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