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Ostravská univerzita v Ostravě
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701 03 Ostrava
Czech Republic

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The CZECH REPUBLIC

The Czech Republic can be rightly called the crossroads of European civilizations. Thanks to its location in the heart of Central Europe, it boasts a unique natural and cultural wealth. The atmosphere of Czech towns, villages and spas has always been a source of inspiration for visitors from all over the world.

Area

The Czech Republic is historically divided into three regions: Bohemia, Moravia, and a part of Silesia. The total area is 78,866 square kilometers and the country’s population is around 10.3 million people. The capital city is Prague, with 1.2 million inhabitants, and there are 5 other metropolitan cities with a population exceeding 100,000 - Brno, Plzeň, Ostrava, Olomouc and Liberec.

The Czech Republic shares borders with Germany, Poland, Austria and Slovakia. The country is surrounded by extensive mountain ranges, which form most of the border - the Krkonoše Mountains in the northeast, the Krušné Hory Mountains in the northwest; the Hrubý Jeseník Mountains in Moravia and the Moravian-Silesian Beskydy Mountains. Many important European rivers (the Labe (Elbe), Odra (Oder), Morava, Vltava, etc.) flow through the country.

Weather

The Czech Republic climate is marked by continental and oceanic influences. Winters are rather cold, summers warm. The average temperature in July is 19.4º C, and in January it goes down to –1.5º C. However, extreme temperatures like +30º C or -20º C may also be experienced during the year. The weather is very variable; therefore a full range of clothing may be required.

History

The first evidence of a Czech state dates back to the early Middle Ages. A kingdom was established in the Czech Lands in the 13th century under the rule of Charles IV, the Czech king and Holy Roman Emperor. He established a University in Prague in 1348.

After 1620, the Czech Lands became part of Austria and part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after 1867. Following the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the First World War, the Czechs and Slovaks declared independence in 1918 and Czechoslovakia was established as a sovereign state.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Czechoslovakia ranked among the ten most developed countries in the world. After Hitler’s occupation of the country in 1938, Czechoslovakia was split into two parts: the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and the Slovak state.

Czechoslovak statehood was restored after the Second World War, which ended in 1945, but with a territorial loss. The most eastern part, Transcarpathian Ukraine, was annexed by the Soviet Union.

November 1989 was a turning point in the history of the country. Under pressure from the citizens, the communist regime handed over power during the so-called ‘Velvet Revolution’, initiated by students and intellectuals. Free parliamentary elections in June 1990 confirmed the course of democratic development. The unitary state became a federation and the new name of the country was the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic.

At the end of 1992 Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

System of Government

The Czech Republic is a parliamentary democracy. Every citizen over the age of 18 has the right to vote. The highest executive authority is the president, who is the formal head of state and is elected jointly by both houses of parliament for a term of five years. The current president is Václav Klaus.

The supreme legislative body is the parliament, which consists of the House of Deputies, the lower house of the legislature, and the Senate, which is the upper house.

The supreme executive body is the government. The prime minister heads the government and is appointed by the president of the republic. The president also appoints other cabinet members based on the prime minister’s recommendations.

Language

The official language is Czech. Czech belongs to the Indo-European family of languages. The Slavonic languages are divided into the eastern, western and southern branches. Czech belongs to the western Slavonic family, along with Slovak, Polish and Wendish. The Czechs and Slovaks understand each other without major problems. Czech has a difficult grammatical structure but reading and pronunciation are fairly easy.

Religion

The Czech Republic is a secular state and every citizen enjoys freedom of religion. The number of people practicing religion is low. More than 50% of the population describe themselves as agnostic or atheist while in northern Bohemia the proportion rises to about three quarters of the population. The main reasons for this are the suppression of the reformation movement followed by forcible mass re-Catholicization (after 1627), and forty years of the official suppression of religion during the communist period (1948-1989).

Message Owner: Pavla Glacová | Updated: 23. 11. 2008
 

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Ostravská univerzita v Ostravě, Dvořákova 7, 701 03 Ostrava 1, Czech Republic
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