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The "Check" Republic
The Capitol City of the Czech Republic is Prague, also called the Golden Prague, "Zlata Praha" and City of Hundreds of Gables, "Stovezata" and "The Heart Of Europe".
The rich history of the country, and Prague, began in the 10th century. Soon, the Vysehrad Castle was built. The Hradcany Castle-today’s "Presidential Palace" occupied by President Vaclav Havel - was constructed a little later. One of the early princes of the dynasty was St. Wenceslas (1230-53) – "Svaty Vaclav" the patron saint of the country, the "Good King Wenceslas" of the Christmas carol. The market place of Prague, "Staromestske Namesti"- Old Town Square- is mentioned in documents dating back to the 11th century. The Mala Strana was granted the privileges and rights of a city in 1257. Hradcany was next. At the beginning of the 14th century, Prague was composed of three different towns: The Old Town, the Mala Strana and Hradcany. The total area of the city in 1300 was estimated at 120 hectars (297 acres).
From the middle of the 13th century the fortunes of Bohemia, and therefore of Prague, had been determined by the political and military success of King Premysel Otakar II (1253-78). The times were marked by unrest and political power struggles, in which the patrician families of Prague took part with varied success. Emperor Charles IV, born 1316, spent his early years in Prague, but in 1323 he was sent to Paris to the court of his uncle, the king of France, where he was educated. In 1633, at age 17, he was proclaimed governor of Bohemia and Moravia. In spite of his age, he dedicated himself to bring new prosperity to the country. In 1346 Charles was elected king of the Germans and was crowned king of Bohemia one year later. In 1355 he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in Rome. He chose Prague as his residence and set about making the political and cultural hub of Central Europe.
He hired architect Peter Parler who was one of the most notable architects of the Late-Gothic period. One of the many famous projects was St. Vitus Cathedral, "Chram Svateho Vita" and Charles Bridge- "Karluv Most" which was also shown in the movie "Yentel" produced by Barbra Streisand and "Mission Impossible" with Tom Cruise. Prague also gained considerable prestige when the university - first in Central Europe- was built. Charles IV granted the official founding charter on April 7, 1348.
Wenceslas IV, Charles’ son, succeeded to his father’s position in the Empire and in Bohemia. In 14th century Europe, opposition to the luxurious and often not very moral lifestyle of the monastic orders was growing. In March 1402, Jan Hus (1370-1415) began to preach in Bethlehem Chapel against the secularization of the church. This preacher and philosopher became one of the most charismatic figures in Czech history, and a great inspiration to ordinary people throughout the ages. Going ahead to the 19th century, on October 28, 1918, the Czech Republic was declared in Prague. On November 14, Tomas Masaryk was elected President. Also Edvard Benes was elected as Foreign Minister. Benes would be Masaryk’s successor in the presidential office. Benes had managed to obtain the incorporation of Slovakia into the Czech State, against Hungarian opposition and the opposition of the Slovak populace.
The incorporation of the Sudetenland two decades later would give Adolf Hitler a welcome excuse to liquidate The Czechoslovak Republic. Before World War II, the country was one of Europe’s highly developed nations, with modern light and heavy industry, and efficient agriculture. In the autumn of 1938, on September 30, Chamberlain, Daladier, Mussolini and Hitler signed the Munich Agreement. The Sudetenland now belonged to Germany. On October 22, Benes went into exile in England, and on 14 and 15 of March 1939, Hitler declared a "sovereign" Slovakian vassal state establishing the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. German troops marched into Prague and the German occupation began.
On May 5, 1945, three days before the war ended, the people of Prague rose up against the Germans. When the Red Army marched into the city they were greeted as liberators, as well as "brother Slavs". The Czechs viewed Russia as a kind of "Big Older brother" giving Czechs a false sense of security and "protection". In post-war Czechoslovakia, Klement Gotwald became leader of a coalition government. The communists gained control in February 1948, in a bloodless coup. A month later, Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk (son of Tomas Masaryk), the only non-communist still in the government, was found dead in the courtyard below his office. The Stalin’s years began. In 1960 the country’s official title of "people’s republic" was changed to "Socialistic Republic".
In 1968 Alexander Dubcek became an internationally known figure for his "Socialism with a human face". Since the momentous Velvet Revolution at the end of 1989, the arts, great and small have once more found their place in an open society. All the entertainment that was suppressed for many years under the Communist regime is possible today. Western magazines and newspapers are available on newsstands throughout the city. Prague essentially remains a Bohemian city. The magical squares, beautifully preserved, resound with music on every corner.