The small landlocked country of the Czech Republic is located in the relative center of Europe. It shares its borders with Austria to the south, Germany to the north and west, Poland to the north, and the Republic of Slovakia to the east and southeast. Only slightly smaller than the American state of California, the country spans an area of approximately 30, 450 square miles (78, 865 square kilometers). Also known by its official short geographic name, Czechia, the country consists of two major regions, Bohemia in the west and Moravia in the east (Sioras, Spilling). It is also located in the main European watershed, in one of the drainage basins of the major rivers of Germany. The main rivers of the Bohemian region are the Elbe River (also known as the Labe River), which provides access to the North Sea; and the Vltava River (also known as the Moldau River) is the longest river in the Czech Republic. South Bohemia has also been gradually sculpted over the last few hundred years into a network of hundreds of linked fishponds and artificial lakes, which are used today to farm-raise carp. Moravia, while particularly hilly, also contains two main rivers. The Morava River flows south to the Danube and eventually drains into the Black Sea, and the Oder River (also called the Odra River), which drains into the Baltic Sea.
Landscape and Physical Environment:
Forests, hills, and mountains dominate the landscape of the Czech Republic. Though large swaths of forestlands have been cleared for cultivation and timber production, 1/3 of the country remains covered by forest. Agricultural enterprises dominate the lowlands region, while continuous forest belts border the mountains throughout the nation (Roux). Well-preserved medieval and Baroque styled cities and towns are distributed evenly throughout the nation. Split by the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands, the country is divided into two regions; Bohemia and Moravia. Bohemia is essentially a 1,640-foot (500m) high plateau surrounded by low mountains. The natural frontiers of the Bohemian region are the Sumava Mountains to the southwest, the Ore Mountains to the northwest (forming the border with Germany), the Riesengebirge Mountains along the Polish border to the northeast, and the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands that divide the two regions. Bohemia hosts the main cities of Prague, Plzen, and Ceske Budejovice. Moravia is also surrounded by mountains; the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands to the west, the White Carpathian and Javorniky Mountains to the east, and the Jeseniky Mountains to the north. Moravia hosts the main cities of Ostrava and Brno. Just north of Brno is the wooded highland area called the Moravian Karst, where limestone hills have been carved into canyons and hundreds of caves throughout history (Sioras, Spilling).The country also hosts multiple national parks including the Bohemian Forest and the Krkonose Mountains. The Bohemian Forest is a part of an ecotourism project shared by the Czech Republic, Austria, and the state of Bavaria in Germany. The Bohemian Forest, also known as the “Green Roof of Europe”, attracts tourists from all over the globe, who come to enjoy various outdoor activies and the beautiful landscape (Baker, Wilson).
Weather and Climate:
The weather and climate of the Czech Republic is similar to that of the Midwest region of America. While the climate is overall humid, there are four distinct seasons: hot, wet summers and cold, drier winters. The temperature and rainfall fluctuate greatly because of variable air pressure throughout the country. The Moravian region experiences a wide variation in temperature between winter and summer, as well as day and night. Bohemia, on the other hand, enjoys the moderating influence of the oceanic climate, so temperatures during the day and night do not vary much. Bohemia also experiences more rain and more frequent cloudy weather than Moravia. Overall, average summer temperatures range between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit, with July being the hottest month of the year. Average winter temperatures range between 25-28 degrees Fahrenheit, with January being the coldest month of the year (Sioras, Spilling).
Population, Density, and Age/Sex Characteristics:
The population of the Czech Republic as of 2019 is approximately 10.6 million. With an average of 339 people per square kilometer, the greatest population density can be found in industrial areas in Northern Bohemia. The lowest population density is found along the border in Southern Bohemia. There are approximately 15, 300 towns and cities in the country, with smaller towns hosting fewer than 5, 000 inhabitants making up 98% of all communities in the Czech Republic. The majority of the population of the Czech Republic is between 25-54 years old (43.84%), followed by 19% ages 65 years and older, 16% ages 0-14 years, 12.44% ages 55-64 years, and 9.59% ages 15-24 years (Czech Republic Demographics Profile). While the population is almost evenly split into 50% male and 50% female, women earn an average of 25% less than their male counterparts for the same job. Due to the high cost of living, more than 70% of Czech citizens live in apartments or with their parents, even after getting married (Roux). Grandmothers often traditionally take care of the grandchildren while the parents are working. The grandmother is the matriarch of the family, regarded with great respect and love and called Babicka (BAHB-ish-ka) by her grandchildren. Women in the Czech Republic traditionally take the last name of their husband when they marry, adding the suffix “-ova” to it (Sioras, Spilling).
Language and Religion:
The second ruler of the Moravian Empire, Rostislav (846-870) requested the Byzantine Emperor in Constantinople to send two monks to introduce Christianity to the region. These monks, brothers Cyril and Methodius, arrived to the region in 863, and not only preached Christianity in Slavic, but also translated the Bible into the Slavic language then in use. Cyril created the Slavic alphabet that later developed into the Cyrillic alphabet. This was the first example of the Czech language in written form. The earliest written form of the Czech language used Slavic characters, but the Roman alphabet soon replaced these. Later, in the 15th century, religious reformer Jan Hus altered the unique Czech language by placing diacritical marks over Roman letters to indicate the Czech pronunciation and sounds; this system is still in use today (Roux). The Czech language is a western Slavic language and is loosely related to the eastern and southern Slavic dialects, including Russian and Bulgarian.
In the 10th century, the Bohemian Kingdom came under the control of the Holy Roman Empire, which resulted in Roman Catholicism becoming widespread over the next three centuries. The Catholic Hapsburg Empire attempted to quash the growing Czech Protestant culture, but the execution of religious reformer Jan Hus in 1415 fueled the conflict between the two religious sects. Disputes between the two continued until the country came under Soviet control, during which all forms of religion were restricted (Roux). Religious freedom was not reestablished in the Czech Republic until the end of the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Today, about 40% of Czechs consider themselves Atheists, 39% identify as Roman Catholic, 5% attend Protestant churches (such as the Moravian Church, the Church of the Czechs, and the Hussite Church), and 13% identify with religions other than Christianity, such as Judaism (Roux).
Cultural and Ethnic Groups:
While Celts and Germans were the first known people to inhabit the region more than 600,000 years ago, evidence exists of farming communities in the lowlands from approximately 4000 B.C. (Sioras, Spilling). By 600 A.D. the Slavic ancestors of many of todays Czech had settled in the area, calling themselves Moravians, after the Morava River. Today, Moravians represent 13% of the population. Only 3% of the population are ethnic Slovaks, while a massive 81% of the current population identify as Bohemian. The remaining 3% of the population are Germans, Poles, Silesians, Vietnamese, and Roma (Roux). The Roma are one of the most discriminated against groups of people in the country. Thought to have originated in India, they passed through France and Bohemia while immigrating, and thus the term “Bohemian” became synonymous with “gypsy”, as the Roma are also called. Approximately 150,000-300,000 Roma call the Czech Republic home today (“Czech Republic Demographics Profile 2018”). The Roma have faced discrimination throughout history, ostracized socially, in education, employment, housing, and healthcare. Although laws have been passed to limit discrimination, opinion polls as recent as the late 1990s showed the many Czech citizens favored separating the Roma from the rest of society or, if possible, removing them from the country entirely (Roux).
Major Economic Activities:
The Czech Republics largest trading partner is the neighboring country of Germany. Northern Bohemia is the most highly industrialized region of the country, and hosts the largest iron ore and coal mining operations throughout the region. Southern Moravia is renowned for its wineries and breweries. The economy of the Czech Republic is a developed export-oriented social market economy based in services, manufacturing, and innovation. One of the wealthiest and most economically stable countries in Post-Soviet Europe, the Czech republic boasts an economic freedom score of 73.7, making its economy the 23rd freest in the 2019 index. It is ranked 13th among 44 countries in the European region, with its overall score well above the regional and world average. The prosperous market economy, led by automobile exports, has one of the highest GDP growth rates in the European Union, a rising standard of living, and one of the lowest unemployment rates at 2.9% in 2017 (Czech Republic Demographics Profile).
Imports and Exports:
The economy of the Czech Republic is based on quality exports. The top exports include automobiles, machine tools, iron, steel, textiles, glass, wine, beer, crops (such as corn, sugar beets, potatoes, wheat, hops, barley, and rye), and livestock (hogs, cattle, sheep, and poultry). Crystals, such as those from the Swarovski Crystal Company, founded by Czech national Daniel Swarovski, are also a top export (Baker, Wilson). Main export partners include Germany, China, Poland, Slovakia, and Italy. Top imports into the country include industrial machinery, electrical machinery, automobiles, oil and mineral fuels, plastics, pharmaceuticals, medical and technical equipment, and rubber. Main import partners include Germany, Slovakia, Poland, the United Kingdom, and France.
GNP and GNP per capita:
As a highly developed export-oriented social market economy that maintains a high-income welfare state, the Czech republic boasts impressive GNP and GDP numbers. The GNP in 2017 was $370.8 billion, while the GNP per capita the same year was $35, 010. In 2019, the Czech Republics GDP is $375.7 billion, while the GDP per capita is $35, 512 (Population Reference Bureau).
Baker, Mark, and Neil Wilson. Prague & the Czech Republic. 12th ed., Lonely Planet, 2017.
Submitted by Samuel Dameron on 4/12/19.