In 1918, after the defeat of Austria-Hungary, several centuries of Habsburg rule came to an end with the birth of independent Czechoslovakia, uniting the Czechs and Slovaks in one nation-state. During the years between the two World Wars, the First Republic (as it is referred to) was a rapidly developing industrial society, with a stable democratic system of governance and a vibrant cultural and intellectual life. However, the Munich Agreement, signed in October 1938, essentially sealed Czechoslovakia´s fate and led to the occupation by the Nazi Germany in March 1939. At the end of the World War II, Czechoslovakia fell under the sphere of the Soviet influence. In 1948, the Communist Party had taken full control of the state and Soviet dominance extended for the next 40 years.
„The Velvet Revolution“ took place in November 1989 and is referred to as „velvet“ simply because there were no casualties. On November 17th, following the events in the neighboring East Germany (the Berlin Wall was taken down), a student demonstration confronted the police in the center of Prague. More extensive demonstrations followed with Vaclav Havel at the forefront, until the Communist government resigned on December 3rd, 1989. Vaclav Havel was elected president on December 29th, 1989.
The separation of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic into Czech Republic and Slovak Republic took place in January 1993. Although the Czechs did not want the country to be separated from Slovakia, the economic circumstances and objectives of the two newly emerging market economies varied significantly. The Slovaks born the burden of many former state-owned heavy industry enterprises that faced closure and loss of employment. Like in 1989, the separation was a peaceful process. Rather than presiding over the separation of Czechoslovakia Vaclav Havel resigned to his post, but he was re-elected as the first president of the Czech Republic. His electoral term expired in 2003 when Vaclav Klaus became new president of the Czech Republic. Vaclav Klaus was re-elected in 2008.
As of 1 January 2001, the Czech Republic assumed the rights and obligations previously binding on the federal Czechoslovakia under international treaties. The Czech Republic maintains diplomatic relations with most of the countries that maintained diplomatic relations with the former Czechoslovakia.
The Czech Republic is member of a number of international organizations, such as the United Nations (including most of this organization´s special agencies) and the World Trade Organization (the successor of GATT). With IMF membership now renewed, the country has also become a member of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The Czech Republic is also a member of the Central European Free Trade Association (CEFTA). On 12 March 1999, the Czech Republic became a full member of NATO.
The Czech Republic applied for EU membership in 1996 and started negotiations in March 1999. On 16 April 2003 the Treaty on Accession of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia was signed in Athens. On 1 May 2004, the Czech Republic became a full member of the European Union.
In the beginning of 2009 the Czech Republic undertook the presidency of the European Union for six months period starting in January 2009.
- Prague Information Service – Cultural and political information about the Czech Republic
- Country Studies – Czech Republic – This website contains on-line versions of books previously published in hard copy by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress as part of the Country Studies/Area Handbook Series sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Army between 1986 and 1998. Each study offers a comprehensive description and analysis of the country or region´s historical setting, geography, society, economy, political system, and foreign policy.