|Czechoslovak Federative Republic
Československá federativní republika
Česko-Slovenská Federatívna Republika
Kde domov můj • Nad Tatrou sa blýska
Where is my home? Lightning over the Tatras
|Official languages||Czech and Slovak|
|Ethnic groups (2020)||59.5% Czechs
1.40% Middle Eastern
|Religion (2019)||44.5% Roman Catholic
30.1% non-declared or non-religious
|Government||Federal parliamentary republic|
|•||Prime Minister||Robert Fico|
|•||Lower House||Chamber of Deputies|
|•||Principality of Bohemia||c. 870|
|•||Kingdom of Bohemia||1198|
|•||Independence from Austria-Hungary||28 October 1918|
|•||Invasion of Czechoslovakia, World War II||30 September 1938|
|•||Restoration from German occupation||11 May 1945|
|•||Federal Constitution||10 April 1946|
|•||Joined the European Union||1 January 1995|
|•||Total|| 117,891 km2
49,383 sq mi
|•||2020 estimate||16,813,413 (65th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2016 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2016 estimate|
|Gini (2016)|| 25.0
|HDI (2016)||▲ 0.870
|Currency||Czechoslovak Koruna (Kčs) (
|Drives on the||right|
|Internet TLD||.cs .eu|
|Patron saint||Saint Wenceslaus
Saints Cyril and Methodius
Our Lady of Sorrows
Czechoslovakia (Czech: Československo, Slovak: Česko-Slovensko), officially the Czecho-Slovak Federative Republic (Czech: Česko-Slovenská federativní republika, Slovak: Česká-Slovenská federatívna republika, ČSFR) is a federal parliamentary republic in central Europe consisting of two constituent states, which retain limited sovereignty. Its capital and largest city is Prague, while the second-largest city is Bratislava, which is also the capital of the Slovak Republic. Czechoslovakia covers an area of 127,900 sq km and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. The country is bordered by Germany to the north-west and west, Austria to the south-west, Hungary to the south, Poland to the north and Ukraine to the west. Czechoslovakia is a member state of the European Union, Schengen Area, NATO, the United Nations, the OECD and the WTO, among others. The official languages are Czech and Slovak, both members of the Slavic language family.
The Czech state, formerly known as Bohemia (Čechy), was formed in the late 9th century as Duchy of Bohemia, at that time under the dominance of the powerful Great Moravian Empire. After the 10th century, the territory of Slovakia was gradually integrated into the Kingdom of Hungary, which itself became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire or Habsburg Empire. After the fall of the Empire in 907, the centre of power was transferred from Moravia to Bohemia under the Přemyslids. In 1004, the duchy was formally recognized as a part of the Holy Roman Empire, rising to the status of Kingdom of Bohemia in 1212. During the rule of the Přemyslids and their successors, the Luxembourgs, Bohemia expanded in size until reaching its greatest territorial extent in the 14th century.
Following the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the Kingdom of Bohemia was gradually integrated into the Habsburg Monarchy as one of its three principal parts, alongside the Archduchy of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary. The Bohemian Revolt (1618–20) against the catholic Habsburgs led to the Thirty Years' War, after which the monarchy consolidated its rule, re-imposed Catholicism, and adopted a policy of Germanization. With the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the Bohemian kingdom became part of the Austrian Empire. In the 19th century the Czech lands became the industrial powerhouse of the monarchy and the core of the Republic of Czechoslovakia.
Czechoslovakia was formed in 1918 following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I, and comprised the historical Czech regions of Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia, as well as Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia. With the Czech lands having been the industrial powerhouse of the monarchy and the core of the new republic, it was one of the most industrialized countries in the interwar era. After 1933, Czechoslovakia remained the only democracy in central Europe.
In October 1938, World War II started with the invasions and annexations of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany, Hungary and Poland. A Czechoslovak government-in-exile was established in Paris and later in London, while Czechoslovak military units that had escaped the occupation fought under their own commanders as part of Allied forces in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. More than 600,000 Czechoslovak citizens died in the war.
By 1945, the country was liberated by the United States (the Czech Lands) and the Soviet Union (Slovakia). Czechoslovakia's former democratic constitution was restored and the 1946 elections resulted in a majority for the former democratic political parties, but due to Soviet pressure, the popularity of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and some disillusionment with the West for not having intervened strongly enough in 1938 they had to accept a Declaration of Neutrality in 1947, in which they agreed that the Czechoslovak Republic would become permanently neutral. As a result, Czechoslovakia lay in the grey zone between the Western countries and the Soviet Union and became an epicenter for spying activities.
Due to economic support from both the U.S. Marshall Plan (European Recovery Program, ERP) and the Czechoslovak-Soviet Treaty of Friendship from 1948, the country enjoyed prolonged economic recovery and growth beginning in the early 1950s. Slovak aspirations for greater autonomy played an important role in the political environment during the 1960s and 1970s. The Slovaks, having never been completely satisfied as the Czechs with the nation created in 1918 because they felt dominated by the numerically superior Czech nationals, would with the election of the Slovak Social Democrat Alexander Dubček as Prime Minister. His reform movement resulted in the 1974 constitutional amendments, which redefined Czechoslovakia as a federation of two equal states and nations, the Czech nation and the Slovak nation, and increased the responsibilities of the constituent republics.
Today, Czechoslovakia is a republic with advanced, high income economy and high living standards. The UN ranks the country 14th in the inequality-adjusted human development. Czechoslovakia also ranks as the 11th-most peaceful country, while achieving strong performance in democratic governance and infant mortality. It is a pluralist parliamentary representative democracy with membership in the European Union, NATO, the OECD, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe.
The creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 was the culmination of a struggle for ethnic identity and self-determination that had simmered within the multi-national empire ruled by the Austrian Habsburg family in the 19th century. The Czechs had lived primarily in Bohemia since the 6th century, and German immigrants had settled the Bohemian periphery since the 13th century. After 1526, Bohemia came under the control of the House of Habsburg as their scions first became the elected rulers of Bohemia, then the hereditary rulers of the country. Following the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, the Kingdom of Bohemia was gradually integrated into the Habsburg monarchy as one of its three principal parts, alongside the Archduchy of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary. With the rise of nationalist political and cultural movements in the Czech lands (the Czech National Revival) and the Slovak lands (the Slovak National Revival instigated by Ľudovít Štúr), mounting ethnic tensions combined with repressive religious and ethnic policies (such as the forced Magyarization of Slovaks) pushed the cohesion of the multi-national Austro-Hungarian Empire ruled by the Habsburgs to the breaking point
The roots of Czech nationalism go back to the 19th century, when philologists and educators, influenced by Romanticism, promoted the Czech language and pride in the Czech people. Nationalism became a mass movement in the last half of the 19th century. Taking advantage of the opportunities for limited participation in political life available under the Austrian rule, Czech leaders such as historian František Palacký (1798–1876) founded many patriotic, self-help organizations which provided a chance for many of their compatriots to participate in communal life prior to independence. Palacký supported Austroslavism and worked for a reorganized and federal Austrian Empire, which would protect the Slavic speaking peoples of Central European against Russian and German threats.
Although the Czechs and Slovaks speak languages that are very similar, the political and social situation of the Czech and Slovak peoples was very different at the end of the 19th century. The reason for this was the because of the differing attitude and position of their overlords – the Austrians in Bohemia and Moravia, and the Hungarians in Slovakia – within Austria-Hungary. Bohemia was the most industrialized part of Austria and Slovakia was an undeveloped agrarian region of Hungary. Furthermore, the Hungarians were far more determined to assimilate the Slovaks than the Austrians were to assimilate the Czechs. Nevertheless, the two regions united and created a new nation.
An advocate of democratic reform and Czech autonomy within Austria-Hungary, Masaryk was elected twice to Reichsrat (Austrian Parliament), the first time being from 1891 to 1893 in the Young Czech Party and again from 1907 to 1914 in the Czech Realist Party, which he founded in 1889 with Karel Kramář and Josef Kaizl.
In 1916, during World War I, Tomáš Masaryk created the Czechoslovak National Council together with Edvard Beneš and Milan Štefánik (a Slovak astronomer and war hero). Masaryk in the United States, Štefánik in France, and Beneš in France and Britain worked tirelessly to secure Allied recognition. More than 90,000 Czech and Slovak volunteers formed the Czechoslovak Legions in Russia, France and Italy, where they fought against the Central Powers and later with White Russian forces against Bolshevik troops. At times they controlled much of the Trans-Siberian railway, and they were indirectly involved in the shooting of the Russian tsar and his family in 1918. Their goal was to win the support of the Allies for the independence of Czechoslovakia. They succeeded on all counts. When secret talks between the Allies and Austrian emperor Charles I (r. 1916–18) collapsed, the Allies recognized, in the summer of 1918, the Czechoslovak National Council would be the kernel of the future Czechoslovak government.
The First Republic (1918–1938)
The independence of Czechoslovakia was proclaimed on October 28, 1918, by the Czechoslovak National Council in Prague. Several ethnic groups and territories with different historical, political, and economic traditions had to be blended into a new state structure. The origin of the First Republic lies in Point 10 of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points: "The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity to autonomous development."
The establishment of the Constitution of 1920 installed a parliamentary system and representative democracy with relatively few constituents for each representative. This allowed a great variety of political parties to emerge, with no clear front runner or leading political entity.
Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk was elected the country's first president in the 1920 election and his guidance helped to hold the country together. He was re-elected in 1925 and 1929, serving as President until December 14, 1935 when he resigned due to poor health. He was succeeded by Edvard Beneš. A coalition of five Czechoslovak parties (Agrarian Party, National Democratic Party, Social Democratic Party, National Socialist Party and the People's Party), which became known as the "Pětka" (The Five), constituted the backbone of the government and maintained stability. Prime Minister Antonín Švehla led the Pětka for most of the 1920s and designed a pattern of coalition politics that survived until 1938. Of all the new states established in central Europe after 1918, only Czechoslovakia preserved a democratic government until the war broke out.
The new country was a multi-ethnic state. The population consisted of Czechs (51%), Slovaks (16%), Germans (22%), Hungarians (5%) and Rusyns (4%). National minorities were assured special protection; in districts where they constituted 20% of the population, members of minority groups were granted full freedom to use their language in everyday life, in schools, and in matters dealing with authorities. The state proclaimed the official ideology that there are no Czechs and Slovaks, but only one nation of Czechoslovaks (see Czechoslovakism). Many of the Germans, Hungarians, Ruthenians and Poles and some Slovaks, felt oppressed because the political elite did not generally allow political autonomy for minority ethnic groups. Despite this, German parties began participating in the government in the beginning of 1926. Hungarian parties, influenced by irredentist propaganda from Hungary, never joined the Czechoslovak government but were not openly hostile.
Beneš had served as Czechoslovak foreign minister from 1918 to 1935, and created the system of alliances that determined the republic's international stance until 1938. A democratic statesman of Western orientation, Beneš relied heavily on the League of Nations as guarantor of the post war status quo and the security of newly formed states. He negotiated the Little Entente (an alliance with Yugoslavia and Romania) in 1921 to counter Hungarian revanchism and Habsburg restoration. The Little Entente was consolidated by the signing of the Treaty of Alliance and Friendship between France and Czechoslovakia on 25 January 1924, followed by similar treaties between France and Romania (10 June 1926) and Yugoslavia (1 November 1927).
The leaders of Czechoslovakia needed to find solutions for the multiplicity of cultures living within one country. From 1928 and 1940, Czechoslovakia was divided into the four "lands" (Czech: země, Slovak: krajiny); Bohemia, Moravia-Silesia, Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia. Although in 1927 assemblies were provided for Bohemia, Slovakia, and Ruthenia, their jurisdiction was limited to adjusting laws and regulations of the central government to local needs.
Due to Czechoslovakia's centralized political structure, nationalism arose in the non-Czech nationalities, and several parties and movements were formed with the aim of broader political autonomy. The Slovak People's Party led by Andrej Hlinka is an example. When German dictator Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, fear of German aggression became widespread in eastern Central Europe. Beneš ignored the possibility of a stronger Central European alliance system, remaining faithful to his Western policy. He did, however, seek the participation of the Soviet Union in an alliance to include France. (Beneš's earlier attitude towards the Soviet regime had been one of caution.) In 1935 the Soviet Union signed treaties with France and Czechoslovakia. In essence, the treaties provided that the Soviet Union would come to Czechoslovakia's aid, but only if French assistance came first. Hitler, himself, remarked to his Foreign Minister von Neurath and top military officials in 1937 that he intended to absorb Bohemia and Austria, with a vague sentence about the need to expel two million Czechs and the eventual elimination of the Czech nation.
The German minority in Czechoslovakia, mostly living in Sudetenland, demanded autonomy within Czechoslovakia, claiming they were oppressed by the national government. The political vehicle for this agitation was the newly founded Sudeten German Party (Sudetendeutsche Partei - SdP) led by Konrad Henlein, and financed economically by Germany. In the 1935 Parliamentary elections, the SdP had a surprise success, securing over 2/3 of the Sudeten German vote. This worsened diplomatic relations between Germany and Czechoslovakia. Hitler met with Henlein in Berlin on March 28, 1938, and ordered him to raise demands unacceptable to the Czechoslovak government. On April 24, the SdP issued the Carlsbad Decrees, demanding autonomy for the Sudetenland and the freedom to profess Nazi ideology. If these demands were granted, the Sudetenland could then align with Nazi Germany.
World War II
The formal beginning of World War II was marked by the Nazi German invasion of Czechoslovakia on 1 October 1938, followed by Polish and Hungarian attacks on 10 October and 20 October. On 22 October 1938 Prague capitulated. On 10 November German and Hungarian forces gained full control over Czechoslovakia. On 28 November, after an initial period of military administration, Germany directly annexed Sudetenland and established the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia from the rest of the occupied Czech lands. Hungary annexed Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia, while Poland annexed the Zaolzie region. In the aftermath of the invasion, a collective of underground resistance organizations formed the Czechoslovak Underground State within the territory of the former Czechoslovak state. Many of the military exiles that managed to escape Czechoslovakia subsequently joined the Czechoslovak Legions in Poland and in France, an armed force loyal to the Czechoslovak government in exile.
The Second Republic came into being in April 1945. Its government, installed in Prague on 14 May, was a National Front coalition comprising the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party, the Republican Party (RS), the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ), the and the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party, the Catholic Czechoslovak People's Party and the Slovak People's Party in Slovakia.
Following Nazi Germany's surrender, some 2.9 million ethnic Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia with Allied approval, their property and rights declared void by the Beneš decrees.
Starting in 1948 Czechoslovakia became a recipient of reconstruction aid under the Marshall Plan (European Recovery Program, ERP) and used this to rebuild its industry. Czechoslovakia eventually benefited from $768 million in aid between 1948-1951 by the Marshall Plan.
In 1991, Czechoslovakia formed the Visegrád Group together with Hungary and Poland, an alliance for the purposes of furthering the European integration of the former Communist bloc states as well as advancing their military, economic and energy cooperation with one another. In 1992, Foreign Minister Madeleine Körbelová was elected president with 53.6 percent of the vote, becoming the first female President of Czechoslovakia. She became very popular and was subsequently reelected in 1997 with 61.2 percent of the vote in the first round. Körbelová was instrumental in Czechoslovakia becoming a member of the European Union and NATO, as well as promoting awarding NATO membership to the former Warsaw Pact countries.
Following a referendum in 1994, at which consent reached a majority of two-thirds, the country became a member of the European Union on 1 January 1995. On 12 March 1999 Czechoslovakia joined NATO, abandoning their neutrality policy which had been in place since the Declaration of Neutrality of 16 June 1947. On 26 March 2001, Czechoslovakia joined the Schengen Area. In 2000, the Presidency of the Council of the European Union responsible for the functioning of the Council was awarded to Czechoslovakia.
Jiří Dienstbier was elected president in 2002, succeeding the retiring Körbelová. In the 2003 elections, a Social Democrat–led coalition returned to power with Stanislav Gross as prime minister, thus becoming the youngest prime minister in Czechoslovak history, as well as the first prime minister of Sudeten German origin. Policies of his government included increasing the minimum wage and lowering university tuition fees.
After an inconclusive election in June 2007, the political deadlock was broken in August, when Miroslav Kalousek of the Republican Party was appointed prime minister of a centre-right government. On July 8, 2008, after lengthy negotiations and much debate, the Czech Republic agreed to allow the United States to deploy on its land an antiballistic missile shield. The Soviet Union strongly objected to the accord, which views the system as a threat. U.S officials said the shield is meant to deter an attack from Iran. Czech lawmakers must approve the deal.
2011, the Presidency of the Council of the European Union was again awarded to Czechoslovakia. In 2012, they co-organised the UEFA Euro 2012 with Poland.
Czechoslovakia has been a prominent voice of establishing a common European Armed Forces, with Czechoslovakia's prime minister along with Chancellor Angela Merkel and President François Hollande (collectively also part of Weimar Triangle) taking steps to negotiate such a deal, in hope of increasing readiness. Czechoslovakia has already built several commands of a common battle group with Hungary and Poland, with a total of 12,000 troops ready for deployment.
Following the unrest in Ukraine, Czechoslovakia along with Poland has been one of the most prominent voice of establishing NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), a 40,000 man strong rapid response force to be under the command of six headquarters to be stationed in Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. The Spearhead Force will include Special Forces and rapid response teams, enforced with marine and air components.
Zuzana Čaputováka, President of Czechoslovakia.
Robert Fico, Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia.
Czechoslovakia is a federal pluralist multi-party parliamentary representative democracy, with the Prime Minister as head of government. In the Czechoslovak federalist system, citizens are usually subject to three levels of government: federal, republican (state), and local. The local government's duties are commonly split between regional and municipal governments. In almost all cases, executive and legislative officials are elected by a proportional representation vote of citizens by district.
The federal government of Czechoslovakia is comprised of three branches of government which constitutionally check the powers of the others. These branches include:
- Executive branch — Comprises of the presidency (Prezident), the prime minister (předseda federální vlády) and the Government (Vláda Československé federativní republiky). The President of Czechoslovakia acts as the head of state and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The President has limited specific powers, such as the power to approve or vote bills passed by the legislature, appoint members of the Constitutional Court, appoint and recall the Prime Minister and other members of the Government (to be confirmed by the legislature), and dissolve the parliament under certain special and unusual circumstances. From 1946 to 1968, the President was elected by a joint session of the Federal Assembly for a five-year term, with no more than two consecutive terms. Since 1968 the presidential election has been direct elections. The current president is Zuzana Čaputová, elected in 2017.
- The government is the supreme executive body and is led by the Prime Minister, who selects all the remaining ministers. The Prime Minister and the Government are responsible to the Federal Assembly. 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 government ministers. The current prime minister, Slovak Robert Fico, was appointed in 2013 after the 2013 federal election.
- Legislative branch — Comprised of the bicameral Federal Assembly (Czech: Federální shromáždění, Slovak: Federálne zhromaždenie). The Senate (Senát) is the upper house and has 150 members, with 75 from each republic. The Chamber of Deputies (Poslanecká sněmovna) is the lower house and has 300 members). The Federal Assembly is able to adopt federal laws, declare war, and approve treaties. The legislature also holds power of purse, the power to impeach the president, and the final say in the appointment of federal judges.
- The members of the Chamber of Deputies are elected for a four-year term by party-list proportional representation using the D'Hondt method, with a 2% election threshold. As the government is only responsible to the Chamber of Deputies, it is the strongest of the two chambers. The members of the Chamber of Nations represent the governments of the two federated republics and are members of the state cabinets. They are also voted for a four-year term, through a first-past-the-post vote. One senator is elected from each of the 150 voting districts, meaning there are an equal number of Czech and Slovak senators. A candidate for the Chamber of Nations does not need to be on a political party's ticket (unlike the lower chamber).
- Judiciary branch — Comprises of the Constitutional Court (Nejvyšší soud), which protects people against violations of the constitution by either the legislature or by the government consisting of 15 constitutional judges; the Supreme Court (Nejvyšší soud) is the court of highest appeal for almost all legal cases formed of 67 judges; and the federal courts. The primary function of the courts is to interpret laws and to overturn laws deemed unconstitutional. Since 1995, the European Court of Justice may overrule Czechoslovak decisions in all matters defined in laws of the European Union.
|Main office holders|
|President||Zuzana Čaputová||Green Party||2017|
|Prime Minister||Robert Fico||ČSSD||28 June 2013|
|Speaker of the Federal Council of the Czechoslovak Republic||Jan Hamáček||ČSSD||28 June 2013|
Prague Castle, seat of the Czechoslovak President.
Straka Academy, the seat of the Czechoslovak federal government.
The Federal Assembly on Letná Hill.
The Czechoslovak Constitutional Court.
Czechoslovakia is divided into two constituent republics established. Each republic has its own constitution and is largely autonomous in regard to its internal organisation and domestic matters; areas that remain the responsibility of the federal government include military defence, police, justice, certain aspects of the economy, currency and foreign affairs.
Each Republic has its own legislature, known as the Czech National Council (Česká národní rada) and the Slovak National Council (Slovenská národná rada). Each legislature has 150 members, elected for a four-year term by party-list proportional representation using the D'Hondt method, with a 2% election threshold. Each legislature appoints an First Minister and an executive cabinet.
|Coat of arms||Flag||State||Head of government||Image|| Government|
|Last election||Area (km²)||Population||Capital|
| Czech Republic|
|Michal Hašek (ČSSD)||ČSD – ČSS – SZ||2014||78,866 km²||10,541,466||Prague|
| Slovak Republic|
|Peter Pellegrini (ČSSD)||ČSSD – ČSS – MKP–SMK||2014||49,035 km²||5,415,949||Bratislava|
Since 1946, Czechoslovakia's two federal subjects has been divided into 23 regions (Czech and Slovak: župy, singular župa) and two cities with special status: Prague, the federal capital city and the capital of the Czech Federal Republic); and Bratislava, the capital of the Slovak Federal Republic. 15 of the regions are located in the Czech Federal Republic, while eight are located in the Slovak Federal Republic. Each region is administered through directly elected regional assemblies (župské zastupitelstvo) who elect the regional Governor (hejtman).
The regions are then sub-divided into 150 second-level municipalities (okresy, singular okres), which in turn are administered by directly elected municipal council, headed by a mayor and a small executive cabinet. Prague and Bratislava are considered both as regions and as municipalities. There are 75 municipalities in each republic, and also functions as voting districts.
Czechoslovak Prime Minister Robert Fico with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2014.
Although they had been Francophile in the interwar era, strong pro-U.S. sentiment following their role in liberating the country and skepticism of Soviet domination of their neighboring countries and their authoritarian nature, they were also grateful of the Soviet's role in liberating Czechoslovakia, and the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia did have substantial support among the population (as it had been in the interwar era). As a result, on 16 June 1947 the National Assembly passed the Declaration of Neutrality, in which Czechoslovakia declared they would remain neutral and not choose sides between the West and the Eastern Bloc, as well as pledging not to join any military alliances and not permit the establishment of any foreign military bases on her territory.
Despite being officially neutral throughout the Cold War, they remained close to the United States and have been one of their strongest supporters in the region. Ties with France and Germany have also remained close since the end of the war. During the 1960s, relations warmed between the Federal Republic of Germany and Czechoslovakia, and on 27 August 1963, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and and Czechoslovak Prime Minister Miloslav Reichigl signed a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Consular Relations. Similarily, relations between Czechoslovakia and Austria grew stronger in the 1950's and 1960's, sharing the role as neutral countries between the East and West.
During the Cold War, Czechoslovakia lay in the grey zone between the Western countries and the Soviet Union, served as an intermediary between the two superpowers and host several U.S.-Soviet Summits, including the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. Czechoslovakia also became an epicenter for spying activities.
Czechoslovakia began to reassess its definition of neutrality following the fall of the Soviet Union, and joined the European Union (EU) in 1995, followed by joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1999. Today, Czechoslovakia is a member of the European Union (EU), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), United Nations (UN), World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), International Energy Agency (IEA).
As changes since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 have redrawn the map of Europe, Czechoslovakia has tried to forge strong and mutually beneficial relationships with its Eastern neighbours, this has notably included signing 'friendship treaties'. The Czech have forged special relationships with Poland and Hungary, as members of the Visegrád Group.
Leopard 2A5CSFR main battle tanks of the Czechoslovak Army.
Czechoslovak soldiers during an army exercise.
Czechoslovakia's military (Armáda Československé republiky) is organised into the Army and the special forces (Pozemní síly), the Air Force (Vzdušné síly) and of various specialized support units. Czechoslovakia is a landlocked country and has no navy. As head of state, the President of Czechoslovakia (currently Karel Schwarzenberg) is nominally the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. In practical reality, however, command of the armed forces is almost exclusively exercised by the Minister of Defense, currently Martin Glváč. Defense spending is approximately 2.1% of the GDP (2015).
The Army currently has about 63,000 soldiers, of whom about 36,000 are conscripts. The manpower of the Czechoslovak Armed Forces mainly relies on conscription. All males who have reached the age of 18 and are found fit have to serve a six months military service, followed by an eight-year reserve obligation. Both males and females at the age of 16 are eligible for voluntary service. Conscientious objection is legally acceptable and those who claim this right are obliged to serve an institutionalised nine months civilian service instead. Since 1998, women volunteers have been allowed to become professional soldiers. The conscription stipulates that the soldiers keep their Army issued equipment, including all personal weapons, at home, but are not equipped with any suitable munition. Some organizations and political parties find this practice controversial but mainstream Czechoslovak opinion is in favour of the system.
Within its self-declared status of permanent neutrality from 1946 to 1999, Czechoslovakia had a long and proud tradition of engaging in UN-led peacekeeping and other humanitarian missions. On 12 March 1999, Czechoslovakia became a member of NATO. The armed forces are charged with protecting Czechoslovakia and its allies, promoting global security interests, and contributing to NATO.
Currently, as a member of NATO, the Czechoslovak military are participating in ISAF operations and have soldiers in Afghanistan. Main equipment includes: BVP-80s KBVP Pandur II, ČZ 1990 and CZ-805 BREN small arms, Leopard 2A5CSFR main battle tanks, multi-role fighters JAS 39 Gripen, combat aircraft Aero L-159 Alca, modernized attack helicopters Mi-35, armored vehicles Pandur II, OT-64, OT-90, BVP-2 and Czech modernized tanks T-72 (T-72M4CZ).
The Czech lands are surrounded by several mountain ranges. In southwestern Bohemia, the Bohemian Forest (Czech: Šumava) is located along the German-Czechoslovak and Austrian-Czechoslovak border. To the northeast, the The Ore Mountains (German: Erzgebirge, Czech: Krušné hory), with the highest peaks Klínovec (1,244 metres (4,081 ft)) and the Fichtelberg (1,215 metres (3,986 ft)). The Sudeten mountains (Czech: Sudety) stretches from eastern Germany along the northern border of the Czechoslovakia to south-western Poland. The highest peak of the range is Sněžka in the Krkonoše mountains, which is 1,603 metres (5,259 ft) in elevation. The current geomorphological unit in the Czech part of the mountain range is Krkonošsko-jesenická subprovincie ("Krkonoše-Jeseníky"). The Western Beskids (Czech: Západní Beskydy; Slovak: Západné Beskydy), a part of the Outer Western Carpathian mountains, are a set of mountain ranges spanning the Moravian-Slovak border, while The Moravian–Silesian Beskids (Czech: Moravskoslezské Beskydy, Slovak: Moravsko-sliezske Beskydy) lies on the historical division between Moravia and Silesia, hence the name.
The Tatras, with 29 peaks higher than 2,500 metres (8202 feet) AMSL, are the highest mountain range in the Carpathian Mountains. Tatras occupy an area of 750 sq km (290 sq mi), of which the greater part 600 sq km (232 sq mi) lies in Slovakia. They are divided into several parts.
To the north, close to the Polish border, are the High Tatras which are a popular hiking and skiing destination and home to many scenic lakes and valleys as well as the highest point in Slovakia, the Gerlachovský štít at 2,655 metres (8,711 ft) and the country's highly symbolic mountain Kriváň. To the west are the Western Tatras with their highest peak of Bystrá at 2,248 metres (7,375 ft) and to the east are the Belianske Tatras, smallest by area. Separated from the Tatras proper by the valley of the Váh river are the Low Tatras, with their highest peak of Ďumbier at 2,043 metres (6,703 ft). The Tatra mountain range is represented as one of the three hills on the coat of arms of Slovakia.
Most of the rivers stem in the Slovak mountains. Some only pass through and the others make a natural border with surrounding countries (more than 620 km (385 mi)). For example, the Dunajec (17 km (11 mi)) to the north, the Danube (172 km (107 mi)) to the south or the Morava (119 km (74 mi)) to the West. The total length of the rivers on Slovak territory is 49,774 km (30,928 mi). The longest river in Slovakia is the Váh (403 km (250 mi)), the shortest is the Čierna voda. Other important and large rivers are the Myjava, the Nitra (197 km (122 mi)), the Orava, the Hron (298 km (185 mi)), the Hornád (193 km (120 mi)), the Slaná (110 km (68 mi)), the Ipeľ (232 km (144 mi), forming the border with Hungary), the Bodrog, the Laborec, the Latorica and the Ondava. The biggest volume of discharge in Slovak rivers is during spring, when the snow melts from the mountains. The only exception is the Danube, whose discharge is the greatest during summer when the snow melts in the Alps. The Danube is the largest river that flows through Slovakia.
The Czechoslovak climate lies between the temperate and continental climate zones with warm summers and cold, cloudy and snowy winters in Bohemia, Moravia and northern Slovakia, with more humid winters in southern Slovakia. Temperature extremes are in interval between −41 to 40.3 °C (−41.8 to 104.5 °F) although temperatures below −30 °C (−22 °F) are rare. In Bohemia and Moravia, temperatures vary greatly, depending on the elevation. In general, at higher altitudes, the temperatures decrease and precipitation increases. The wettest area is found around Bílý Potok in Jizera Mountains and the driest region is the Louny District to the northwest of Prague. Another important factor is the distribution of the mountains; therefore, the climate is quite varied. In Slovakia, the weather differs from the mountainous North to the plain South. At the highest peak of Sněžka (1,602 m or 5,256 ft), the average temperature is only −0.4 °C (31 °F), whereas in the lowlands of the South Moravian Region, the average temperature is as high as 10 °C (50 °F). The country's capital, Prague, has a similar average temperature, although this is influenced by urban factors.
The coldest month is usually January, followed by February and December. During these months, there is usually snow in the mountains and sometimes in the major cities and lowlands. During March, April and May, the temperature usually increases rapidly, especially during April, when the temperature and weather tends to vary widely during the day. Spring is also characterized by high water levels in the rivers, due to melting snow with occasional flooding. The warmest month of the year is July, followed by August and June. On average, summer temperatures are about 20 °C (68 °F) – 30 °C (86 °F) higher than during winter. Summer is also characterized by rain and storms. Autumn generally begins in September, which is still relatively warm and dry. During October, temperatures usually fall below 15 °C (59 °F) or 10 °C (50 °F) and deciduous trees begin to shed their leaves. By the end of November, temperatures usually range around the freezing point.
The coldest temperature ever measured was in Litvínovice near České Budějovice in 1929, at −42.2 °C (−44.0 °F) and the hottest measured, was at 40.4 °C (104.7 °F) in Dobřichovice in 2012. Most rain falls during the summer. Sporadic rainfall is relatively constant throughout the year (in Prague, the average number of days per month experiencing at least 0.1 mm of rain varies from 12 in September and October to 16 in November) but concentrated heavy rainfall (days with more than 10 mm per day) are more frequent in the months of May to August (average around two such days per month).
Czechoslovakia has a developed high-income, social market economy that maintains a welfare state and the European social model. It has a highly skilled labour force, a low level of corruption, and a high standard of living. The Czechoslovak economy is export-oriented and is one of the world's 10 leading exporting countries. Czechoslovakia has the 18th-largest economy in the world, and ranks 11th in GDP (nominal) per capita. Its GDP per capita measured in purchasing power standards amounts to 111% of the EU27 average (100%). The service sector contributes approximately 59% of the total GDP, industry 38%, and agriculture 3% as of 2019. The unemployment rate published by Eurostat amounts to 2.8% as of January 2020, which is the lowest in the EU, and the poverty rate is the second lowest of OECD members only behind Denmark.
In 2017 it ranked 12th in the world in terms of gross national income (PPP) per capita and 13th in nominal GNI per capita. Czechoslovakia's economy stands out as one of the most free in the Index of Economic Freedom and the Economic Freedom of the World. It is the 17th most competitive economy in the world, and 9th in Europe, according to the World Economic Forum in its Global Competitiveness Report 2018.
Czechoslovakia participates in the European Single Market as a member of the European Union, and is therefore a part of the economy of the European Union, but uses its own currency, the Czechoslovak koruna (CSK), which is pegged at approximately 9.5 Koruna per Euro through the ERM. Monetary policy is conducted by the Czechoslovak National Bank, whose independence is guaranteed by the Constitution.
Germany is the main trading partner of Czechoslovakia (32.4%), making it vulnerable to rapid changes in the German economy. Since becoming a member state of the European Union, it has gained closer ties to other EU economies, reducing its economic dependence on Germany. In addition, membership of the EU has drawn an influx of foreign investors attracted by Austria's access to the single European market and proximity to the aspiring economies of the European Union. Other trading partners are Austria (8.4%), Poland (6%), UK (5.1%), France (5.1%) and Hungary (4.4%).
The Czechoslovak economy had an average growth of 3.5% between 2014 and 2019, making it one of the fastest growing economy in the European Union.
Industry and exports
Although Czechoslovakia's GDP comes mainly from the tertiary (services) sector, the industrial sector also plays an important role within its economy. The main industry sectors are motor vehicles manufacturing, electrical engineering, metallurgy, iron and steel production, , machinery and equipment, glass, armaments, chemicals, wood and paper products; earthenware and ceramics, textiles, electrical and optical apparatus, rubber products, food and beverages and pharmaceuticals.
Czechoslovakia is known for its automotive industry, being a leading producer of buses and the world's largest producer of cars per capita, with a total of 2,590,000 cars manufactured in the country in 2019 alone. 475,000 people are employed directly by the automotive industry. The largest automobile assembly plants include Škoda Auto (owned by the Škoda Group) in Mladá Boleslav and Trnava, Hyundai Motor Company in Nošovice and Žilina, Volkswagen in Bratislava, Kia Motors in Žilina, and a joint venture of Toyota and PSA Peugeot Citroën (TPCA) in Kolín and Nitra. Hyundai in Žilina is the largest suppliers for the automotive industry in Slovakia.
Other Czech transportation companies include Škoda Transportation (tramways, trolleybuses, metro), Tatra (heavy trucks, the second oldest car maker in the world), Avia (medium trucks), Karosa and SOR Libchavy (buses), Aero Vodochody (military aircraft), Let Kunovice (civil aircraft), Zetor (tractors), Jawa Moto (motorcycles) and Čezeta (electric scooters).
From electrical engineering companies, Foxconn has a factory at Nitra for LCD TV manufacturing, Samsung at Galanta for computer monitors and television sets manufacturing. Slovnaft based in Bratislava, is an oil refinery with a processing capacity of 5.5 - 6 million tonnes of crude oil, annually. Steel producers U. S. Steel in Košice is the largest employer in the east of Slovakia with 12,000 employees.
The footwear industry is also important: Baťa Shoes, founded in Zlín in 1894 by Tomáš Baťa, is one of the world's biggest multinational retailers, manufacturers and distributors of footwear and accessories. Other large companies in Czechoslovakia include the utility company ČEZ Group, conglomerate Agrofert, energy trading company EPH, oil refinery company Slovnaft, steel producers Košice and Třinec Steel Works.
The main agricultural products are wheat, grains, potatoes, sugar beets, hops, fruit, pigs, cattle, poultry, forest products. In the Czech lands, hops comprise a large amount of the agriculture, while in Moravia and Slovakia it is fruits, sunflowers and vineyards. The breeding of livestock, including pigs, cattle, sheep, and poultry is also important. In Slovakia, forestry and wood products also form a large part of the economy.
With over fifty industrial breweries and seventy small and medium-sized family breweries and 24.48 million hectoliters produced in 2019, beer is one of the most important and well known exports in the Czechoslovakia. The majority (forty) of these are from Czechia. Pilsner Urquell Group, based in Plzeň, is the second largest brewer in Europe and the fourth largest brewer by volume in the world.
Slovakia became industrialized mostly in the second half of the 20th century. Heavy industry (including coal mining and the production of machinery and steel) was built for strategic reasons because Slovakia was less exposed to the military threat than the western parts of Czechoslovakia. Building on a long-standing tradition and a highly skilled labor force, main industries with potential of growth are following sectors: automotive, electronics, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering and steel production.
|1||Škoda Group a.s.||Automotive, transport, engineering, defence and aerospace industry||Plzeň||▲ EUR 56.84 billion (2019)||CSK 588.91 billion||110,000|
|2||Pilsner Urquell Group, a.s.||Brewing||Plzeň||▲ EUR 18.88 billion (2019)||CSK 195.61 billion||51,200|
|3||AGROFERT, a.s.||Agriculture, consumer goods, food processing, chemicals||Prague||▲ EUR 15.15 billion (2014)||▲ CSK 157.5 billion (2019)||45,300|
|4||ČEZ Group||Energy, electricity generation and distribution, natural gas||Prague||▼ EUR 7,06 billion (2019)||CSK 73.14 billion||31,380|
|5||Československá spořitelna, a.s.||Banking and insurance||Prague||▲ EUR 5.28 billion (2019)||▲ CSK 54.7 billion||14,224|
|6||Východoslovenské železiarne Košice a.s.||Metallurgy, steel production||Košice||▲ EUR 5.1 billion (2019)||CSK 52.84 billion||11,465|
|7||Bata Shoe Organisation a.s.||Retail, manufacturing (footwear, clothing and fashion accessory)||Zlín||▲ EUR 4.46 billion (2019)||CSK 46.25 billion||30,000|
|8||Slovnaft a.s.||Oil refining||Bratislava||▲ 3.82 billion (2019)||CSK 39.57 billion||3,700|
|9||Třinecké železárny (TŽ) a.s.||Metallurgy, steel production||Třinec||▲ EUR 3.26 billion (2019)||CSK 33.76 billion||5,962|
Communications and IT
Czechoslovakia ranks in the top 10 countries worldwide with the fastest average internet speed.
Two major computer security companies, Avast and AVG, were founded in Czechoslovakia. In 2016, Avast led by Pavel Baudiš bought rival AVG for US$1.3 billion, together at the time, these companies had a user base of about 400 million people and 40% of the consumer market outside of China. Avast is the leading provider of antivirus software, with a 20.5% market share.
ESET is an IT security company from Bratislava with more than 1,000 employees worldwide at present. Their branch offices are in Czechia and Slovakia, the United States, Ireland, United Kingdom, Argentina, Singapore and Poland. In recent years, service and high-tech-oriented businesses have prospered in both Prague and Bratislava. Many global companies, including IBM, Dell, Lenovo, AT&T, SAP, and Accenture, have built outsourcing and service centres here. Reasons for the influx of multi-national corporations include skilled labour force and the high density of universities and research facilities.
Production of Czechoslovak electricity exceeds consumption by about 10 TWh per year, which are exported. There are six nuclear power-plants in Czechoslovakia: four in the Czech Federative Republic (Dukovany, Blahutovice, Temelín and Tetov), while the remaining two are in Slovakia (Jaslovské Bohunice and Mochovce). All of them except Dukovany contains two operating reactors, while Dukovany has four reactors.
Nuclear power presently provides 53 percent. In 2005, 42.4 percent of electricity was produced by steam and combustion power plants (mostly coal); 30 percent by nuclear plants; and 4.6 percent from renewable sources, including hydropower.
Czechoslovakia is reducing its dependence on highly polluting low-grade brown coal as a source of energy. Natural gas is procured from Russian Gazprom, roughly three-fourths of domestic consumption and from Norwegian companies, which make up most of the remaining one-fourth. Russian gas is imported via Ukraine (Druzhba pipeline), Norwegian gas is transported through Germany. Gas consumption (approx. 100 TWh in 2003–2005) is almost double electricity consumption. South Moravia has small oil and gas deposits.
Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk Airport in Prague is the main international airport in the country. In 2010, it handled 11.6 million passengers, which makes it the fifth busiest airport in Central and Eastern Europe. Other airports which provide international air services are located in Bratislava (M. R. Štefánik Airport), Brno, Karlovy Vary, Mošnov (near Ostrava), Pardubice, Kunovice (near Uherské Hradiště), Košice and Poprad.
There are 11 main highways D1 to D11 and 15 express ways R1 to R15. The speed limit is 50 km/h within towns, 90 km/h outside of towns and 130 km/h on expressways. The D1 motorway connects Prague to Jihlava, Brno, Bratislava and Budapest in the north-south direction, while D2 connects Bratislava to Trnava, Nitra, Trenčín, Žilina and beyond. The D3 (an outer bypass) connects the D1 and D2 north of Bratislava. While D4 and D5 connects Czechoslovakia to Germany, D6 and D7 connects the country directly to the Austrian motorway system and was opened on 19 November 2007.
Československé federativní dráhy (the Czechoslovak Federative Railways) is the main railway operator in Czechoslovakia, with about 180 million passengers carried yearly. Its cargo division, ČD Cargo, is the fifth largest railway cargo operator in the European Union. With 13,163 km of tracks, Czechoslovakia has one of the densest railway networks in Europe.
The Port of Bratislava is one of the two international river ports in Czechoslovakia. The port connects Bratislava to international boat traffic, especially the interconnection from the North Sea to the Black Sea via the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal. Additionally, tourist lines operate from Bratislava's passenger port, including routes to Devín, Vienna and elsewhere.
The Czechoslovak economy gets a substantial income from tourism. Prague is the fifth most visited city in Europe after London, Paris, Istanbul and Rome. In 2001, the total earnings from tourism reached 118 billion CSK, making up 5.5% of GNP and 9% of overall export earnings. The industry employs more than 110,000 people.
There are several centres of tourist activity. The spa towns, such as Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně and Františkovy Lázně, are particularly popular relaxing holiday destinations. Architectural heritage is another object of visitor´s interest – it includes many castles and chateaux from different historical epoques, namely Karlštejn Castle, Český Krumlov and the Lednice–Valtice area. There are 12 cathedrals and 15 churches elevated to the rank of basilica by the Pope, calm monasteries, many modern and ancient churches – for example Pilgrimage Church of Saint John of Nepomuk is one of those inscribed on the World Heritage List. Away from the towns, areas such as Český ráj, Šumava and the Krkonoše Mountains attract visitors seeking outdoor pursuits.
Slovakia features natural landscapes, mountains, caves, medieval castles and towns, folk architecture, spas and ski resorts. More than 1.6 million people visited Slovakia in 2014, and the most attractive destinations are the capital of Bratislava and the High Tatras. Most visitors come from Poland (15%) and Germany (11%).
Puppetry and marionette exhibitions are very popular, with a number of puppet festivals throughout the country. Typical souvenirs from the Czech Federative Republic are marionette dolls and wooden toys, crystal glass, garnet jewellery (granát), memorabilia of Art Nouveau painter Alfons Mucha and Czech porcelain (cibulák), while popular souvenirs from Slovakia are dolls dressed in folk costumes, carved wooden figures, črpáks (wooden pitchers), fujaras (a folk instrument on the UNESCO list) and valaškas (a decorated folk hatchet) and above all products made from corn husks and wire, notably human figures.
The country is also known for its various museums. Aquapalace Praha in Čestlice near Prague, is the biggest water park in central Europe.
The Czech Federative Republic has a number of beer festivals, including: Czech Beer Festival (the biggest Czech beer festival, it is usually 17 days long and held every year in May in Prague), Pilsner Fest (every year in August in Plzeň), The "Olomoucký pivní festival" (in Olomouc) or festival "Slavnosti piva v Českých Budějovicích" (in České Budějovice).
According to the results of the 2020 census, the Czechoslovak population was 16,813,413 people. The total fertility rate (TFR) in 2015 was estimated at 1.57 children born/woman, which is below the replacement rate of 2.1. The life expectancy in 2013 was estimated at 81.5 years (78.9 years male, 84.3 years female).
The majority of the inhabitants are Czechs (59.5%), followed by Slovaks (26.8%), Germans (2.9%), Hungarians (2.8%), Romani people (0.7%) and smaller numbers of Ruthenes, Ukrainians, Poles and Jews (the post-Holocaust community).
| Largest cities or towns of Czechoslovakia |
|Rank||City name||Region||Pop.||Rank||City name||Region||Pop.|
|1||Prague||Prague, the Capital City||1,268,796||11||Ústí nad Labem||Ústí nad Labem Region||93,000|| |
|3||Brno||Brno Region||385,913||13||Pardubice||Pardubice Region||90,767|
|4||Ostrava||Ostrava Region||296,224||14||Žilina||Žilina Region||81,515|
|5||Košice||Košice Region||240,688||15||Banská Bystrica||Banská Bystrica Region||79,775|
|6||Plzeň||Plzeň Region||170,322||16||Nitra||Nitra Region||78,875|
|7||Liberec||Liberec Region||102,754||17||Havířov||Ostrava Region||76,694|
|8||Olomouc||Olomouc Region||101,003||18||Zlín||Zlín Region||75,318|
|9||Hradec Králové||Hradec Králové Region||94,314||19||Kladno||Kladno Region||68,103|
|10||České Budějovice||České Budějovice Region||93,715||20||Trnava||Trnava Region||66,219|
When the independence of Czechoslovakia was proclaimed on 28 October 1918 it was a multi-ethnic state structure with several ethnic groups and territories with different historical, political, and economic traditions. In the aftermath of World War II, when the Czechoslovak state was restored, the government expelled the majority of ethnic Germans and a large number of ethnic Hungarians, in the belief that their behaviour had been a major cause of the war and subsequent destruction. From a pre-war population of 3.1 million ethic Germans, a total of 2.4 million ethnic Germans were expelled, while a population exchange was carried out between Slovaks and Hungarians. In total, around 350,000 ethnic Germans and 350,000 Hungarians were allowed to remain. The expulsions has since been a controversial topic in Czechoslovak politics, culminating on 24 August 2003 when the Czechoslovak government unanimously passed a resolution apologizing for the treatment and expulsion of anti-Nazi Czechoslovaks of German and Hungarian ancestry.
The majority of the population are Czechoslovaks (86.28%), with 59.5% being Czechs and 26.78% being Slovaks accoring to the 2020 census. Three sizeable groups of people are referred to as "national minorities" because their ancestors have lived in their respective regions for centuries: Germans (about 492,000 or 2.93% of the population) mainly in the Sudeten region of Bohemia and Moravia, Hungarians (about 470,000 or 2.78% of the population) in southern Slovakia, Poles (about 90,000 or 0.53% of the population in Silesia), and Romani (about 110,000, or 0.66% of the population) residing throughout the country. The Czechoslovak Constitution of 1946 and the Status of Ethnic Groups in Czechoslovakia Act (Act No. 168/1973) guarantees the rights of recognized ethnic groups to allow for minority representation and thus the facilitation of funding for minority protection.
Of the country's residents, 914,000 million people (5.44%) were of immigrant or partially immigrant descent in 2020. The largest national immigrant groups was from Yugoslavia (241,256), followed by Turkey (116,583), Greeks (114,975), Italians (82,125), Vietnam (79,825), Romania (79,321), the Soviet Union (143,425, of which 64,104 were Ukrainians and 18,021 were Russians), Syrians (41,413), Iraqis (36,037) and Afghans (27,310). Most of the foreign population lives in Prague (37.3%) and Bratislava (13.2%)
Yugoslav and Vietnamese immigrants began settling in the Czechoslovakia during the 1960s and the 1970s, when they were invited as guest workers by the Czechoslovak government. Most decide to stay in the country permanently.
|European Union (Czechoslovaks)||86.28%||14,506,302|
|European Union (traditional minority groups)||7.11%||1,194,890|
|East Asian and South/Southeast Asian||0.47%||79,825|
Czech and Slovak are the official languages of Czechoslovakia, and both are used in public administration, schools, churches, and media. Both languages are so mutually intelligible that it is possible for Czech and Slovak speakers to understand each other with relatively little effort. However, eastern Slovak dialects (which blend into the Rusyn language) are less intelligible to speakers of Czech; they differ from Czech and from other Slovak dialects.
In areas with large populations of minorities, German, Hungarian and Polish are recognised as regional languages, and are used in local public administration, schools, churches, and some media. Besides this, Romani, Russian, Rusyn, Ukrainian and Yiddish also have minority status.
A majority of Czechs and Slovaks are multilingual: 71% of Czechoslovaks citizens claim to be able to communicate in at least one foreign language and 45% in at least two. The majority (64%) speak English as a second language, generally with a conversational level of proficiency. German is the second-most spoken foreign language, with (62%) reporting a conversational level of proficiency. French and Russian are also commonly taught as second or, more often, third languages.
|Affiliation||% of Czechoslovak population|
|Christian faiths||67.6|| |
|Roman Catholic||44.5|| |
|Czechoslovak Hussite Church||18.63|| |
|Evangelical Protestant||2.27|| |
|Uniate Greek Catholic||1.2|| |
|Czech and Slovak Orthodox||0.4|| |
|Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren||0.3|| |
|Other Christian||0.3|| |
|Non-Christian faiths||2.3|| |
|Other non-Christian faith||0.1|| |
|No religion||23.5|| |
The Czechoslovak constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and the country has a varied religious heritage. Christianity is the predominant religion of Czechoslovakia (about 67.6% of the population), divided between the Roman Catholic Church (44.5% of the population), the Czechoslovak Hussite Church (18.63%), further Protestant churches (2.57%), Eastern Orthodoxy (around 0.4%), Uniates (Greek Catholic Church, 1.2%), and other Christian denominations (0.3%). Immigration has established Islam (1.6%) and Buddhism (0.5%) as sizeable minority religions.
The distribution of religious beliefs differs between the Czech and Slovak people. In 2011, 31.0% of Czechs identified themselves as Roman Catholics, 24.0% as Hussites, 0.6% as belonging to some other Protestant denomination, 3.45% as following other forms of religion, 31.5% identified themselves as having no religion and 8.3% did not answer the question about their belief or identified themselves as unaffiliated. Meanwhile, 58.0% of Slovaks identified themselves as Roman Catholics, 17.53% as Protestants, 2.3% as Greek Catholics, 0.9% as Orthodox, 15.4% identified themselves as having no religion and 4.9% did not answer the question about their belief or identified themselves as unaffiliated.
Czechoslovakia is, however, also one of the least religious populations in the world. According to the 2011 census, 23.5% of the Czechoslovak population stated they had no religion, while 6.6% of the population did not answer the question about religion.
Czechoslovakia has a complex religious history. After the Bohemian Reformation, most Czechs (about 85%) became followers of Jan Hus, Petr Chelčický and other regional Protestant Reformers. Taborites and Utraquists were major Hussite groups. During the Hussite Wars, Utraquists sided with the Catholic Church. Following the joint Utraquist—Catholic victory, Utraquism was accepted as a distinct form of Christianity to be practised in Bohemia by the Catholic Church while all remaining Hussite groups were prohibited. In the wake of the Reformation, Utraquist Hussites took a renewed increasingly anti-Catholic stance, while some of the defeated Hussite factions (notably Taborites) were revived. Bohemian Estates' defeat in the Battle of White Mountain in 1620 brought radical religious changes and started a series of intense actions taken by the Habsburgs in order to bring the Czech population back to the Catholic Church. After the Habsburgs regained control of Bohemia, the whole population was forcibly converted to Roman Catholicism—even the Utraquist Hussites. All kinds of Protestant communities including the various branches of Hussites, Lutherans and Reformed were either expelled, killed, or converted to Roman Catholicism. Going forward, Czechs have become more wary and pessimistic of religion as such and a long history of resistance to the Catholic Church followed, as it was considered to be associated with Habsburg rule. It suffered a schism with the establishment of the neo-Hussite Czechoslovak Hussite Church in 1920, which gradually gained adherents during the interwar era and following World War II. However, both Hussites and Catholics have since lost adherents due to the ongoing secularisation and modernisation of society. In contrast, the Catholic Church has historically had a stronger status in Slovakia with a Lutheran minority. Slovak society is, however, undergoing a secularisation and modernisation like in Czechia.
Czechoslovak cuisine is marked by a strong emphasis on meat dishes. Both Czech and Slovak cuisine are relatively closely related to Hungarian and Austrian cuisine, while in Eastern Slovakia it is also influenced by Ukrainian and Polish cuisine. The Czechoslovak cuisine is based mainly on pork meat, beef and poultry (chicken is the most widely eaten, followed by duck, goose, and turkey), flour, potatoes, cabbage, and milk products. Wild game (boar, rabbit and venison) as well as lamb and goat are served, while fish is rare, with the occasional exception of fresh trout and carp, which is served at Christmas.
The traditional Czech meals are Vepřo knedlo zelo (roast pork with bread dumplings and stewed cabbage), Svíčková na smetaně (roast sirloin of beef with steamed dumplings and cream of vegetable sauce), Rajská a omáčka (beef in tomato sauce, traditionally served with dumplings) Koprovka (beef in dill sauce, traditionally served with dumplings), Pečená kachna (roast duck), Guláš (goulash) and Řízek (Schnitzel). Other popular dishes are Smažený sýr (fried cheese) and Bramboráky (potato pancakes, traditionally served with sour cabbage), and there is also a large variety of local sausages, wurst, pâtés, and smoked and cured meats. Czech desserts include a wide variety of whipped cream, chocolate, and fruit pastries and tarts, crepes, creme desserts and cheese, poppy seed filled and other types of traditional cakes such as buchty, koláče and štrůdl.
The traditional Slovak meals are bryndzové halušky, bryndzové pirohy and other meals with potato dough and bryndza. Bryndza is a salty cheese made of a sheep milk, characterized by a strong taste and aroma. Bryndzové halušky must be on the menu of every traditional Slovak restaurant. A typical soup is a sauerkraut soup ("kapustnica"). A blood sausage called "jaternica", made from any and all parts of a butchered pig is also a specific Slovak meal.
Czech beer has a long and important history. The first brewery is known to have existed in 1118 and the Czechoslovakia has the highest beer consumption per capita in the world. The famous pilsner style beer originated in the western Bohemian city of Plzeň, where world famous Pilsner Urquell is still being produced, and further south the town of České Budějovice, known as Budweis in German, lent its name to its beer, eventually known as Budweiser Budvar. Other famous brands are Staropramen, Velkopovický Kozel, Krušovice, Gambrinus and Radegast. Apart from these and other major brands, Czechoslovakia also boasts a growing number of top quality small breweries and mini-breweries seeking to continue the age-old tradition of quality and taste, whose output matches the best in the world: Štiřín, Chýně, Oslavany, Kácov. While beer is also popular in Slovakia (with brands such as Zlatý Bažant, Šariš and Steiger), the Slovak brewing industry lagged far behind that in the Czech lands. To try to balance this, the federal government helped Slovakia build several large new breweries in the 1950s and 1960s.
In Slovakia and Moravia, wine is very popular. Slovak wine comes predominantly from the southern areas along the Danube and its tributaries. The northern half of the country is too cold and mountainous to grow grapevines. Traditionally, white wine was more popular than red or rosé (except in some regions), and sweet wine more popular than dry, but in recent years tastes seem to be changing. In Southern Moravia there has been wine production since the Middle Ages. Aside from slivovice (slivovitz, or plum brandy), beer and wine, two unique liquors are also produced in Czechoslovakia: Fernet Stock and Becherovka.
Sports play a part in the life of many Czechs and Slovaks, who are generally loyal supporters of their favorite teams or individuals. The three leading sports in the Czech Republic are ice hockey (which is also the national sport), football and athletics, with the first two and hockey in particular drawing the largest attention of both the media and supporters. Sport is a source of strong waves of patriotism, usually rising several days or weeks before an event. The events considered the most important by Czechoslovak fans are the Ice Hockey World Championships, Olympic Ice hockey tournament, UEFA European Football Championship, FIFA World Cup and qualification matches for such events. In general, any international match of the Czechoslovak ice hockey or football national team draws attention, especially when played against a traditional rival.
The Czechoslovak national ice hockey team has been one of the world's premiere teams and won many medals from the world championships and Olympic Games. In the 1940s, they established themselves as the best team in Europe, becoming the first team from the continent to win three World Championships (1947, 1949 and 1950), and won the gold medal at the 1956 Winter Olympics. After the arrival of the Soviet Union on the international hockey scene in the 1950s, the Czechoslovaks regularly fought Sweden and Canada for silver and bronze medals, but sometimes beat the Soviets, especially in the 1970s. In the 1990s and early 2000s the Czechoslovaks dominated international hockey, winning the gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics and won three straight gold medals at the world championships from 1999 to 2001. In total the Czechoslovak national team has won three gold, four silver and eight bronze medals at the Winter Olympics, one Canada Cup (in 1981) as well as 18 gold, 18 silver and 17 bronze medals at the Ice Hockey World Championships. Famous players, many of them having had successful NHL careers, include Jaromír Jágr, Peter Šťastný, Dominik Hašek, Zdeno Chára, Jakub Voráček, Marián Hossa, Peter Bondra, Miroslav Šatan, Pavol Demitra, Václav Nedomanský, Ivan Hlinka, Vladimir Dzurilla, Jiří Holeček, František Pospíšil, Jiří Holík, Bohumil Modrý, Ladislav Troják and Jaroslav Drobný.
The Czechoslovakia national football team was a consistent performer on the international scene, with eight appearances in the FIFA World Cup Finals, finishing in second place in 1934 and 1962. The team also won the European Football Championship in 1976 and in 2004, were the runner-up in 1996, and came in third in 1980. They also won the Olympic gold in 1980. Famous players, include Pavel Nedvěd, Petr Čech, Karel Poborský, Tomáš Rosický, Miroslav Karhan, Róbert Vittek, Marek Hamšík, Marián Masný, Ivo Viktor, Karol Dobiaš, Anton Ondruš, Zdeněk Nehoda, Antonín Panenka and Oldřich Nejedlý.
Athletics have also been a popular sport, especially as part of the Sokol movement, a youth sport movement and gymnastics organization established in 1862. Since arranging the first set in 1882, the movement and the mass gymnastics flourished in the early interwar period and by 1930 had 630,000 members. Since then the membership and popularity has fallen below pre-war levels, but are still arranged every six years. Among the best Czechoslovak gymnasts are Emil Zátopek, winner of four Olympic gold medals in athletics (considered one of the top athletes in history) and Věra Čáslavská, an Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics, winning seven gold medals and four silver medals and representing Czechoslovakia in three consecutive Olympics.
The Czech Republic also has great influence on tennis with such players as Ivan Lendl, Tomáš Berdych, Miloslav Mečíř, Hana Mandlíková, Martina Hingis, Martina Navratilova and Daniela Hantuchová.
In recent years, Czechoslovakia has also made a mark in cycling, with Slovak Peter Sagan having won one World Championship, four stages in the Tour de France, as well as the points classification in the Tour de France in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.