The Czech Republic)
(Czech: ?eská republika short form in Czech: ?esko, is a landlocked country in Central Europe and a member state of the European Union. The country has borders with Poland to the
northeast, Germany to the west, Austria to the south, and Slovakia to the east. The capital and largest city is Prague (Czech: Praha). The country is
composed of the historic regions of Bohemia and Moravia,
as well as parts of Silesia.
Following the Battle of Mohács, the Czech lands fell under the Habsburg rule from 1526, later becoming part of the Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary. The independent Republic of Czechoslovakia was formed in 1918, following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire after World War I.
After the Munich Agreement, German occupation of Czechoslovakia and the consequent disillusion with the Western response and gratitude for the liberation of the major portion of Czechoslovakia by the Red Army,
the Communist party won plurality (38 %) in 1946 elections. In an 1948 coup d'état, Czechoslovakia became a
communist-ruled state. In 1968, the increasing dissatisfaction culminated in
attempts to reform the communist regime. The events, known as the Prague Spring of 1968, ended with an invasion of armies of Warsaw Pact countries, and the troops remained in the country until the overturn in 1989 Velvet Revolution,
when the communist regime collapsed. On January 1, 1993 Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved into its constituent
states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
he Czech Republic is
a pluralist multi-party parliamentary representative democracy. President Václav Klaus is the current head of state. The Prime Minister is the head of government (currently Mirek Topolánek).
The Parliament has two chambers — the Chamber of Deputies and
the Senate. The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004. It is also a member of the OECD,
the Council of Europe and the Visegrád Group.
The Czech Republic
made economic reforms such as fast privatization and flat tax.
Annual gross domestic product growth has recently been
around 6%. The country is the first former member of the Comecon to achieve the status of a developed country (2006) according to the World Bank. The Czech Republic also ranks best compared to the former Comecon countries in
the Human Development Index.
The vast majority of
the inhabitants of the Czech Republic are Czechs (94.2%).
Minorities include the Slovaks (1.9%), Poles (0.5%), Vietnamese (0.44%), Germans (0.4%), and Gypsies. According to the Interior Ministry of the Czech Republic, there were 392,087
foreigners legally residing in the country at the end of 2007, making up 3.2%
of the population, with the largest groups being Ukrainians and Slovaks.
The Czech Republic is home to between 250,000 and 300,000 Roma,
who make up the country's second largest minority population after Slovaks.
Fertility rate was low at 1.44 children born/woman. In 2007, immigration added to the population by almost 1%.
According to the Czech
Statistics Office (Foreigners in the CR, top 5 of citizenships -
31.5.2008), 126,613 Ukrainians, 71,591 Slovaks,
55,991 Vietnamese, 24,549 Russians and 21,092 Poles lived in the Czech Republic in 2008. At present, there are almost 6,000 legally
working Mongolians in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic,
along with Estonia,
has one of the least religious populations in all of Europe. According to the 2001
census, 59% of the country is agnostic, atheist, non-believer or no-organised believer, 26.8% Roman Catholic and 2.5% Protestant.
According to the most
recent Eurobarometer Poll 2005, 19% of Czech citizens responded that
"they believe there is a God" (the second lowest rate among EU countries after Estonia with 16%),
whereas 50% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or
life force" and 30% that "they do not believe there is any sort of
spirit, God, or life force".
The Czech Republic is
a pluralist multi-party parliamentary representative democracy, where the Prime Minister is the head of government. The Parliament is
bicameral, with the Chamber of Deputies (Czech: Poslanecká sn?movna) (200 members) and the Senate (81 members).
The President of the Czech Republic is elected
by joint session of the parliament for five-year term (no more than two
consecutive). The president is a formal head of state with limited specific powers, most importantly to return laws to the
parliament, nominate Constitutional Court judges for Senate's
approval, and dissolve the parliament under certain special and rare
conditions. He also appoints the prime minister as well the
other members of the cabinet on a proposal by the prime minister. Václav Klaus,
now President of the Czech Republic, former Prime Minister and chairman of Civic Democrats
(ODS) remains one of the country's most popular politicians.
The Prime Minister is the head of government and wields considerable powers, including the right
to set the agenda for most foreign and domestic policy, mobilize the
parliamentary majority, and choose governmental ministers.
The Parliament (Parlament ?eské republiky)
has two chambers.
The Chamber of Deputies (Poslanecká
sn?movna) has 200 members, elected for a four year term by proportional representation with a
5 % election threshold. There are 14 voting
districts identical to the country's administrative regions. The Chamber of
Deputies, at first the Czech National Council, has the powers and
responsibilities of the now defunct federal parliament of the former Czechoslovakia.
The Senate (Senát) has 81 members, in
single-seat constituencies elected by two-round runoff voting for a six-year term, with one third renewed every even year in the autumn. The
first election was 1996 (for differing terms). This is patterned after the U.S. Senate but each constituency is of
(roughly) same size and the system used is two-round runoff voting. The Senate
is unpopular among the public and suffers from low election turnout (overall
roughly 30% in the first round, 20% in the second).
The Czech economy
gets a substantial income from tourism: in 2001, the total earnings from
tourism reached 118.13 billion CZK,
making up 5.5% of GNP and
9.3% of overall export earnings. The industry employs more than 110,000 people
- over 1% of the population
There are several
centres of tourist activity: The historic city of Prague is the
primary tourist attraction, and the city is also the most common point of entry
for tourists visiting other parts of the country. Most other cities in the
country attract significant numbers of tourists, but the spa towns such as Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázn? and Františkovy Lázn? are particularly popular
holiday destinations. Other popular tourist sites are the many castles and
chateaux, such as those at Karlštejn, Konopišt? and ?eský Krumlov. Away from the towns, areas as ?eský ráj, Šumava and the Krkonoše Mountains attract visitors seeking
The country is also
famous for its love of puppetry and marionettes. The Pilsner style beer originated in western Bohemian city of Plze?.
Czech cuisine is
marked by a strong emphasis on meat dishes. Pork is quite common, and beef and
chicken are also popular. Goose, duck, rabbit and wild game are served. Fish is
rare, with the occasional exception of fresh trout, and carp, which is served at
Aside from Slivovitz, Czech beer and wine,
Czechs also produce two uniquely Czech liquors, Fernet Stock and Becherovka. Kofola is a non-alcoholic Czech soft drink somewhat similar in look and taste to Coca-Cola.
Sport plays a
significant part in the life of many Czechs who are
generally loyal supporters of their favourite teams or individuals. The two
leading sports in the Czech Republic are football and ice hockey,
both drawing the largest attention of both the media and supporters. The many
other sports with professional leagues and structures include basketball, volleyball, handball, athletics, floorball and others. Sport is a source of strong waves of patriotism,
usually rising several days or weeks before an event and sinking several days
after. The events considered the most important by Czech fans are: the Ice Hockey World Championship,
Olympic Ice hockey tournament, the Euro, the football World Cup and qualification matches for such events. In general, any international match of the Czech ice
hockey or football national team draws attention, especially when played
against a traditional rival: Germany in football; Russia, Sweden and Canada in ice
hockey; and Slovakia in both.
Music in the Czech
Republic has roots both in high-culture opera and symphony and in
the traditional music of Bohemia and Moravia.
Cross-pollination and diversity are important aspects of Czech music: Composers
were often influenced by traditional music; jazz and bluegrass music have
become popular; pop music often consisted of English language hits sung in Czech.