominate the city's skyline. A major trade center a century later, Prague achieved real prominence when King Wenceslaus I of Bohemia founded a German settlement here in 1232. As the capital of Bohemia, Prague grew in size and prosperity and became one of the most splendid cities of Europe under Emperor Charles IV in the 14th century.
For the next 300 years, Prague was the residence of the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire; in the late 16th and 17th centuries, it was an important center for science, and the home of astronomers Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) and Johannes Kepler (1571-1630). In the mid-18th century, the city was occupied by the French and Prussians and, although Prague had lost much of its importance, it remained a major cultural center. The buildings constructed at that time gave the city a distinct baroque and rococo character.
Prague was the center of Czech revival in the 19th century, and played an important role in the 1848 revolution until it was bombarded and captured by Austria. In 1918, Prague was named the capital of the newly created Czechoslovak Republic. During World War II, the city was occupied by Germans, but was liberated by Soviet troops in May 1945.
The cultural aspects of the city developed extensively between the two World Wars. The center of Prague, the city's old section, is an architectural treasure characterized by the beauty of its location on the rolling banks of the Vltava. Hraděany Castle, on the river's left bank, dominates the city. A grand structure with many wings, the castle was the former royal residence and the seat of the Czech presidents. The Gothic Cathedral of St. Vitus, next to the castle, was begun in the 10th century and finally completed in 1929; it contains the tombs of many kings and emperors. There are numerous other churches and palaces in the Hraděany quarter of the city.
The best-preserved part of Old Prague is Mala Strana (lesser town), situated on the slope extending from Hraděany Castle to the river. Mala Strana is connected with Staré Město (Old Town), on the right bank of the Vltava, by the 14th-century Charles Bridge, the most beautiful of Prague's water spans. Staré Město contains the Stavovske Theater; the Clementinum Library; the Carolinum, dating to 1348 and the oldest part of Prague University; and other historic structures. Adjacent to Staré Město is the Old Synagogue, built in the 13th century, and once part of the city's Jewish ghetto. In all, Prague has 77 palaces, about 150 ancient town houses, seven summer palaces, 20 mansion homes, over 100 churches, and more than 33 former monasteries.
A number of interesting towns surround Prague. Kutná Hora is known for its architectural beauty, including the Italian Court and several buildings which are examples of medieval stone mansions. There are a castle and a spa at Poděbrady. Mladá Boleslav is the center of Czech's automobile industry, but the town also boasts a castle in its old Renaissance section. Mělnik, situated at the confluence of the Vltana and Elbe Rivers, is known for its vineyards and wine harvests, as well as a baroque-adapted mansion which features a picture gallery. The town of Kladno, known for the production of iron and steel, had modernized and expanded so that it nearly reaches the village of Lidice, which was destroyed by the Nazis in 1942 and is now a memorial. Příbram, a mining town, has an outdoor mining museum and baroque buildings which are part of its famous pilgrimage.
Several towns surrounding Prague are known for their mansions. Near the town of Benešov is the impressive mansion Konopiště; there is also a baroque mansion at Veltrusy that is situated in a park; a Renaissance mansion at Nelahozeves which houses a collection of modern Czech art; and a mansion at Žleby that exhibits arts and crafts. Other towns surrounding Prague have interesting examples of homes typical of certain eras or geographic locations. The stone cottages at Trěbíz near SlanNA have baroque influence; typical central Bohemian wooden cottages are found in Přerov; farm buildings in Kouřim are characteristic of the Kolín district; and the wooden mill at Bláhová Lhota, preserved in its original surroundings, is now a museum. The landscape of the area surrounding Prague has inspired many composers, and the towns of Jabkenice, Vysoká, Krěcovice, and Všebořice all have landmarks to this effect. Numerous battlefields also dot the area. There is a memorial at Milín which marks the place where the final shots of World War II in Europe were fired on May 11,1945.
Electric current is 220v, 50-cycle, AC. Voltage stabilizers are useful but not usually required for delicate electronic equipment. Surge protectors for computers and TVs/VCRs are recommended and can be purchased locally. Cycles may vary slightly.
Basic foods are regularly available in Prague. Fresh fruits and vegetables have been a problem at times, but large supermarkets offer a wide assortment of groceries, vegetables, and fruits, both local and imported. Local food stores are beginning to have a wider assortment and a more reliable supply of groceries. But don't expect to find all fruits and vegetables all the time. Items will be available for a while, then disappear, only to reappear later. The quality of both meat and vegetables may vary; milk may spoil quickly because it is not refrigerated during distribution.
Though acceptable clothing can be found, and both quality and selection are getting better, you may still wish to purchase or order outside of the Czech Republic. Prices of products on the German economy are higher than in the U.S.
No unusual clothing is required for Prague. A fall and winter wardrobe suitable for damp New York weather should be satisfactory. Bring many pairs of low-heeled, perhaps crepe-soled, shoes or boots for Prague's cobblestone pavements. Overshoes, galoshes or boots, raincoats, and umbrellas are needed. Because of the soft coal used for heating in the Czech Republic, light-colored clothing requires frequent cleaning in the winter.
Supplies and Services
Basic toiletries, cosmetics, tobacco products, medicines, and household supplies are available, either from the duty-free shops, or local stores.
Good, reasonably priced tailors and dressmakers are available in Prague. Local dry cleaning, laundry, and shoe repair services are adequate. Beauty and barbershops provide adequate service, although some women prefer to supply their own hair care products.
Repair facilities for many makes of newer automobiles, audio and video equipment, and household appliances are available. However, parts may be unavailable. Repairs can take a long time, and the quality of the work varies.
Household help is particularly useful for local shopping or various errands if you know there will be a language barrier.
Qualified personnel are available, but it can sometimes be difficult to find someone who has satisfactory English skills. Minimum wages are set by Czech regulations and are still not high by U.S. standards. In addition to wages, the employer must provide meals (or a fixed payment in lieu of them) during working hours, and must pay a 36-percent Social Security tax to cover Social Security, medical care, and sick pay. Live-in help is unusual for Prague. Employees get two to four weeks of annual leave per year, which they usually prefer to take during summer. Cash can be paid instead of vacation, by agreement. A month's probation follows hiring, and an employer or employee must give two months' notice before termination.
Prague now has services in English for those of the Anglican, Baptist, Interdenominational Christian, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Jewish faiths. There are also several discussion groups in English for various religions. A listing of times and places for services can be found in the English-language weekly, the Prague Post. Czech-language Protestant services are held in local churches. Roman Catholic Mass is said regularly in Czech in local churches, including St. Vitus Cathedral in the Prague Castle, and traditional Czech Masses are sung for religious holidays. Jewish services are held in the Old-New Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter, the Jerusalem Synagogue, and Bejt Simcha.
The International School of Prague (ISP), founded in 1948, was for many years located in the U.S. Embassy. Now it is housed on a beautiful new campus in Prague 6 (an administrative district in the northwestern part of the city),
The school is governed by a nine-member board, most of which is elected by parents, but with an Embassy representative as well. The school is fully accredited by the Middle States Association in the U.S. and the European Council of International Schools. The school employs an American director, and most of the teachers are recruited from the U.S. The enrollment has grown rapidly in the last few years and now has about 600 students representing more than 60 nationalities. Grade levels offered are pre-school through grade 12 with the U.S. and the International Baccalaureate diplomas offered. Children must be 4 by September 1 to be enrolled in preschool.
The school follows a U.S.-based curriculum, enriched by international perspective and content. Re-entry into U.S. schools is generally not a problem. Facilities include a large library, two computer labs, four science labs, two gymnasiums, and a theater as well as outdoor playgrounds, sports fields, and basketball and tennis courts. No boarding facilities are available. The school has a full extracurricular activity program, which includes intramural and interscholastic sports (soccer, volleyball, basketball, softball, and swimming), drama productions, student newspapers, student government, literary magazines, band, and choir. Transport to and from school is a parental responsibility via private car, taxi, or public transportation. The school year is divided into trimesters and runs from late August to the second week of June, with a one-week vacation in October, a two-to three-week Christmas/New Year's break, a one-week winter break in February, and a week off at Easter.
An elementary school, including nursery and kindergarten, is run by the French Cultural Center in Prague. The demand for enrollment in the nursery and kindergarten often exceeds available space. Instruction is in French and follows a standard French curriculum.
There is at least one Montesorri pre-school.
Other options for younger children include a number of privately run English language schools, some recently opened. These schools take children as young as 18 months old until 6 or 9 years of age; others enroll children at 3 or 4 years of age until they are 18.
Special Educational Opportunities
Adults may attend Charles University in Prague. Private instruction in art and music can be arranged.
Golf courses are available. There is an excellent golf facility near Karlstejn, a beautiful palace, about 30 minutes from Prague. Outside of Prague, there are first-class 18-hole courses at Marianske Lazne and Karlovy Vary, though they are two hours away. There is a nine-hole course at Podebrady, and, in town, the Motol course, located on a side of a hill, is small, but challenging.
Skiing and ice skating are popular winter sports. The nearest ski slopes can be reached in a day's outing. Small hotels can accommodate overnight trips, but reservations must be made well in advance.
Skis, boots, clothing, and other equipment can be obtained both locally and from outside sources. Used equipment is available in local markets that sell previously owned equipment.
Indoor ice skating rinks are open to the public in Prague. Weather permitting, skaters use outdoor rinks and ponds, though indoor facilities are also available and inexpensive. Skating instruction is readily available and inexpensive. Through the auspices of a local skating club, an ice skating rink is made available to the foreigners for two hours on Sundays during winter months for a reasonable fee.
Hunting and fishing have long traditions in the Czech Republic and can be excellent. Pheasants, ducks, red dear, wild boar, stag and other game is plentiful. Membership in hunting clubs, as well as individual hunts for big game, can be expensive, and those wishing to hunt must pass appropriate firearms tests. Fly fishing in the Czech Republic is very good, and licenses and permits can be arranged. Well-marked hiking trails cover the countryside. Riding horses are available. Boating on both rivers and lakes, camping with tents or trailers, and outdoor bathing are popular. Particularly for those interested in architecture, photography can be rewarding. Cycling can be very enjoyable, once you learn how to avoid the cobblestone streets. Equipment for sports and outdoor activities is available locally.
Children's sports are most easily pursued through intramural and interscholastic school programs. Some American children have participated in Czech youth sports programs, such as ice hockey, basketball, and baseball. The Czech programs tend to require almost year-round practice and can be very intense with little possibility of pursuing more than one sport in a year.
Touring and Outdoor Activities
Prague is an architectural and historical gem-walking is a pleasure. Parks, both large and small, public gardens, and a zoo add to the variety of things to be admired.
Many sightseeing and picnic areas are in the immediate vicinity of Prague, and weekend excursions to castles and historic cities and sites are popular. Vienna, Berlin, Budapest, Munich, and Nuremberg are each within five to six hours by car. Other European centers can be easily reached by air.
Prague provides a varied and entertaining musical diet. The Czech Philharmonic, one of Europe's outstanding musical organizations, performs twice a week, except in summer. During summer, the philharmonic has outdoor concerts. Light classical music is performed in Prague's public gardens. Both Western and Czechoslovak operas are performed, and some foreign operas Czech. In addition, numerous recitals and performances by the Prague Symphony, the country's second most famous orchestra, are given. The famous Prague Spring Music festival in May boasts performers from around the world.
Numerous theatrical presentations, classical and modern, are performed, usually in Czech. Puppet shows, pantomime, and operettas are performed, as are some world-renowned theatrical performances unique to Prague, including the Black Light Theater and Magic Lantern.
Prague also has several movie theaters showing U.S., British, French, and Italian films in the original language, with Czech subtitles or dubbing. The Italian and French cultural centers have regular film programs in Italian and French.
Prague has many museums and a fine National Gallery of Art.
Spectator events include horse racing, including the famous steeple-chase at Pardubice, tennis, basketball, softball, soccer, and ice hockey. Occasionally, American athletes participate in international competitions, and some exhibition teams visit Prague.
Although it is not known for its fine cuisine, Prague has good restaurants, as do other large cities, such as Brno. Prices are considerably lower than in the U.S. and Western Europe. Although variety can be limited, new restaurants are opening seemingly every day. The variety of ethnic restaurants ranges from Indonesian to vegetarian to Thai to Chinese and Tex-Mex. In less expensive restaurants, food may be rich in fat and high in carbohydrates. Pubs also provide good food; local specialties include goulash with dumplings or potato pancakes and fried cheese or pork with rice. Several restaurants have picturesque interiors. Some provide dinner music.
Western jazz and country music are popular. Good dance music can be found in nightclubs. Czech beer is excellent and inexpensive. Native wine is fair, and the local sparkling wines are good, but both are reasonably priced.
There are several American-owned restaurants and clubs in Prague that provide natural gathering places for Americans.
There is an International Women's Group, begun in 1991, that now has more than 600 members. They have a coffee meeting the last Tuesday of every month and a newcomer's coffee the second Tuesday of every month, either in the morning or the evening to accommodate members' working schedules. Member-ship is Kc 1,000/year. A monthly newsletter is distributed to members. The club is advertised in the local English weekly, the Prague Post.
Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic, is located in the eastern part of the country, about 120 miles southeast of Prague. Situated at the confluence of the Svratka and Svitava Rivers, it is Moravia's chief city, with a population of 392,300.
A thriving industrial center since the completion of the Brno-Vienna railway line in 1839, the city is known chiefly for its woolen industry and for the manufacture of textiles. Machinery, mostly tractors, machine tools, and armaments are also produced. The well-known Bren gun, later manufactured in England, was developed in Brno.
Tourism is important to the economy. A large international engineering trade fair is held annually in September, and other exhibitions are sponsored in winter and spring.
Brno has several institutions of higher education, including Masaryk University (founded in 1919), Beneš College of Science and Technology, the Janáèek Music Conservatory, and colleges of agriculture and veterinary science. Research institutes are connected with these schools.
Landmarks in the city include a 15th-century cathedral, several Gothic and baroque churches, and the old and new town halls. The Moravian Museum has an archaeological collection which is among the finest in Czech. The city also boasts an outstanding library, the Janáèek Theater, a large zoo, and an ice skating stadium. Near Brno is the town of Slivovice, known for its plum brandy.
Historically, Brno was a Celtic settlement which grew up between two hills. It was part of the Bohemian kingdom until declared an imperial free city by King Wenceslaus I in 1243. Brno flourished in the 13th and 14th centuries, was besieged by the Swedes in 1645, and served as Napoleon I's headquarters during the 1805 Battle of Austerlitz. The Spielberg Castle, captured by Hapsburg forces during the Thirty Years War, became their most notorious political prison from 1740 until 1855.
Ostrava, located in the heart of the Czech Republic's mining and industrial regions, is 175 miles east of Prague, near the Polish border. It is the capital of the North Moravian Region. Situated near the junction of the Oder and Opava Rivers, Ostrava's major products are anthracite and bituminous coal, iron and steel, rolling stock, machinery, and ship and bridge parts. Ostrava is a regional administrative center, a road and rail hub, and the site of a large chemical industry and several hydroelectric stations.
Ostrava, founded in 1267, was formerly called Moravská. It became prominent in the Middle Ages, mostly because of its strategic location at the entrance to the Moravian lowlands. The opening of the first coal mine and the coming of the railroad brought Ostrava industrial prominence early in the 19th century. From 1939 until 1945, Ostrava was occupied by German forces, but soon after the war ended, rapid development began. Suburbs have built up around the city, and the population has grown to 332,000.
Also a cultural and educational center, Ostrava is the site of the renowned Academy of Mining Engineering, a university, and several other technical colleges. It also has a philharmonic orchestra, professional opera, and several theaters.
Plzeň is another of the Czech Republic's well-known industrial cities. Located in Bohemia near the German border, Plzeň is 60 miles west of Prague. It is situated near a region of coal fields in an area where sugar beets and hops are grown. Plzeň's beer—Pilsner—has been brewed here for 700 years; it is internationally famous, and exported throughout the world. The city is also the site of the huge Skoda Works, which, under Communist rule, were nationalized and renamed the Lenin Works, and where heavy machinery, tools, automobiles, locomotives, and armaments are produced. Other industries include distilling, sugar refining, and papermaking, as well as pottery and cement production.
Plzeň's educational and cultural facilities include a medical school, a technical university, museums, and theaters. The 13th-century Gothic church of St. Bartholomew and a 16th-century Renaissance town hall are some of the historic landmarks found in the city.
Plzeň was founded in 1290 and was an important trade center. The industrialization of the city dates back to the late 19th century with the establishment of the Skoda Works. Plzeň belonged to the Austo-Hungarian monarchy until 1918, when it became part of the newly independent Czechoslovakia. Taken by German forces in 1939, it was Germany's leading armament producer during World War II, and was consequently heavily bombed by the Allies. Plzeň was liberated and returned to Czechoslovakia in 1945.
Today, Plzeň's population is close to 175,000.
Olomouc, in the northeast section of the Czech Republic, 125 miles east of Prague, was the country's second largest town until the 17th century. Although it is set in lush, green countryside, it is now an industrial city whose factories produce steel, machinery, electrical equipment, and food products—especially chocolate and candy. Olomouc is home to 105,000 residents.
The city has a university, founded in 1566, the Cyril-Methodius Theological faculty, and several libraries. Notable landmarks in Olomouc include the Cathedral of St. Wenceslaus, dating from 1109, when it was built as part of Přemyslid Castle; a magnificent 600-year-old town hall; and two Gothic ecclesiastical structures, the Churches of St. Catherine and St. Maurice. The folklore and art of the region are displayed in an open-air museum in the nearby town of Rožnov pod Radhoštěm.
Olomouc was a strongly fortified ancient town and, from 1187 to 1641, the capital of Moravia. The city was the site of the Bohemian victory over the Mongols in 1242. It was held by the Swedes from 1642 until 1650. The Marquis de Lafayette was imprisoned in the fortress in Olomouc. Today, parks and gardens decorate the former site of the fortress.
An annual flower show is the major attraction of the region.
ČESKÉ BUDĚJOVICE is the place from which the first horse-drawn railway in continental Europe ran to Linz, Austria, beginning in 1827. The city lies on the Vltava River, 80 miles south of Prague, and is capital of South Bohemia and a large industrial center with a population of more than 92,000. České Budějovice's impressive town square, its Dominican monastery built in 1265, its 13th-century Cathedral of St. Nicholas, and numerous other old and magnificent buildings are of particular interest. The city, whose German name is Budweis, has been designated a historical town reserve by the Czech Government. Major enterprises in České Budějovice are a brewery (producing Pilsener beer for which Bohemia is famous), and factories making such diversified products as pencils, furniture, and processed foods.
FRÝDEK-MÍSTEK , set in the midst of the deep forests of the eastern Czech Republic, south of Ostrava, is an industrial center with about 60,000 residents. The city's baroque chateau exhibits collections of folk art in its museum, and also houses an institute of ethnography. Other points of interest include a small Renaissance church, and a town hall which was built in 1602. For many years, the famous Czech poet and "Bard of Silesia," Petr Bezruè, made his home here.
HRADEC KRÁOVÉ is a large and important city on the Elbe River 60 miles east of Prague. Founded in the 10th century, it is one of the oldest Bohemian towns, and many of its historical buildings erected in the Middle Ages have been preserved, including a cathedral, a town hall, and two large marketplaces. One of the bloodiest battles of the Austro-Prussian War was fought near Hradec Královéin 1866. The city underwent sweeping architectural modernization in the years between 1900 and 1930, and is now a thriving industrial center whose factories produce ship engines, chemicals, musical instruments, glass, and processed foods. The population is approximately 100,000.
LIBEREC is situated in the north central section of the Czech Republic, on the Neisse River, 55 miles northeast of Prague. Founded in the late 13th century, destroyed by war in the 15th century, and reestablished in 1449, Liberec has a population of about 100,000. Its most important industry—textiles—has steadily developed since 1579.
PARDUBICE , the main cultural and administrative center of the Elbe valley, is noted both as an industrial city and historical reserve. Now home to a population of roughly 95,000, it was a large (for the times) settlement in the 13th century. After a devastating fire in 1507, many of the structures of Pardubice were rebuilt, but few of these survived the Thirty Years War and the siege of the Swedish armies during the first half of the 17th century. Some notable examples remain, including a 13th-century church, a Renaissance royal castle, and part of the town fortifications. On the outskirts of the city is a museum devoted to the national resistance movement. A museum of history and archaeology and the East Bohemian Gallery are located in the city, which is 60 miles east of Prague.
ÚSTÍ Nad Labem is a city of 90,000 on the Elbe River in the northwest Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic, 45 miles from Prague. It is a major tourist spot which annually draws thousands of visitors to its historical buildings, sports center, and nearby chalets and thermal springs. Overlooking the city is Střekov Castle, said to have inspired Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser. A Dominican monastery, built in 1731, is of major interest; it was erected on the site of an older church, dating from 1186, and part of which is now a concert and exhibition hall. Anton Raphael Mengs, the Bohemian painter, was born in Ústí Nad Labem in 1728. A river port and industrial center that became part of Germany in the 1938 Munich Pact but reverted seven years later to Czechoslovakia, Ústí Nad Labem today produces chemicals, iron and machines, and processes food.
ZLÍN , in southern Moravia, is the center of the country's shoe industry, founded here in 1913 by Tomáš Bat'a. A factory community grew in the area, eventually spreading Bata manufacturing plants (spelled without the apostrophe) throughout the world. Nationalized after World War II, the company in the Czech Republic is now called Svit National Corporation; it maintains a museum dedicated to shoemaking over the past six centuries. The city, with a population of about 85,000, was originally called Zlín, was named Gottwaldov in 1949 in honor of Klement Gottwaldt, the country's first Communist president, but was renamed Zlín after the "Velvet Revolution." The International Festival of Children's Films is held here.
Geography and Climate
The Czech Republic lies in the heartland of Central Europe. It has fair to moderate summers, lush springs, and pleasant autumns. Winters can be wet, gray, and cold; Prague gets occasional but light snowfalls.
The main geographic subdivisions are the Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia. At an altitude of about 500 feet, Moravia lies east of Bohemia and rises from the north of the Danube Valley. The remainder of Moravia consists of valleys and forested mountains and is bordered on the east and south by Slovakia and on the north by Poland. Prague lies on the Vltava River (Moldau in German), which flows northward and joins the Labe (Elbe) north of Prague. Prague, with an altitude of 800 feet, lies at the center of the gently rolling Bohemian Plain, which is surrounded on three sides (the German and Polish frontiers) by mountains 5,000 feet high. These mountains protect the country from the extremes of western and northern European winters. Nevertheless, high humidity makes the winter cold penetrating.
Prague's climate is temperate, with pleasant weather between May and August. Temperatures range from January's average daily high of 32°F (0°C) and low of 22° F (-4°C) to July's average daily high of 76°F (24.5°C) and low of 56°F (14°C). From November through March, the reduced hours of daylight (on cloudy days, for example, drivers feel compelled to turn their headlights on about 3:30 in the afternoon) combined with smog and raw weather create a gloomy atmosphere. Average annual rainfall is about 30 inches, distributed throughout the year. Humidity averages about 80 percent. Light to moderately heavy snow can be expected during January and February. Pollution can be severe during the winter months because of soft burning coal.
The Czech Republic's population of more than 10 million includes 8.3 million Czechs, 1.3 million Moravians, and approximately 300,000 Slovaks. Minorities include Poles, Germans, Silesians, Romany (Gypsies), and Hungarians. Before World War 11, about 3.5 million Germans lived in Czechoslovakia, but most were expelled in 1945. Of the prewar Czechoslovak population of 360,000 Jews, fewer than 10,000 remain.
Czechs are predominately Roman Catholic, although much of the population considers itself agnostic. There is a large Protestant minority.
A generation of Socialist rule has had no lasting effect on the traditional cultural ties of Czechs to Western Europe-France, Italy, Germany, and Austria. Czechs are proud of their earlier role in European cultural and political history. Many Americans (including Secretary of State Madeleine Albright) are of Czech descent, and the bond between the Czech lands and the U.S. remains strong.
The Czech Republic, the western two-thirds of the former Czech and Slovak Federal Republic, is a parliamentary democracy. On January 1, 1993, the Czechs and Slovaks divided their common state of more than 75 years.
The Czech Parliament is bicameral, consisting of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The Senate comprises 81 members elected to two-, four-and six-year terms. The 200-seat Chamber of Deputies includes delegates elected from seven districts and the capital for four-year terms, on the basis of proportional representation.
The prime minister, who traditionally has represented the majority party of coalition, has considerable power. These powers include the right to set the agenda for most foreign and domestic policies, to mobilize a parliamentary majority, and to choose the governmental ministers. The president of the republic, as the formal head of state, is granted specific powers to nominate constitutional court judges, to dissolve parliament under certain conditions, and to enact a suspensive veto on legislation.
The Czech political scene supports a broad spectrum of parties ranging from the semi-reformed Communist Party on the far left to the nationalist Republican Party on the extreme right. However, Czech governments since the fall of communism in 1989 have been coalitions of right-of-center and centrist parties, which have derived most of their popular support from the swift, free market reforms they have advocated.
Arts, Science, and Education
A long tradition of devotion to the theatrical arts and the musical heritage of Mozart, Smetana, Dvorak, and Janacek is reflected in the Czech cultural scene. The leading theatrical institution, the National Theater, produces opera, ballet, and drama. Numerous theaters in Prague and the provincial cities are well-attended. The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra has a worldwide reputation, and many other excellent musical organizations exist. The annual Prague Spring Festival is the cultural highlight of the year. Western popular musicians now include Prague in their tour schedules. Several theatrical groups have gained international recognition. Czechoslovak movies of the 1960s are world-renowned and many American movies play in Prague with Czech subtitles.
Prague's Charles University, founded in 1348, is the oldest university in central Europe. Czech science, education, and technology, once compared with the best in the world, suffered from the heavy hand of political control under the Communists.
Commerce and Industry
The Czech Republic has a well-diversified and highly industrial economy. Its reform process did not start until after the November 1989 Velvet Revolution somewhat later than in Poland and Hungary. The government has a strong focus on economic issues and has moved rapidly since 1990 to adopt free-market, Western-oriented business policies and practices.
The Czech Republic's economic transformation started shortly after the 1989 Velvet Revolution with measures to privatize the economy through property restitution and the transfer of state-owned businesses to the private sector, the liberalization of foreign trade and foreign currency restrictions, and the lifting of price controls. It has now largely consolidated its economic transition to a Western market economy with about 75 percent of the enterprises now in private hands. State control, however, persists in energy, banking, and infrastructure firms. The country enjoys a smoothly functioning democracy with moderate levels of deficits, strong foreign currency reserves, single-digit inflation, and moderate, though rising, levels of unemployment.
Due to a lack of microeconomic restructuring coupled with recent austerity measures, the country is now undergoing needed economic retrenchment after high, but unsustainable, levels of growth in recent years. Following a period of economic contraction in the late 1990s, the Czech economy has recently shown signs of renewed growth.
The country has since 1989 pursued balanced budgets, incurring small deficits in recent years. That policy orientation, however, looks set to change with the current recession and the new social democratic government's pledge to support a wide range of social welfare and investment programs.
These programs were promised by the new government, which was elected by capitalizing on citizens' anxiety about their economic future. Wage levels average $200/month and are still only 10-20 percent of those in neighboring Germany and Austria. Productivity is also substantially lower because of chronic under-investment and the long absence of a competitive market environment. The state retains control of household energy prices, rents, and certain utilities. These prices will gradually increase to market levels at which point they will be liberalized entirely.
While the Czech Republic retains many hallmarks of macroeconomic stability, unfinished elements in the transition have produced strains in trade balances, competitiveness, and company restructuring. A strong legal and institutional framework for a market economy is needed to consolidate the transition. Lack of strong ownership, a weakly regulated and opaque stock market, scant threat of bankruptcy, and relaxed credit policies have allowed firms to put off fundamental restructuring.
The Czechs have continued work on reforms, such as the creation of a Czech securities commission, privatization of the three large state-controlled banks, and stricter rules on investment funds and bank lending, to encourage restructuring and help realize the potential in the private sector.
While there are still economic ties to the former East Bloc trading partners, such as oil and gas imports from Russia, trade with the former East Bloc has fallen off substantially since 1990. In recent years, the Czech Republic has successfully reoriented its economy to the West. Its main export market is now the European Union, and the majority of foreign investment comes from EU member states.
As a member of the OECD, the Czech Republic remains open to foreign investment in virtually all sectors. The Czech Republic's economic stability has attracted an estimated $7 billion in foreign investment. The U.S. holds 13% About 500 U.S. companies are represented in Prague-of foreign investment, the third largest portion after Germany and the Netherlands, respectively. The Czech Republic has an open investment climate and particularly welcomes U.S. investment as a counterbalance to the strong economic influence of Western Europe.
Machinery and transport equipment comprise leading Czech exports. Enforcement of intellectual property protection, lack of transparency in capital market transactions, and the need for modern commercial laws and judicial system remain key concerns of businesses operating in the Czech Republic.
The country is a member of the OECD, the Central Europe Free Trade Agreement, and has applied for membership in the European Union, membership in which is the country's leading foreign policy goal. Formal negotiations toward EU accession began in November 1998, but as yet, have not been accepted.
Public transportation within Prague is excellent, but you will need a car to see the region easily.
All vehicles must pass a technical inspection and emissions test before they can be registered. They need to have a factory-installed catalytic converter.
Changes to Czech vehicle registration laws have made it much more difficult to register cars that do not meet EU specifications. It is possible to get a waiver for registration of a nonconforming vehicle (i.e., U.S. or other non-EU specification vehicle), but the process can be complicated.
Individuals should bring with them as much technical information about their vehicles as possible, such as fuel consumption, top speed, load weight, etc.
Third-party liability automobile insurance from the Czech Insurance Company is compulsory. Once the vehicle registration process officially starts, the local liability insurance, which is inexpensive, can be bought. Collision and theft insurance are also available locally.
Compact or smaller cars are preferred because of narrow city streets, fuel economy, and resale value. Any standard make car is suitable. Cobblestone streets and poor secondary roads are common and can be hard on a vehicle's suspension. Service facilities for most makes of European and
Asian cars are adequate. In addition, there are at least three facilities in Prague that can service many U.S.-made, U.S.-model cars that are not sold in Europe.
Several Western auto firms have sales and service outlets in Prague. Registration fees are nominal. Czech law requires that cars be equipped with catalytic converters, left and right outside rearview mirrors, mud flaps for rear tires, a rear fog light, a European first-aid kit and "triangle" emergency breakdown marker, a set of spare fuses and bulbs, one spare wheel screw, and one spare spark plug. Snow tires are recommended for winter driving and radials provide better traction in cities. Austrian and German authorities often require that vehicles entering their territory in winter have tire chains.
Traffic moves on the right, and road signs and traffic conventions are similar to those used throughout Europe. The Czech Republic's main roads are adequate and in winter are salted or "sanded" (actually heavily covered with cinders), although not thoroughly plowed. Compared
to the U.S. or Western Europe, traffic on the highways is light, although the traffic situation in Prague during working hours and throughout the Czech Republic continues to worsen as more vehicles take to the roads.
Gas station facilities are excellent, with newly built, modern stations almost everywhere. Many stations are open 24 hours. Czech gasoline is sold in four grades: normal, 86 octane; special, 90 octane; 95 octane natural (lead-free); and super, 96 octane. Gasoline in the Czech Republic is about $2.50/gallon.
A U.S. drivers license is valid in the Czech Republic, but an international license is required for some neighboring countries; it is recommended that all drivers obtain one before arrival. International licenses can be obtained locally, but only on the basis of a Czech license. Czech licenses can be obtained, though a brief test is required, even for holders of valid U.S. licenses. Without a valid U.S. license, a lengthy and expensive driver-training course and a thorough exam are required.
Subway, trams, and buses are used in the city and suburbs. Frequent service is available up to midnight, after which trams and buses continue on a reduced schedule. Night trams-indicated at stops by a white number on a dark blue background-run every 40 minutes. There are also five night buses that run out to some of the farther reaches of the city. The metro does not operate at all from midnight to 5 a.m. Public transportation is inexpensive, but prices are increasing. A single ticket costs about $0.40 and a monthly pass about $15. Yearlong passes are also available, but you must buy them in January.
Taxis are usually found at stands in the central part of town and at the airport. In outlying sections, you must call for a taxi. Outside of the tourist season, service is reasonably prompt up to 10 or 11 p.m. Many expats, use one or two companies that are dependable and charge fair, reasonable rates. Caution is advised for the many self-employed drivers, which have the reputation of practicing price-gouging.
The Czech Republic is served by a comprehensive network of bus, rail, and air transport; however, reservations are difficult to get during the holidays, music festivals, and trade fairs.
Train service is good, and there are several modern international express train services. Rail transport within the Czech Republic and to other nearby European countries is inexpensive, though prices continue to increase. Daily flights operate between Prague and other major European capitals.
Telephone and Telegraph
Local and long-distance telephone, telegraph, fax, and telex services are available at reasonable cost within the Czech Republic. However, service outside the country, and particularly outside Europe, is much more expensive. USA Direct or similar American credit card services can substantially reduce the cost of personal calls to the United States. Callback services, which are another option for moderate long-distance calls, can also be used. Although improving, the quality of local telephone service is still erratic by U.S. standards, and line quality is often poor. This is particularly troublesome to those using modems and personal computers at home for Internet access. There are several Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Prague of varying quality, reliability, and cost. Prices differ by almost an order of magnitude, so comparison-shopping is recommended for new arrivals wishing the service. Some international ISPs, Compuserve, and ibm.net, for example, also have points of presence in Prague.
Radio and TV
There are many AM and FM radio stations, including the BBC (101.1 FM). Czech FM stations have play lists similar to many American pop and country stations. Occasionally, there are special programs in English. Some or parts of advertisements are even in English. Short-wave radios can pick up BBC day and night, VOA morning and evening, and other European stations in English and other languages. VOA may also be heard in English at various times in the day on 1197 AM.
There are four TV channels, with most broadcasts in Czech. One channel carries a mixture of foreign broadcasting. Broadcasts are sometimes dubbed or subtitled, but often are in English, German, French, Russian, and Spanish. American (NTSC) TVs can be converted to the PAL system used in the Czech Republic, but with difficulty. Multi-system TVs capable of processing both local PAL broadcasts and the NTSC system used by American VCRs are available in Germany or they can be mail-ordered. Viewing is invaluable for studying the Czech language. Some employees have installed satellite dishes that enable them to receive English-language news programs and other broadcasts-also using the PAL system from one or more European satellites. Dishes are available locally and in Germany.
VCRs are also popular. There is also at least one video rental business, with thousands of English-language tapes, that caters to the large American and British expatriate community.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals
International editions of news magazines, such as Time, Newsweek, and The Economist, are available at local newsstands, as are a wide variety of other popular magazines.
Another good source of local information is the Prague Post, an English-language weekly, that provides news of the Czech Republic and surrounding countries as well as lists of restaurants and cultural events.
Health and Medicine
Medical services are provided to resident foreigners in Prague at the foreigner section of Na Homolce Hospital, staffed by English-speaking general practitioners, pediatricians, and dentists. A doctor is on call at all times. The foreigner section refers patients to specialists for laboratory tests and hospitalization, as necessary. Privatization of health care facilities is gradually taking place in Prague in some specialties, such as OB/GYN, dentistry, and ophthalmology. Routine and emergency care in Prague is adequate, but local differences in the organization of medical care, a limited choice of physicians, cultural differences, and the language barrier can create problems.
Community sanitation in the Czech Republic is high. Public health controls help to prevent outbreaks of serious diseases. Milk products are pasteurized and generally safe as long as they are stored properly.
The water in Prague is not fluori-dated, and supplements, available from the health unit, should be given to children up to the age of 13. Generally, the water in Prague is safe to drink and meets acceptable standards according to World Health Organization guidelines for adults and children over one year of age. The nitrate level in the water is potentially hazardous to small infants (under one year of age). Bottled or distilled water is recommended for this age group.
The most prevalent local diseases are hepatitis, measles, whooping cough, and respiratory diseases, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Upper respiratory ailments are common during the winter months. Prague's damp and sooty winter often brings on or aggravates bronchitis, viral influenza, head and chest colds, asthma, sinus trouble, and other respiratory difficulties. Coughs, hoarseness, and bronchial irritations seem to last longer, and people with a history of asthma may experience flare-ups, probably due to chronic irritation from the pollution. Vitamin supplements are recommended during the winter months when local markets have fewer fresh fruits and vegetables. Ticks in the Czech Republic can transmit a viral infection known as tick-borne encephalitis.
Jan.1 …New Year's Day
May. 1 …Czech Labor Day
May 8…Liberation Day
July 5 …Sts. Cyril and Methodius Day
Jul. 6 …Jan Hus Day
Sep.28 …Statehood Day
Oct. 28 …Czech Founding Day
Nov.17 …Struggle for Freedom Day
Dec. 24 …Christmas Eve
Dec. 25 …Christmas Day
Dec. 26 …St. Stephen's Day
NOTES FOR TRAVELERS
Passage, Customs & Duties
No immunizations are required, unless the traveler comes from areas where yellow fever or cholera is endemic.
A valid passport is required, but a visa is not necessary for U.S. citizens for tourism, short study or business visits up to 90 days. Visas are required for longer stays and for any gainful activity; application can be made at any Czech embassy or consulate (outside the Czech Republic). For further information concerning entry requirements for the Czech Republic, travelers can contact the Embassy of the Czech Republic at 3900 Spring of Freedom Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202)274-9103 or visit the Embassy's web site at http://www.mzv.cz/washington
Americans living in or visiting the Czech Republic are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in the Czech Republic and obtain updated information on travel and security within the Czech Republic. Information is also available on the Embassy's web site at http://www.usembassy.cz. The U.S. Embassy in Prague is located at Trziste 15; tel. (420) (2) 5753-0663; for after hours emergencies onlytel. (420) (2) 5753-2716.
Pets may be taken into and out of the Czech Republic without major problems. Dogs must be licensed, on a leash, and if large or unreliable, muzzled when in public. When taking a pet into or out of the Czech Republic, a recent veterinary certificate (not more than three days old) attesting to the animal's health is required, as well as an international certificate with proof of current vaccinations. Rabies and distemper immunizations are necessary, and it is recommended that immunization against the local parvovirus be given to dogs and cats soon after arrival.
Firearms and Ammunition
The Czech government revised the firearms laws in 1997 to come into line with EU norms. Importation of firearms (both shoulder arms and hand guns) is permitted. Individuals wishing to bring firearms into the Czech Republic must obtain written permission from a Czech Embassy or Consulate before shipping the weapons. All firearms brought into the Czech Republic must be re-exported.
All firearms imported to the Czech Republic must be registered with the police presidium. Shipping and customs can help with the registration process.
All individuals wishing to use firearms for any purpose must pass an examination. The test has both a written section and a practicum, which is held at a shooting range. The test is administered in Czech, but individuals are permitted to employ a certified translator. There are fees for both the test and the translation services.
Currency, Banking & Weights and Measures
The official unit of currency of the Czech Republic is the crown (kruna), abbreviated "Kc," which is divided into 100 hellers. Exchange rates vary but have been about US$1=35.24Kc (December 1999).
U.S. and foreign currencies may be obtained from the local banks or exchange dealers for a commission. ATMs are readily available throughout Prague, and many American residents obtain Czech crowns through these machines, which take CIRRUS, PLUS, MOST and leading credit cards. However, there is usually a charge for these transactions.
The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:
Bauer, Maria. Under the Chestnut Trees. Overlook: New York, 1984.
Bugajski, Janusz. Czechoslovakia: Charter 77's Decade of Dissent. Praeger: New York, 1987.
Demetz, Peter. Prague in Black and Gold. Hill and Wang: New York, 1997.
Golan, Galia. The Czechoslovak Reform Movement: Communism in Crisis 1962-1968. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1971.
Hasek, Jaroslav, trans. Cecil Parrott. The Good Soldier. Svejk London, 1973.
Herman, A.H. A History of the Czechs. Allan Lane Press: 1975.
Kerman, George F. From Prague After Munich: Diplomatic Papers, 1938-1940. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1968.
Korbel, Josef. Communist Subversion of Czechoslovakia. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1959.
Leff, Carol Skalnik. National Conflict in Czechoslovakia: The Making and Remaking of a State, 1918-1987. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1988.
Levy, Alan. So Many Heroes. Second Chance Press: Sagaponack, N.Y., 1980.
Little, Robert, ed. The Czech Black Book. Avon Books: New York, 1969.
Masaryk, Thomas G. The Making of a State. Fertig: New York, 1970.
Mlynar, Zdenek. Nightfrost in Prague, Karz: New York, 1980.
Seton-Watson, Hugh. The East European Revolution. Praeger: New York, 1956.
Skilling, H. Gordon. Charter 77 and Human Rights in Czechoslovakia. George Allen & Unwin: London, 1981.
Skilling, H. Gordon. Czechoslovakia's Interrupted Revolution. Princeton University Press: Princeton, N.J., 1976.
Sterling, Claire. The Masaryk Affair. Harper & Row: New York, 1969.
Taborsky, Edward. Communism in Czechoslovakia, 1948-1960. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1961.
Szulc, Tad. Czechoslovakia Since World War II. Viking Press: New York, 1971.
Wechsberg, Joseph. Prague, the Mystical City. Macmillan: New York, 1971.
"Czech Republic." Cities of the World. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic
"Czech Republic." Cities of the World. . Retrieved May 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic
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LOCATION AND SIZE.
The Czech Republic is located in Central Europe. It is surrounded by Germany to the northwest, Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the southeast, and Austria to the south. The total area is 78,866 square kilometers (49,007 square miles). The terrain is generally composed of rolling hills and some mountainous areas. Its 4 borders total 1,881 kilometers (1,159 miles), and it has no coastline. Its size is comparable to Mississippi (48,434 square miles) and Louisiana (51,843 square miles).
The Czech Republic features 3 primary regions: the Czech Lands to the west, Moravia to the southeast, and Silesia to the northeast. The capital, Prague, is located slightly to the country's northwest. Other important cities include Ostrava to the northeast, Brno to the southeast (in the Moravian region), and Plzen to the west.
In 2000 the population was estimated at 10,272,179. Approximately 1.19 million inhabitants, or 11.56 percent of the population, resided in Prague. The birth rate stood at 9.1 births per 1,000 people in 2000, while the death rate was 10.87 deaths per 1,000, resulting in a projected growth rate of-0.08 percent. The first time the population growth rate was registered as negative was in 1994. According to the Statistical Office of the Czech Republic, the projected population for 2010 was 10.24 million.
While 81.2 percent of the population is Czech, 13.2 percent is Moravian. In addition, 3.1 percent of the population is made up of ethnic Slovaks. The remainder of the population includes Roma (Gypsies), Poles, Germans, Silesians, and Hungarians. However, the Roma population is often underrepresented politically because they are a nomadic (no fixed residency) people. Approximately 40 percent of the people declare themselves to be Roman Catholic, 40 percent declare themselves to be atheist, and the remainder are primarily Protestant, Orthodox, or other religions.
OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY
The territory that is now known as the Czech Republic was part of the Austrian, or Hapsburg, portion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the end of World War I in 1918. It then became a part of the Czechoslovak state. During the 1930s, Czechoslovakia was an industrial powerhouse. The Czechoslovak industries, including machine and automotive manufacturing, were among the world's most developed.
After World War II, Czechoslovakia fell under the political and economic influence of the Soviet Union. The communist economy included state ownership of enterprises, state-led central planning of economic activities, and artificial price controls . After some Czechoslovak leaders attempted to introduce some political, cultural, and economic liberalization , the country was invaded by the troops of neighboring communist countries under the direction of the Soviet Union (1968). This intervention put a stop to liberalization, when the government attempted to increase production of consumer goods in exchange for compliance among the people. In spite of the govern-ment's efforts, the economy declined, causing a crisis by the late 1980s.
A series of anti-government protests took place in the late 1980s. By 1989, the more liberal policies of the Soviet Union toward Eastern Europe, as well as the weakening of communist governments in neighboring East Germany, Hungary, and Poland, made it impossible for the Czechoslovak communists to stay in power. In November and December of 1989, the communist government stepped down. Free elections for parliament were held in 1990, and Václav Havel was elected president. The government quickly made economic reforms based on free market principles. In addition, the government began the process of privatization .
From 1990 to 1992, these reforms were more popular in the Czech Republic (which had a larger industrial base) than in the Slovak Republic. Under Czechoslovakia's federal structure, which gave both republics independent power, the newly-elected prime ministers of the Czech and Slovak republics negotiated the divorce of Czechoslovakia. The Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic became separate sovereign states on 1 January 1993. After an initially strong performance, the Czech Republic experienced some setbacks, most notably in 1997 when the country experienced an economic crisis and a political scandal that forced out the prime minister.
The Czech Republic's strongest economic sectors are in the areas of industry and services. Its primary industrial products include iron and steel, machinery and equipment, motor vehicles, chemicals, armaments, textiles, and glass and ceramics. In the service sector, commercial, financial, and insurance companies are important.
The Czech Republic is famous for its beers, which are exported throughout the world. Other agricultural products include potatoes, wheat, and sugarbeets. Since freeing up its international trade in 1990, the Czech Republic has imported items such as machinery, consumer goods, raw materials and chemicals, and some foods. Along with uranium, some of the country's natural resources include coal, timber, and fuels, which remain important energy sources, though some energy must still be imported from Norway and Russia. The Czech Republic experienced a sizable amount of Western investment during the 1990s.
As a NATO member since 1999 and a prospective member of the European Union (EU), the Czech Republic has been quite successful in reorienting its trade away from the East, and towards the West. It has received aid from international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the European Investment Bank, in the form of loans and grants. In 1994, the Czech Republic polished its world image by paying some of its IMF debts ahead of schedule. The country's estimated external debt for 1999 was $24.3 billion. While organized crime has a notable presence in nearly all of the countries of east-central Europe, the Czech Republic is less affected by such activities than its neighbors.
POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION
The Czech Republic is a democracy with a parliamentary political system, in which the parliament elects the president. The electoral system for the Chamber of Deputies is proportional, meaning that individuals tend to vote for specific parties rather than for specific candidates. After the elections, each party receives a number of seats in parliament according to the percentage it receives of the vote, provided it receives at least 5 percent. Each party organizes a list of individuals that they will send to the parliament to fill their allotted seats. The elections for the Senate are conducted according to single member districts, in which a single candidate wins a majority vote in each of the 81 Senate districts.
The Czech president is elected by the parliament and serves a 5-year term. Václav Havel was elected in 1993 and reelected in 1998, although he was not affiliated with a particular political party. The 200 members of the Chamber of Deputies are elected for 4-year terms. The 81 Senate members are elected for 6-year terms, with one-third of the Senate elected every 2 years.
The first parliamentary elections to be held in the independent Czech Republic took place in 1996. The party that favored immediate free market reforms, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), and the party that favored a slower pace to free market reforms, the Social Democrats (ÉSSD), emerged as the most powerful parties in the Chamber of Deputies. A political and economic crisis led to early parliamentary elections in 1998. The third most significant party in the Chamber of Deputies elections was the Communist Party (KSÉM), followed by the reformist Christian Democrats (KDU). Other significant parties include the nationalist Republicans, the free-market oriented Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), and the conservative Freedom Union (US).
The government has directed the complex process of transforming the economy from a centrally planned communist system to a market-based system. Each reform has required the passage of new laws and the implementation of new regulations. Among other general market reforms, a Commercial Code was adopted in 1991 under the Czechoslovak state and was revised in 1996. It outlined legal protections for private property and business activities for both Czechs and foreigners. Other reforms included a Foreign Exchange Act establishing the Czech currency as convertible abroad, and a Trading Act to set conditions for trade.
Part of the economic reforms involved the privatization of assets and companies that had been the property of the state. In 1990 and 1991, under the Czechoslovak state, some property, such as farms, shops, and homes, was given back to its pre-communist owners. The privatization of small enterprises was completed through auctions by the end of 1993. The privatization of large enterprises was a more complicated process involving vouchers that allowed citizens to buy shares of some companies. It also included direct sales, auctions, and free transfer. More than 80 percent of former state assets had been privatized in 2000.
The government obtains revenues through several different taxes. There is a progressive personal income tax that ranges from 15 to 32 percent. The corporate income tax is 31 percent, although investment companies and pension funds are taxed at a rate of 20 percent. Some tax holidays are offered as part of an effort to attract foreign investment. Other taxes include property tax, road taxes for business vehicles, inheritance tax, and fees for administrative services. In addition, a value-added tax is imposed on all goods except necessities such as food and health care. Excise taxes , customs duties , and real property transfer taxes also bring in government revenues.
INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS
The Czech Republic inherited an extensive network of public transportation, in the form of bus and train routes, from Czechoslovakia. Even some of the most remote locations may be reached by bus. One of the most significant changes of the post-communist era has been an increase in independent auto transportation among the population. There are 127,693 kilometers (73,348 miles) of highways, including 497 kilometers (309 miles) of expressway, all of
|Country||Newspapers||Radios||TV Sets a||Cable subscribers a||Mobile Phones a||Fax Machines a||Personal Computers a||Internet Hosts b||Internet Users b|
|aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.|
|bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.|
|SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.|
which are paved. The country now has 9,435 kilometers (5,363 miles) of railways. Continued improvements are planned for the railway and highway systems in order to bring them more in line with EU standards.
There are 10 public international airports and 114 total airfields, 71 of which have paved runways. The largest airport is Ruzyne, in Prague, which services approximately 95 percent of the total passenger traffic. There are 677 kilometers (421 miles) of waterways in the Czech Republic, the most important being the Vltava and Elbe rivers. Tourists tend to enter the Czech Republic via the airport in Prague or by train from Austria, Germany, Hungary, Poland, or Slovakia.
Electricity production stands at 61.5 billion kilowatt hours, and the country uses a 220-volt power system. The majority of electricity is generated by fossil fuels (76 percent). While a portion of this production comes from coal, oil provides a sizable portion as well and is imported from Russia. Nuclear power contributes 20 percent of electricity production.
The Czech Republic has a rapidly-modernizing communications infrastructure . In the first few years after the transition from communism, the installation of telephone lines by the state company was still difficult. However, the increased entry of private telecommunication companies and the growing popularity of mobile telephones has provided a way to sidestep these difficulties, and increased competition has forced the Czech telecommunications company, STP Telecom, to improve its service. There are 94 mobile phones per 1,000 people in the Czech Republic, compared to 50 per 1,000 in neighboring Poland, and there is 1 digital cellular system and 2 global system for mobile communication (GSM) providers for cell phone service. A number of Internet service providers sprung up in the late 1990s, creating between 20 and 30 options for service. Internet cafes are readily available, and the Czech government has taken steps to promote increased public computer and Internet technologies.
During the 1990s, the Czech Republic experienced a drastic shift away from the industry sector and towards the services sector. This change resulted partly from the Czechoslovak split, and partly from the transformation to a market-based system. The communist system created several large monopoly industries, particularly in large machine manufacturing. Once privatized, only some of these industries were actually competitive in a free-market environment. Moreover, while the service sector was given a low priority under the communist system, the free-market environment demonstrated a strong demand for services.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Czech companies has been crucial to their successful transition, and the Czech Republic has benefited from high FDI levels. Some of the most famous Czech companies that have successfully survived the transition process are the Škoda car company, the Tatra truck company, the glass production company Bohemia Glass, and several brewing companies such as Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen, and Budvar (Budweiser).
Agriculture makes up the smallest sector in the Czech economy, contributing about 5 percent of the total GDP. In 1997 the agricultural sector employed 5.6 percent of the labor force , or roughly 200,000 people. This number was just 39 percent of the number of people employed in this sector under communist rule. The primary agricultural products were sugarbeets, fodder roots for animal feed, potatoes, wheat, hops, fruit, pigs, cattle, poultry, and forest products.
The Czech Republic has 3.1 million hectares of arable land, although roughly half of this land is not highly productive. Under the communist economic system, Czech agriculture was collectivized, meaning that small private farms were taken by the government in order to create state-owned cooperatives. After the end of communism in 1989, these cooperatives were transferred to private owners, often by the direct sale of the farm as a unit. However, some lands were also given back to their former owners. By 1999, 85 percent of agricultural lands were privately owned. Of this total, 40 percent are corporate farms, 34 percent are co-operatives, 24 percent are owned by individuals, and 2 percent are state owned.
Agricultural output decreased 28 percent between 1989 and 1998, with the greatest declines in livestock production. This reflects the overall decline of the agricultural sector in the Czech Republic, where more than half of all farms experience financial difficulties. Problems include the high costs of labor, machinery, fertilizer, and other agricultural inputs; the lack of modern technology; and low levels of state aid for agriculture.
Industry makes up a large but declining sector of the Czech economy, contributing 42 percent of the country's GDP in 1999, and employing 40.7 percent of the labor force in 1997. The majority of large and medium-sized enterprises have been privatized. Companies that are still run by the state are not very competitive and have sizable debts. Such companies lie primarily in the energy and mining sectors, although some of them are classified as strategic industries.
Road vehicles are the country's most significant export, bringing in significantly more revenue than other important exports, such as electrical machinery and appliances, and industrial machinery and equipment. Other major export products include iron and steel, non-metallic mineral products, textiles, specialized machinery, transport equipment, furniture, power generation machinery, and rubber goods.
Because many of the manufacturing plants that were privatized after communism featured outdated equipment, foreign direct investment has been extremely important in determining which industries survive the transition to a market economy. The primary foreign investments have been in the area of consumer goods and tobacco, transport and communications (including equipment, commerce, and services), petrochemicals, financial and insurance affairs, mineral products, and electricity, gas, and water supply. By 1999 over 800 foreign companies had set up manufacturing subsidiaries, each employing more than 50 persons in the Czech Republic.
With increasing investments in the automotive sector, the Czech Republic is expected to become the third-largest auto manufacturer in Eastern Europe, after Russia and Poland. Other fast-growing sectors are electronics, precision engineering, environmental technologies, and software development. The government offers incentives for investment in high-tech products or machinery, and has begun a program to support the development of industrial zones throughout the republic.
The traditional Czech industries of glassmaking and beer brewing survived the economic transition in the form of the glassmaking company Bohemia Glass and the brewing companies Pilsner Urquell and Budvar/Budweiser. Companies producing transport equipment, such as Tatra Trucks, Zetor tractors, and Škoda cars, also remain visible in the current Czech economy. Other products that continued to be manufactured after communism include trams, planes, motorcycles, buses, and machines.
The most important products mined in the Czech Republic are coal and uranium. The coal is primarily used for heating purposes, while the uranium is used for the production of weapons, and a significant amount of uranium is exported. While uranium was exported almost exclusively to Soviet bloc countries before 1989, it is now exported more widely.
In the second half of the 1990s prices for commercial construction increased for small and medium enterprises, as well as for domestic non-financial corporations. The largest price increases for commercial construction were from firms employing more than 300 persons (especially for those employing more than 500), and for foreign non-financial corporations. Price increases for these types of structures indicated a higher level of demand relative to supply.
The service sector accounted for 53 percent of the GDP in 1999. As opposed to a negative trade balance in industry, the Czech Republic registered a positive trade balance in services between 1993 and 2000. The service sector employed 53.7 percent of the labor force in 1997.
As insurance was not provided under the communist system, there was significant growth in this area during the first decade of capitalism . Financial services and consulting companies experienced similar growth. Although foreign companies initiated growth in this sector, they quickly gained competition from Czech companies. The majority of commercial banks are under private ownership. Foreign banks constitute a growing proportion of this sector.
There is an ever-increasing number of Internet service providers in the Czech Republic. In addition, there has been some growth in the area of Internet software development, which began attracting foreign investment in the late 1990s.
The retail portion of the service sector has undergone dramatic changes since 1989. Under the communist economic system, retail operated through state-owned shops. Not only were product shortages common and the displays unattractive, but these stores were often over-staffed and employed people unsuited to the job.
Retail stores were privatized early in the transition to a free market. The retail sector consists of restructured stores as well as completely new stores. These stores differ greatly from their communist-era predecessors, as they have adopted capitalist marketing methods and retail decorum. Among the most popular products among consumers are foreign appliances, such as televisions, VCRs, and stereos.
Tourism has increased exponentially since the demise of communism in 1989. Nearly all tourist facilities have been privatized. Tourism contributed $3 billion to the country's net foreign currency earnings in 1999, and approximately 100 million people visit Prague, the country's capital, each year. Most tourist revenues remain in Prague, which is renowned for its architecture and history. The majority of visitors come from the Czech Republic's neighboring countries. The dramatic increase in tourism has led to an increased need for tourist services, particularly for hotels. Foreign tourists visiting Prague account for three-quarters of all hotel capacity in the Czech Republic. In addition, the city of Prague is attempting to improve its image as a potential convention site. While in the Czech Republic, tourists engage not only in sightseeing, but also in concerts, sports, and gambling.
The Czech Republic has had a trade deficit since 1975. The primary industrial commodities exported by the Czech Republic are machinery and transport equipment,
|Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Czech Republic|
|SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.|
as well as other manufactured goods. In 1998, these categories comprised 41 percent and 40 percent of all commodity exports, respectively. Other significant exported commodities were chemicals, which made up 8 percent, and raw materials and fuel, which were 7 percent. Aside from commodities, the Czech Republic also exports some services, and has demonstrated a positive trade balance in this sector. The primary consumers of Czech exports are Germany and Slovakia.
The Czech Republic imports primarily the same type of goods as it exports. Approximately 39 percent of all imports for 1998 were classified as machinery and transport equipment. Other imports included manufactured goods, which comprised 21 percent of imports; chemicals, 12 percent; and raw materials and fuel, 10 percent. Germany and Slovakia serve as the primary sources of Czech imports.
In the first few years following 1989, the Czechoslovak state made a concentrated effort to shift trade away from the former Soviet countries, and to the European Union (EU) and the United States. The Czech government actively encouraged this shift in an effort to improve chances for entry into the EU. Czech trading patterns continue to show increased volume in trade with the EU and the United States, and decreased volume with other East European countries and the former Soviet Union. As one result of this shift, trade with the Slovak Republic has declined, in spite of a favorable customs union between the 2 countries. The Slovak Republic made up 18 percent of the Czech Republic's foreign trade turnover in 1993, but by 1999 it was approximately 7 percent. The EU now makes up approximately 67 percent of the foreign trade turnover of the Czech Republic.
Among the EU countries, the Czech Republic's most significant trading partner is Germany, which made up 38 percent of the Czech trade turnover in 1999. Following Slovakia (7 percent), other important European trading partners are Austria (6 percent), France, Italy, Poland, and the United Kingdom, which each make up 4 to 5 percent of the trade volume. The United States and the Russian Federation each make up approximately 3 percent of Czech trade turnover.
The Czech crown has been convertible to other currencies on the world market since 1995. The Czech National Bank serves as the country's central bank, and sets monetary policy . It is designed to be autonomous from political structures. In spite of the bank's policies to curb inflation , the currency began to decline in value after a political and economic crisis in 1997. In addition to this bank, there is a government-owned agency to assist companies through the bankruptcy process.
The majority of banks have been privatized, with only 2 of the largest remaining in state hands. There has been some consolida tion among the private banks, and the largest 5 banks conduct the majority of operations. In addition, the number of foreign banks operating in the country has grown. This process corresponds with the country's efforts to prepare for future integration into the financial structures of the EU.
The Prague Stock Exchange registers several hundred companies for security and derivative trading. It is engaged in a process of updating its trading rules and procedures to fit EU standards. In addition, there is an off-exchange market called the RM-system, for the trade of securities.
POVERTY AND WEALTH
Four decades of communist rule (1948-89) had a strong effect on the distribution of incomes, an effect that remains visible today in the Czech Republic. The communist system resulted in a social hierarchy very different from the class system in most capitalist countries. Under communism, wages were artificially kept at similar levels, so professionals such as doctors earned wages similar to those of factory or construction workers. Because property had belonged to the state and housing was distributed through state channels, those individuals who obtained
|Exchange rates: Czech Republic|
|Czech crowns per US$1|
|SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].|
|GDP per Capita (US$)|
|SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.|
large homes often did so through political means, such as good standing with the Communist Party.
Ten years later, this system is changing. As property has become privatized, individuals with successful businesses can now afford to buy the larger homes. Political affiliation matters much less for one's living standard than it did before. However, given the fact that the privatization process has been run by the government, political affiliation and social contacts have not been irrelevant, either. In spite of the fact that the Czech Republic's transition has been one of the most transparent, some instances of corruption have allowed a few individuals to improve their economic standing through dishonest means.
Although the social structure is rapidly moving away from relatively equal income distribution to a class system, as of the late 1990s income distribution and consumption in the Czech Republic remained more equalized than in the United States. In the United States, the richest 20 percent of individuals earn and consume 46 percent of available wealth. However, in the Czech Republic, the richest 20 percent of individuals earn and consume 36 percent of available wealth. In addition, the poorest 20 percent earn and consume only 5 percent of available wealth in the United States, but in the Czech Republic the poorest 20 percent earn and consume 10 percent of available wealth.
|Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Czech Republic|
|Survey year: 1996|
|Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.|
|SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].|
|Household Consumption in PPP Terms|
|Country||All Food||Clothing and footwear||Fuel and power a||Health care b||Education b||Transport & Communications||Other|
|Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.|
|aExcludes energy used for transport.|
|bIncludes government and private expenditures.|
|SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.|
Under the communist system, higher education and health care were freely provided by the state. The Czech Republic has been implementing reforms that require individuals to pay for these services. These reforms have been difficult for average individuals, because institutions such as a comprehensive student loan system or health insurance have not been developed. The state does provide social security and social assistance, such as unemployment and disability benefits.
The Czech Republic's labor force is 5.2 million, and approximately 46 percent of the total Czech population was registered as employed in 1999. In 1999, the rate of unemployment, which registers those actively looking for work, was 9 percent. Unemployment has been on an upward swing since an economic crisis in 1997, but has shown recent signs of stabilizing. Unemployment benefits are available to individuals, and slightly less than half of those registered as unemployed receive these payments.
Prague consistently maintains the lowest level of unemployment in the country. The highest levels of unemployment are in northern Bohemia and in Moravia. Wage levels reflect these differences, with the highest wages in Prague. According to estimated figures for 1997, the majority of those employed—53.7 percent—worked in the service sector. Industry employed 40.7 percent of the workforce, and the remainder—5.6 percent—worked in agriculture. Given the importance of foreign investment in the economy, those individuals who speak English and German have an advantage in the labor market.
The Czech Republic features a system of laws which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, language, religion, faith, political views, and sexual orientation. However, discrimination against the hiring of Roma (Gypsies) persists in practice. There are 28 weeks of maternity leave available, with a possible extension to 3 years. A woman taking maternity leave is provided some income by the social security and health insurance systems, with some contributions by employers.
Workers' unions were a fixture of the communist system. After the end of communism in 1989, the communist-affiliated unions rapidly declined in popularity. Laborers now tend to belong to non-affiliated unions, and approximately two-thirds of all workers are union members.
COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
1914-17. World War I. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, which includes Czechoslovakia, disintegrates.
1918. The Czechoslovak state is founded.
1938-45. Hitler takes over Czechoslovakia during World War II.
1945. Czechoslovakia is freed from the Nazis by the Soviets in the east, and by the Allies in the west.
1948. The Communist Party takes over the Czechoslovak parliament.
1968. Attempted reforms by the Czechoslovak state are met with an invasion of tanks from Czechoslovakia's Soviet bloc neighbors.
1970s. Some political dissidents begin to visibly resist the communist leadership.
1980s. Worsening economic conditions facilitate protests against communism.
1989. The communist government is forced to step down.
1990. The first post-communist parliamentary elections are held, and Václav Havel is confirmed as Czechoslovakia's new president. The government embarks on a series of reforms to replace the communist economic system with a capitalist system.
1992. The second post-communist elections result in a disagreement between the Czech and Slovak republics. The leaders plan the country's divorce.
1993. The Czech Republic is officially founded on 1 January 1993. It establishes a separate Czech currency in February.
1997. An economic crisis and political instability cause difficulties.
1998. The Czech Republic begins accession talks with the European Union.
1999. The Czech Republic joins NATO.
The Czech Republic has come a long way since its founding in 1993, through nearly a decade of transition from a communist to a capitalist economic system. It is a member of the United Nations, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), International Monetary Fund, (IMF), World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and the World Trade Organization (WTO), and became a NATO member in 1999. In addition, it is an associate member of the EU and the Western European Union (WEU). The government's primary focus in recent years has been the preparation of legislative and regulatory structures for future EU membership, for which it has made a formal application. Accession talks with the EU officially began in 1998, and the Czech Republic is slated to become a full member between 2003 and 2005.
In spite of the enormous changes that the Czech Republic successfully underwent in its first few years of independence, more remains to be done. The country is expected to continue to rebound from the economic recession of the late 1990s, especially as it improves its trade with Western European nations. But it is the interaction with Western European nations in the EU that is expected to pose the greatest challenge to the Czech Republic in the coming decade. Restructuring the large enterprises that remain in the hands of the state, and reforming legislation to conform to EU standards will cause some economic displacement. Yet once the country moves through this difficult period, its position at the heart of Central Europe, its well-developed infrastructure, its high-quality educational institutions, and its educated populace promise a vibrant economic future.
Czech Republic has no territories or colonies.
"Agency Programs" and "Key Sectors." CzechInvest. <http://www.czechinvest.org/ci/ci_an.nsf/?Open>. Accessed January 2001.
"Agora Elections Around the World." Czech Republic. <http://www.agora.stm.it/elections/election/czech.htm>. Accessed January 2001.
American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic. Czech Republic 2000. Prague: American Chamber of Commerce, 2000.
Andrews, Edmund. "The Yoke of Capitalism." The New York Times. 16 January 2001.
Czech Statistical Universe. <http://www.czso.cz/eng/angl.htm>.Accessed January 2001.
Doing Business in the Czech Republic: Whatever You Need to Know. <http://www.doingbusiness.cz>. Accessed January 2001.
International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook. Washington, DC: The International Monetary Fund, 1999.
Ministry of Finance of the Czech Republic, Department of Financial Policies. Czech Republic Macroeconomic Forecast. Prague, October 2000.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Czech Republic. <http://www.czech.cz>. Accessed January 2001.
O'Rourke, Breffini. "Little Hope Amid Gloom in Run-up to Czech Elections ." Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline, June 18, 1998. <http://www.rferl.org/newsline/1998/06/5-not/not-180698.html>. Accessed January 2001.
Shor, Boris. "Czech Republic." Nations in Transit 1997: Civil Society, Democracy and Markets in East Central Europe and the Newly Independent States, edited by Karatnycky, Motyl, and Shor. New York: Freedom House/Transaction Publishers,1997.
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook 2000. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html>. Accessed January 2001.
U.S. Department of State, Bureau of European Affairs. Background Notes: Czech Republic. <http://www.state.gov/www/background_notes/czech_9903_bgn.html>. Accessed January 2001.
U.S. Department of State, Business Section. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Czech Republic. <http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/business/com_guides/2001/europe/index.html>. Accessed January 2001.
World Bank. World Development Indicators, 2000. Washington, DC: The World Bank, 2000.
The monetary unit is the Czech crown (Éeská koruna), abbreviated as Ké. Each crown is composed of 100 hellers. There are coins of 10, 20, and 50 hellers, and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 crowns. Czech banknotes come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, and 5,000 crowns. This monetary unit came into being with the division of Czechoslovakia into the Czech and Slovak Republics in 1993, and is now valued at a different rate than the Slovak crown.
Machinery and transport equipment, other manufactured goods, chemicals, raw materials and fuel.
Machinery and transport equipment, other manufactured goods, chemicals, raw materials and fuels, food.
GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:
US$120.8 billion (1999 est.).
BALANCE OF TRADE:
Exports: US$26.34 billion (1998 est.). Imports: US$30.24 billion (1998 est.).
"Czech Republic." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/economics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic
"Czech Republic." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . Retrieved May 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/economics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic
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The Czech Republic is a landlocked country measuring 78,866 square kilometers, lying in the central part of Europe. It was established in 1993 after Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Czech Republic has 10.2 million inhabitants, 94.2 percent of which are Czech by nationality. The country's borders neighbor Germany, Poland, Austria, and Slovakia. The Czech Republic is a democratic state and a member of NATO and is preparing for entry into the European Union.
With respect to marriage and the family, Czech society has always been strongly influenced by political and cultural changes. These experiences are shared among the entire social strata and generations, and are reflected in individual value orientations and attitudes towards the family as an institution. Marriage and—especially—the family have always been respected as structures that help mitigate the effects of difficult political and economic conditions and changes.
In the Czech Republic, marriage is a legal bond between any two adult individuals of the opposite sex who are not close relatives. The cultural and historical foundation of marriage lies in Roman family law and later Christian marriage doctrines, strictly defining its monogamous character and the inseparability of the bond. The individual and free choice of partner is most characteristic of marriage today, motivated by an emotional relationship— love—and accompanied by the legal possibility of divorce. In addition, since 1998 future marriage partners have been able to settle legal and property aspects of the relationship in a premarital agreement.
Marriage enables partners to start a family, as a specifically intimate form of partnership between a man and a woman. In the early twenty-first century, other forms (e.g., marriage between homosexual partners, open polygamy, or polyandry) were not legally permissible. Since 1992 it has been possible to marry in either a civic or a church ceremony. The conditions for entering into a marriage are legally set and stipulate that an individual may not enter into a marriage with a person who is already married, or with a parent, child, brother, or sister, and require that a person be of legal marrying age (eighteen years), although a court may grant exceptions. A marriage may be terminated in a manner stipulated in the legal code—in other words, through the death of a spouse or through divorce.
Family status. In the Czech Republic the family is considered in both the private and the public sphere as an irreplaceable structure ascribed with the highest values and significance. Biological reproduction—having children and raising them— and the related participation in the demographic renewal of society, is still viewed as the basic function of the family. In early twenty-first century Czech society, however, the majority of the population views the family as one of the basic institutions of social stability and one closely linked to other institutions in society. The laws governing the processes involved in starting and maintaining a family stem from the civil code of the year 1811, amended over the course of the twentieth century with new family laws.
Demographic features. In a country with a population of 10.2 million people (as of the year 2000), there are over 2.5 million families representing a broad range of types of family cohabitation in which a number of factors play a role: age, family composition, the number of family members, the preference of a certain type of household, location, income and property, religion, and lifestyle attitudes. The actual way in which families are formed and experienced is affected by living conditions and by cultural and social norms. The demographic structure of the family is influenced by the fact that on average 8 percent of married couples remain childless, and that the number of children born to and living in incomplete families is increasing (Maříková 2000). Alongside the traditional forms of families—the nuclear and the incomplete family, and the deeply rooted model of the two-child family—deep and extensive changes—both societal and resulting from the transformation since the fall of the communist regime—have generated new forms of family structure and cohabitation, especially the form of "premarital unmarried cohabitation on a trial basis" (Maríková 2000, p. 34, and Rychtaříková 2001, pp. 46–52). The number of children born outside marriage during the past decade has increased by almost 22 percent (Statistical Yearbook of the Czech Republic 2001). Women lead 70 percent of all forms of incomplete families in the Czech Republic (Večerník and Matějů 1999). Divorce, which was legalized after World War I, increased sharply in frequency particularly during the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s, and has made a significant contribution to the increase in the number of incomplete families. The erosion of the nuclear family was however also sustained by secondary processes, which became evident only after the divorce ceiling had been reached (on average 32,000 cases a year during the past fifteen years [Statistical Yearbook of the Czech Republic 2001]). These processes led to an increase in the number of individuals who had been affected by divorce as children and were unprepared for the responsibilities of family life and maintaining strong family ties. In the 1990s significant demographic/social changes occurred in the structure and dynamics of family, marriage, and reproductive behavior among the Czech population, which can be characterized as new trends and indicate a qualitative social change. In particular, the following changes are worth nothing:
- The average age of men and women entering into marriage increased rapidly (the male average grew in the years 1989–1997 from 24.6 to 27.7 and the female average from 21.8 to 25.4).
- The marriage rate declined (5.4 per 1,000 inhabitants, roughly half the figure for the 1970s).
- The birth rate declined (the aggregate birth rate of 1.14 in the year 2000 is among the lowest in Europe, and the Czech Republic has now recorded the lowest number of children born since the year 1918).
- The average age of parents increased (in the years 1990–1997 from 24.8 to 26.4), including first-time parents (from 22.5 to 24.0).
- There has been a significant decline in the number of families having a second child, and a shift from the originally dominant two-child model of the Czech family towards single-child families.
- There has been a significant decline in the abortion rate (in the years 1991–1998 the number of abortions decreased from 103,000 to 41,000).
Political and social influences. Secularization has influenced at least 70 percent of the Czech population. Of the remaining 30 percent of the population with a religious orientation, there are many that are not actively practicing (Sčítání 2002). Secularization is accompanied by a more liberal view of premarital sex, a broad acceptance of abortion, and a weakening of attitudes that contribute to the maintenance of tradition and the rituals associated with family life. This reality has come to be reflected in everyday language. Some terms formerly used to refer to family relatives have almost been forgotten, such as godmother, godfather, and god-child. Although in the Czech population traditional and liberal views on family issues continue to coexist, over the course of the socialist period (1948–1989) some inner control mechanisms that regulate the area of family ties were weakened or fell apart. Relationships between neighbors disintegrated owing to the consequences of migration processes necessitated by socialist industrialization. Attempts to solve housing issues through the construction of massive, anonymous panel housing estates led to the accelerated atomization of the nuclear family. State and political interference during the socialist period and the paternalistic social policy prior to 1989 led to the long-term deformation of the essence of family structures and values. From the perspective of the Czech family since the 1970s the key areas of interference were: (1) the unprecedented intervention of social engineering in population policy; (2) the deformed ties stemming from the redistribution of income and the state assumption of some responsibilities of the family and the individual; and (3) the current failure of the state in these areas. In terms of culture and norms, however, Czech society overcame the impact of the two worst totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century—the Nazis (1938–1945) and the Bolshevics (1948–1988).
Economic and social conditions of the Czech family. At the beginning of the twenty-first century the Czech family faces the growing influence of increasing social and economic inequalities in family living standards. The impact of the economic transformation in the post-socialist era most affects young families with a larger number of children, incomplete families with children not provided for, families with a single income, or those entirely dependent on social support from the state.
The family and women. Significant questions regarding the function and profile of the contemporary Czech family concern (1) the position of women in the family; (2) the position of the man/father; (3) the division of labor in the family; and (4) the influence of social stereotypes on the division of male and female roles. Women make up 44 percent of the workforce in the Czech Republic, and the application of strategies founded on the models of part-time employment or housewives are marginal phenomena (Maříková 2000). The educational structure of the female population is comparable with the male population in terms of achieving higher levels of education. In the early years of the twenty-first century, however, women had not achieved the same opportunities in the labor market as men, and their average income was roughly a third lower than that of men. Even so, it is the woman's income that determines the living standard of a family, as Czech families have long depended on two incomes. In everyday family and household labor, a residue of the patriarchal-traditional division of labor between the sexes persists, and woman/mother continues to bear the heavy burden, including the second shift. This pattern is less obvious in partnership relations, decision making in the family, and control over the family budget, where particularly among the younger generation an egalitarian model has asserted itself (Čermáková 2000).
Other family patterns. Other distinct family patterns and behavior can be seen, particularly in the ethno-culturally distinct Roma population living in the Czech Republic, which has long demonstrated different behavior in relation to marriage and the family (e.g., a high birth rate, low divorce rate, or the set position of Roma women in the patriarchal family). After the division of Czechoslovakia in 1992, the issue of mixed marriages and families comprised of Czechs and Slovaks became more important, although the phenomenon itself was common and characterized by similar patterns and behavior.
Future trends can be characterized as a return to the European patterns of family behavior, with some specific determinants related both to the long-term forced paternalistic-socialist trajectories and habits, and to the economic and social consequences of the social transformation.
The decreasing marriage rate and plummeting birth rate are among the processes that were earlier predicted and for which Czech society was not prepared. The population explosion of the 1970s was used as a determining factor for future development, as were prognoses concerning the Czech population and family development (Večerník 1999). However, in the 1990s other alternatives asserted themselves in the institution of marriage and in the family. The individual, improvised search for alternatives to former, eroded models of marriage and the family gave rise to experimentation. Over one-half of the young population now try unmarried cohabitation prior to entering into a marriage, and this has become the most widespread and the most preferred variant of partnership life among young people. However, only 10 percent of those in this particular group consider this type of partnership a part of their long-term life strategy (Rychtaříková 2001). However, the life strategies of many young people, which have changed the demographic structure of Czech society, are founded on more complicated motives than political change or economic difficulties. Twenty-first century Czech society is moving towards models of marriage and family characteristic of advanced democratic European societies, including changes in the interpersonal ties within the family or in the relationship of the family to the state. Analogous situations can be found in a number of Western European societies (though usually occurring there in their early phase in the 1960s and 1970s). Both the observed demographic changes and sociological research indicate that even in the Czech case a "deep change in the cultural factor is occurring, i.e. in the thought of Czech women, men and couples. This involves a shift in the value system towards the pluralizing of values (tolerating divorce, abortion and homosexuality), a search for individual lifestyles and personal identity." (Rychtaříková, Pikálková, and Hamplová 2001). For the Czech Republic, this trend represents a historically new model, but one that is becoming deeply rooted in society. Theoretically, the process is defined as the second demographic transition (Rychtaříková 2001). In the case of the Czech Republic it is assumed that this is a delayed process, characterized by specific cultural features. The trends shaping family behavior in the Czech Republic in early twenty-first century are:
- A tendency to copy the trends of Western Europe—putting off marriage until later, having children at a later age, a high divorce rate;
- The above-mentioned trend exists alongside a strong preference for legal marriages if there are children, and a strong emphasis on the institution of the traditional family; and
- Important roles played by the high employment rate among women, the lack of apartments, and the weak purchasing power of Czech currency.
Research on the Family and Demographic Trends in the Czech Republic
Sociologists and demographers have been extremely active in the Czech Republic since 1990s. Because they are directly affected by the economic problems of the transformation period, both marriage and the family are frequently studied, often as preparation for legislation affecting the family, employment, and childcare. Researchers are also giving significant attention to such issues as of the possible legalization of homosexual partnerships, domestic violence, and gender inequalities in the family.
Čermáková, m. (1997). rodina a měnící se gender role— sociální analýzacčské rodiny (family and changing gender roles—social analysis of the czech family). praha: working papers soÚ av.
Čermáková, m.; hašková, h.; kříżková, a.; linková, m.;maříková, h.; and musilová, m. (2000). relations and changes of gender differences in the czech society in the 90s. praha: institute of sociology of academy of science of the czech republic.
fialová, l.; hamplová, d.; kučera, m.; and vymětalová, s.(2000). představy mladých lidí o manżelství a rodičovství (ideas of young people about marriage and parenthood). praha: sociologické nakladatelství.
kroupa, a., and mácha, m., eds. (1999). zpráva o lidském rozvoji Česká republika 1999 (report on human development: czech republic 1999). praha: vÚpsv.
lenderová, m. (1999). k hříchu a k modlitbě (towards a sin and prayer). praha: mladá fronta.
maříková, h., ed. (2000). proměny současnéčeské rodiny (rodina-gender-stratifikace) (changes of current czech family [family-gender-stratification]). praha: sociologické nakladatelství.
maříková h., petrusek m., and vodáková a., eds. (1996).velkýsociologickýslovník (the great lexicon of sociology). parts 1 and 2. praha: karolinum
matoušek, o. (1993). rodina jako sociální instituce a sít'(family as social institution and social network). praha: sociologické nakladatelství.
możný, i. (1983). rodina vysokoškolsky vzdělaných manżelu (two-career families). brno: ujep.
możný, i. (1990). moderní rodina (mýty a skutečnost)(modern family [myths and reality]). brno: blok.
możný, i. (1999). sociologie rodiny (sociology of family).praha: sociologické nakladatelství.
rychtaříková, j.; pikálková, s.; and hamplová, d. (2001).diferenciace reprodukčního a rodinného chování v evropských populacích (differentiation of reproductive and family behavior in the european populations). praha: sociologické texty soÚ av Čr.
sčítání lidu, domů a bytů 2001—základní informace z defnitivnich výsledků (population and housing census—basic figures from complete final results). (2002). praha: Český statistický üřad.
statistical yearbook of the czech republic. (2001). praha:Český statistický üřad.
večerník, j., and matějů, p. eds. (1999). ten years of rebuilding capitalismus: czech society after 1989. praha: academia.
"Czech Republic." International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic
"Czech Republic." International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family. . Retrieved May 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic
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RecipesHoubova Polevka Myslivecka (Mushroom Soup)........ 124
Knedliky (Czech Dumplings) ..................................... 125
Kure Na Paprice (Chicken Paprikas)........................... 126
Fazolovy Gulás S Hovemzim Masem (Goulash).......... 126
Moravske Vano ni Kukyse (Cookies)........................... 127
Topinky S Vejci (Eggs on Toast)................................. 128
Mala Sousta Se Syre (Small Cheese Bites) .................. 129
1 GEOGRAPHIC SETTING AND ENVIRONMENT
The Czech Republic is located in the middle of Eastern Europe. It borders Poland to the northeast, Germany to the north and northwest, Austria to the south, and Slovakia to the southeast. The country was formally known as Czechoslovakia, and decided to end its union with Slovakia on January 1, 1993.
The land of the Czech Republic is made up of two regions. Rolling hills, plains, and plateaus make up the western region of Bohemia. The eastern region of Moravia is very hilly. Czech summers are relatively cool, with temperatures averaging 66 °F. Winters are cold, cloudy, and humid, with temperatures typically around 30°F.
2 HISTORY AND FOOD
Czech cuisine was influenced historically by the surrounding regions that dominated the country. In 1273, Count Rudolph, King of Germany, founded the Hapsburg dynasty. Eventually the dynasty controlled most of Europe, including the region of the present-day Czech Republic. The Germans brought with them roast goose, sauerkraut, and dumplings, which have since become Czech staple dishes.
In 1526, Ferdinand I of Austria began his reign as King of Bohemia (a western region in the Czech Republic) and the Hapsburg rule of Central Europe grew. From Vienna, the capital city of Austria, schnitzels (breaded and fried chicken or pork patties) were introduced to the Czechs.
Other culinary influences come from Hungary and Eastern Europe, whose people used present-day Czech Republic as a crossroad to other European countries. Hungary introduced gulás (goulash) to the Czechs, a meat-based dish served with dumplings, and Eastern Europe offered such flavorings as sour cream, vinegar, and pickles.
3 FOODS OF THE CZECHS
Czech cuisine is considered heavy and very filling, with meals centered on meats and starches. This is because Czech winters are long and cold, which does not allow for a variety of fresh vegetables. In fact, if salads are available, they typically are limited to two vegetables, such as tomato and cucumber. Houby (mushrooms) are the exception, which flourish in local forests and are popular in soups, such as houbova polevka myslivecka (Hunter's mushroom soup).
Seafood is not widely available because the country is not located by any large bodies of water. The fish, usually carp and trout, are raised in artificial lakes or fish farms. Some Westerners may think eating carp is unappealing, but in the Czech Republic, the water where they are raised is drained clean every year.
Houbova Polevka Myslivecka (Hunter's Mushroom Soup)
- ¾ pound mushrooms, sliced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 strips bacon, cut into small pieces
- ¼ cup flour
- 5 cups water
- 1 chicken or beef bouillon cube
- ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
- ¾ cup cooking wine (or substitute water)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat.
- Add the bacon pieces and fry until crispy.
- Add the mushrooms and onion and fry until tender, about 4 minutes.
- Add the flour and stir until the flour begins to brown.
- Add the water and bring to a boil, then add the bouillon cube.
- Stir until dissolved.
- Reduce heat to medium and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add cream, salt, pepper, and cooking wine (or water).
- Simmer for an additional 15 minutes.
Makes 4 servings.
Czechs eat a wide variety of meats, from pork, beef, ryba (fish), and chicken, to duck, hare (similar to a rabbit), and venison (deer meat). The meats are commonly served with knedlíky (dumplings), brambory (potatoes), or rýe (rice), and are covered in a thick sauce. Dumplings are popular side dishes, and are even stuffed with fruit as a dessert. The sauces are thick, like gravy, and are commonly made with wine. Sometimes fruit (such as cherries or berries of some sort), mushrooms, or onions are added for more flavor. Other common flavorings in Czech dishes are caraway seeds, bacon, and salt.
Knedlíky (Czech Dumplings)
- 1 egg, beaten
- ½ cup milk
- 1 cup flour
- ⅛ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 to 5 slices white bread, cut into cubes
- In a mixing bowl, combine beaten egg, milk, flour, baking powder, and salt until smooth.
- Add bread cubes in batter and mix well.
- Make 2 small balls from the dough.
- Fill a large pot about half full with water and bring to a boil.
- Drop the dough balls into the pot of boiling water and cook 10 minutes, then roll knedlíky over and cook an additional 10 minutes.
- Remove immediately from the water and cut in half to release steam.
- Serve with roast pork, sauerkraut, or kure na paprice (see recipe below).
Makes 4 servings.
One of the most popular dishes is called vepro-knedlo-zelo, which is roast pork served with zeli (sauerkraut) and knedliky, made by boiling (or steaming) a mixture of flour, eggs, milk, and either dried bread crumbs or potatoes. Another popular dish is kure na paprice, chicken made with a spicy paprika sauce. Sliced dumplings are used to mop up gulás (goulash) for a filling lunch or dinner. A Czech specialty is svícková na smetane, roast beef and bread dumplings in sour cream sauce, with lemon and lingonberries (similar to cranberries).
Kure Na Paprice (Chicken Paprikas)
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cut into chunks
- 4 teaspoons paprika
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup onion, chopped
- 1 cup chicken broth
- ¼ cup sour cream
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Season chicken with 1 teaspoon paprika, salt and pepper.
- Heat olive oil in skillet over medium to high heat and sauté chicken on both sides until thoroughly cooked. Set aside.
- Add butter to skillet. Sauté onion until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add remaining 3 teaspoons paprika and stir.
- Add chicken broth to mixture and boil until sauce is thickened, about 8 minutes.
- Place chicken back in skillet. Turn heat down to low and add sour cream, mixing to blend thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with knedlíky (dumplings).
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Fazolovy Gulás S Hovemzim Masem (Bean Goulash with Beef)
- 1½ cups canned kidney beans
- ½ cup shortening
- ¾ pound beef, sliced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- ⅓ cup flour
- 2 Tablespoons tomato sauce
- ½ cup onion, chopped
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 2 cups water
- Heat beans in a large saucepan over medium heat until cooked through, about 3 minutes.
- Add salt to taste.
- Add the water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium.
- In a frying pan, heat the shortening over medium heat until it melts.
- Add the beef and onion and fry, about 4 minutes. Season with pepper.
- Dust the meat with flour and allow it to brown.
- Add a little water from the beans to the meat and onion mixture to make a paste.
- Add this mixture to the saucepan of beans. Add tomato sauce and paprika.
- Simmer for about 20 minutes on low heat.
- Serve with bread.
Serves 4 to 6.
4 FOOD FOR RELIGIOUS AND HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS
More than 80 percent of the Czech Republic population is Christian, either Catholic or Protestant. Two of the biggest religious holidays are Christmas and Easter. Christmas Eve is celebrated on December 24 with a large dinner. According to one of the many Czech Christmas customs and traditions, a bowl of garlic is placed under the dinner table to provide protection to a family. There is an old superstition that if anyone leaves the dinner table early, they will die the following year. As a result, everything is prepared and placed on the table before anyone sits down so no one needs to get up before the meal is finished.
The traditional Christmas Eve meal is usually served around 6 p.m. and might include potato salad, soups, cookies, a fruit bread called vánocka, koláce (a type of pastry), and carp. Czechs go fishing for carp before Christmas Eve and usually keep the fish alive in the bathtub until it is ready to be prepared.
Moravske Vano ni Kukyse (Moravian Christmas Cookies)
Moravia is an eastern region in the Czech Republic.
- ⅓ cup molasses
- 3 Tablespoons shortening
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon each cinnamon, ground ginger, baking soda, and salt
- 1¼ cup flour, more if needed
- In a large mixing bowl, combine molasses, shortening, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and salt.
- Add flour, a little at a time, to form dough.
- Cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Divide dough into 4 balls, and keep covered with a damp towel.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball, one at a time, to about ⅛-inch thick (very thin).
- Cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters or rim of a glass and place on greased cookie sheet.
- Bake about 6 minutes, until lightly browned.
Makes about 24 cookies.
The food that is prepared for Easter dinner is usually taken to Mass on Easter Sunday, where it is placed on the altar and blessed by the priests. The blessed food is then taken home to be eaten. A traditional Easter dinner may include baked ham or lamb, polevka z jarnich bylinvelikonocni (Easter soup), made of different herbs and egg, and a loaf of sweet bread called mazanec, made with raisins and almonds.
5 MEALTIME CUSTOMS
A typical snídane (breakfast) in a Czech home is hearty–bread with butter, cheese, eggs, ham or sausage, jam or yogurt, and coffee or tea. For a quick breakfast, a Bohemian koláce (pastry) topped with poppy seeds, cottage cheese, or plum jam may be bought at a bakery.
Topinky S Vejci (Eggs on Toast)
- ½ cup goat or cheddar cheese, grated
- 3 eggs
- Salt, to taste
- 8 slices bread
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- Paprika, to taste
- In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs.
- Add the shredded cheese and salt.
- Arrange the bread slices on a cookie sheet.
- Cover the bread slices evenly with the egg and cheese mixture.
- In a frying pan, heat the oil on medium heat.
- With a pancake turner or spatula, pick up the bread slices one at a time and flip them mixture down, into the oil.
- Fry the bread about 2 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked. Be careful not to burn.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle with paprika. Serve immediately.
Obed (lunch) is the main meal of the day for Czechs, where dinner may be no more than a cold plate of meats or cheese, such as mala sousta se syre ("small cheese bites"), and condiments. Obed is eaten between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Popular dishes may include gulás (goulash), svícková, roast beef in a creamy sauce topped with lemon and lingonberries (similar to cranberries), smazený syr (fried cheese), or smázené zampiony (fried mushrooms).
Mala Sousta Se Syre (Small Cheese Bites)
- 1 cucumber, thickly sliced
- 1¼ cups goat or cheddar cheese, thickly sliced
- 2 tangerines, peeled and sectioned, or 8 grapes
- Place a slice of cheese on each slice of cucumber.
- Pin a piece of tangerine or grape on top with a toothpick.
Travelers may stop at a street stand and buy a párek (hotdog), klobása (spicy sausage), or hamburgery, which are not like Western hamburgers. A hamburgery is ground pork (not beef) with sauerkraut, mustard, and ketchup on a bun. Stands also sell Middle Eastern specialties such as falafil (deep-fried chickpea balls) and shawerma (grilled, skewered meat). Open-faced sandwiches called oblozené chlebícky are also popular, which are commonly made with cold meat, eggs, cheese, or mayonnaise-based salads, such as ham and pea, or potato. Sandwiches may be eaten with soups, such as rajska (tomato and rice), polevka jatrovymi knedlicky (soup with liver dumplings), or polevka z hlavkoveho zeli s parkem (cabbage soup with frankfurters).
Czech beer has been produced since the 1000s, and is considered some of the best in the world. Adults usually drink it at every meal, sometimes even at breakfast.
If there is room at the end of a meal, desserts such as palacinky, rolled crepes filled with jam, fruit, or topped with chocolate sauce, or jablkový závin (apple strudel) may be served.
Czechs prepare their foods in the kitchen and bring out the plates to the table. The head of the household or the guests are served first. The Czechs use their eating utensils to eat their meals. The nuz (knife) and vidlicka (fork) are kept in their hands throughout the meal and left crossed on the table to show that they are not finished eating. In many families, conversation while eating is minimal, unless there are guests. It is considered polite for a guest to bring inexpensive gifts to the children of a host.
6 POLITICS, ECONOMICS, AND NUTRITION
The Czechs have very few nutritional problems. Free assistance and care provided to women and children have resulted in a low infant mortality rate (number of infant deaths) of 7 per 1,000 live births in 1999. All school children are provided with medical attention, including X rays, and annual examinations. In 1997, children up to one year old were immunized for a number of diseases, including tetanus, and measles.
7 FURTHER STUDY
Czech and Slovak Republics. Melbourne, Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet Publications, 1998.
Martin, Pat.Czechoslovak Culture: Recipes, History and Folk Arts. Iowa City, Iowa: Penfield Press, 1989.
Martin, Pat. The Czech Book: Recipes and Traditions. Iowa City, Iowa: Penfield Press, 1981
Trnka, Peter. The Best of Czech Cooking. New York, NY: Hippocrene Books, 1996.
Diana's Gourmet Corner. [Online] Available http://belgourmet.com/cooking/links/cze.html (accessed April 17, 2001).
Locallingo.com. [Online] Available http://www.locallingo.com/countries/czech_republic/culture/easter.html (accessed April 17, 2001).
The Prague Post. [Online] Available http://www.praguepost.cz/tourist/tourfood.html (accessed April 17, 2001).
Radio Czech. [Online] Available http://www.radio.cz/christmas/customs.html (accessed April 17, 2001).
"Czech Republic." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Foods and Recipes of the World. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/food/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic
"Czech Republic." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Foods and Recipes of the World. . Retrieved May 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/food/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic
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Czech Republic, Czech Česká Republika (2005 est. pop. 10,241,000), republic, 29,677 sq mi (78,864 sq km), central Europe. It is bordered by Slovakia on the east, Austria on the south, Germany on the west, and Poland on the north. Prague is the capital and largest city. In addition to the capital, major cities include Brno, Ostrava, and Plzeň.
Land and People
The Czech Republic comprises the former provinces of Bohemia, Moravia, and Czech Silesia, together often called the Czech Lands. In the western part of the republic lies the Bohemian plateau, which is separated by the Bohemian-Moravian heights from the fertile Moravian lowland in the eastern part of the republic. The Sudetes Mts. in the north separate Moravia from Czech Silesia along the Polish border. Agriculture is concentrated in the Moravian lowlands and in the valleys of the Elbe and Vltava rivers.
More than 90% of the people are Czech, with small minorities of Slovaks, Germans, Poles, Romani (Gypsies), and Hungarians; the Romani have been subjected to increased discrimination since the fall of Communist rule. Although many Czechs do not profess a religion, more than 25% are Roman Catholic. There is also a substantial Hussite minority and a smaller group belonging to the Orthodox Church. Czech is spoken by most people; Slovak is also spoken.
In state hands during the Communist era, much of the Czech Republic's agricultural and industrial sectors was relatively quickly privatized and showed appreciable growth in the early 1990s. Foreign investment was widely sought. An economic slowdown beginning in 1997, however, revealed problems in the transition from government control to a privatized economy, as many large industrial conglomerates with thousands of employees lost money and sought government aid instead of revamping. In 1999–2000 most of the state-owned banks were privatized, with the government assuming responsibility for bad loans; privatization of the telecommunications industry took place in 2005.
The chief crops are wheat and other grains, potatoes, sugar beets, hops, and fruit. Among the country's livestock are hogs, cattle, sheep, and poultry. Manufacturing is the chief economic activity, especially the production of automobiles, machine tools, machinery, glass, and armaments. Iron and steel industries are important in Moravia. Other industries include metalworking, chemicals, and electronics. The republic's rather scant natural resources include hard and soft coal, timber, and uranium. Machinery and transportation equipment, chemicals, raw materials, and fuels are exported, and similar products also constitute the most significant imports. The largest trading partners are Germany, Slovakia, Poland, France, and Italy.
The Czech Republic is governed under the constitution of 1992. The president, who is the head of state, is elected for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The prime minister is the head of government. The bicameral Parliament consists of the 81-seat Senate, whose members are elected by popular vote to serve six-year terms, and the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies, whose members are popularly elected for four-year terms. Administratively the country is divided into 13 regions and the capital city.
For a detailed history of the Czech Lands see Bohemia, Moravia, and Czechoslovakia. In response to Slovakia's demands for greater autonomy, Czechoslovakia was on Jan. 1, 1969, declared a federation. The constituent Czech and Slovak republics received autonomy over local affairs, with the federal government responsible for foreign relations, defense, and finance. The Communist regime collapsed in 1989, and in 1990 economic reforms were begun that were especially disruptive in Slovakia, which had a disproportionate share of subsidized state-owned heavy industry. A strong secessionist movement in Slovakia led to a declaration in 1992 that the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic would separate into independent states. In response to the imminent breakup of Czechoslovakia, a new Czech constitution was written. It was implemented with the birth of the new Czech Republic on Jan. 1, 1993.
Václav Havel, who had been president of Czechoslovakia, became the Czech Republic's president; after legislative elections a right-of-center coalition government came into office, headed by Václav Klaus. The government moved quickly to privatize state-owned businesses, and mutual funds became a popular investment vehicle for a public unused to dealing with a stock market. The Czech Republic actively sought membership in Western institutions and alliances. In 1994 it became an associate member of the European Union (it became a full member ten years later), in 1995 it was admitted to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and in 1999 it joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Meanwhile, the economy faltered in 1997 and Klaus was forced to resign. Austerity measures were put in place and Josef Tosovsky, a banker, was appointed caretaker prime minister. Havel was reelected in 1998 and, following legislative elections later that year, Social Democrat Miloš Zeman became prime minister, vowing to slow privatization and return more control to the state.
In the 2002 elections the Social Democrat–led coalition was returned to power, but Zeman, who had resigned as party leader prior to the election, was replaced as prime minister by Vladimír Spidla. Václav Klaus was elected president in 2003, succeeding the retiring Havel. In 2004, after the Social Democrats made a poor showing in the European Parliament elections, Spidla only narrowly survived a party confidence vote, and subsequently resigned as prime minister.
Social Democrat Stanislav Gross succeeded Spidla as government leader, but Gross resigned in Apr., 2005, dogged by charges of personal financial impropriety. He was succeeded as prime minister by fellow Social Democrat Jiri Paroubek. In the June, 2006, elections the Civic Democrats won the largest share of the vote and the most seats in parliament, but the Social Democrat–led coalition secured half the seats. The Civic Democrats formed a three-party coalition, and Mirek Topolánek became prime minister in August. In October, however, the coalition lost a confidence vote, forcing the president to open negotiations on the formation of a new government. In Jan., 2007, the president again approved a government headed by Topolánek that involved the same three parties, and it narrowly won a vote of confidence.
Klaus was elected to a second term as president in Feb., 2008. In July, 2008, the Czech Republic signed an agreement with the United States to base a radar system there. Russia had previously strongly objected to such an arrangement, and shortly after the signing there was a decrease in Russian oil supplies to the Czech Republic that Russia attributed to technical problems despite disbelief from the Czechs. Some 14 months later, however, a new U.S. administration suspended plans to base a ballistic missile defense system in E Europe, and the Czech government later (2011) withdrew from the revamped project.
In Mar., 2009, Topolánek's government lost a confidence vote; an interim government headed by a techocrat, Jan Fischer, was agreed to by the parties and took office in May. The May, 2010, parliamentary elections resulted in a victory for conservative and centrist parties, which won a majority of the seats. Petr Nečas, leader of the Civic Democrats, became prime minister of a center-right coalition government. In the October elections, however, the Social Democrats gained a narrow majority in the senate. In November Nečas won passage of austerity measures and survived a confidence vote but also lost his slim majority in parliament. Subsequently, a number of his government's austerity measures faced senate rejection and presidential veto.
In Jan., 2013, former prime minister Miloš Zeman was elected to succeed Klaus as president; the election was the first time that the president had been chosen directly by the voters. A corruption and abuse of power scandal that involved a close aide to the prime minister led the government to resign in June, 2013; Zeman subsequently appointed a new government headed by Jiří Rusnok despite opposition from parliament. In August, Rusnok lost a confidence vote; parliament subsequently was dissolved and new elections called. The Social Democrats won a plurality of just over 20% in the October elections, and formed (Jan., 2014) a coalition with two centrist parties; Social Democrat Bohuslav Sobotka was subsequently appointed prime minister.
"Czech Republic." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic-0
"Czech Republic." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved May 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic-0
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Official name: The Czech Republic
Area: 78,866 square kilometers (30,450 square miles)
Highest point on mainland : Mount Snezka (1,602 meters/5,256 feet)
Lowest point on land: Elbe River (115 meters/377 feet)
Hemispheres : Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 2:00 p.m.= noon GMT
Longest distances: 494 kilometers (307 miles) from east to west; 269 kilometers (167 miles) from north to south
Land boundaries : 1,881 kilometers (1,169 miles) total boundary length; Austria 362 kilometers (225 miles); Germany 646 kilometers (401 miles); Poland 658 kilometers (409 miles); Slovakia 215 kilometers (134 miles)
Territorial sea limits: None
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
Located in the heart of Central Europe, the landlocked Czech Republic is one of two nations that were formed after the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993. With an area of 78,866 square kilometers (30,450 square miles), it is slightly smaller than the state of South Carolina.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
The Czech Republic has no territories or dependencies.
The Czech Republic has a mostly continental climate, although in Bohemia it is moderated somewhat by proximity to the Baltic Sea, with less variation in temperature throughout the day. Nevertheless, the country as a whole is known for its changeable weather. Winters are cold, with average January temperatures between -4°C and -2°C (25°F and 28°F). Both the Moravian lowlands and the Bohemian highlands can experience bitter cold, with temperatures below -18°C (0°F). Summers are hot and wet, with frequent storms and average temperatures between 13°C to 23°C (55°F and 73°F). Summer temperatures above 30°C (86°F) are common in Moravia. Rainfall is heaviest in the spring and summer, with the greatest rainfall occurring in July. Average annual rainfall ranges from 50 to 76 centimeters (20 to 30 inches) in low-lying areas to over 127 centimeters (50 inches) in the Krkonoše Mountains. Fog is common in the lowlands.
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
The Czech Republic consists of two major regions—Bohemia to the west and Moravia to the east. In addition, its northwestern corner is part of Silesia, a region that lies mostly in southwestern Poland. Bohemia, the larger of the two main regions, consists of highlands bordered by low mountains, while Moravia, although also surrounded by mountains, is composed of lowlands.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
The Czech Republic is landlocked.
6 INLAND LAKES
In the southern part of Bohemia, near České Budějovice, is a region of artificial lakes and fish ponds. The Czech Republic also has many mineral springs.
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
The Czech Republic's many rivers belong to three major systems. In the northwest, the Labe (or Elbe) River flows northward into Germany, ultimately draining into the North Sea. Among its tributaries are the Jizera, the Ohře, and the Vltava (or Moldau), which is the country's longest river. In the northeast, the Odra (or Oder) River flows north to Poland, draining into the Baltic Sea. The Morava River, the principal river of Moravia, flows southward through the eastern part of the country.
There are no deserts in the Czech Republic.
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
The central and southern Moravian lowlands are part of the Danube River Basin and are similar to the lowlands they join in southern Slovakia.
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
Mountain ranges ring much of the country and also separate its two major regions. Part of the border with Poland, to the north, is formed by the Krkonoše (or Great) Mountains, which also form the northern border of Bohemia. The country's highest peak, Mount Snezka, is found in these mountains. Farther east, the Jeseníky Mountains separate the Czech portion of Silesia from Moravia to the south. The Javorníky Mountains mark the eastern border of both Moravia and the Czech Republic itself; those and the nearby White Carpathian (Bíele Karpaty) Mountains both border Slovakia. In the center of the country, the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands separate Bohemia from Moravia, and the Šumava Mountains mark the borders with Austria and Germany. The northeastern border with Germany is formed by the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge).
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
One of the Czech Republic's most famous topographical features is the Moravian Karst, a highland area in southern Moravia where the erosion of limestone hills over time has created a dramatic landscape of caves and canyons.
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
The mountain ranges of Bohemia encircle a plateau that is 500 meters (1,640 feet) above sea level and shaped roughly like an oval.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
Most lakes in the Czech Republic are man-made. The largest artificial lake is Lake Rozmberk, which covers some 500 hectares (1,235 acres). The Lipno Dam is located near the southernmost part of the country, just north of the border with Austria.
14 FURTHER READING
Beattie, Andrew, and Timothy Pepper. Off the Beaten Track: Czech and Slovak Republics. Old Saybrook, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 1995.
Holtslag, Astrid. The Czech Republic. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1994.
Ivory, Michael. Essential Czech Republic. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 1994.
Czech Republic Web site. http://www.Czech.cz/ (accessed March 11, 2003).
Lonely Planet World Guide. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/europe/czech_republic/ (accessed June 27, 2003).
"Czech Republic." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic-0
"Czech Republic." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . Retrieved May 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic-0
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The first pioneer of psychoanalysis in the Czech lands was Jaroslav Stuchlik (1890-1967), the Czech psychiatrist. He studied medicine in Switzerland, where he met with Eugen Bleuler and Carl Gustav Jung. At the end of the First World War, he was the first Czech to visit Freud's seminars in Vienna. He surrounded himself with a group of young physicians in Slovakia (Kaschau) in the 1920s.
Another group, consisting of Russian physicians, originated in Prague around the Russian emigré Nikolaj I. Osipov (1877-1934, who lived in Prague from 1921 until his death and founded the Russian Psychoanalytical Association with Drosnez, Tryto, and Viroubov. Osipov lectured in psychoanalytic psychiatry at Charles University in Prague.
Nicolaj Osipov and Jaroslav Stuchlik, along with Eugen Windholz, formerly of the group in Kaschau, initiated the idea of the commemorative plaque that was installed on Freud's home in Freiberg on October 25, 1931. Anna Freud took part in the celebration and Sigmund Freud, at that time 75 years old, sent a letter of greeting to participants. In connection with this event the first Czech Yearbook of Psychoanalysis (1932) appeared, edited by Windholz. Windholz (1903-1986), a Slovak Jew, was the first in the Czechoslovakian history to receive a proper psychoanalytical training. He started his analysis with Dr. Wolfe in the Berlin Psychoanalytical Institute where he spent few weeks in 1930. Then he continued his training in Prague with Frances Deri, a German analyst, who was the firstémigré from Germany, followed by Heinrich and Yela Loewenfeld, Steff Bornstein. Hanna Heilborn, Annie Reich, and Elisabeth Gero-Heymann.
The Prague Psychoanalytical Study Group was established in 1933, led by Frances Deri until 1935, when she moved to Los Angeles and, after that, by Otto Fenichel, who trained and taught in Prague until 1938 as an emissary of the Viennese Psychoanalytical Society which was affiliated with the Prague Group officially at the Lucerne Congress in 1934. Among the analysts from Vienna who traveled to Prague on weekends to present lectures were E. Bibring, R. Waelder, R. Spitz, P. Federn, E. Kris, and A. Aichhorn. Among the pupils were Emmanuel Windholz, Jan Frank, a Slovak psychiatrist and neurologist, Richard Karpe, a Czech pediatrician, Theodor N. Dosuzkov, a Russianémigré, neurologist and psychiatrist, and Otta Brief and Theresa Bondy. The Czech Study Group was officially recognized by the 14th IPA Congress in Marienbad in 1936. The Munich treaty in 1938 had disastrous consequences for the psychoanalytic movement: Czechoslovakia was occupied by Hitler in March 1939.
During the years 1938-1939, a majority of the Czech Study Group emigrated to the United States (Windholz to San Francisco, Frank to New York, Karpe to Hartford, Connecticut), some died in concentration camps, and the only member to survive the German occupation was Theodor Dosuzkov (1899-1982). He had been trained by Annie Reich and Fenichel supervised him. During the war he went on with his psychoanalytic work illegally, surrounding himself with a small group that played a significant role in the postwar development of psychoanalysis in Czechoslovakia.
The Society for the Study of Psychoanalysis was reestabilished in Prague in 1946. It had to be dissolved officially at the beginning of the 1950s, after the Communist putsch, but it continued illegally a further 40 years (1950-1989). The training in psychoanalysis went on secretly. Theodor Dosuzkov and his pupils Otakar Kuera, Ladislas Haas (emigrated in 1965 to London), and M. Benová were direct members of the IPA, and had some private contacts with analysts abroad. In the 1960s the younger generation of analysts started to train candidates: P. Tautermann, A. Sizková.
In the early 1980s, descendants of Dosuzkov and others established the new group and the Psychoanalytic Institute. Since 1987, the Czech Group has been visited by several important European and American psychoanalysts. An important step was made at the 26th IPA Congress in Rome in 1969: V. Fischelová, Jiri Kocourek, Vaclav Mikota, M.Šebek, and B. Vacková were recognized as the direct and associate members of the IPA. The Czech Group became a Study Group of the IPA at the 38th Congress in Amsterdam in 1983. The official journal of the Czech Study Group, Psychoanalyticky sbornik, has been published since 1989.
Fischer, Eugenia. (1992). Czechoslovakia. In P. Kutter (Ed.), Psychoanalysis international, a guide to psychoanalysis throughout the world, vol. 1, Europe (pp. 34-49). Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog, 34-49.
Fischer, René. (1975). Zur Geschichte der psychoanalytischen Bewegung in der Tschechoslowakei. Psyche, 29, 12.
Šebek, Michael. (1992). La psychanalyse, les psychanalystes et la période stalinienne de l'après-guerre. La situation tchécoslovaque. Revue internationale d'histoire de la psychanalyse, 5, 553-568.
Šebek, Michael. (1993). Psychoanalysis in Czechoslovakia. Psychoanalytic Review, 80 (3), 433-439.
"Czech Republic." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/czech-republic
"Czech Republic." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Retrieved May 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/czech-republic
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78,864sq km (30,449sq mi)
Czech 81%, Moravian 13%, Slovak 3%, Polish, German, Silesian, Gypsy, Hungarian, Ukrainian
Christianity (Roman Catholic 39%, Protestant 4%)
Czech koruna = 100 halura
ClimateThe climate is continental. Moderate Atlantic air streams give Prague warm summers, while easterly winds from Russia bring bitterly cold winters. The average annual rainfall is moderate, with 500mm–750mm (20in–30in) common in lowland areas.
VegetationMany of the republic's forests have been cut down to create farmland, but oak and spruce remain. Acid rain is damaging trees in the n.
History and PoliticsThe Czechs people began to settle in the area c.1500 years ago. Bohemia became important in the 10th century as a kingdom within the Holy Roman Empire. In 1526, the Austrian Habsburgs assumed control, but a Czech rebellion in 1618 led to the Thirty Years' War. German culture dominated the area until the late 18th century. Although Austria continued to rule Bohemia and Moravia, Czech nationalism continued to grow throughout the 19th century.
Czechoslovakia emerged after World War I. Germany occupied the country in World War II. In 1946, the communists emerged as the strongest party but Eduard Beneš became president. By 1948, communist leaders had assumed absolute control. Democratic reforms culminated in the Prague Spring (1968). Warsaw Pact troops invaded to crush the liberals. Mass demonstrations in 1989 resulted in the ‘Velvet Revolution’ and the creation of a non-communist government. In 1992, the government agreed to the secession of the Slovak Republic, and on January 1, 1993, the Czech Republic was born. The break was peaceful and the two nations retain many ties. Václav Havel was elected president of the Czech Republic, and re-elected in 1998. In 1999 it joined NATO.
EconomyUnder communism, Czechoslovakia became one of the most industrialized parts of Eastern Europe (2000 GDP per capita, US$12,900). The republic has deposits of coal, uranium, iron ore, magnesite, tin, and zinc. Manufacturing employs 40% of the workforce. Industries include chemicals, beer, iron and steel, and machinery. Light industries include glassware and textiles.
The Czech Republic is mainly self-sufficient in food. Private ownership of land is gradually being restored. Agriculture employs 12% of the workforce. Crops include grains, fruit, and hops for brewing. In 1998, talks began on formal accession to the European Union (EU).
"Czech Republic." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic
"Czech Republic." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved May 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic
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The people of thc Czech Republic are called Czechs. Slovaks from neighboring Slovakia make up about 3 percent of the population. For more information on the Slovaks, see the chapter on Slovakia in Volume 8.
"Czech Republic." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic
"Czech Republic." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved May 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czech-republic
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The term "Czech" refers to the cultural characteristics of the Czech-speaking inhabitants of the Czech Republic (Česká republika ), which includes Bohemia (Čechy ), the larger western part, and Moravia (Morava ), the eastern part. Northern Moravia includes Silesia (Slezsko ), a historical region that lies mostly in southwestern Poland. The Silesians (Slezané ) of the Czech Republic tend to maintain their ethnic character, but many agree that they constitute a subculture within the Czech culture.
Czechs call their culture česká kultura. The historical and geographic term "Bohemian" is misleading, as it not only excludes Czech-speaking Moravians but includes members of several ethnic minorities that live in Bohemia but do not speak Czech.
Identification. The origin of the words Čechy (Bohemia (Čech ([a] Czech) is not clear. Čechy originally may have referred to a dry place, or it may have been a place-name that eventually gave rise to the name of its inhabitants. Alternatively, the ethnic designation Čech (pl. Češi or Čechové ) is explained as an abbreviated pet name for a groom (a person responsible for the care of horses, čeledín ), or it might have been someone's name. The words Čech, hemia) and C Čechy, and česká ("Czech" or "Bohemian") first occur in the oldest rhymed Czech chronicle (Dalimilova kronika ), which dates back to the beginning of the fourteenth century.
Location and Geography. The area of the Czech Republic is 30,450 square miles (78,866 square kilometers), with Bohemia being twice as large as Moravia. The republic is bounded by Poland on the north, Germany on the northwest and southwest, Austria on the south, and the Slovak Republic on the east.
Bohemia is ringed by low mountain ranges. Sněžka in the north is the highest point at 5,256 feet (1,602 meters). The chief rivers are the Labe (Elbe) and its main tributaries, the Vltava (Moldau) and the Ohře (Eger); the Elbe flows into the North Sea. Moravia's dominant geographic feature is the basin of the Morava River, which empties into the Danube west of Bratislava, the capital of the Slovak Republic.
Demography. The population of the Czech Republic in 1999 was about 10.3 million according to the Statistical Yearbook of the Czech Republic (in recent years there have been small population losses). The ethnic composition is 94 percent Czech (Moravians and Bohemian Czechs), 3 percent Slovak, 0.6 percent Polish, 0.5 percent German, 0.3 percent Romany (Gypsy) officially but perhaps as much as 2.5 percent, and about 0.4 percent Ukrainian. Other ethnic minorities are numerically insignificant. For example, the Jewish population is probably no more than 12,000 because over 80,000 Jews died in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
The border regions, which began to be inhabited by many German-speaking people in the second half of the twelfth century, were resettled after World War II by Czechs after nearly three million Bohemian and Moravian Germans were expelled or chose to leave.
Linguistic Affiliation. The Czech language (čeština or český jazyk) belongs to the West Slavic sub-branch of the Slavic languages and is an Indo-European language. It is mutually intelligible with Slovak. Spoken Czech has several regional dialects. The differences among those dialects mainly involve the pronunciation of vowels and the names of local or regional dishes, plants, and costumes. Czech was one of the Slavic languages at least as early as the ninth century, the time of the Great Moravian Empire. The oldest Czech literary monuments go back to the second half of the thirteenth century.
Symbolism. The official state symbols are the national anthem, flag, and coat of arms. The presidential flag (standard) bears the slogan Pravda vítězí ("Truth Prevails"), attributed to the first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (1850–1937, president 1918–1935).
The national anthem, Kde domov můj? ("Where Is My Home?"), was originally a song in a popular satirical play of 1834. The first stanza extols the beauty of the countryside, and the second the nobility of the Czech people. In 1918, when the Austro-Hungarian Empire disintegrated and the Czechs and Slovaks were given a country of their own, this gentle song became one of the two national anthems of Czechoslovakia, along with the Slovak national anthem. The Czech flag consists of a lower red field and an upper white field with a blue wedge reaching from the flagpole side of the flag to its center. There are two coats of arms. The central feature on the small coat of arms is a split-tailed lion wearing a crown. The large coat of arms makes pictorial references to Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. Several historical personalities have special meaning for Czechs. The earliest is Václav I (Wenceslas I, familiar from the popular Christmas carol), who was killed by the order of his younger brother and successor, Boleslav I, in 929 or 935. Wenceslas has been revered as a saint since the second half of the tenth century and as a patron and protector of the country and a symbol of statehood since the eleventh century. The ancient chorale "Saint Wenceslas, Ruler of the Czech Land" (Svatý Václave, vévodo českézemě ) has been a national hymn since the end of the thirteenth century. To honor Saint Wenceslas, in 1848 the large central boulevard in Prague was renamed Wenceslas Square (Václavskénáměstí ), and in 1913 an equestrian statue memorializing him was erected there.
A monument in Prague's Old Town Square (Staroměstskénáměstí ) commemorates Jan Hus (John Huss), a religious reformer who was burned as a heretic in Constance (Konstanz) in southern Germany in 1415. The Hussite movement, originally religious and nationalist, culminated in 1419 when the Hussite forces defeated several armies sent to Bohemia by the pope to put an end to reformational ideology. A compromise between the Hussites and the Catholic Church was not reached until 1436. Another Czech whose memory is still cherished is Jan Amos Komenský (1592–1670), known outside the country as Comenius. A religious reformer, Comenius also was a scientist and a founder of modern pedagogy and is referred to as the "teacher of nations." As the bishop of a Czech Protestant denomination, he was forced to go into hiding after 1620, when education fell under the control of the Catholic Church. When Comenius went into permanent exile in 1628, a number of European countries invited him for extended visits. He died in the Netherlands, where he is buried. During the religious conflicts of the Thirty Years War (1618–1648), Comenius proposed the establishment of an ecumenical council of churches and an international academy of scientists. Among his writings were a seven-volume manuscript with recommendations for the improvement of human affairs and a textbook with illustrations (Orbis pictus ) that is said to be the first such textbook. Comenius was a revered figure throughout the Western world. He was even offered the presidency of the very young Harvard College but refused, preferring to remain in Europe, because he hoped he could eventually return to his native Moravia.
One of the symbols of the Czech national revival that took place from near the end of the eighteenth century to the 1880s is the National Theater (Národnídivadlo ) in Prague. The theater was opened in 1881 but was destroyed by fire later that year. Restored and reopened in 1883, it continues to be one of Prague's landmarks. An inscription on the ornate auditorium, Národ sobě, translates freely as "By the people to the people." A symbol of the Nazi occupation is Lidice, a community in central Bohemia. As punishment for the assassination of the Nazi deputy administrator of Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich, on 10 June 1942, the village was razed, with all of Lidice's 192 men shot and 196 women and most of the 105 children sent to concentration camps. After the war, a new village was built nearby and the tragedy was commemorated by a monument and a memorial rose garden. Several communities in the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, and elsewhere were named Lidice in memory of the innocent people who lost their lives.
A world-famous fictional character is the "good soldier Švejk" in the novel of that name published between 1921 and 1923 by Jaroslav Hašek (1883–1923). The Good Soldier Švejk portrays a complex character who, although discharged from military service for idiocy, is resourceful, expresses great compassion, and never stops making fun of the bureaucracy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Garrulous and ready to follow orders to the letter, Švejk is the epitome of someone whose obtuseness helps him survive. The novel has been translated into many languages, filmed several times, adapted for theatrical presentations, and made into an opera.
History and Ethnic Relations
Emergence of the Nation. The first ethnically identifiable inhabitants of the area, a Celtic people, lived there from the fourth century b.c.e. until about the second century c.e. They were followed by a Germanic people who left during the so-called migration of nations in the fifth century. Slavic-speaking groups made the area their homeland no later than the sixth century. Among them were the Czechs in central Bohemia and the Moravians along the Morava and Dyje rivers to the east. In the first half of the eleventh century, Oldřich of the princely and later royal Czech dynasty of the Přemysls (Premyslid dynasty) brought Moravia under his control, and Bohemia and Moravia then became the foundation of the Czech state.
The crowning of the first Bohemian king took place in 1085, and the first university in central Europe was founded in Prague in 1348. The development of Czech national culture came to a temporary halt in 1620, when the Czech estates (social classes possessing political rights) were defeated in the Battle of White Mountain (Bílá hora ). The Bohemian kingdom lost its independence, and its provinces were declared the hereditary property of the Hapsburgs. Forcible re-Catholization of a people who from the beginning of the fifteenth century had been influenced by the reformist teachings of Jan Hus resulted in a wholesale emigration that, together with epidemics of plague and other diseases, reduced the population of Bohemia by about one-half and that of Moravia by one-fourth. A period referred to as "the darkness" (temno ) lasted until the end of the eighteenth century, when the Czech national revival—the formation of the modern Czech nation—began.
National Identity. West Slavic tribes inhabiting the Bohemian territory gradually were united by the politically dominant Czechs and came under their leadership by the ninth century. Moravian tribes were united even earlier than those of Bohemia. The ethnic badge of all these groups consisted of the various dialects of the Czech language.
Ethnic Relations. Until the end of the twelfth century, the population was almost exclusively Czech-speaking. Over the next two centuries, its makeup underwent a change. Large numbers of German colonists settled in Bohemian cities and rural areas, some of which subsequently became completely Germanized. Population statistics for Bohemia in 1851 gave the ratio of Czechs to Germans as 60 to 38.5. The historical territory of the Bohemian state did not become more Germanized over the centuries because of the anti-German feelings of the Czechs.
After World War II, the ethnic makeup of Czechoslovakia changed profoundly. Most Jews did not survive the war, and after the war, settlers of Czech origin arrived from Romania, Yugoslavia, and Volhynia in the Soviet Union. By 1950, about 95 percent of all Czechoslovak citizens of German nationality had left.
With the exception of the World War II period, Czechs and Slovaks shared a common state between 1918 and 1992. Until 1969, the relationship between the two groups was asymmetrical: Slovakia was considered an agrarian appendage to the highly industrial Czech nation, and the Czechs viewed Slovak culture as lacking in maturity and refinement. Even though the Czech and Slovak languages are closely related and mutually intelligible, many Czechs viewed Slovak as a caricature of Czech. The peaceful separation of Czechs and Slovaks into two independent countries on 1 January 1993 was largely a consequence of the paternalistic attitude of the Czechs toward the Slovaks and the desire of the Slovaks to assert their ethnic identity through political independence.
There has always been a special relationship between Czechs and the United States. The Austrian Empire, of which Bohemia and Moravia were a part from 1620 to 1918, was one of the most densely populated areas of Europe when the empire began to experience a rapid increase in population growth around the middle of the nineteenth century. Population pressures soon forced many Czechs to look for employment and a new life abroad. Lower Austria and the United States were the countries to which most of these people migrated. The places in the United States to which Czech immigrants were drawn included not only large cities but also rural areas, especially in the prairie states of the Mississippi Valley as well as Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas. In the early 1990s, about 1.3 million people in the United States claimed a Czech background.
Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space
The Czech Republic is a fairly densely populated country, with about 340 persons per square mile. The highest population density is in metropolitan Prague (Praha ), which has 1.3 million inhabitants. The next three largest cities are the capital of Moravia, Brno, with approximately 400,000 people; Ostrava in northern Moravia, with about 350,000; and Plzeň (Pilsen), with approximately 180,000. Seven cities have populations just below or above 100,000. Overall, about 65 percent of the Czech people live in cities or towns of 5,000 or more.
The tendency of Czechs to move from rural areas to cities predates the founding of the nation in 1918. As a consequence, Prague has continued to grow steadily even though the national population is virtually stationary. The result is a tight housing market despite the constant construction of monotonous blocks of prefabricated multistory apartment houses on the outskirts of the city.
These new districts stand in sharp contrast to the historic parts of Prague with their great variety of architectural styles. Some of the city's monumental but stylistically restrained buildings date from the last third of the nineteenth century (National Theater, National Museum, and the Rudolfinum concert hall) and the first third of the twentieth (Municipal House, with a concert hall and restaurants, and the ministries in central Prague along the Vltava).
The Czech Republic is essentially a country of small cities and towns. However, there have always been hundreds of small villages in the countryside, frequently only a few miles apart. In the past several decades, there has been a tendency to consolidate them administratively.
The rooms of Czech apartments and family houses are small, and bedrooms, which usually have no closets, are made smaller by the use of wardrobes. Family houses are constructed of cinder block or brick rather than wood.
Food and Economy
Food in Daily Life. The traditional Czech diet may be considered heavy, with an emphasis on meat, potatoes, and dumplings and the use of substantial amounts of animal fats, butter, and cream. Meats— primarily pork, beef, poultry, and organ meats such as liver, kidneys, brains, and sweetbreads—are frequently prepared with gravy and eaten with potatoes or dumplings (knedlík, pl. knedlíky ). Soups are an important part of the noon meal. Potato and tripe soup are favorites, as well as beef or chicken broth with tiny liver or marrow dumplings. The most commonly used vegetables are carrots, peas, and cabbage. Salads were eaten only seasonally until recent years.
Czechs have always enjoyed sweets. The most common are fruit dumplings (made with plums or, in winter, preserved apricots) served with grated farmer cheese and bread crumbs browned in butter, with sugar sprinkled on top. Dumplings often are served as a meal. Popular sweet baked goods include buchty (sing. buchta ), small, roughly rectangular yeast buns with a filling of jam or preserves; koláče (sing. koláč ), small cakes made of white flour with an indentation on the surface for a filling of poppy seeds, plum jam, or sweetened farmer cheese; a semisweet cake (bábovka ) made of yeast dough and baked in a fluted tube pan; thin pancakes spread with jam, rolled, and topped with powdered sugar (palačinky ); small raised pancakes (lívance ); and apple strudel (jablkovýzávin or štrúdl ).
The national beverage is beer (pivo ); some good domestic wines are produced in Moravia. The domestic plum brandy is called slivovice (slivovitz).
Especially during the past ten to twenty years, marked changes have occurred in the Czech diet. More fresh vegetables are eaten year-round by those who can afford imported food; vegetable shortenings, oils, and margarine are replacing animal fats; and a variety of mixes are used to prepare soups and dumplings. What people eat today is greatly influenced by what they can afford: good cuts of beef and pork are expensive, but poultry is much more affordable.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. A typical Sunday dinner menu continues to be svíčková (known in English by the German name sauerbraten ): fillet of beef marinated in vinegar and spices before roasting, served with a rich sour-cream sauce and almost always accompanied by dumplings. Also popular for special meals is roast duck, pork, or goose with dumplings and sauerkraut. On Christmas Eve, nearly the entire country eats the traditional breaded and fried carp, and on Christmas Day, roast turkey is found on many tables.
Basic Economy. In the first half of the 1990s, the Czech economy was transformed from a centrally planned economy to an essentially privatized, market-oriented economy. Small businesses nationalized during the 1950s by the communist regime were returned to the rightful owners or their heirs; small businesses created during the socialist period were auctioned off to employees or outsiders. Large enterprises were privatized through the sale of vouchers to citizens over 18 years of age, who then became shareholders. Some of the heavy industries and banks still owned by the state may be privatized in the future. For basic needs, particularly temperate-zone food products, Czech society is self-sufficient, but it imports oil and gas. The republic has supplies of coal and lignite (brown coal) and uranium ore. Well over half the country's electrical energy is generated by coal-fired thermal power stations, some is supplied by nuclear plants, and a relatively small amount is produced by waterpower.
Land Tenure and Property. Prior to World War I, noble families had extensive holdings of farmland and forests (for example, the Schwarzenberg family owned 248,000 hectares of land). After Czechoslovakia was established at the end of World War I (1918), the new government considered land reform a priority. The first land reform restricted considerably the economic power of both the nobility and the large landowners by reducing their holdings of agricultural and forest land. The land subject to expropriation was allotted to smallholders, farming cottagers, small craftspeople, landless persons, etc. After 1948, when the communists took over, collectivization and nationalization of land became almost total; by 1977 only 2.4 percent of all persons permanently active in agriculture owned land, and all of these were small farmers in mountainous regions. Aside from agricultural cooperatives, private holdings of land are now very modest: the rural summer cottages owned by many urban residents generally occupy lots of only a fraction of an acre.
Restitution of property began after the velvet revolution of 1989. With respect to the former nobility, restitution has had mixed results. Many children of the original owners were living in foreign countries and had no experience with or desire to become entrepreneurs in large-scale agriculture or forest management. In many cases their castles or mansions were found to be in such a state of neglect that restoration and maintenance have been beyond their means. Nevertheless the heirs and the few original owners still living are pleased to have the option of owning their former homes once again.
Major Industries. The Czech Republic has long been highly developed industrially. The leading industries include the manufacture of machinery, automobiles, chemicals, refined petroleum products, fertilizers, cement, iron and steel, glass, textiles, footwear, and beer. Many industrial enterprises have been undergoing restructuring to catch up with those in the West. After an initial decline in aggregate output in 1990, modest growth resumed in 1994.
Under communism, agriculture was almost completely collectivized. Postcommunist privatization did not result in a return to small-scale private farming because agricultural workers prefer to be shareholders in privatized cooperatives. The collectivization of the 1950s resulted in rapid mechanization of agricultural work, which is now the most advanced in central and eastern Europe. Today the agricultural labor force is only about a quarter of a million, or 5 percent of the total labor force. The most commonly cultivated crops are grains, fodder, sugar beets, rape, potatoes, and hops. Hops, which are used in the production of beer and for pharmaceutical products, are exported. Livestock production involves primarily cattle, pigs, and poultry. Lumber is another export, especially from southern Bohemia.
Under communism, industry was the priority sector and service-oriented industries were neglected; heavy industry's share of output was larger than that in developed capitalist economies. The neglect of services gave rise to a so-called second economy in which services were obtained by barter or by paying someone on a private basis. In the 1990s, service industries began to grow rapidly.
A consequence of the communist regime's stress on industrial production without proper safeguards against polluting the environment was ecological devastation of certain regions, especially in northern Bohemia (in and around the city of Most) and northern Moravia (the city of Ostrava). Even Prague is polluted, mainly from the many cars in the city center.
Trade. The Czech economy is highly dependent on foreign trade. The republic imports mainly from the same countries it exports to: Germany, Slovakia, the United States, Austria, Italy, and Russia. Exports consist primarily of manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment (including automobiles), and chemicals; imports include goods of those types as well as fuels and lubricants. The Czech economy runs a large trade deficit with Russia, importing energy and raw materials but exporting relatively little. Because the Czech crown is now freely convertible, there is practically no limit to what can be purchased by those who have the funds. Since 1994, inflation has been 10 percent or less per year (in 1999 it was only 2.1 percent, and the estimate for 2000 is 4 percent).
Classes and Castes. After World War I, when Czechoslovakia became an independent country, the middle class was the largest socioeconomic class. Poverty and unemployment were most noticeable in the large cities and least prevalent in farming villages. The wealthy included those owning businesses and the relatively few members of noble families, who had lost their titles with the establishment of the republic in 1918 but not much of their property, which included castles and large tracts.
Under the communist regime after World War II, the economic status of manual workers rose and that of highly specialized people declined steeply (physicians were paid no more than street pavers, who were paid reasonably well). A new elite consisted of the most active members of the Communist Party. They enjoyed numerous privileges, such as large apartments, access to special hospitals, special stores with merchandise not available to others, and for those in high government positions, state automobiles with chauffeurs. Ethnicity was of no consequence; what mattered was political activity and dependability.
This political elitism ended after 1989. Successful businesspeople now have visible wealth: luxury cars, expensive villas, and maids and chauffeurs. By contrast, older people complain that their pensions do not keep pace with the cost of living; pensioners therefore often vote for leftist parties that advocate controlled prices.
Government. The Czech Republic is a parliamentary democracy. The president is elected for a five-year term and may not be elected for more than two consecutive terms. The president appoints and dismisses the prime minister, appoints certain high officials, and can veto any bills (other than constitutional ones) passed by parliament. Václav Havel (1936–), a playwright, essayist, and political dissident during the communist regime, became president of the postcommunist republic (1989–1992) and in 1993 was the first president of the Czech Republic.
The parliament consists of the Chamber of Deputies (two hundred deputies elected for four-year terms) and the Senate (eighty-one senators elected for six-year terms). The government consists of the prime minister, his or her deputies, and the ministers who make up the cabinet; the cabinet is the supreme body of executive power. The highest judicial body is the supreme court.
Leadership and Political Officials. Since the end of the communist regime, political life has again been characterized by a considerable number of political parties. In the 1992 elections, forty-two parties and movements participated, with eight receiving 5 percent or more of the popular vote. Because of the large number of parties, no party receives a majority, and the government is formed by a coalition of the parties with the most votes. Parties range from conservative, to Christian democratic, to social democratic, to communist. The strongest in the 1998 election were the Czech Social Democratic Party (32.3 percent), the Civic Democratic Party (27.7 percent), and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (11 percent).
Social Problems and Control. The most common crime is pickpocketing, usually in crowded streetcars and subways. Prague is among the European capitals with the highest rates for this type of crime. Czechs attribute these thefts and more serious criminal acts to non-Czech minorities and citizens of poorer eastern European countries who have entered the republic legally or illegally. The privatization of formerly state-owned businesses and enterprises has resulted in many cases of embezzlement and, to a lesser extent, bribery. Violent crimes are more common than they were under communism. Many citizens feel that the police are not as numerous or efficient as they should be and that the courts are too lenient.
Military Activity. Military service of one year is compulsory for all males without physical limitations, but a civilian work assignment of eighteen months may be substituted. Active duty personnel in 1996 totaled forty-four thousand, of whom 36.4 percent were in the air force. Military expenditures in 1995 accounted for 2.3 percent of gross national product compared to the world average of 2.8 percent.
Social Welfare and Change Programs
Social programs cover old age, invalidism, death, sickness and maternity, work injury, unemployment, and allowances per child. Under the communist regime, every person had the right to employment; however, some jobs would have been unnecessary in a market-oriented economy. There was a saying, "The state pretends to pay us, and we pretend to work." Even though many of these superfluous jobs have been eliminated, unemployment was only 6 percent in 1998.
Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations
There are few formal social clubs or organizations. Most socializing takes place in pubs or outdoors during summer holidays. The few organizations that exist are of a serious nature, such as scholarly associations and political clubs. Sports organizations and groups interested in such activities as fishing and stamp collecting are quite active. In general, however, Czechs prefer to use their free time according to their own tastes, especially in the large cities.
Gender Roles and Statuses
Division of Labor by Gender. Before World War II, most middle-class women did not work, remaining at home to run the household and take care of the children. Women constituted no more than a third of the labor force. This began to change during World War II, when the occupying German authorities required many women to replace men forced into work for the war effort. Under the postwar communist regime, many women worked to improve the economic situation of their families; the state facilitated women's employment by making day nurseries available. In 1976, about 87 percent of women of working age were employed. The latest available figures (1995) show a high proportion of women in the total labor force: 46.2 percent compared to 53.8 percent for men.
The Relative Status of Women and Men. Women have made significant strides since World War II in terms of employment opportunities and participation in public life. However, a disproportionate number of women are in the lower half of the pay scale. Women remain concentrated in the traditional sectors of female employment: retail sales, health care, elementary schools, and social work. While the concept of equality between men and women is recognized, the husbands of women who are fully employed seldom perform half the household duties. Because a number of the mechanical conveniences taken for granted in the West are not widely affordable, most women work harder at home than American women do. However, women have a large say in how money is spent and how the family uses its free time and are becoming increasingly active in political life, business (banks and insurance companies), and civil service (post offices).
Marriage, family, and Kinship
Marriage. For much of the twentieth century, the selection of a spouse has rested with the young couple. Before World War II, socioeconomic standing and education were of considerable importance in the selection of a husband or wife. Middle-class men usually did not marry until they were launched in their careers, typically in their late twenties or early thirties; women usually married in their early or middle twenties. More recently, men have begun to marry earlier. There are no legal restrictions on who can marry except for marriages between close relatives. The number of legal marriages in 1996 was 5.2 per 1,000. This number is low because the percentage of young adults in the age range 15–29 is among the lowest in the world (because this is also true for the 0–14 age group, the low number of marriages is expected to continue). Relative to the low marriage rate, the divorce rate of 3.2 per 1,000 population is quite high.
Czech newlyweds prefer to live separately from their families, but because of housing shortages in the larger cities, that goal is not easy to attain. Both spouses usually work unless a very young child keeps a mother temporarily at home.
Domestic Unit. The typical household unit is the nuclear family, consisting of husband, wife, and children or stepchildren. Because of the housing shortage, a widowed mother of one of the spouses may be included in the household; she is a valuable addition to the nuclear family if the young couple has children because she can provide child care while the mother works. In the Moravian countryside, where people own family houses, parents commonly live with their adult children. Typically, when Moravians build a family house, they include space in it for their parents.
Inheritance. The importance of inheritance diminished under the communist regime because all businesses and properties except for family houses were nationalized. Privatization began after the velvet revolution in 1989, and most property owned privately before 1948 has been returned to the owners or their descendants.
Kin Groups. For urban Czechs, the effective kin group is limited to the closest relatives. For most people, collateral relatives more distant than uncles, aunts, and first cousins are seen only on special occasions such as weddings and funerals. However, most villagers, especially in Moravia, continue to maintain relations with more distant relatives. Descent is bilateral, that is, through both the mother's and the father's lines, but the husband's surname becomes the family name.
Infant Care. The birthrate in the Czech Republic was 8.8 per 1,000 in 1996, compared with the world average of 25. About 84 percent of children are born to parents who are married. Because of the small size of a typical Czech family, the birth of a child is a special event. Baby showers are not common, but close friends frequently give a gift when a child has been born. Before World War II, most women were expected to stay at home and take care of the children and the household. Since the 1950s, many women of childbearing age have held jobs to help maintain a decent economic standard. Women were given generous maternity leaves—usually six months at 90 percent of full pay and at 60 percent of full pay until the child was 3 years old. Since the 1990s, the rules governing maternity leave have been much less generous. However, if a new mother has help from her mother or mother-in-law, she is likely to return to work as soon as possible.
During the first two years, children are given much attention. Most babies are bottle-fed, but some mothers still breast-feed their babies until the first teeth appear. When babies no longer awaken for feedings during the night, they are moved to a separate room if space is available. It is customary to take children outdoors every day in prams or strollers. In cities, two or three mothers from the neighborhood are likely to be found sitting and talking in a nearby park while their babies are getting fresh air and sunshine.
Child Rearing and Education. Although fathers are usually the heads of families, mothers exercise authority over young children. Czech children are expected to be obedient after being admonished. They are reprimanded whenever they are considered to be out of line and usually are made to feel guilty for unacceptable behavior. Praise for good behavior is not dispensed often. Children are taught to be orderly, hardworking, practical, and egalitarian and are expected not to resort to physical violence.
If a family can live on the father's income, the mother stays at home during a child's early years. At about age 3, many children are sent to day nurseries, and a year or two later to kindergarten. Since 1990, some of these preschool services have been discontinued or have become more costly.
Higher Education. Education is highly valued, and academic titles receive great respect. School teachers used to enjoy fairly high status and wield a great deal of authority on school premises; in recent years, their pay has become relatively low and their prestige has suffered. Most parents pressure their children to do well in school. For a child to have to repeat a grade is embarrassing for the family.
Children begin school at age 6 and must remain in school until age 15. All students attend elementary school for the first five years. Those who plan to go to a university move on to an eight-year gymnázium, a secondary school that prepares them for higher education. To be accepted at a gymnasium, students must pass written examinations in mathematics and Czech. At the end of the eighth year, they take a final school-leaving examination (maturita ). An alternative is to take nine years of basic education with the option of continuing with either the last four years of gymnasium or a four-year specialized training program in schools that prepare students to become nurses, electricians, and so on, or to enter business or management. Public kindergartens and primary and secondary schools are free. Recently, a few private and parochial schools became available at the primary and secondary levels. Their quality is good, but not many parents can afford the tuition. University students are not charged tuition but must pay for their textbooks as well as board and lodging.
Social interaction is not much different from that in other central European countries; compared to that in the United States, it is rather formal. This formality is in part caused by the Czech language, which has two forms of the second-person personal pronoun. The "familiar" form is used to address a member of the family, a good friend of long standing, or a child or by a child addressing another child. The "polite" form is used in more formal situations. It is not uncommon for colleagues of similar age in neighboring offices to use the formal form when talking with each other.
The tendency toward formal behavior is strengthened by the tradition of using titles. The use of someone's first name is limited to older family members addressing younger ones and to very good friends. It usually takes daily contact over a number of years before people are on a first-name basis. Much less informal contact reinforces the social distance between people. Because Czech apartments are small, invitations to visit and casual dropping by occur only among good friends.
Czechs stand at arm's length from each other unless they are conveying information that should not be overheard. Like other Europeans, Czechs do not show as much consideration as one finds in Britain or in smaller cities in the United States when several people are boarding a streetcar, bus, or train or waiting to be served in a store. Their tendency to get ahead of others may reflect the experience of the socialist years, when people had to stand in lines for scarce goods.
Because there are no significant differences in social equality by virtue of position or ethnic background (with the exception of the Romany [Gypsies], who are disapproved of for allegedly committing petty thefts), the rules of etiquette are alike for all members of the society. Because Czechs emphasize cleanliness, most remove their shoes when entering private homes. They eat in the Continental style, with the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right, and there is no special attempt to converse at meals. When attending cultural events, Czechs dress for the occasion, and young women try to follow the latest styles. Younger people tend to be more informal and self-confident than their elders.
Religious Beliefs. Christianity was brought to the area of the Czech Republic during the ninth century by missionaries from Germany to the west (the Latin rite) and the Byzantine Empire to the southeast (the Eastern rite). The missionaries of the Eastern rite were the brothers Constantine (later renamed Cyril) and Methodius, natives of Thessalonica in Macedonia. They arrived in 863, invited by Rostislav (or Rastislav), ruler of the Great Moravian Empire, and devised the first Slavic writing system, in which they published parts of the Bible in a Slavic language that was intelligible to the local population. The arrival of the Magyars in the middle Danube area near the end of the ninth century and their subsequent raids to the north led to the disintegration of the Great Moravian Empire and weakened the influence of the Eastern rite. By the time a bishopric was established in 973 in Prague, Roman Catholic missionaries had prevailed and Latin had become the liturgical language.
A breach with Rome took place during the first half of the fifteenth century as a consequence of the reform movement begun by Jan Hus. After Hus was burned at the stake in Constance in 1415, his legacy became a lasting aspect of the national heritage. It was reinforced in the middle of the sixteenth century by the attempts of Ferdinand I, the Holy Roman emperor and Bohemian king, to bring the population back under the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. After the army of the Bohemian estates was defeated by Ferdinand II in the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, Catholicism and Hapsburg rule tended to be equated as symbols of foreign oppression.
Precise numbers of the members of various denominations are not available; approximate percentages are Roman Catholics, 40 percent; Protestants, 4 to 5 percent; Orthodox, 1 percent; and uncommitted, atheists, and agnostics, 54 percent. Many Czech Catholics tend to be lukewarm in their faith. Moravian Catholics are more committed. Religious sentiments have always been more strongly felt and expressed in rural areas. Since the end of World War I, strong secularist tendencies have been evident. The forty-one years of communist rule (1948 to 1989) further undermined religious practices and expression: Those who regularly attended religious services were discriminated against in terms of professional advancement. After 1989, a resurgence of religious beliefs and observances became noticeable, especially among young people.
Before World War II, about 120,000 Jews lived in the Czech lands. Except for those who married non-Jews and the relatively few who were able to emigrate, most Jews—about 80,000—died in Nazi concentration camps. After the war, only a very few of those who escaped the Holocaust returned.
Religious Practitioners. The Roman Catholic Church has archdioceses in Prague, founded in 1344, and Olomouc (Moravia), founded in 1777. The archbishop of the Prague archdiocese is the only Czech cardinal. In addition, there are six dioceses headed by bishops: four in Bohemia and two in Moravia.
The Protestant churches (in Czech usually referred to by a term translated as "Evangelical") are small, less hierarchical, and diversified. Among those registered in 1995 were the Baptists, Czech Brethren, the Czechoslovak Hussite Church, Jehovah's Witnesses, Methodists, Pentecostalists, Seventh-Day Adventists, and the Silesian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession. Other denominations include the Czech Orthodox Church, the Old Catholic Church, the Unitarians, and the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic.
Rituals and Holy Places. Catholic churches or chapels are found in even the smallest communities. Other denominations and religious organizations have church buildings only in areas where a congregation is large enough to support them. Smaller groups gather for worship in private homes or hold meetings in rented quarters.
There were several places of pilgrimage—all Catholic—where the devout used to travel every year to attend a mass commemorating the local saint. Most of those sites were of only regional significance, but a few were known throughout the country. For example, pilgrimages began in 1647 to the church at Svatá hora, a hill above Příbram in central Bohemia. Beginning in 1990, pilgrimages were resumed in eastern Moravia (Hostýn and Velehrad). Many of these yearly ceremonies have turned into events resembling country fairs and are attended by thousands of people. An example is Matthew's Fair (matějská pout' ), which takes place on the outskirts of Prague every spring.
Death and the Afterlife. Serious church members, whether Catholic or Protestant, believe in an afterlife. Even lukewarm Catholics frequently arrange for a dying family member to receive the last rites before death. In the past, the dead usually were buried in a casket and their graves were provided with elaborate headstones. Over the last fifty years, cremation has become the accepted practice, but in rural Moravia, burying in the ground still predominates.
Medicine and Health Care
The extensive use of medicinal plants was replaced during the first half of the twentieth century by the use of synthetic drugs. Many of these drugs are produced by a well-developed domestic pharmaceutical industry. Czech medicine has always followed the course of Western medicine and kept up with modern advances.
Health spas using thermal mineral waters and/ or mud or peat baths are numerous and popular. Some are world-famous, such as Marienbad (MariánskéLázně ) and Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary ). Karlsbad was well known by the end of the eighteenth century; members of the European aristocracy often visited it to regain or improve their health.
Health insurance was widely available before World War II. Under communism, free health care was provided to all citizens, but its quality varied. Most Czechs would agree that the system was abused. Medical waiting rooms were crowded not only with people who had good reason to be there but also with those who wanted to leave their places of employment to take care of private matters such as standing in line for items in short supply. Free health care continues to be available, but the system is monitored more closely. To avoid long waits, patients who have the financial means often see private physicians.
In general, health services in the Czech Republic are much better than the world average: the number of persons per physician is one of the lowest in the world, and the number of hospital beds per capita is among the highest. Equally impressive is the infant mortality rate of 6 per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy at birth is 70.5 years for males, and 77.5 years for women (1997). The major causes of death are diseases of the circulatory system and cancer.
Holidays include New Year's Day; Easter Monday; Labor Day (1 May); 8 May, which commemorates the day in 1945 that saw the end of the occupation by Nazi Germany and the German signing of an unconditional surrender to the Allies; 5 July, which celebrates the arrival in 863 of the Slavic missionaries Constantine and Methodius; 6 July, in memory of the burning at the stake of Jan Hus in 1415; 28 September, Czech Statehood Day; 28 October, which marks the founding of Czechoslovakia in 1918; 17 November, Day of the Struggle for Freedom and Democracy; and Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the following day (December 24–26).
Although state television and radio present special commemorative programs on many of these holidays, most Czechs spend their days off with the family, visiting relatives, and attending sports events, theaters, and concerts. Those who live in Prague spend their holidays in country cottages working in the garden and enjoying the outdoors.
The Arts and Humanities
Support for the Arts. Under the communist regime, prominent writers, painters, and sculptors as well as museums, theaters, art galleries, and major orchestras were supported by the state. This generous support of theaters and orchestras meant that tickets to artistic events, from play readings to costly productions such as operas in Prague's National Theater, were affordable by all. Those in the arts who received state money had to conform to political and ideological dictates, or at least make certain that they did not offend the Soviet Union, those in power in their own country, and the Communist Party. Working under such strictures became unbearable for some of the most creative writers, such as Josef Škvorecký (1924–) and Milan Kundera (1929–), both of whom left the country to write and publish abroad.
Since the velvet revolution of 1989, artists have enjoyed freedom of expression and most support themselves. However, prestigious artistic institutions and ensembles such as the National Theater, the National Gallery, and the Czech Philharmonic continue to receive state support.
Literature. The first literary language in the area of the present-day Czech Republic was Old Church Slavic, which was used by the missionaries Constantine and Methodius. Although Latin predominated from the eleventh through the fourteenth centuries, Czech began to be used during the thirteenth century, and during the fourteenth was employed in a great variety of genres: legends, tracts, dramatic compositions, satires, and fables. The activities of the United Brethren, especially a translation of the Bible toward the end of the sixteenth century, contributed greatly to the stabilization of the Czech literary language.
Modern Czech literature began to develop during the nineteenth century. The founder of modern Czech poetry was Karel Hynek Mácha (1810–1836), whose long poem Máj (May) was published in 1836. Celebrating the beauty of the spring countryside and romantic love, Mácha's work made masterful use of the sound qualities of the Czech language in dealing with death and faith, the execution of a young man who killed his father for having seduced the girl the son loved, and the girl's suicide; those themes were quite daring for their time. In prose, the most enduring early work was Babička (Grandmother) by Božena Němcová (1820–1862). The author depicted rural life during the first half of the nineteenth century, including the folk customs that took place in the different seasons. By 1998, more than 350 editions of this work had appeared.
Another popular writer, Alois Jirásek (1851–1930), produced both novels and plays based on themes of Czech history ranging from the Hussite movement to the national revival. The poet Otokar Březina (1868–1929) had a great influence on lyrical poetry in the twentieth century; his five collections of poems reflected a profound knowledge of world literature, philosophy, and theology. Karel Čapek (1890–1938) is known the world over in translation. His literary production includes plays, children's books, informal essays about his travels in Europe, utopian novels, and novels in which he explores the nature and foundations of knowledge. The English word "robot" comes from Čapek's play RUR (Rossum's Universal Robots ).
In general, Czech lyric poetry has surpassed in quality both prose and dramatic writing. The Czechs are enthusiastic readers and often read in trains and buses and on the Prague subway. Translations of foreign books are readily available.
Graphic Arts. Stone architecture in the Czech lands dates from the second half of the ninth century (rotundas). By the thirteenth century, the Romanesque style had been replaced by the Gothic, which reached its peak during the reigns of Charles IV (1346–1378) and his son Václav IV (1378–1419). Prague has thousands of architectural and artistic monuments of every style, attesting to its long history (the fortified settlement around which Prague developed was founded toward the end of the ninth century). The palaces and mansions of Prague are small, but what they lack in size is compensated for by their intimacy and their setting in old Prague's narrow, curving streets. Foreign visitors consider Prague one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Painting and sculpture have a long history, ranging from the works of Theodorik, court painter of Charles IV, to the newest postmodernist styles. Among the most revered painters are Josef Mánes (1820–1871), a landscape and portrait painter and the author of ethnographic sketches and illustrations; Mikoláš Aleš (1852–1913), who depicted Czech historical events and scenes from folklife; and Alfons Mucha (1860–1939), an internationally known representative of Art Nouveau. Mucha was one of the founders of modern poster art, and reproductions of his posters remain popular. Among modern painters is František Kupka (1871–1957), who lived in France after 1906. He was a pioneer of abstract art and is best known for nonfigurative representations.
Among Czech sculptors are Josef Václav Myslbek (1848–1922), a representative of monumental realism exemplified by the statue of Saint Wenceslas in Prague's main square, and Jan Štursa (1880–1925), whose female figures are admired for their sensuously shaped forms.
Performance Arts. In the Czech Republic, music is the most popular art, and Czech music is well known in the rest of the world. The old saying "Co Čech, to muzikant " ("Every Czech is a musician") is a succinct characterization of the Czech disposition. Renaissance vocal polyphonic music was composed and performed during the sixteenth century, Italian operas were presented not only in Prague but in smaller towns in the eighteenth century, and at the time when the Baroque was giving way to classicism, numerous musicians from the Czech lands were active in many European countries. Among Czech composers, four are heard in the concert halls and opera houses around the world. Bedřich Smetana (1824–1884) composed the six symphonic poems My Country (Má vlast ) and the folk opera The Bartered Bride (Prodaná nevěsta ). Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904), who composed works in many genres, is known especially for his sixteen Slavonic Dances (Slovanskétance ) and Symphony No. 9, From the New World ; he was also the founder and the director for three years of the National Conservatory of Music in New York (1892–1895). Leoš Janáček (1854–1928) was a Moravian composer known for strongly rhythmic and dramatic operas, such as Jenufa (Její pastorkyňa ), and Bohuslav Martinů (1890–1959) composed operas, symphonies, and chamber music.
Every May since 1946, music lovers from many countries come to Prague to attend the concerts, recitals, and other musical events offered every day. Not only the best Czech musicians but foreign ensembles and soloists take part in this music festival known as Prague Spring (Pražské jaro ).
Drama and ballet are well represented not only in Prague but also in several Bohemian and Moravian cities. There is a long tradition of puppetry, ranging from well-known nomadic puppeteers in the eighteenth century to a professional network of puppet theaters today. Prague is also known for its Laterna magika (Magic Lantern ), founded in 1958, a mixed-media spectacle that combines live performance with film, slides, and music. Laterna magika was shown at world's fairs in Brussels in 1958 and Montreal in 1967. Czech filmmakers have had great successes, and several of their works have received Oscars, including Kolya in 1997. Probably the best-known Czech director is Miloš Forman (1932–), who left the country in 1968 because of its lack of artistic freedom. Among his films made in the United States are Taking Off (1971), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), and Amadeus (1984).
The State of the Physical and Social Sciences
The physical sciences in the Czech Republic are of respectable quality, and research in some fields is well known abroad, for example, in polymer chemistry. Among Czechs who distinguished themselves internationally were Jaroslav Heyrovský (1890–1967) and Václav Hlavatý (1894–1969). Heyrovský was a physical chemist who won the Nobel Prize in 1959 for his discovery of polarography and its use in analytic chemistry. One of the craters on the moon bears his name. Hlavatý's specialties were differential and algebraic geometry and the general theory of relativity, on which he closely collaborated with Albert Einstein. After World War II, Hlavatý became politically active. After the communist takeover in 1948, he settled in the United States.
During the communist regime, work in the social sciences was severely limited, especially in sociology and political science. Since the application of Marxist-Leninist theory and practice was supposed to lead inevitably to the best possible society, what was there to study at home? Also, research that showed injustice or other defects in Czechoslovak society would disagree with the official view.
Several disciplines in the social sciences did manage to carry on but remained relatively unproductive—for example, ethnography. Ethnographic research was done almost exclusively in Czechoslovakia and was concerned mainly with history and variations of regional subcultures. However, there were several outstanding scholars in Egyptology, Indology, and Celtic languages and cultures.
The highest scientific institution in Czechoslovakia was the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences with headquarters in Prague. It consisted of over fifty institutes, most of them devoted to research in the empirical sciences. The scientific activities of the academy were guided by the state plan of basic research, itself part of a government-approved plan for the development of science and technology. The activities of the various institutes were therefore tightly controlled. For example, sociology and philosophy were combined in the same academic institute, and the few sociological research projects that were undertaken had to conform to Marxist ideology.
The succeeding institution, the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, was established in 1992. Although the personnel of the institutes was reduced, as was their funding, politics was taken out of the sciences. Research projects in the various institutes are limited by the scarcity of researchers and funds. However, scientists outside the institutes of the academy, for example university faculty, can apply for research funds to the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic.
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