The Czech Republic formed on January 1, 1993 when newly democratic Czechoslovakia peacefully split into two countries. Czechoslovakia had returned to democracy four years earlier through the peaceful Velvet Revolution, when the Communist government was replaced by one led by the playwright and dissident Václav Havel. By 1992, several Czech and Slovak leaders had come to an agreement to dissolve Czechoslovakia, and not long after, the Czech Republic and Slovakia emerged as Europe’s newest nations.
The Czech government instituted economic reforms that ensured the rapid growth of the country’s market economy. These included the privatization of several banks and industries and the implementation of the Schingen Agreement, which had the country opening its borders to its neighbours—Germany, Austria, Poland and Slovakia—on December 21, 2007. The Czech Republic became the first post-Communist country to receive an investment-grade credit rating by the world’s leading credit organizations. It is also a member of the Visegrad Group, the OECD, NATO and, since 2004, the European Union.
Even though the country is officially only 17 years old, it has a long history. It is composed of the historic regions of Bohemia in the west and Moravia in the east, including parts of Silesia. The low mountains of Bohemia surround a water basin that is drained by the Elbe and Vltava Rivers. Moravia is mainly hill country, drained by the Morava River. As a governing body, the Czech Republic is divided into 13 regions and the capital city of Prague. Each region has a Hejtman (President) leading a Regional Assembly. Prague is governed by the mayor and the city council.
Once the seat of the Holy Roman Emperors, Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in the world—a fairytale city of palaces, elegant bridges, lovely parks and gardens, and the massive Prague Castle atop a hill overlooking the rest of the city and the winding Vltava River. Once a well-kept secret among knowledgeable world travelers, Prague has been discovered by the general public and is now one of the most visited places in Europe.
The rest of the Czech Republic is just as fascinating. Outside of Prague are the castles and chateaus of Karlštejn, Konopiště, and Ceský Krumlov, the healing spas of Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně and Františkovy Lázně, and the world-famous breweries of Plzeň and České Budějovice. Outdoor activities, such as hiking and skiing are best enjoyed in Ceský ráj, Sumava, and the Krkonosě Mountains.
Solid economic growth is transforming the Czech Republic into one of Europe’s most progressive and modern countries, but not at the expense of the rich culture and heritage that the Czechs are rightly proud of.