The Czech Republic (i CHEK; Czech: Česká republika, pronounced [ˈt͡ʃɛskaː ˈrɛpuˌblɪka] ( listen), short form Czechia (Czech: Česko [ˈt͡ʃɛsko]), is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Germany to the west, Austria to the south, Slovakia to the east and Poland to the north. Its capital and largest city, with 1.3 million inhabitants, is Prague. The Czech Republic includes the historical territories of Bohemia and Moravia, as well as a small part of Silesia.
The Czech state, formerly known as Bohemia (Čechy), was formed in the late 9th century as a small duchy around Prague, at that time under the dominance of the powerful Great Moravian Empire. After the fall of the Empire in 907, the centre of power was transferred from Moravia to Bohemia, under the Přemyslids. Since 1002 it was formally recognized as part of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1212 the duchy was raised to a kingdom and during the rule of Přemyslid dukes/kings and their successors, the Luxembourgs, the country reached its greatest territorial extent (13th–14th century). During the Hussite wars the kingdom faced economic embargoes and crusades from all over Europe. Following the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the Kingdom of Bohemia was gradually integrated into the Habsburg monarchy as one of its three principal parts, alongside the Archduchy of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary. The Bohemian Revolt (1618–20) lost in the Battle of White Mountain, led to Thirty Years' War and further centralization of the monarchy including forced recatholization and Germanization. With the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the Bohemian kingdom became part of the Austrian Empire. In the 19th century the Czech lands became the industrial powerhouse of the monarchy and the core of the Republic of Czechoslovakia which was formed in 1918, following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I. After 1933, Czechoslovakia remained the only democracy in central and eastern Europe.
Following the Munich Agreement and the Polish annexation of Zaolzie, Czechoslovakia fell under German occupation during World War II. By 1945, a major portion of the country was liberated by the Red Army, and the subsequent gratitude towards the Soviets, combined with disillusionment with the West for failing to intervene, led the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia to the majority of seats in the 1946 elections. In the 1948 coup d'état, Czechoslovakia became a communist-ruled state. In 1968, the increasing dissatisfaction culminated in attempts to reform the communist regime. The events, known as the Prague Spring of 1968, ended with an invasion by the armies of the Warsaw Pact countries (with the exception of Romania); the troops remained in the country until the 1989 Velvet Revolution, when the communist regime collapsed. On 1 January 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved into its constituent states, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.
In 2006, the Czech Republic became first former member of the Comecon to achieve the status of a developed country according to the World Bank. In addition, the country has the highest level of human development in Central and Eastern Europe, ranking among the top 30 nations in the world. The Czech Republic ranks as the ninth-most peaceful country in Europe, while achieving the best performance in democratic governance and infant mortality in the region. It is a pluralist parliamentary representative democracy with membership in the European Union, NATO, the OECD, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the Visegrád Group.
Karpacz (then Krummhübel) during the Gründerzeit
Krkonoše, also known as the Giant Mountains, is a mountain range in the Sudetes, divided between Poland and the Czech Republic. Its highest peak is Sněžka, which stands on the border between the two countries at a height of 1,602 metres (5,256 ft) above sea level, making it the highest peak in the Czech Republic. The mountains are famous for their skiing resorts; they also contain the source of the River Elbe. Large areas of the mountains are preserved as national parks by both countries: the Polish Karkonosze National Park and the Czech Krkonoše National Park. In 1992 Polish and Czech parts of the range were jointly designated a transboundary biosphere reserve under UNESCO's "Man and the Biosphere" program.
The Czech name "Krkonoše" is first mentioned as "Krkonoß" on a 1518 map by Nicholas Claudianus, and in a 1517 source as "Krkonošské hory." The origin of the name is unclear. The Czech word "krk" means "neck," while "noš" is connected to a root meaning "to carry." There may be a connection with the Old Greek word "krka" (meaning "Krummholz") or with the pre-Indo-European word "Corconti," which is first listed by Ptolemy and refers to a pre-Celtic or Germanic people.
The main ridge of the mountains runs in east-west direction and forms the border between Poland and the Czech Republic. Its highest peak, Sněžka, is the highest peak of the Czech Republic. The Silesian northern part in Poland drops steeply to Jelenia Góra valley, whereas the southern Czech part slowly lowers to the Bohemian basin. In the north-east direction the Giant Mountains continue to Rudawy Janowickie, in the south-east to Rýchory . The pass Novosvětský průsmyk at Jakuszyce forms the western border to the Jizera Mountains.
Bedřich Smetana (1824–1884) was a Czech composer who pioneered the development of a musical style which became closely identified with his country's aspirations to independent statehood. Internationally he is known for his opera The Bartered Bride, and for the symphonic cycle Má vlast ("My Fatherland") which portrays the history, legends and landscape of the composer's native land. A gifted pianist, Smetana studied music under Josef Proksch in Prague. In 1866 his first two operas, The Brandenburgers in Bohemia and The Bartered Bride, were premiered at Prague's Provisional Theatre, the latter achieving great popularity. Factions within the city's musical establishment interfered with his creative work, and may have hastened his health breakdown. By 1874, Smetana had become completely deaf but, freed from his theatre duties and the related controversies, he began a period of sustained composition. His contributions to Czech music were increasingly recognised and honoured, but a mental collapse in 1884 led to his incarceration in an asylum, and his subsequent death. Smetana's reputation as the father of Czech music has endured in his homeland, where advocates have raised his status above that of his contemporaries and successors.