The history of Prague

Czech Republic Prague Wenzel statue in front of the National Museum

Like the rest of Bohemia, Prague was first inhabited by Celts (Boii), which arrived here in around 200 BC. They were successively replaced by the Marcomanni, a Germanic tribe, then by the Avars and Slavs in the sixth century.

The legend says that the city was founded by the Princess Libuše and her husband Premysl.

Archaeological excavations have revealed that in the ninth century humans have settled on the heights of Vyšehrad and those of the future Prague Castle. Due to its geographical position, Prague has developed rapidly and became the capital of the Duchy of Přemyslids.

Bohemia is incorporated in the Holy Roman Empire from 962.

Under Vladislav II, the first bridge over the Vltava was built in 1170. It is the Judith Bridge. It was built of wood. After collapsing due to the snowmelt in 1342, the bridge was replaced in 1357 by a stone bridge, the famous Charles Bridge.

In 1257 Otakar II founded the area of ​​Malá Strana . This is where the German community lived and administrated itself. On the other bank of the Vltava the Old Town of Prague was developed. This is where you will find the historical core of Prague (Tyn). The Czechs and the Jewish community settled there.

Charles IV from the Holy Roman Empire, energetic prince, radically transformed the city of Prague, and this even before becoming emperor. In 1344, Prague becomes archdiocese. That is to this occasion that the St. Vitus Cathedral was rebuilt in the Gothic style and also for that reason that the New City of Prague was built in 1347, thereby doubling the area of ​​the Old Town.

The Charles University in Prague was founded in 1348. It is the first university in Central Europe and the first German university. Its first rector was the reformer Jan Hus.

In 1355, Charles IV declares Prague capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Prague is now the third most populated city in Europe. It is a cultural and religious center of prime importance in Europe.

The Reform starts here with Jan Hus, reformer, who preached against the abuses of the Catholic Church. He was taken prisoner and was burnt alive in 1415 by the Council of Constance. This provoked strong reactions in the kingdom. His execution remains a symbol of the independence of the Czechs.

The reign of the Habsburgs

In the early sixteenth century, Prague rayons and Gothic emerges.

In 1526, the Austrian Habsburgs, Catholics, seize Bohemia, on which they will rule for four hundred years. The new ruler undertook the conversion to Catholicism of this area which has a majority of protestants at this time.

The Thirty Years War (1618-1648)

In 1618 , the war between the Czech nobility, largely Protestant, and the Catholic Habsburg imperial power started. At European level, it was the beginning of the Thirty Years War. The Battle of the White Mountain, on the 8th of November 1620 near Prague, opposed the Protestants ( German and Hungarian mercenaries) to the Holy Roman Empire and Catholics. The Catholics won and the 27 Protestants leaders of the uprising were executed in the Old Town on the 21st of June 1621. This is the most dramatic day the country encountered because the Czechs lost their autonomy and this is only three centuries later that they recovered their independence...

It was the Counter-Reformation. The Habsburgs imposed Catholicism by force. The Protestant Czechs were forced to convert or to go into exile. Ferdinand II imposed the Germanization of the education and of the administration.

In 1648, the Treaty of Westphalia was signed and put an end to hostilities in Europe.

A century of peace ensued, during which Baroque masterpieces were built , including the Church of St. Nicolas in Mala Strana, the Kinský Palace and Sternberg Palace, and the archdiocese of Prague.

The Beginning of Prague

It is in on the 12th of February 1784 that Prague was officially born from the merger of the four hometowns:

  • Hradčany, the "noble" area around the Prague Castle
  • Malá Strana, the " Little Side ", located between the Vltava and Hradčany
  • Old Town Prague
  • The New Town, founded in 1348

Josefov , the Jewish ghetto within the Old Town still retains a status separate and autonomous.

The rivalry between the communities of Prague, Czechs, Germans and Jews , leaves marks on the architecture of the city: for example on the Czech National Theatre and the Neuer Deutscher Theater; the National Gallery and its collections of pro-german nobility of Bohemia and the Patriotic Museum of Bohemia.

The Independence of the Republic

On the 28th October 1918, the end of the First World War marked the dismantling of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Independence of Czechoslovakia.

Between 1918 and 1938, the city of Prague is considerably modernized and enlarged. The suburbs are included in the city, many theaters are emerging, the airports Kbely and Praha -Ruzyně are constructed, Wenceslas Square is rebuilt, the St. Vitus Cathedral was completed in 1929.

The Nazis in Prague (1939-1945)

The Munich Agreement of September 1938 marked the end the country's independence . The Nazis invaded it in March 1939. The Jewish community of Prague lost three quarters of its members.

The Soviets entered Prague on the 9th of May 1945 after the uprising in the city.

The Prague coup

Until early 1948, the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party ruled the country together. In February 1948, a political crisis erupted following which the Social Democratic ministers resigned in protest. The Communist Party then organized demonstrations in the streets and a general strike in order to replace the Social Democratic ministers by Communist ministers. It was the Prague coup. Elections followed, that overthrew the situation. The regime change thereby took place through regular election.

The Prague Spring

In an international context of the Cold War , it is a Stalinist regime that ruled the country.

In the 1960s, economic reforms had become urgent. On the 5th of January 1968, the Slovak Alexander Dubcek took the power. The people finally felt free, censorship disappeared, the people had regained the right to express themselves. It's the Prague Spring.

For fear that the same events occurs in the Eastern bloc, Leonid Brezhnev put an end to this with an armed intervention on the 21st of August 1968. Dubcek and his ministers were taken by force to Moscow where they were obliged to cancel the reforms they had introduced.

The Velvet Revolution

Following the new system in place, having no longer the right to express themselves, many intellectuals, writers and film directors left the country. Others, no longer entitled to exercise their professions, accepted disqualified work, and an impressive number of students was sent to the uranium mines.

In January 1969, in protest against the Soviet occupation, a student, Jan Palach burned himself alive on Wenceslas Square. He was followed by a second student in February of that same year, Jan Zajic. They became the symbols of resistance.

In 1977, a group was formed, with Václav Havel, who denounced all the injustices, fought for fundamental freedoms, and published the Charter 77. Several members of the group were arrested. Havel remained in prison for more than 4 years, then followed by two additional imprisonment.

All Eastern Europe lived a period of upheaval. This also reached Czechoslovakia. The government gradually lost its power and was unable to counteract the peaceful demonstrations of the population. All this went without confrontation and without bloodshed. This is the Velvet Revolution.

And finally, Havel was released from prison and was elected President ! And Dubcek became president of the National Assembly. This happened at the end of 1989.