European Humanities

Spring 2008


Czech(ing) Account

(from a lecture by Mr. Julius)





A.    Christianization’s Bipolarity: 9th Century

Century of Christianization: Orthodox Greek v. Roman Catholic


B.     Multipolar Survival: Poles, Magyars and Germans: 1000-1200

Multicultural Society Co-existing (Magyars- Hungarians)


C.     Bohemia within Holy Roman Empire (German)

Since its earliest times, Bohemia has maintained an autonomous identity

within the Holy Roman Empire

1.      1212:  elective crown of St. Wenceslas

the Holy Roman Emperor recognizes Czech autonomy and independence,

but in reality, Bohemia is a small country among big fish


2.      1348: University of Prague

one of the oldest colleges in Europe

Bohemia’s early entry into the Renaissance

The Czechs are as educated a people as any in Europe.


3.      1356: Golden Bull

Papal Bull which gives the Major Rulers within the Empire the right to elect the Emperor.

The Czechs are major players within the Empire although they are ethnically Bohemian.


4.      Charles IV

Holy Roman Emperor moves the capitol from Vienna to Prague

(bad news – A new German centered bureaucracy takes root)




                        A prolonged period of controversy in Bohemia during which they managed

more independence.


A.    The Hussite Era 1400-1500

John Hus converts Bohemians to Hussite faith. Basically, he was teaching what Luther would teach one hundred years later. (He got burned at the stake.) The Empire tried to stamp out the Hussites.


B.     Calvinism’s Arrival

The people were converted to Calvinism. They chose this faith for political reasons: autonomy and independence.


C.     Counter- Reformation


1.      First Defenestration of Prague

Two delegates were sent from the Emperor to Prague to keep them in Catholicism; they were thrown the window (and landed on a dung heap.)


2.      Battle of White Mountain (1620)

The decisive event in Czech history: the Czechs were not numerous enough to remain independent. They were crushed in 1620 during the Thirty Years War and put under German Imperial and Catholic influence. Protestantism was stamped out.



GERMAN BOHEMIA Central Europe 1788


A.    Germanization- 18th Century

There was an active campaign to Germanize the northern provinces of Bohemia, the Sudetanland. There German became the official language and culture.


B.     1848 Revolutions

The event brought nationalist movements to the fore throughout Europe.


1.       Prague Revolt

The Czechs were invited to the Frankfurt Assembly, the German radicals attempt to establish a liberal constitutional democracy. The Czechs decided that the assembly was just too German, so they turned down the invitation.


2.      1st Pan-Slav Congress v. Frankfurt Assembly

The Pan-Slav Congress was held in opposition to the Frankfurt Assembly to express Slavophile solidarity.


3.      Das Windischgratz

A general used grapeshot to disperse crowds in Prague and re-assert the control of the Austrian Empire.


C.     Germanization

Another period of forced Germanization of the country:

All education and business were conducted in German.


D.    World War I (Map: Pre-WWI)

The Austrians fought the Russians, and the Czechs had trouble fighting on the Austrian side because they considered their Russians brother to be Slavs. They eventually joined the other side, hoping that the Russians would liberate them from the Germans. (A Czech legion in Russia actually touched off the Civil War when, after the Treaty of Brest Livotsk, the Bolsheviks tried to disarm them.)





Europe after WWI (Map: Post WWI)


The Treaty of Versailles, under Woodrow Wilson’s policy of national self-determinism, created the independent, sovereign state of Czechoslovakia.



A successful liberal democracy enacted land reform and succeeded in industrializing the economy. The Czechs are the poster boys of Westernization.


            Munich Crisis (Map: Pre-WWII)

Sold out by Britain and France to Hitler’s Germany. The Germans invade and annex the Sudetanland, and the treaty which had been signed to protect the Czechs is abrogated.


            Bohemia in World War II

Nazi Rule: the Czech Jews are killed. Defenders of liberalization are put into concentration camps as well. A Czech partisan group succeeded in assassinating Heydrich, a chief architect of the Holocaust. The Nazis retaliated by shooting everyone in the town where the assassination took place.


            1945-1949 (Map: post-WWII)

The Red Army liberated Czechoslovakia, and democracy briefly returned; the Czechs created a coalition between liberals and communists. The democratic Czech government lasted three years.



                                    Communist coup in Prague

                                                Second Defenestration of Prague (this time there were no survivors.)

                                                President of the Czech State is killed.

                                                The country becomes a nice Soviet satellite.



                                    Stalin dies in 1953. Khrushchev relaxes things, criticizes Stalin’s police state.

                                                Thaw in Poland, E. Germany and Hungary.

                                                Solid Stalinism remains in Czechoslovakia.

                                                1956- Soviet invasion of Hungary



                                    Alexander Dubcek and the Prague Spring

                                                Peaceful transformation to a more democratic socialism seems in offing until

                                                The Russian tanks roll.



                                    Czech State remains communist.



                                    Berlin Wall falls.

                                                Gorbachev signals, “If you want to go, we won’t stop you.”

                                                The Velvet Revolution

                                                The Czechs establish a democratic, liberal and capitalist system


            1992- ?

                Vaclav Havel, playwright and dissident, is elected President

                The Czechs and Slovaks go their separate ways.

                Bohemia is now just Bohemia.


                Trends in Czech History


-          They are very experienced at living under other people’s rule.

-          They have been more successful at governing themselves than others in Central Europe.

-          Kafka was a Czech Jew writing in German.