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CZECH REPUBLIC : PRAGUE HISTORY


The city is located in the center of Bohemia and is the capital and largest city in the Czech Republic. The Vltava River divides the city into eastern and western banks.  On the eastern side is the Old Town.  The Old Town Hall is one of the many historic sites located in the Old Town. The city dates all the way back to the ninth century as a castle on a hill commanding the right bank of the Vltava: this is known as Vyšehrad ("high castle") to differentiate from an other castle which was later erected on the opposite bank, the future Hradčany. Soon the city became the seat of the kings of Bohemia, some of whom also reigned as emperors of the Holy Roman Empire in later times.

It was in the fourteenth century that Prague became the second largest city in Europe, behind only Paris. Charles IV became the King of Bohemia in 1346 and Holy Roman Emperor in 1355.  He turned Prague into his imperial capital by building Charles University and the Charles Bridge over the Vltava River.  Under King Wenceslas IV (1378-1419) Jan Hus, a theologian and lector at the University, held his preachers and sermons in Prague. Since 1402 he summoned his followers in the Bethlehem Chapel, speaking in Czech language in order to enlarge as much as possible the diffusion of his ideas about the renovation of the church. Having become too much dangerous for the political and religious establishment, Hus was burned in Constance in 1415.  

In 1618, Protestants threw two Catholic governors out of one of the Prague castle windows.  This act called the Defenestration of Prague helped the start of the Thirty Years’ War.  During this war the Czechs were defeated at the battle of White Mountain in 1620.  Twenty-seven Czechs were executed and the Czech nobility was thrown out.  

The Seven Years’ War began in 1757, and Prague was taken over by Prussian forces under rule of Frederick II.  Later Prague’s four towns were joined into one big city, and the Czechs once again revolted against Habsburg rule.  As a result Austrian forces bombarded the city in 1848. Prague once again underwent a rapid period of growth and became the center of the Czech National Movement.  Austrians surrendered to the Prussian forces in 1866 during the Seven Weeks’ War.  Habsburg control continued until World War I in 1914.

World War I ended with the defeat of the Austrian Empire and the creation of Czechoslovakia. Prague was chosen as its capital. At this time Prague was a true European capital with a very developed industry. In 1930 the population had risen to a startling 850,000.For most of his history Prague had been a multiethnic city with important Czech, German, and (a mostly Yiddish- and/ or German-speaking) Jewish populations. 

German forces occupied Prague during World War II. Most Jews either fled the city or were killed in the Holocaust. The German population, which had formed the majority of the city's inhabitants until the 19th century, was expelled in the aftermath of the war. After 1945 a communist government came to power in Czechoslovakia.  Because of the communism, Prague’s traditional links to other European cities were broken off.  The city was isolated and the Czechoslovakian culture suffered because of the communist control.  

In the mid 1960’s, Prague had a cultural reawakening that contributed to a political reform movement led by Alexander Dubcek.  This was known as the Prague Spring.  In revenge, Soviet and other Warsaw Pact troops invaded Prague in 1968.  The reform movement was then put on hold for twenty years.  Due to public need for reform, nonviolent demonstrations eventually began in Prague’s Wenceslas Square that led to the downfall of Czechoslovakia’s communism.

In 1993, after the split of Czechoslovakia, Prague became capital city of the new Czech Republic

 

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