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European Kingdoms

Central Europe

 

Czechoslovakia
AD 1918 - 1992
Incorporating the First Republic (1918-1938), Republic of Verkhovyna (1918-1919), Lemko-Rusyn Republic (1918-19120), Second Republic (1938-1939), German Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia (1939-1945), Slovak Republic (1939-1945), Third Republic (1945-1946), Communist Republic of Czechoslovakia (1946-1060), Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (1960-1989), & Czech and Slovak Federative Republic (1990-1992)

The artificially-created nation state of Czechoslovakia (or more informally, the 'Czech Slovak-Republic') was an outcome of the First World War and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918. The Czech half of this brand new state in Central Europe consisted of two ancient regions: Bohemia, focussed around Prague, and Moravia on its eastern side, centred around Brno.

Nestled between the Poles to the east and the Germans to the west, Czechs had occupied the region since first arriving around the sixth century AD. The Slovaks were also originally West Slavic migrants from territory to the east of the River Vistula, having arrived in several pulses during the fifth and sixth centuries.

Perhaps as much as a millennium prior to the arrival of any Slavic groups, Bohemia had gained its name from the Celtic Boii tribe, which inhabited the region from around the fourth century BC. Rome later named the area they inhabited the Boiohæmum.

Celtic domination of Central Europe collapsed in the first centuries BC and AD, as Germanic tribes conquered territory which would become today's Germany, Slav groups later arrived from the east to fill the vacuum on the fringes, seemingly as a new ruling elite which controlled remaining populations of Celts while also absorbing Germanic groups on the edge of the main Germanic body. This process helped to create an ethnic mixture which can still be seen today in modern Czechia.

By the Middle Ages, the Czechs of Bohemia had formed the powerful regional kingdom of Bohemia-Moravia. Interference and opposition by the Habsburgs eventually saw it incorporated into the Austrian empire. There it remained until Austria-Hungary's collapse at the conclusion of the First World War. With that empire disintegrating, the new state of Czechoslovakia was declared on 28 October 1918, formed from the aforementioned merging of Bohemia and Moravia, plus Czech Silesia and the Hungarian Slovak territory.

However, the new state was compromised by the integration of the Sudetenland into its western border, a German minority region which would provide the excuse for Adolf Hitler's 1938 invasion.

Czechoslovakia abolished any surviving aristocratic titles and claims, and classed itself as the official replacement and successor to the Bohemian kingdom. There was no legitimate hereditary Bohemian nobility, and no legitimate claim to the title of duke of Bohemia. Sadly, Arthur Conan Doyle's Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond von Ormstein, grand duke of Cassel-Felstein and hereditary ling of Bohemia, is a work of fiction.

Similarly, modern claims by a certain HSH Herzog (Duke) Stephan Timothy von Rosenberg-Ripps would appear to be entirely without basis (see the Fifth World Wiki link, below, for substantiation of the claim and Titles for Sale for its rebuttal). If any claim were to be made, then it would have to come from the current head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine in Austria.

Bohemia

(Information by Peter Kessler and the John De Cleene Archive, with additional information from Carpathian Ruthenia and the Czechoslovak Republic, Kamil Krofta (1934), from Hitler and Czechoslovakia in World War II: Domination and Retaliation, Patrick Crowhurst, from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), from Hammond Historical Atlas (Maplewood, New Jersey, 1963), from Historical Atlas of the World, R R Palmer (Ed, Chicago, 1963), from Poland: A Historical Atlas, Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski (New York, 1987), and from External Links: The United Nations Terminology Database (UNTERM), and BBC Country Profiles, and Fifth World Wiki, and Titles for Sale, and Traveller.com, and Czechoslovakia (Rulers.org), and Czechoslovakia (Zárate's Political Collections (ZPC)).)

1918 - 1919

Austria-Hungary is failing fast. Its loyal subjects are tired of the First World War and its many non-German and non-Hungarian peoples are becoming increasingly nationalist in thought and deed. Realising the inevitability of the break-up of the empire, on 16 October the emperor issues a manifesto to his people which, in effect, transfers the state into a federation of nationalities. He is too late.

Prague in October 1918
October 1918 was a month of turmoil and rapid change in the collapsing empire of Austria-Hungary, with this photo of Prague capturing a mass rally in support of Czech independence

On 6 October, his Serb, Croat, and Slovene subjects form a provisional government of the southern Slavs, or Yugoslavia. The day after, the Habsburg Poles unite with the former Russian and German-ruled Poles to declare a free and independent Poland, while on 28 October the Czecho-Slovak 'First Republic' is declared in Prague.

The new state incorporates the former Bohemian crown and its appendages (Bohemia, Moravia, and southernmost Silesia), along with parts of the former kingdom of Hungary (Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia - later referred to as sub-Carpathian Rus - effectively the borderland of modern western Ukraine), and with significant German, Hungarian, Polish, and Ruthenian-speaking minorities.

1918

Karel Kramár

Chairman of the national council (Oct-Nov).

1918

On 30 October, the emperor's most loyal German subjects claim in a constituent assembly the right to govern themselves, effectively dismissing their former ruler from office. During the same process, the independent 'Lemko-Rusyn Republic' forms on the northern border of today's Slovakia.

On 1 November, Hungary re-establishes itself and the other former imperial nationalities, more Ruthenes and also Rumanians, are already making provision for themselves. The troops of the empire begin to disarm themselves and head home, mostly to newly-created independent states.

Vienna in 1918
With the various peoples who made up its ethnically-diverse population pulling apart from it in 1918, Vienna was left with a rump state which greatly reduced its power and significance in post-Austro-Hungarian empire Europe

1918 - 1935

Tomás Masaryk

President of Czechoslovakia (to 14 Dec).

1918 - 1920

In touch with the provisional Czechoslovakian government, a force of forty thousand Czech former prisoners of war in Ukraine organises itself to evacuate to France via Vladivostok, where it is hoped it will join the allied forces on the Western Front.

Although the force initially maintains neutrality between the Bolsheviks and the White Russians in the Soviet Russian civil war, attempts by the Bolsheviks to disarm it leads to the Czech Legion taking command of the entire Trans-Siberian railway and cutting off Siberia and the Urals from Soviet control.

This allows White Russian forces to assemble under Admiral Kolchak and to pose a severe threat to Moscow's authority. In the end, the Czech Legion is extracted by a joint American-Japanese bridgehead which is established at Vladivostok in 1920.

1919

Czechoslovakia occupies Cieszyn (today in southern Poland). In March, the 'Republic of Verkhovyna' (now in western Ukraine, near the border with northern Romania) joins local councils to create the government of the 'National Council of Sub-Carpathian Rus'. This negotiates and obtains union with Czechoslovakia as an autonomous province on 15 March.

Symon Petliura with Ukrainian troops in May 1920
A later dominant leader of the directorate of the Ukrainian People's Republic, Symon Petliura stands with Ukrainian troops in Kyiv in May 1920, prior to the Ukrainian-Polish 'Kyiv Offensive' which would ultimately fail

Between 16 June and 7 July, communists rebel against Czechoslovakian central authority at Prešov, forming the short-lived 'Slovak Soviet Republic'. The Treaty of Saint Germain of 10 September 1919 recognises Czechoslovakian union with sub-Carpathian Rus.

1920

In March, Czechoslovakia incorporates the 'Lemko-Rusyn Republic' (on the Polish border of today's Slovakia), which had sought union with Czechoslovakia almost continuously since the small republic's establishment during the collapse of Austria-Hungary in December 1918.

1935

Milan Hodza

Acting president (14-18 Dec).

1935 - 1938

Edvard Beneš

President (18 Dec-Oct 1938). CZ National Socialist Party?

1938

Nazi Germany uses the excuse of 'protecting' the German Sudetenland minority from Czechoslovakians to force the state to cede these lands to Germany on 1 October 1938 as part of the Munich Agreement. Southern areas of Slovakia and Sub-Carpathian Rus are also ceded to Hungary.

This effectively ends the 'First Republic' in Czechoslovakia and the state is classed by Germany as a client state. The 'Second Republic' replaces it but is always compromised by its unofficial client status.

1939 - 1945

The 'Second Republic' is terminated by Adolf Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939. Instead, Nazi Germany replaces it (one day later) with the 'German Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia'.

German troops enter Poland on 1 September 1939
Nazi-led German troops are shown here progressing in good order through a Polish town on the first day of the invasion of that country, 1 September 1939

The standing president is allowed to remain in his post, and the post of prime minister is also maintained, but Nazi 'Reich protectors' are appointed to ensure that German control is maintained (named below in green). Slovakia is separated as the 'Slovak Republic' (establishing a precedent which will be re-enacted in 1993).

On the day of the invasion, Sub-Carpathian Rus declares independence as Carpatho-Ukraine, with Lemko-Rusyn joining it. Within three days it is occupied by its old master, Hungary, and remains so until Germany itself occupies Hungary in 1944. Poland occupies Cieszyn.

1939 - 1943

Konstantin von Neurath

'Reich Protector' of Bohemia & Moravia. Stripped of power.

1941

Konstantin von Neurath has served as something of an opponent of Hitler's harsher policies and now his rule of Bohemia and Moravia is seen as being too lenient. He is stripped of his powers, although not his title. Reinhard Heydrich is appointed as his deputy, but he is now the true Nazi power in day-to-day operations. Von Neurath's offer of resignation is not accepted until 1943.

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler at the height of his rule over Nazi Germany envisioned a 'Greater Germany' covering a vast swathe of Central Europe with 'living room' for Germans and a subservient Slavic population in the east to handle manual work

1941 - 1942

Reinhard Heydrich

Acting 'Reich Protector' of Bohemia and Moravia.

1942 - 1943

Kurt Daluege

Acting 'Reich Protector' of Bohemia and Moravia.

1943 - 1945

Wilhelm Frick

'Reich Protector' of Bohemia and Moravia. Fled.

1945 - 1946

The German defeat in 1945 triggers mass reprisals against anything and anyone with German links, including Czech Germans with generations of heritage within Czech borders. Much of the German-speaking population is expelled into Germany, with a wave of similar expulsions by Eastern European states creating one of the biggest population movements of the modern age.

This is alongside millions of other displaced persons trying to get back to their home countries through the chaos of the immediate post-war period.

With the troops of Soviet Russia now thick on the ground, Stalin organises the formation of pro-communist governments in many of the region's states. Czechoslovakia's brief 'Third Republic' is quickly snuffed out.

Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin, who was born in Georgia, led the Soviet Union away from its initial idealistic concept of equal citizenship for all and instead instituted a brutal regime of fear

In 1946 the 'Communist Republic of Czechoslovakia' is formed following elections in the same year. Sub-Carpathian Rus joins the Ukrainian SSR and never returns to Czechoslovakian rule. The country's true power is in the hands of the leaders of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, with heads of state as figureheads.

1945 - 1948

Edvard Beneš

Regained presidency following exile in London.

1948 - 1953

Klement Gottwald

Acting president (7-14 June). Communist. Died in office.

1953 - 1957

Antonín Zápotocký

President (acting, 14-21 1953). Communist. Died in office.

1955

The USSR forms the Warsaw Pact in direct response to the admission of the 'Federal Republic of Germany' (West Germany) into Nato whilst itself being barred from joining. The states involved in the founding of this eastern alliance are Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Russia.

Warsaw Pact meeting
Russia, plus its seven Warsaw Pact allies, signed the treaty of establishment in the Polish capital, Warsaw, on 14 May 1955, with the location of signing giving the pact its name

1957

Víliám Siroký

Acting president (13-19 Nov). Communist.

1957 - 1968

Antonín Novotný

President (19 Nov-13 Mar). Communist.

1960

On 11 July 1960, the 'Communist Republic of Czechoslovakia' is renamed as the 'Czechoslovak Socialist Republic'. The figurehead president retains his position, although still without much power.

1968

Throughout its near-fifty year history, Czechoslovakia has always leant towards liberal, inclusive governance for all of its citizens. That tendency has been harder to implement under communist dictatorship but more openness and tolerance has clearly become evident in this decade.

Alexander Dubček's leadership implements an event which is known as the 'Prague Spring' when he attempts to create 'socialism with a human face'. The movement is destroyed by a Warsaw Pact Soviet-led military invasion on 21 August 1968. Only Albania and Romania do not supply forces towards the invasion. The hope of a more liberal country is crushed.

The Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia
The Prague Spring witnessed a brief period of liberalisation in Czechoslovakia under Alexander Dubček in 1968, although it was all-too-quickly crushed

1968

Jozef Lénart

President (22-30 Mar). Communist.

1968 - 1975

Ludvík Svoboda

President (30 Mar-on). Communist.

1969

On 1 January 1969, Czechoslovakia organises itself into a federal government which consists of a 'Czech Socialist Republic' and a 'Slovak Socialist Republic', each with its own legislative body which is referred to as a national council and each with its own chairman of the government. There is also a federal government to oversee state-level affairs.

1975 - 1989

Gustáv Husák

President (to 10 Dec). Communist.

1989

With the Prague Spring in mind, a less confrontational 'Velvet Revolution' is slowly implemented in Czechoslovakia during Soviet Russia's clear weakening and its own increasing liberalisation. However, popular demonstrations do spring up, especially involving students, and these culminate in the violent suppression of a rally on 17 November 1989.

Belarussian independence in 1990
The Chernobyl disaster and the subsequent attempted cover-up by the Soviet authorities was the spark which brought down the already-fragile USSR, allowing Belarus amongst many other subject territories to gain its independence

A series of demonstrations against communist rule now builds up a national following, with Vaclav Havel as one of the leading figures in the movement. The number of people joining the demonstrations in Prague swell to around half a million people by November 1989.

On 24 November the entire communist leadership resigns. With other Warsaw Pact communist governments also collapsing, the Communist Party dismantles one-party rule in Czechoslovakia.

An elected government is in place before Christmas, forming the 'Czech and Slovak Federative Republic'. The respected figure of Václav Havel is the country's first president. Independence from Soviet Russia has been achieved (Soviet forces complete their withdrawal in 1991).

Václav Havel, leader of post-communist Czechoslovakia
One month after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the renowned playwright and philosopher, Václav Havel, was sworn in as the first post-communist president of Czechoslovakia

1989

Marián Calfa

Acting president (10-29 Dec). Communist.

1989 - 1992

Václav Havel

President (to July 1992). Non-communist 'Civic Forum'.

1992

Jan Stráský

Acting president (Jul-Dec). Civic Democratic Party.

1992 - 1993

Slovak nationalism had greatly increased during the final years of communist rule, and the Czech and Slovak halves of the current republic clearly have different paths to follow. Under entirely peaceful terms they elect to split along traditional lines, ending the 1989 republic in a so-called 'velvet divorce' which is enacted on 1 January 1993.

The 'Czech Republic' (Czechia in initially informal usage) and the 'Slovak Republic' continue independently of one another. Slovakia initially struggles to prove itself as an independent state, but by the time of the tenth anniversary of the 'Velvet Divorce' it has become one of Europe's biggest successes.

Modern Czechia / Czech Republic
AD 1993 - Present Day
Incorporating Heads of State (1993-2023)

Two landlocked nation states with a shared past, Czechia (or the 'Czech Republic') and Slovakia are located side-by-side in eastern Central Europe. Czechia has its capital in the medieval city of Prague. Having long been used by Czechs themselves, the use of 'Czechia' as the country's official short-version name was approved internally in 2016 and is slowly gaining worldwide acceptance. To the north-east is Poland, to the very east of Slovakia is Ukraine, to the south of Slovakia is Hungary and south of Czechia is Austria, while to the west and north-west is Germany.

In essence, Czechia consists of two ancient regions: Bohemia which is focussed around Prague and Moravia to its east which is centred around Brno. Czechs have been in the region since first arriving around the sixth century AD, and see no differentiation in their language between the concepts of Czechia and Bohemia. The two terms mean the same thing to them, revealing the depth of their integration into the region.

That region gained its name from the Celtic Boii tribe. Rome later named the area they inhabited the Boiohæmum, with that name later mutating into Bohemia. Celtic domination of Central Europe was gradually displaced by Germanic tribes and domination. Slav groups later arrived from the east to fill the vacuum on the fringes, absorbing remaining populations of Celts and also Germanic groups on the edge of the main Germanic body. This process helped to create an ethnic mixture which can still be seen today in Czechia.

The medieval Czechs of Bohemia formed the powerful regional kingdom of Bohemia-Moravia, but the Habsburgs eventually enforced its incorporation into the Austrian empire. There it remained until Austria-Hungary's collapse at the conclusion of the First World War. The new state of Czechoslovakia was declared on 28 October 1918, formed from the aforementioned merging of Bohemia and Moravia, plus Czech Silesia and the Hungarian Slovak territory.

Following the Second World War and the subsequent communist domination which effectively ended in 1989, the 'velvet divorce' of January 1993 finally separated Czechoslovakia into its two constituent parts. Modern Czechia has a robust democratic tradition, a highly-developed economy, and a rich cultural heritage.

It was the first former 'Eastern Bloc' state to acquire the status of a developed economy. It, along with Slovakia and many other former 'Eastern Bloc' states, joined the European Union in 2004.

Czechoslovakia abolished any surviving claims to aristocratic positions and classed itself as the official replacement and successor to the Bohemian kingdom. There was no legitimate hereditary Bohemian nobility, and no legitimate claim to the title of duke of Bohemia. Any potential claims to the contrary, either in popular fiction or real life, would have to take second place to the current head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, in Austria.

Bohemia

(Information by Peter Kessler and the John De Cleene Archive, with additional information from Carpathian Ruthenia and the Czechoslovak Republic, Kamil Krofta (1934), from Hitler and Czechoslovakia in World War II: Domination and Retaliation, Patrick Crowhurst, from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), from Hammond Historical Atlas (Maplewood, New Jersey, 1963), from Historical Atlas of the World, R R Palmer (Ed, Chicago, 1963), from Poland: A Historical Atlas, Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski (New York, 1987), and from External Links: The United Nations Terminology Database (UNTERM), and Czechia Has Won The Czech Republic Name Debate (Forbes), and BBC Country Profiles, and Fifth World Wiki, and Titles for Sale, and Traveller.com, and Czechia (Rulers.org), and Czechia (Zárate's Political Collections (ZPC)), and Czech Republic and NATO (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic), and Czech president to award state honour to Ukraine's president (Reuters), and Czech Republic (Encyclopaedia Britannica).)

1993

Václav Klaus

Acting president following the division of Czechoslovakia.

1993 - 2003

Václav Havel

Returning president (see 1989-1992). No party. Resigned.

1996

Poor management and corruption in the banking industry (much of which is still state-controlled) results in the failure of eight banks. Many Czechs who have previously turned over their privatisation vouchers to unregulated private investment funds in exchange for promises of substantial returns now lose their investments when these dubious funds begin to go bankrupt. Austerity measures follow.

Modern Prague
Modern Prague, former capital of the kingdom of Bohemia but largely rebuilt after the Second World War, is focussed around the broad span of the River Vltava which divides the city in two - the labyrinthine Old Town behind the camera and Hradcany, the home of Prague's imposing hilltop castle

1999

A decade after achieving democratic government, and the subsequent years of turning a planned Soviet economy into a successful free market economy, Czechia joins Nato on 12 March 1999. It has already been part of the Nato 'Partnership for Peace' programme since 1994.

2003

Vladimír Spidla

Acting president (Feb-Mar). Czech Social Dem Party (CSSD).

2003 - 2013

Václav Klaus

Former acting president. President (from Mar 2003). ODS.

2004

Along with a large section of former Soviet-occupied Eastern European states, Czechia and Slovakia become members of the European Union. The relaxation of borders across Europe (in 2007 as far as Czechia is concerned) leads initially to a large number of people migrating to the west, although this is less of an issue in Czechia which already enjoys a relatively good standard of living.

2013

With both Václav Havel and Václav Klaus having been elected by the country's parliament to the largely ceremonial position of president, direct elections now see Miloš Zeman, former prime minister (1998-2002) become the first incumbent to win the popular vote (and then a second vote in 2018).

Church of St Thomas in Brno, Czechia
The Church of St Thomas and the Anunciation in Brno was founded in the middle of the fourteenth century by John Henry of Luxembourg, margrave of Moravia

2013 - 2023

Miloš Zeman

President. Party of Civil Rights-Zemanovci (SPOZ).

2013

In June 2013, the coalition government of Petr Nečas collapses due to a corruption and spying scandal. Zeman appoints his friend and long-term ally, Jiří Rusnok, to the post of prime minister. Areas of Czech and foreign media describe this as a political power grab which undermines parliamentary democracy, but the Nečas government quickly fails anyway.

2022

On Monday 22 February, Russia recognises the independence of its own artificially-created breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. Almost immediately afterwards, Russian troops invade Ukraine after having massed along its borders (and even its Belarussian border). The invasion plan immediately falters quite spectacularly.

Miloš Zeman has long refuted accusations of being one of the European Union's most Kremlin-friendly leaders due to his apparent pro-Russian stance. However, he strongly opposes the invasion, awarding Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy his country's highest honour.

2023 - On

Petr Pavel

President (from 9 Mar). No party (since 1989).

2023

Czechia's new president is a retired general and chair of the general staff. He wins election to the post on a platform of hawkish opposition to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, China's own dubious position on the world stage, and closer ties with Nato and the west.

Czechia's President Petr Pavel
Retired Czech and Nato general, President Petr Pavel continued to support Ukraine, and military support by the west for Ukraine

 
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