The Czechs or the Czech people (Czech: Češi, pronounced [ˈtʃɛʃɪ]; singular masculine: Čech, singular feminine: Češka) are a nation and West Slavic ethnic group native to the Czech Republic. They share a common culture, history and speak the Czech language.

Ethnic Czechs were called Bohemians in English until the early 20th century, referring to the late Iron Age tribe of Celtic Boii and their land Bohemia. During the Migration Period, Germanic tribes moved westwards and around the 6th century, West Slavs settled in the area and formed an independent principality in the 9th century.

Czech people and their descendants live in the Czech Republic, the United States, Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, Slovakia, Australia, Argentina, Austria, and Switzerland, among others.

History

The Czech people are primarily descended from Western Slavs[2] who settled in Bohemia, Moravia and Austria sometime during the 6th or 7th centuries.[2] They might have encountered a residual Germanic (generically Suebic) population, but the only evidence for continued "Germanic" settlement into the 6th century comes from northern and central Bohemia.[2]

According to a popular myth, the Slavic settlers come from Forefather Čech who settled at Říp Mountain.

The Duchy of Bohemia emerged in the late 9th century. In 880, Prague Castle was constructed by Prince Bořivoj, founder of the Přemyslid dynasty and the city of Prague was established. Vratislav II was the first Czech king in 1085 and the Duchy was raised to a hereditary kingdom under Ottokar I in 1198.

The second half of the 13th century was a period of advancing German immigration into Czech lands. The number of Czechs who have at least partly German ancestry today probably runs into hundreds of thousands.[2] The Habsburg Monarchy focused much of its power on religious wars against the Protestants. While these religious wars were taking place, the Czech estates revolted against Habsburg from 1546 to 1547 but were ultimately defeated.[2]

Defenestrations of Prague in 1618, signaled an open revolt by the Bohemian estates against the Habsburgs and started the Thirty Years' War. After the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, all Czech lands were declared hereditary property of the Habsburg family. The German language was made equal to the Czech language.

Czech patriotic authors tend to call the following period, from 1620 to 1648 until the late 18th century, the "Dark Age". It is characterized by devastation by foreign troops; Germanization; and economic and political decline. It is estimated that the population of the Czech lands declined by a third.[2]

The 18th and 19th century is characterized by the Czech National Revival, focusing to revive Czech culture and national identity.

Since the turn of the 20th century, Chicago is the city with the third largest Czech population, after Prague and Vienna.[2][3]

During World War I, Czechoslovak Legions fought in France, Italy and Russia against the Central Powers and in 1918 was proclaimed independent Czechoslovakia. Czechs formed the leading class in the new state from the remnants of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy. After 1933, Czechoslovakia remained the only democracy in central and eastern Europe.

In 1938 the Munich Agreement severed the Sudetenland, with a considerable Czech minority, from Czechoslovakia, and in 1939 the German Nazi regime established the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia for Resttschechei (i.e., the remainder of the Czech lands). Emil Hácha became president of the protectorate under Nazi domination, which only allowed pro-Nazi Czech associations and tended to stress ties of the Czechs with the Bohemian Germans and other parts of the German people, in order to facilitate assimilation by Germanization. In Lidice, Ležáky and Javoříčko the Nazi authorities committed war crimes against the local Czech population. On May 2, 1945, the Prague Uprising reached its peak, supported by the Russian Liberation Army. The post-war expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia and the immediate reprisals against Germans and Nazi collaborators by Czech resistance and the Czechoslovak state authorities, made Czechs – especially in the early 1950s – settle alongside Slovaks and Romani people in the former lands of the Sudeten Germans, who had been deported to East Germany, West Germany and Austria according to the Potsdam Conference and Yalta Conference.

The Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 was followed by a wave of emigration, unseen before and stopped shortly after (estimate: 70,000 immediately, 300,000 in total),[3] typically of highly qualified people.

Tens of thousands of Czechs had repatriated from Volhynia and Banat after World War II. Since the 1990s, the Czech Republic has been working to repatriate Romania and Kazakhstan's ethnic Czechs.[3][3]

Following the Czech Republic's entry into the European Union in May 2004, Czechs gradually gained the right to work in EU countries without a work permit.[3]

Genetics

The population of the Czech lands has been influenced by different human migrations that wide-crossed Europe over time. In their Y-DNA haplogroups, which are inherited along the male line, Czechs have shown a mix of Eastern and Western European traits. 34.2% of Czech males belong to R1a, which is particularly common in a large region extending from South Asia and Southern Siberia to Central Europe and Scandinavia. Within the Czech Republic, the proportion of R1a seems to gradually increase from west to east [3] According to a 2000 study, 35.6% of Czech males have haplogroup R1b, which is very common in Western Europe among Germanic and Celtic nations, but rare among Slavic nations.[3]

A high frequency of mutation of the G551D gene CFTR (cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator), causing cystic fibrosis is found in the Czech Republic, Austria, and among the Celtic nations: Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, Ireland and Brittany.[3]

About 3% of inhabitants of Moravia have also intermixed with Central Asian nomadic tribes, who migrated into Central and Eastern Europe in the early Middle Ages.[3]

Notable figures

Mythology

There are also ancient folk stories about the Czech people, such as the Forefather Čech, who according to legend brought the tribe of Czechs into its land,[3] or Přemysl, the Ploughman,[4] who started the dynasty that ruled for 400 years until 1306.

Historical figures

The most successful and influential of all Czech kings was Charles IV, who also became the Holy Roman Emperor.[4] The Luxembourg dynasty represents the heights of Czech (Bohemian) statehood territorial and influence as well as advancement in many areas of human endeavors.[4]

Many people are considered national heroes and cultural icons, many national stories concern their lives. Jan Hus was a religious reformist from the 15th century and spiritual father of the Hussite Movement.[4] The teacher of nations Jan Amos Komenský is also considered a notable figure in Czech history.[4] Josef Jungmann is often credited for expanding the modern Czech language, and preventing its extinction.[4]

Modern politicians

One of the most notable figures are founders of Czechoslovakia, modern state of independence of Czech and Slovak nations, Presidents Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and Edvard Beneš, which was also leader of exile government in World War II.

Another notable politician after fall of the communist regime is Václav Havel, last President of Czechoslovakia and first President of the Czech Republic.[4] The current first direcly-elect president is Miloš Zeman.[4]

The Czech Republic has had multiple Prime Ministers the first of which was latter Presidents Václav Klaus nad Miloš Zeman.[4] Another Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic were conservative politicians such as Mirek Topolánek, Petr Nečas and social democratic such as Vladimír Špidla, Jiří Paroubek, Bohuslav Sobotka.[4]

Sports

Sports have also been a contributor to famous Czechs especially tennis, football, hockey, and athletics:

The arts

Music

Czech music started develop by first significant pieces, created in the 11th century.[38] The great progress of Czech artificial music has begun in the end of Renaissance and early Baroque era, concretely in works of Adam Václav Michna z Otradovic, where the specific character of Czech music was rising up by using the influence of genuine folk music. This tradition determined the development of Czech music and has remained the main sign in the works of great Czech composers of almost all eras – Jan Dismas Zelenka and Bohuslav Matěj Černohorský in Baroque, Bedřich Smetana and Antonín Dvořák in Romanticism, Leoš Janáček and Bohuslav Martinů in modern classical or Miloslav Kabeláč in contemporary classical music.

Czech musicians played also important role in the development of European music. Jan Václav Antonín Stamic in 18th-century contributed to the creation of Classicism in music[39] by innovations of compositional forms and founding of Mannheim school, similarly Antonín Rejcha's experiments prefigured new compositional techniques in the 19th century.[40] The influence of Czech musicians has been gone later beyond the borders of European continent, when Antonín Dvořák brought into life new American classical music style, using the potential of the richness of ethnic music of that country during his mission in the US. The contribution of Alois Hába to microtonal music in the 20th century must be also mentioned.

Czech music reached as far as Qing China. Karel Slavíček was a Jesuit missionary, scientist and sinologist who was introduced to the Kangxi Emperor on February 3, 1717, in Beijing. The emperor favored him and employed him as court musician. (Slavíček was a Spinet player).[41]

Some notable Czech musicians who came down in modern history are US-based composer and guitarist Ivan Král or rock band The Plastic People of the Universe which played an important part in the underground movement during the communist regime.

Literature

Poet Jaroslav Seifert was awarded the Nobel Literature Prize.[34] Božena Němcová has become a cultural icon and gained much fame for her book Babička.[42]

Painting

Mikoláš Aleš was a painter, known for redesigning the Prague National Theatre.[43]

Alphonse Mucha was an influential artist in the Art Nouveau movement of the Edwardian period.

František Kupka was a pioneer and co-founder of the abstract art movement.

Film

Film director Miloš Forman, known best for his movie, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest is of Czech origin and started his career in Czechoslovakia.[44] The influential surrealist filmmaker and animator Jan Švankmajer was born in Prague and has been resident in the Czech Republic throughout his life.

National performers such as Karel Kryl,[6] Helena Vondráčková,[6] Karel Gott[6] (singers), Zdeněk Svěrák (director and actor), Vlastimil Brodský,[6] Vladimír Menšík[6] (actors) or Ivan Mládek (comedian), have also made a mark in modern Czech history.

Saints

Czech culture involves many saints,[6] most notably St. Wenceslaus (Václav), patron of the Czech nation,[6] St. John of Nepomuk (Jan Nepomucký),[6] St. Adalbert (Vojtěch),[6] Saint Procopius or St. Agnes of Bohemia (Anežka Česká).[6]

Geography

Czechs lives in compound of 3 historical lands: Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia;[54] today Czech Republic. Country is today divided into 14 regions.[55] There is a slightly varying culture in each of the regions.[56] In the Moravian part of the Czech Republic, lives part of the Czech nation - Moravians, which are usually more nationalistic regional patriots of Moravia, but they also speak Czech. In whole country are certain local dialects (like Central Bohemian, Chodian, Moravian, Těšínian, etc.).[57]

Czech language

The Czech language is spoken by approximately 12 million people around the world but the vast majority remains in the Czech Republic.[59] It developed from the Proto-Slavic language in the 10th century[59][60] and is mutually intelligible with the Slovak language.[61]