Sunday, June 14, 2015

The History of Prague

The history of the Czech capital is an epic story. Following is a brief history of Prague. First evidence of continuous occupation around the Prague area exists from 5500 to 4500 BC by various Germanic and Celtic tribes. Trade routes leading from Southern to Northern Europe pass through this area. Around the 6th century BC, one of the Celtic tribes, the Boii, are the first inhabitants known by name. This tribe named the region Bohemia and the river Vltava.  

In the 6th century AD the Slavs arrived, becoming the dominant population of the area around Prague. In the 8th century AD first settlements are established on the site of present day Prague, in the Lesser Town (Mala Strana).  Around 870 AD the Prague Castle was founded. In 926 AD a Romanesque rotunda is constructed, the original church built on the site of St Vitus Cathedral, in the grounds of Prague Castle. 973 AD saw the foundation of Prague bishopric. In 1085 AD Prague becomes the residence of the first Bohemian King Vratislav I. in 1172 Judita’s Bridge is constructed, the predecessor of Charles Bridge, and the second stone bridge in Central Europe.

Around 1230 we have the establishment of the Old Town. In 1257 Premysl Otakar II formalises the establishment of the Lesser Town, giving it town status and encouraging migrant from Northern Germany to settle there. In 1310 to 1346 John of Luxembourg rules as the King of Bohemia. In 1338 the significance of the city increases, with the foundation of the Old Town Hall. In 1344 Prague bishopric is upgraded to archbishopric, whereby we also have the commencing of the construction of St Vitus Cathedral. During the time of Charles IV (1346-1378) Prague becomes the capital of the Bohemian Kingdom and the Holy Roman Empire. In 1348 we have the founding of Charles University, the first university in Central Europe. Also at that time we have the foundation of the New Town of Prague.
The 15th century saw a number of attempts by the clergy to reform the church, resulting in the Hussite’s revolutionary movement, led by Jan Hus, the reform preacher and martyr. From 1526 until 1918 the Hapsburg dynasty is placed in the Bohemian throne. In 1583-1611 Rudolf II become the King of Bohemia. Prague, therefore, becomes the emperor’s residence and the centre of social and cultural life. However, from 1618 until 1620 the Czech nobles are defeated, resulting in the decline of the Czech language and Czech national consciousness.

In the late part of the 18th century there is the period of Czech national revival. In 1918 Czechoslovakia is proclaimed independent. Prague became the capital of the new state. During WW II the country was under Nazi occupation. In 1945 the Soviet army liberates Prague. In 1948 the Czechoslovak coup d’état was initiated by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, with Soviet backing, assuming control of the country, which resulted in four decades of communist dictatorship. In 1989 the Velvet Revolution resulted in the collapse of communism and the country’s conversion to a parliamentary democracy. In 1990 the first free elections take place, after the communist period. In 1993 Czechoslovakia splits into two countries, forming Czech Republic with Prague as its capital and Slovakia. Since then, Czech Republic has become a member state of NATO, the EU and has signed the Schengen Agreement.

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