Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Czechoslovakian History

Czech Republic

Capital : Prague

Size: 30 400 sq m Popn: 10 299 000

Slovak Republic

Capital : Bratislava

Size: 18 900 sq m Popn: 5 297 000

The area north of the River Danube was towards the edge of the major Celtic settlement. It was never really part of the Roman Empire, with the Iazyges and Samatians remaining independent. During the mass migration of Germanic tribes after the influence of Rome was removed in the C5th AD, it was settled by, among others, the Rugii, Slavs and Sueves. The territory of Bohemia on the border of the Frankish Empire covered part of the same area and was in the path of the Magyar invasions after they had based themselves in the Hungarian plain in the C9th and C10th.

Bohemia (Cechy)

The name 'Bohemia' is derived from its earliest known inhabitants, a Celtic people called the Boii. Christianity was introduced in the C9th and the See of Prague established in 975. Bohemia grew in status under the Premyslid family, emerging as a political unit under Boleslav I (929-67), but the nobility willingly became vassals of Germany in 950 when they were threatened by the Hungarians. The Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, established a protectorate over the Celtic, Germanic and Slavic tribes in the area. There was a brief Polish occupation under Boleslaw Chobry in 1003-4. King Ottocar I introduced feudalism in the early C13th.

Mining attracted large numbers of German settlers who had a strong influence on culture and society. The Kingdom of Bohemia had included Moravia for some time, but it was Ottocar II in the C13th who set out to build a state reaching as far as the Adriatic, including Austria. His policies were unpopular with his nobles and he was defeated and died in 1278 leaving a way in for the Habsburgs to take power in Austria. The Premyslid dynasty was extinct by 1306 and in 1310, John of Luxembourg, son of the holy Roman Emperor Henry VII, founded in a German-Czech royal dynasty. His son also became HRE as Charles IV and Bohemia rose again to take control of Brandenburg, Lusatia, Silesia and the Upper Palatinate. The See of Prague became an Archbishopric and a university was founded.

Social and religious unrest began under Charles IV's son, Wenceslaus, and weakened the power of the crown. The reformer, Jan Hus, was condemned and burned in 1415 and the resulting Hussite wars (1420-36) developed an anti-German slant. In 1526, the whole kingdom became part of the Austrian Habsburg dominions. The long religious struggle between Catholics and Protestants came to a head with Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II defeating the Bohemian Protestants in 1618-21. Catholicism was now the only religion allowed in Bohemia and Moravia. The kingdom remained under Habsburg rule until 1918 when it was included in the new independent state of Czechoslovakia.


This area was settled by Slavs in the C5th and 6th. The Magyars occupied it in the C10th and it was part of the kingdom of Hungary until becoming a province of Czechoslovakia in 1918. From 1939-45, Slovakia was a puppet state under German domination. It was abolished as an administrative division in 1949 but was re-established as a sovereign state when the Czechoslovak Republic broke up in 1993.


Although the Czechs tried to gain autonomy within it in the C19th, Bohemia remained part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until after the First World War. The new state of Czechoslovakia consisted of the Habsburg 'crown lands' of Bohemia, Moravia and Lower Silesia with the former Hungarian territories of Slovakia. Carpathian Ruthenia was added when the Allies recognised the new republic under the Treaty of St Germain-en-Laye. As well as the Czechs and Slovaks, the population included a German minority in the north and Hungarians or Magyars in the south. In the 1920s it made alliances with the other new states of Yugoslavia and Romania which developed into the 'Little Entente'. Considerable economic and political progress was made until the 1930s. Czechoslovakia was the only state in Eastern Europe to retain a parliamentary democracy throughout interwar period, with five coalition governments dominated by the Agrarian and National Socialist Parties under Thomas Masaryk as president.

When the Nazi leader, Hitler, rose to power in Germany, there was revival of opposition amongst the German minority and nationalism amongst the Magyars and the Slovak clerical party also demanded autonomy for Slovakia. In 1938, Britain, France, Germany and Italy made the Munich Agreement which took the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia (which was not consulted) and gave it to Germany as a peace-keeping initiative but this was unsuccessful and Germany occupied the rump Czech state in 1939, contributing to the outbreak of WWII. Eduard Beneë established a government in exile in London until Czechoslovakia was liberated by Soviet and American troops in 1945. Around 2 million Sudeten Germans were expelled and Czech Ruthenia was transferred to the Ukraine, a Soviet Republic. The elections of 1946 led to a slight majority for the left and the communists seized power, winning an election victory in May. Beneë , who had become president in 1945, resigned. The country was divided into 19 regions which became 10 with the cities of Prague and Bratislava separate, in 1960. There was a Stalinist regime under Presidents Klement Gottwald (1948-53), Antonin Zapotocky (1953-7) and Antonin Novotnú (1957-68).

Pressure from students and intellectuals led to policy changes from 1965. When Novotny was replaced as Czechoslovakian Communist Party leader by Alexander Dub¹ ek, and as president by General LudvÍ k Svoboda, and Oldé ich ‡ ernik became prime minister in 1968, a liberalization programme, the Prague Spring, began. Czechoslovakia assured the USSR that it would remain within the Warsaw Pact but in August 1968, 60 000 troops were sent in to restore orthodoxy. After the invasion, which killed over 70 and wounded at least 266, and a purge of liberals from the CCP began. A Slovak Brezhnevite, Gust« v Hus« k, became CCP leader in 1969 and the Czech, LubomÍ r ž trougal, became prime minister in 1970. Svoboda remained president until 1975 and negotiated the Soviet withdrawal. Repression slackened a little after an amnesty was extended to some of the 40 000 who had fled during the invasion but the 'Brehznev Doctrine' was now in place, allowing the Soviet Union to intervene if any of its satellites tried to leave the Communist block. Over 700 intellectuals and former party officials signed the human rights manifesto 'Charter 77' in response to the 1975 Helsinki Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. This led to another crackdown in 1977 and Hus« k's Czechoslovakia became a strong ally of the USSR and during the 1970s and early 80s.

When Mikhail Gorbachev became Soviet leader in 1985, pressure for reform increased and Czech-born economist Miloë Jakeë replaced Hus« k as CCP leader in 1987 although he remained president. Jakeë and reformist prime minister, Ladislav Adamec, introduced a restructuring (prestavba) programme modelled on the USSR's perestroika, but the approach was cautious and the increasing dissident activity was suppressed. In November 1989, democracy movements in Eastern Europe inspired a series of initially student-led pro-democracy rallies in Wenceslas Square, Prague. The early rallies were brutally suppressed by the army but support grew and spread to the Slovak capital, Bratislava. Civic Forum, an opposition movement, was formed under playwright and Charter 77 activist Vaclav Havel and attracted the support of important members of the small political parties that made up the ruling CCP-dominated National Front coalition. Jakeë resigned and was replaced by Karel Urbanek, a South Moravian, and the politburo was purged. The national assembly voted to remove the CCP's 'leading rÛ le' in government and opposition parties were legalized. In December, Adamec resigned and Mari« n ‡ alfa formed a 'grand coalition' government in which former dissidents were given key posts. The rehabilitated Dub¹ ek became chairman of the federal assembly and Havel became president on 29th December. An amnesty was extended to political prisoners and the CCP agreed to give up its existing majorities in the federa; and regional assemblies and state agencies. ‡ alfa resigned from the CCP in January 1990 but remained prime minister and Havel was re-elected without opposition in July.

There was friction between Czechs and Slovaks and some devolution of power was introduced in 1990. A bill of rights was passed in January 1991 and moves were made towards price liberalization and the legalizing of small businesses. Property nationalized after 1948 was returned to its owners. In April 1990, the country adopted the name 'Czech and Slovak Federative Republic'. The Slovak Republic, encouraged by the Slovak National Party, declared Slovak its official language. Early in 1991, Civic Forum divided into the centre-right Civic Democratic Party under finance minister V« clav Klaus and the social-democratic Civic Forum Liberal Club, renamed the Civic Movement, under foreign minister Jiri Dienstbier and deputy prime minister Pavel Rychetsky. Its Slovak counterpart, Public Against Violence, also split when Slovak premier Vladimir Meciar formed a splinter group which wanted greater autonomy from Prague. He was dismissed over policy differences by the presidium of the Slovak National Council in April 1991 and his supporters held protest rallies in Bratislava. Jan Carnogursky, leader of the Christian Democratic Movement, the junior member of the PAV-led ruling coalition became premier. In October, the PAV became a liberal-conservative political party, the Civic Democratic Union-Public Action Against Violence (PAV), under Martin Porubjak. The major political parties of Czechoslovakia were dividing into separate Czech and Slovak groups.

The last Soviet troops left in April 1991 and in July, the USSR agreed to pay the equivalent of 160 million US dollars in compensation for the damage they had done. Phased privatization of Czech industry began in August and friendship treaties were signed with France, Germany and the USSR in October. After the general election of June 1992, CDP leader V« clav Klaus became prime minister, President Havel resigned and it was agreed that separate Czech and Slovak states would be created. The Slovakia-based PAV became the Civic Democratic Union in October 1992 and in January 1993, Czechoslovakia divided into two sovereign states, the Czech Republic in the west (the old kingdom of Bohemia or Cechy) and Slovakia in the east.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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