Czech Republic

The Czech and Slovak people of Eastern Europe first come together in the 9th Century under the Great Moravian Empire. However, the empire is split the following century following the intervention of neighbouring Hungary and the Czechs and Slovaks go their separate ways.

While the Slovaks become vassals of the Hungarians, the Bohemian Kingdom gives the Czechs self-rule until 1526, when the Austrian (Hapsburg) emperor is installed as monarch, ushering in a period of decline of Czech culture.

Czech revival comes in the 19th Century as the country is industrialised, leading to the growth of a movement for independence and reunion with Slovakia, where the notion also gains currency. The goal is achieved on 28 October 1918 following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the First World War.

The independent Czechoslovak Republic is one of the 10 most industrialised states in the world. It enjoys 20 years of prosperity, democracy and stability before the aggression of a neighbour again separates the Czechs and Slovaks.

The Sudetenland, the German-speaking area in the north of the republic, is annexed by Nazi Germany on 29 September under the terms of the 'Munich Agreement' between Britain, France, Germany and Italy. In March 1939 Nazi troops occupy all of Bohemia and Moravia. Slovakia declares its independence and becomes a puppet state of Nazi Germany.

Czechoslovakia is reformed as a democratic state in April 1945 after the tumult of the Second World War but the democracy is soon challenged by the rise of the Communist Party, which gains control of such key ministries as information, finance, and interior (including the police).

After the communists engineer a takeover of the government in February 1948 the country becomes a Soviet satellite with a Stalinist political and economic system.

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