Czech History

500 - 1306: The Great Moravian Empire and the Přemyslid Dynasty
1310 - 1378: John of Luxembourg and Charles IV
1415 - 1526: The Hussite Era and George of Poděbrady
1526 - 1790: The Habsburg Dynasty to Joseph II
1790 - 1914: National Revival to World War I
1918 - 1945: The First Republic and World War II
1945 - 1989: The Communist Era
1989 - present: Velvet Revolution and Beyond

The Great Moravian Empire and the Přemyslid Dynasty

Some of the oldest settlers of the Czech lands were the Boii, a Celtic tribe that inhabited the region from around the 4th century BC and gave Bohemia its name. The Celts were later replaced by Germanic tribes, and around the 6th century AD, the Slavs finally reached the territory from the east. In the 7th century, a Frankish merchant Sámo succeeded in uniting the Slavic tribes under his empire and defeating the tribe of the Avars that occupied today's Hungary.

Around 830, the Great Moravian Empire (Velkomoravská říše) was established along the Morava River by the Slavic leader Mojmír. Mojmír's successors expanded the empire to include today's Bohemia, Slovakia, southern Poland and western Hungary. The empire found itself at the crossroads between the Germanic people in the west and the Byzantium in the east. Mojmír's successor Rostislav feared the German influence and asked the Byzantine emperor to send two missionaries, Cyril and Methodius of Constantinople, to come and spread Eastern Christianity in the Great Moravian Empire. Cyril and Methodius created the Slavonic script (Cyrillic alphabet that is still in use in Russia and Bulgaria) and translated religious texts from Greek and Latin into the Old Slavonic language. After Methodius' death in 885, the Roman Catholic religion was adopted and the Cyrillic script was replaced by the Latin alphabet. The Great Moravian Empire collapsed with the Hungarian invasion in 907.

The rule over the region was now in the hands of the Přemyslid dynasty that dominated the Czech lands from the 9th century until 1306. Around 880, the Prague Castle was founded by prince Bořivoj, the first of the Přemyslid princes, and the seat of power was moved there. Several churches, such as the St. Vitus rotunda, were built and foundations were laid to the Vyšehrad Castle in the 10th century. The Prague bishopric was founded in 973. The Czech lands had a high economic, cultural, and political status during the Přemyslid rule, which was further strengthened by Vratislav II being granted the royal crown and becoming the first Czech king in 1085 - so far remaining subordinate to the Holy Roman Empire and the German king, with the royal title being made hereditary in 1212 by the Golden Sicilian Bull.

In the meantime, Prague was growing rapidly thanks to its position at the crossroads of several trade routes. The first stone bridge over the Vltava, Judith Bridge, was built in 1172. The Old Town (Staré město) was founded in 1234 and the Lesser Town (Malá Strana) was founded in 1257. During the reign of Přemysl Otakar II in mid-13th century, the Czech kingdom briefly expanded all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. The Přemyslid dynasty ended with the death of its last member, Wenceslas III, in 1306.

Related books on

- The Early Slavs: Culture and Society in Early Medieval Eastern Europe
- Cyril & Methodius: Illuminators of the Slavs

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