Czech Republic is a land of wonders in Central Europe, serving as a gateway between east and west of Europe for centuries. Surrounded by nations like Germany, Slovakia, Austria and Poland this land is mainly inhabited by Czechs. They comprise 95% of the total population and speak the Czech language. Other ethnic groups that are spread over this picturesque country are mainly Germans, Roma, Poles, Hungarians and Ukrainians. Prague, the capital of Czech Republic is the biggest city and over the years has drawn tourists from different parts of the world. Brno, Ostrava, Plzen, Hradec Kralove, Ceske Budejovice, Liberec, Olomouc, and Ústi nad Labem are few other important towns of this picturesque country.
Czech Republic comprises mainly of Bohemia, Moravia and a portion of Silesia. The regions are mostly hilly and rivers like Elbe, Vltava and Oder flows across the land providing necessary water supplies for irrigation and other purposes. Rich in natural resources, the countryside is a delight for tourists as basins, forests and peaks like Snezka adds new dimensions to the surroundings. All the rivers and their tributaries of this country move and follow their own path to North Sea, Black Sea and Baltic Sea.
Over many ages the Moravian Gate acted as the perfect corridor for invaders who passed from the North European Plain and the Danube in the central most part of Europe. In fact, in the later parts of the 9th century Czechs came into prominence and the Bohemian Empire was respected and revered as a major force in central Europe. But as time went by major problems relating to religious beliefs started and long struggles sometimes in form of wars and sometime in quarrel sprang up. All these weakened the administration, which finally gave way to foreign powers. Although later on Czechs and Slovaks merged together to form a new republic, the new-formed state went through lot of trouble during the whole of 20th century. Finally the present Czech Republic was formed in 1993.
Among the countries that came out of the Eastern Block after the breaking up of Soviet Union, Czech Republic in a very short time has made a name for itself by reviving its economy. This has been made possible largely by its newly adopted economic policies. In the starting of 2004 the government agreed to increase the Value Added Tax (VAT) and slender eligibility for public benefits with the motive to bring the community finance gap down to 4% of GDP by 2006.
The political climate of Czech Republic has endured much turmoil in bygone centuries and has finally settled into a system that is democratic. President is the head of the state and enjoys some specific powers like appointing the constitutional judges and electing the cabinet after the Prime Minister proposes the name of members. These members run the whole system taking care of the policies and act as advisors to the Prime Minister. The two other important part of the machinery is the Legislature and Judicial System.
Prague Castle in the early evening
Czech Republic is spread over a total area of 78,866 sq kms, sharing international borders with Austria, Germany, Poland and Slovakia. The countryside does possess quite diversified features. In the west side one will find Bohemia, which comprises of a basin, washed by river Elbe and Vltava. Encircled by hills and mountains like Sudetan this area provides the highest point of this picturesque country, which is Snezka at 1,602 m. In the eastern side of the Czech Republic better known as Moravia, river Morava cuts through the hilly land. River Oder, pronounced as Odra in Czech, has originated from this part of the country. Several natural resources such as hard coal, soft coal, kaolin, clay, graphite and timber are available in this beautiful country. Flood is a major problem here as water flows from all over Czech Republic to three different seas- North Sea, Black Sea and Baltic Sea. Due to strategic location in central Europe, Czech Republic enjoys the privilege of the most important land routes in Europe going through it. In fact, Moravian Gate is a conventional military corridor between the North European Plain and the Danube in the innermost part of Europe.
The Czech Republic experiences a variety of climatic conditions. Continental influences are marked by notable fluctuations in temperature and rainfall, alike. In general, temperatures decline with increasing altitude but are relatively uniform across the country at lower altitude. The mean annual temperature at Cheb in the extreme west is 45º F (7º C) and rises to only 48º F (9º C) at Brno, which is in southern Moravia. High temperatures can go up to 91º F (33º C) in Prague during months of July, and temperatures can also drop to 1º F (-17º C) in Cheb in the month of February.
Annual rainfall ranges from 18 inches (450 millimetres) in the central Bohemian basins to more than 60 inches on windward slopes of the Krkonose Mountains of the north. Maximum rainfall is expected during July, while the minimum occurs in February. There are no identifiable climatic zones excepting a series of small and varied districts. Hence, climate follows the topography in contributing to the variety of the natural environment.
The weather is best in between May and September featuring warm days and chilly nights. Spring is much more acceptable to summer for avoiding crowds, but summer is preferable to spring if one wants to avoid rain. October is usually a little cold and wet. Whereas winters are very cold, damp, snowy, often misty and polluted.
Czech Republic, a land of events, had been a witness to many major historical incidents dating from as early as the 7th century. However, it is during the later half of the 9th century that the Czech lands started drawing attention of Europe after the Premyslids merged it. Bohemia was considered as a powerful kingdom at that time and during the next few centuries commanded respect and reverence from the adjacent states. But then bouts of clashes resulted from religious arguments and gave birth to huge amount of tension. This happened to have a detrimental effect on the history of the Czech lands in the future. After this, although the Czech lands went on to become an integral part of Hungary and Austria, it had to endure the 15th century Hussite Wars and the 17th century Thirty Years War, painstakingly.
This was just the beginning as after the World War I, the land of the Czechs saw a union with closest neighbours, Slovaks to form an independent and republic nation state called Czechoslovakia in early 20th century. And along with this phenomena started a long chain of undesirable events, which a newly formed nation can’t ask for. Slowly and steadily after this, Germans came and settled in this land and consequently a huge contingent of German population was formed. And with the historical Munich Agreement, signed in 1938, Germany grabbed the control of that part of Czechoslovakia which was dwelled by the German minority. Thus follows the new name of the state - “Czecho-Slovakia". But this does not mean the rest of Czech was left untouched. The very next, the Germans established occupation over the whole of Czechoslovakia resulting in the breaking away of Slovakia from the Czech lands. Moving on the chariot of time and on the ravages of World War II, Czechoslovakia came under the Eastern Block or more precisely under Soviet control.
No matter how much the chief national leaders of this country tried to shape their nation’s future all these time, they could not do much but to witness their efforts going in vain. In 1968, the leaders tried to ease up the rules of the party to provide socialism a human face, but an attack by Warsaw Pact troops finished the hard work completely. Finally in 1989, Czechoslovakia reclaimed its "liberty" through a diplomatic "Velvet Revolution". So on January 1, 1993, the nation saw a partition into self-governing Czech and Slovak republics. Last but not the least, one of the most notable incidents in the history of Czech Republic is its membership in NATO and the European Union in 1999 and 2004, respectively.
The Czech Republic has already made its place as one of the fastest growing economic sectors among the post-Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. This claim is justified, as the market growth in 2000-04 was sustained by excellent revival of foreign and domestic investments. Among the EU, exports are mainly done to Germany. Domestic requirements are playing an ever more important role in reinforcing development as interest rates dropped and the availability of credit cards and mortgages have improved. Present account shortfalls of around 5% of GDP are starting to lower as requirements for Czech products in the European Union amplify. Nowadays, price rising is under control. Current attainment to the EU gives additional momentum and direction to structural alterations. In the beginning of 2004 the government approved increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) and constricted eligibility for communal benefits with the purpose to bring the public finance gap down to 4% of GDP by 2006. But other complicated pension and healthcare reforms might have to wait up till the next elections. Stronger restructuring in between big enterprises, enhancement in the financial sector, and efficient utilization of available EU funds should reinforce the output growth.
National Museum in Prague
The Czech Republic is a parliamentary democracy and the President heads the state. For tenure of five years the President is indirectly elected by the parliament. Being the head of state, president enjoys certain special powers. He does possess the right to appoint Constitutional Court judges, pass a sanction on legislation and cancel parliament under certain specific conditions. The President also appoints the prime minister and other members of the cabinet.
The President on a proposal by the Prime Minister appoints the cabinet. The cabinet members together take care of the domestic and foreign policies of the government. They actually act as an advisory council to the Prime Minister and hold different portfolios of government duties.
The Czech parliament has 2 distinct legislative or parliamentary chambers. One is a Chamber of Deputies (Poslanecka snemovna) and the other is a Senate (Senat). On the basis of comparative representation, 200 Chamber delegates are elected for a 4-year term and 81 Czech Senate members for a much longer period of 6 years. One-third of the total members of Senate are elected after every 2 years, which is based on two-round of majority voting.
Czech Republic’s highest court of petition is the Supreme Court. The president appoints the Constitutional Court, which rules on constitutional issues. Members of the court serve 10-year terms.