Czech Republic: Country and Foreign Investment
History, Population, Language and Culture
This page was last updated on 3 September 2019.
The lands that form the modern-day Czech Republic (Bohemia and Moravia) date back to the first Slavic settlements in central and eastern Europe and been part of European culture for over 1,000 years. In the Middle Ages, the Czech lands came under Austrian control, later forming part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This was dissolved at the end of World War I and the state of Czechoslovakia was formed, consisting of the Czech lands and those of a closely related people, the Slovaks.
The area’s 20th century history has been turbulent. In October 1938, the border regions known in German as the Sudetenland were annexed by Nazi Germany; within six months, the remainder of the country had fallen into Nazi hands. Czechoslovakia, overrun by Soviet forces as World War II neared its end, duly became a satellite state of the USSR and part of the Warsaw Pact.
In 1968, the radical reforms of Alexander Dubček were more than the Soviet Union could stand, and a number of Soviet-bloc countries invaded the country to crush the regime. By the late 1980s, as a result of USSR leader Gorbachev’s policy of openness (glasnost) the atmosphere had changed and the Eastern European countries freed themselves from Soviet rule. In Czechoslovakia, the almost bloodless Velvet Revolution of 1989 brought about the collapse of the Communist Party.
However, Czechoslovakia was not to last much longer. The Slovaks soon felt that the Czechs had too much power, so the two sides arranged a ‘Velvet Divorce’. In 1993, the republic separated into two independent states: the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The population was just under 10.7 million in September 2019. In the 2011 census, of those who specified an ethnicity, 88.9% were Czech, 6.9% the closely related Moravian and 1.9% Slovak. The capital, Prague (population 1.3 million), lies on the River Vltava and is a major cultural centre and tourist destination. The next largest cities are Brno (population 370,000) and Ostrava (313,000) and Pilsen (Czech: Plzeň, population 164,000).
The principal language is Czech, which is spoken by 96% of the population. It is the most divergent of the Slavic languages, though it is similar to Slovak – which, along with Polish, is spoken by a small minority of the population. Czech is a recognised minority language in Slovakia, Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Poland and Romania.
The Czech Republic is not a particularly religious country, with around 59% of its inhabitants claiming to be agnostic or atheist in their beliefs. About 29% are Christians, the vast majority of which are Roman Catholics.