This week, we are highlighting the Czech Republic, a landlocked central European country. Of the country’s 10.3 million residents, 1.2 million live in the capital, Prague. Set on the Vltava River and influenced by Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque eras of architecture, the city has become a draw for writers, musicians, poets, and tourists alike.
The current republic includes the historical territories of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. The Czech state was first recognized as early as the late 9th century under the Duchy of Bohemia. Throughout its history, the area has also been a part of the Holy Roman Empire, the Austrian Empire, and Austria-Hungry. After Nazi occupation during World War II and a communist coup in 1948, the present-day republic was established after the nearly-bloodless Velvet Revolution in 1989. The current borders came about in 1993 when the union with Slovakia was dissolved.
The usage of red in the country’s flag dates back to the 12th century, when the Duchy of Bohemia adopted a coat of arms pictured a lion on a red shield. When Czechs, Ruthenians, and Slovaks united in 1918 to create Czechoslovakia, they chose a flag of white over red stripes. The blue triangle was added in 1920 to distinguish it from the Polish flag and to better represent all ethnic groups in the nation.
The Czech Republic has rich cultural traditions in literature, theatre, and music. Bohemian musicians and composers such as Johann Stamitz, Georg Benda, and Antonín Dvořák influenced musical styles throughout Europe. The Czech Republic was also the birthplace of writer Franz Kafka, poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and scientist Gregor Mendel. This artistic cultural traditional is represented in the symbol of the National Theatre. Opening in 1881 and consisting of opera, ballet, and drama, the Theatre is one of the most important Czech institutions.
Czech cuisine emphasizes meat dishes, particularly pork and beef. Potatoes, sauerkraut, cabbage, and dumplings are other common staples. Beer is also important to Czech culture, with the first brewery dating back to 993 and pilsner style beers originating in the region. The Czech Republic also has the highest beer consumption per capita in the world.