A continuous history of what is called the Czech Republic today began to be written in the early thirties of the 6th century. The first Slavic agglomeration is supported by the existence of Samo’s Empire in the mid-seventh century and subsequently by the Great Moravian Empire . An important landmark in the overall development of the Slavonic territories was arrival of brothers Cyril and Methodius , “the apostles of the Slavs”, in the territory of the Great Moravian Empire at the turn of 863 and 864. Since that time, Old Church Slavonic became a language used in a translation of the Bible and in the liturgy intelligible to the Slavs. The Great Moravian Empire disintegrated and ceased to exist in the early nineties of the 10th century with the first form of the Czech state emerging on the ruins of the previous empire.
Bořivoj I, the first, historically documented Duke of Bohemia, ruled from 874 to 891. Prince Bořivoj of the Přemyslids, baptized by Archbishop Methodius in the eighties of the 9th century, contributed to a dramatic progress of evangelization in Bohemia. The first church buildings on the territory of the then Bohemia were founded under his rule. The first-ever Christian church building was constructed at Levý Hradec (which is now called Roztoky u Prahy) from where Bořivoj I reigned at that time. Later, he had a little church built and consecrated to the Virgin Mary at the location of a pagan place of sacrifices upon the Vltava River. A site of a fortified settlement, later a princely palace, started to be built at this location under the reign of Spytihněv I, son of Bořivoj I. In fact, this was the beginning of construction of the Prague castle from where Spytihněv I reigned. After his death, it was his younger brother, Vratislav I, father of Václav (Wenceslas) and Boleslav, who assumed the reigns. After Vratislav’s death (in 921), the reign was entrusted to his wife, Drahomíra (Dragomir), until Václav became an adult. Václav took over administration of the country from his mother in about 924. In the latter half of the twenties of the 10th century, Prince Václav established St. Vitus’s Cathedral within the Prague castle acquiring remains of the Saxon nation’s patron saint Vitus from Saxon king Henry. However, there were many quarrels between Václav and his brother Boleslav, which culminated in assassination of Prince Václav probably on 28th September 935, reportedly plotted by Boleslav who took the Prague princely throne after him. Being canonized in the second half of the 11th century, Václav has inherently become regarded as the Czech nation’s patron saint.
Prince Boleslav, Václav’s brother, was undoubtedly involved in consolidation of the beginning Czech statehood, and thanks to his involvement, a bishopric was established in Prague headed by Vojtěch (Adalbert) of the Slavník family since 982 – the founder of the Břevnov Monastery (in 993) – later canonized. Vojtěch endeavoured to harmonize relations between the Church and the society being extremely responsible for Christianization of the Czech as well as Polish and Hungarian regions of Central Europe. Vojtěch or his fellows baptized their future kings.
The territory populated by the Czechs had been just a principality until 1212. In that year, the Přemysl duke Otakar I received a charter known as the Golden Bull of Sicily from the then king of Sicily Frederick II. The Bull raised the Czech principality to a kingdom while guaranteeing the monarchy to become hereditary. Otakar I became the first Czech king. He was crowned in 1198 and then in 1203 again.
Throughout its history, the Czech state consisted of the Kingdom of Bohemia and the Margraviate of Moravia (recognized at a Reichstag in Regensburg in 1182). The Přemyslids (the house of Přemysl) continued to rule until 1306 when their reign ended with King Václav III being assassinated in Olomouc (Olmütz).
After his death, the Přemyslid dynasty ruled just on the distaff side. The Czech throne was mounted by the Luxembourg dynasty. This dynasty ruled until 1436. Clearly the most significant monarch of the Luxembourg dynasty was Charles IV (Karel IV.), king of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor. Under his rule, Bohemia experienced the greatest deal of prosperity. Prague became a leading European centre. The Prague Archbishopric, St. Wenceslas’s Crown Jewels and St. Wenceslas’s tradition all emerged. Charles IV founded the Prague University. Moreover, the Prague New Town as well as many other important buildings such as Karlštejn castle and Charles Bridge was constructed. After Charles’s death, his son, Václav IV, took the throne. Under his rule, the country fell into chaos. There were religious tumults culminating in burning preacher Jan Hus to death in 1415 because of him standing out against the Roman church and requiring its reform. Subsequently, Bohemia and a part of Central Europe were devastated by the Hussite wars .
In 1526, it is the Habsburgs (Ferdinand I of Habsburg) who came to the Czech throne making Bohemia part of the Habsburg Monarchy. The most important monarch after 1526 is considered to be Roman Emperor Rudolf II, who was crowned king of Bohemia in 1575 and German king later. Under his reign, Prague enjoys prosperity becoming a modern European centre again. After his death (in 1612), there were several uprisings against the Habsburgs, led by the Czech estates, culminating in their defeat in the Battle of the White Mountain (Bílá hora) on 8th November 1620. Thus, Europe appeared on the verge of the Thirty Years’ War. Bohemia experienced forcible re-Catholicization, which did not end until the reforms introduced by Joseph II in 1781.
A National Revival had been under way in the Czech Lands since the early 19th century. A modern Czech language began to be formed thanks to national revivalists such as František Palacký, Josef Dobrovský, Josef Jungmann and Karel Havlíček Borovský.
After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, caused by its defeat in World War I, the Czechoslovak Republic was established on 28th October 1918 with Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk being elected its first president. The period between the two world wars (1918–1939) is called the First Republic. At that time, the Czechoslovak Republic ranked among the most economically developed countries in Europe, especially in the area of mechanical engineering.
The existence of the First Republic was ended by the Nazi invasion of the country in 1939, after conclusion of the Munich accord (9/1939). Czechoslovakia was divided into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and the Slovak State. The country was reunited in 1945 after Germany had been defeated and the Czech government-in-exile headed by Edvard Beneš had returned from London.
As a result of political settlement in Europe after World War II, the territory of Czechoslovakia fell to the so-called Soviet sphere of influence, which, to a great degree, resulted in the communists seizing power after their coup in February 1948. In 1960, the state was renamed “ The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic”. In 1968, some reformers among the communists made an attempt for partial democratization of the society. These efforts were suppressed in August of the same year as the troops of the Warsaw Pact allies invaded the country. After the unsuccessful attempt for democratization, the period of the so-called normalization started during 1969. This was a period when those persons and activities that failed to identify themselves with the Soviet occupation and the subsequent normalization were persecuted by the state machinery.
During the early 1980’s, democratization trends started appearing more intensely again in the other East European countries as well – in the countries of the so-called Soviet bloc. In November 1989, the situation in Czechoslovakia culminated in the so-called Velvet Revolution . Under pressure from the public, the communists backed out of the Establishment as well as police operations against the population. On 29th December 1989, the Federal Assembly voted Václav Havel, the candidate and representative of a new democratic block (Civic Forum), who brought the Czechoslovak Federal Republic to the first free election after more than 40 years in June 1990, for president.
On 1st January 1993, the Czechoslovak Federal Republic was divided into two independent separate states, the Czech and Slovak Republics, by mutual agreement. The Czech Republic became a NATO member in 1999 and joined the European Union in 2004.
At present, the Czech Republic is a modern and democratic country with a rich cultural and historical heritage.