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Czech Republic

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The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country has borders with Poland to the north, Germany to the northwest and west, Austria to the south, and Slovakia to the east. Historic Prague (Czech: Praha), a major tourist attraction, is its capital and largest city. Other major cities include Brno, Ostrava, Zlín, Plzeň, Pardubice, Hradec Králové, České Budějovice, Liberec, Olomouc, and Ústí nad Labem.

The country is composed of two older regions, Bohemia and Moravia, and part of a third one, Silesia. As of May 1, 2004, it is a member state of the European Union.

The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1993 announced that the name Czechia (Czech: ÄŒesko) is to be used in all situations other than formal official documents and the full names of government institutions [1], [2], but this has not caught on in English usage. See also: Czech lands.


Main article: History of the Czech lands

From prehistoric times, archaeologists have found evidence of human settlers in the area. From the 3rd century BC Celtic migrations, the Boii (see Bohemia) and later in the 1st century Germanic tribes of Marcomanni and Quadi settled there. During the Migration Period of ca. the 5th century, many Germanic tribes moved westward and southward out of Central Europe. In an equally signifcant migration, Slavic people from the Black Sea and Carpathian regions settled in the newly emptied lands (a movement that was also stimulated by the onslaught of peoples from Siberia and Eastern Europe: Huns, Avars, Bulgars and Magyars). Following in the Germans' wake, they moved southward into Bohemia, Moravia, and much of present day Austria. This movement marked the Slavs' emergence from historical obscurity.

During the 7th century the Frankish merchant Samo, supporting the Slavs fighting their Avar rulers, became the ruler of the first known Slav state in Central Europe. The Moravian principality arose in the 8th century (see under Great Moravia).

The Czech state emerged in the late 9th century when it was unified by the Přemyslids. The kingdom of Bohemia was a significant local power, but religious conflicts such as the 15th century Hussite Wars and the 17th century Thirty Years War were devastating. It later came under the Habsburg influence and became part of Austria-Hungary.

Following the collapse of this empire after World War I, the Czechs and neighbouring Slovaks joined together and formed the independent republic of Czechoslovakia in 1918. This new country contained a large German minority, which would lead to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia when Germany successfully annexed the minority through the Munich Agreement in 1938, and Slovakia gained greater autonomy, with the state renamed "Czecho-Slovakia". Slovakia broke away further in 1939 and the remaining Czech state was occupied by the Germans who installed a puppet-regime explicitly styled Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, where the Czech President and Prime Minister were de facto subordinate to the nazi Reichsprotektor ('imperial protector').

After World War II, a reconstituted Czechoslovakia fell within the Soviet sphere of influence. In 1968, an invasion by Warsaw Pact troops ended the efforts of the country's leaders to liberalize party rule and create "socialism with a human face" during the Prague Spring. In 1989, Czechoslovakia regained its "freedom" through a peaceful "Velvet Revolution". On January 1, 1993, the country peacefully split in two, creating independent Czech and Slovak republics.

The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004.

Anarchist History[edit]

Precursors to Czech Anarchism[edit]

Many revolts against authorities can be found troughout the Czech Middle Ages. The most considerable was the Hussite movement, that in 1419-1434 lead to a war between the followers of social and church reforms and the catholics. Those most important in this movement were epecially radicals, associated in the newly found town Tábor (that became for a short time the first consumer commune in the European history ) and the radicals in the adamits movement (blamed for nudism and in Middle Ages atypical sexual unboundness). A very important and high-principled pacifist was [Petr Chelčický], who refused any violence, and also any controling of man by another man (affected e.g . L. N. [Tolstoy]). On his ideas stands a small, but culturally important church of the Czech brothers. Also very important were the peasant revolts with social motifs in 17. - 18. century, that did not mostly have a good ending.
From the end of the 18th century many national emancipation show among the czech people living in Habsburk monarchy, that included Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, part of Poland, Italy etc. With them the patriotism and nationalism, and frequently conservative opinion appears too.The environment of the Habsbursk monarchy, which disliked these endeavours, gave rise to the radically democratic nationalism, supported mostly by young people with political and social aims. This very group got in the lead of the short revolt in Prague in 1848, and also Bakunin, that time a radical democrat, cooperated with this group. But the anarchist movement itself arose few decades later.

The Birth of Czech Anarchism[edit]

The anarchist movement in the 19th century had several practical and intellectual sources. First of them was the labourer radicalism, affected above all by Die Freiheit magazine, edited by a propagandist of terrorism and former social democrat in emigration [Johan Most], founder of the concept “[propaganda by deed]”. His ideas found strong responses in Bohemia, and his magazine was being (not really succesfully) imitated. Another source was the Czech socialistic movement abroad, especially in the USA, where the most active organizors and activists were being expelled by continuous repression. The most radical ones turned to anarchism, and were deported back to their countries. A considerable influence over the anarchistic movement had magazines as [Budoucnost] (The Future) in Chicago or [Volné listy] (Free lists) in New York ( from 1890 to at least 1917), partly for its contact with world's anarchist movement, partly because they were not being censored. Social democracy also proved to be a great influence on the anarchist movement. Socialists influenced by the mutualism of Proudhon and the ideals of cooperation, started to use the label "independent socialism". Probably the most considerable person here was a well known activist and the follower of the socialist movement [Vilém Körber] (born 1845, died owing to the police persecution and incarceration 1899), who entered the independent socialism movement in 1892 with his magazine Nový věk svobody (New Age of Freedom). Another important radical source was the nationally and socially radical youth magazine Omladina (The Youth). In February 1894, 68 of the youth were sentenced to a short-term prison, radicalizing and solidifying anarchist principles within many of them. [Omladina] was also a very significant political magazine. The editorial staff of these magazines, became the organizers and agitators of the movement. But this form of “organistaion” soon seemed insufficient and the anarchists decided to unite in a joint program statement. This was defined in 1896 in the Manifesto of the czech anarchists. As a typical anarchist document of that age it claimed individualism, refusal of the state and capitalism and criticised social democracy. Unfortunately typical was that its author, A. P. Kalina, left the anarchist movement soon after.

Anarchism and Anarcho-syndicalism[edit]

Radical politics gained much enthusiasm with the north-bohemian miners and the labourers in the textile industry. Understandably, these populaces were not satisfied by individualistic proclamations and secret unions. The inability of organization was clearly exposed in 1896, when there was a 12 day mining strike. Eight thousand miners got involved and several attacks on the mine officials, strike-breakers and the mine equipment occured. But this was used as a pretext for the army, which strongly suppresed the strike, and as a consequence many of those involved were punished by execution or expulsion from the country. More succesful, was a mining strike in January 1900, held in Austria and organized by the social democrats (anarchists actively participated).
In 1903, after several years of discussion, the North-bohemian mining federation (Severočeská hornická federace, SHF) arose with about eight hundred members, and a year later two other important organizations formed. Czech anarchist federation (Česká anarchistická federace, ČAF) with several hundreds of members was intended to clearly define and disseminate anarchist ideas. The Czech federation of all unions (Česká federace všech odborů, ČFVO) (about 1200 members) was intended to be a radical sectional organization. According to [S. K. Neumann], poet and anarchist activist, and to the notions of the ČAF members, it was to be the "brains" of the movement, while ČFVO its "fist", in which vanguardist aspirations were visible. These vanguardist tendencies were a source of constant strife between the syndicalistic founders of ČFVO.
Later, a new specific anarchist group was formed, which headed ČFVO, mainly by K. Vohryzek (1876-1933), a talented self-taught person, translator, redactor and activist. Thanks to his linguistic skills he was in contact with the world's movement. He was able to publish magazines of high quality - [Nova Omladina] published three times a week. His character´s tendecies towards intrigues caused many problems in the anarchistic movement. In addition to internal troubles he financed much of the movement (and made his own living) via theft and the selling of contraband of zuckerin. All in all people tended to adhere simply to radical syndicalism, refusing to adopt explicitly anarchist politics.
In 1908 the ČFVO was officialy dissolved (Austro-Hungarian authorities were terrified by its growth amongst the railway's staff) and repressed. Vohryzek´s illegal economic activities became a welcomed pretext for a trial against him and to discredit the whole movement. But the movement itself didn´t show any sympathies with him, instead most disapproved of him or even suspected him of being police informer and also refused his offer to resume his involvement with the movement.
Following the demise of ČFVO, the ČAF became more significant. After discontinuing the magazine Práce (The Labour), they succeded in publishing a weekly magazine Zádruha (The Cooperative). On the other hand, the syndicalist movement, never again saw its former force and significance, even with new organisations being formed: [Land´s Union of Miners], Aegis (Zemská jednota horníků, Ochrana).

Anarchist Art and Culture[edit]

The anarchist movement had also an important cultural dimension. In the early nineteenth century, some of the ideas of anarchism (above all, the individualistic tomes) were an inspiration for poets gathered around the "decadent" Moderní revue (Modern Review).

An important generation of poets was above all that of [S. K. Neumann] (1875-1947), with his magazine [Nový kult] (New Kult), which included anarchism on one side and literature and art on the other side. "Generation rebel", as it is called, succeded in expressing their anarchist conviction sin their verses and so today children read "natural" and "satanic" verses of S. K. Neumann (Devil here was a metaphor of a proud man), antimilitarist poetry of [Fráňa Šrámek] or ironic poetry [František Gellner] in their readers.

Several other poets were connected to anarchist thought. One was [Marie Majerova]. Though an organized member of social democracy, she belonged to the group gathered around S.K. Neumann. She devoted one of her novels to the criticism of individualistic anarchism and the escape to a "communistic colony". [J. Hašek], was an editor of several anarchist magazines. According to some testimonies also [Franz Kafka] participated in a few anarchist actions and showed his sympathies towards anarchism.

Anti-militarism and Anti-clericalism[edit]

Anarchists were not only interested in the exploitation of the workers, but also in other specific forms of opression.

First of these forms of opression was militarism, which the anarchists comprehend as the last ripcord of the state and as an institution, which absolutely demotes a man. Anarchist antimilitarism remained in the shadow of the antimilitarism of the youth of national socialists (not to be confused with the Nazis of Nazi Germany). Only after the trial against the national socialist militarists and after their party leaving them, the anarchist youth decided to return to these activities. But later they were considerably paralysed by a similar, but smaller trial. Despite setbacks, the anarchists before and even afterwards continued to voice their opinions in the pages of their magazines.

Another fight was anticlericalism. The anarchists were against religion and especially against the influence of the church. [Jan Opletal], originally a social democrat was heavily involved in this movement. Beginning in 1900, he published an anticlerical magazine Matice svobody. Anarchists also supported a czech section of Volná myšlenka (Free Mind).

These activities, though seemingly small left a strong legacy. The army to this day (also because of other historical reasons) is very unpopular in Bohemia and the Czechs are also generally lukewarm in terms of religion. There are of course many different reasons, but the anarchists certainly played an important part in shaping contemporary views on militarism and institutionalized religion.

The Decline[edit]

The Czech anarchist movement had many faults. For instance, the low participation of women. Czech anarchism also had artists, writers, editors of magazines and propagandist, but not one theorist. The movement was also busy with all kinds of infighting, which discouraged many originally interested workers. Organisations such as CAF and CFVO needed leaders of each union and besides that, leaders of the movement as a whole. These were mostly the anarchist magazine’s publishers, who were in fact “full time activists”. This resulted in creating some kind of elite.

Probably the biggest problem was that the anarchist movement after twenty years of existence didn't achieve any success. On the contrary, the strikes were ending unsuccessfully and even the project of creating a "communist colony" was unsuccessful. As we can see, the movement wasn't able to organise one successful strike. This led to a feeling of ineffectiveness.

At the beginning of the war Bohuslav Vrbensky (1882-1944), an anarchist and dentist, tried to work out a concept to solve the situation. He decided to concretise anarchist positions and define them not only against any state but, before all, against the Austria-Hungarian state. This had a clear aim, the independent stateless organisation of Bohemia. At the same time they needed an efficient form of organisation, which was supposed to be a "specific political party" not involved in the state legislative body and relatively autonomous yet much better than the present CAF. Michael Kacha (1874-1940), cobbler and editor of the magazines Prace and Zadruha was against this proposal. In 1914 Vrbensky's proposal was accepted. Though all changes to the program were to be in the long term, the CAF changed to the federation of Czech anarchist communists (FCAK).

World War I and the Anarchists[edit]

Any other changes in the movement were stopped by the outbreak of World War I. Immediately after, anarchist organisations and their magazines were prohibited, and confiscation of property and internment of many activists occurred. In their places came those who got involved in the movement recently. Their first goal was to maintain the movement, which they succeeded despite many of them leaving to fight in the war. In 1915 anarchists held several strikes in northern Bohemia and perspectives for new activities are opened. Prague anarchists got involved in the workers’ self-activity and the creation of workers’ councils.

Under the difficult wartime conditions the anarchists changed from a movement opposed to any state to a radical part of Czech national liberation. In Bohemia the anarchists fought for the independent Czech state. The 22nd January 1918 the anarchists were actively involved in a big strike and parallel demonstration, during which they made their speech with other socialists. They wanted to extend the strike into northern Bohemia, and they discussed it with Alois Rasin (later ultra-right Finance Minister) and Jaroslav Preiss (director of a big bank). This attempt of class collaboration was an absolute failure, because these representatives of the interests of capital supported the strike with their words, not their money.

During these activities the anarchists got closer to the dissidents among social democrats and above all with national socialists (socialist nationalists not nazis), with which they had the pre-war anti-militarist fight. The anarchists started to endeavour to unite all socialist parties and in February 1918 they invited the others to do it. Only the anarchists and the national socialists united in the Czech (later Czechoslovak) socialist party (CSS). The anarchists participated significantly in the creation of their program, which was socialist and considerably autonomous. It left a longer-term space for a social revolution and libertarian socialism but this was just a temporary concession from the national socialist opportunists, only to strengthen their party during the histrorical crisis. The anarchists participated in the common general strike the 14 October 1918 and in promulgation of the Republic the 28 October 1918 as well.

Anarchists' Inclusion into Party Politics[edit]

In 1919, a meeting of anarchists took place where, despite the disagreement of the members, the leaders persuaded them that it was necessary to be united with the national socialists. This was the end of the classical anarchist movement.

The new Czechoslovak Republic was being supported by the anarchists, because they saw many socialist hopes in it. Vrbensky became the minister of supply (1918-1919), later the minister of public works (1920) and also the minister for health service and physical training (1921-1922). B. Vrbensky, S. K. Neumann, T. Bartosek and L. Landova-Stychova represented the anarchists in parliament. But their hopes were very soon disappointed. The anarchists helped the republic to gain the workers’ sympathies. Step by step they were being deprived of any real influence over matters.

The reactions of anarchists varied. In 1920 the group around S. K. Neumann and his magazine Cerven stood down (he himself had left parliament already, his place taken by anarcho-syndicalist Vaclav Draxl). This group went through the enthusiasm about the Russian revolution and finally unconditionally accepted Bolshevism. S. K. Neumann after leaving the CSS established a federation of communist groups, which later united with the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSC).


Former anarchists also acted in another way. Fratisek Sauer, well-known anarchist bohemian is famous as one of the founders of the "black arm", which took empty buildings and gave them to working families. This was the first kind of squatting in the Bohemia.

Two anarchist assassinations were attempted in the Czechoslovak Republic. In January 1919 16-year-old A. L. Stastny shot at the Prime Minister Karel Kramar, later very unpopular, at that time the man that gave rise to the independent state. The attempt wasn't successful. In 1923, 19-year-old Josef Soupal who executed the, this time successful, attempt. The target of the second was the unpopular Minister of finances Alois Rasin, responsible for the exploiting currency policy. Both attempts discredited anarchism, increasing repression and feelings of support to the victim. After the second attempt the first Czech fascist organisation “Cervenobili” (Red and Whites) was formed during the hysterical demonstrations of the Right.

The Fall of Bolshevism[edit]

After the fall of Bolshevism in 1989 the Trotskyists created a free platform of the autonomous and liberal activities called Leva alternativa (“The left alternative”), in which the anarchists also participated. However, alternative culture had a much more important influence on the rise of anarchism. The punk subculture gave rise to an environment sympathetic to anarchist ideas. A very important magazine was Voknoviny (window-newspaper), after 1989 renamed Kontra. This magazine became explicitly anarchist in 1991 with the title A-kontra. It was the first nationwide magazine in the Czechoslovak anarchist movement. Already at that time quite strong anarcho-punk groups coexisted, especially gathered around local political music zines of different levels.

The Czechoslovak anarchist association (Ceskoslovenske anarchistke sdruzeni), was founded in October 1989 in Prague, a month before the change of regime. Involved in the Leva alternativa they tried to coordinate anarchist activities. They were organising anti-militarist demonstrations and very soon street fights with the fascist skinheads started, culminating in a huge battle at Letenska in Prague in 1992, which ended with a victory for the anarchists. Anarchists also protested against the abandonment of the original ideals of the "velvet revolution", the creation of a new elite and restoration of market capitalism.

Contemporary Anarchism[edit]

In 1991 the Anarchist Federation formed around the magazine Autonomie, which attempted to include all parts of the anarchist movement. Besides this, another organisation started, the Anarchosyndikalisticka iniciativa (Anarcho-syndicalist initiative), which had a little influence. Theories from abroad and inspiration from foreign anarchists had the most significant influence on the movement's development.

The first split in the anarchist movement occurred in 1992. While the majority wanted to boycott the elections, some of the A-kontra editorial staff defended the opinion that it would be better to vote for the Communist Party. They chose this as a "lesser evil", because they themselves were not able to hold back the aggressive Right and capitalism.

An important event in the Czech anarchist history was the September 2000 IMF and World Bank meeting in Prague. Anarchists together with Trotskyists, radical environmentalists other organisations formed a platform Iniciativa proti ekonomicke globalizaci (INPEG) and were intensively involved in the protests. The protests culminated in a demonstration of 12,000 people and running battles with the police.

Anarchist Groups[edit]

Czechoslovak Anarchist Federation (Wiki, Radio)
Priama Akcia
Federace anarchistických skupin (Federation of Social Anarchists)
Uherskohradištské anarchistické sdružení
Anarchofeministická skupina
Antifašistická akce
Reclaim the Streets!- Praha


Main article: Politics of the Czech Republic

According to its constitution the Czech Republic is a parliamentary democracy, whose head of state is a president, indirectly elected every five years by the parliament. The president is also granted specific powers such as the right to nominate Constitutional Court judges, dissolve parliament under certain conditions, complete immunity, and enact a veto on legislation. He also appoints the prime minister, who sets the agenda for most foreign and domestic policy, as well the other members of the cabinet on a proposal by the prime minister.

The Czech parliament (Parlament) is bicameral, with a Chamber of Deputies (Poslanecká sněmovna) and a Senate (Senát). The 200 Chamber delegates are elected for 4-year terms, on the basis of proportional representation. The 81 members of the Czech Senate serve for 6-year terms with one-third being elected every 2 years on the basis of two-round majority voting.

The country's highest court of appeals is the Supreme Court. The Constitutional Court, which rules on constitutional issues, is appointed by the president, and its members serve 10-year terms.


The Czech landscape is quite varied; Bohemia to the west consists of a basin, drained by the Elbe (Czech: Labe) and Vltava rivers, surrounded by mostly low mountains such as the Sudeten with its part Krkonoše, where one also finds the highest point in the country, the Sněžka at 1,602 m. Moravia, the eastern part, is also quite hilly and is drained predominantly by the Morava river, but also contains the source of the Oder (Czech: Odra) river. Water from the landlocked Czech Republic flows to three different seas: the North Sea, Baltic Sea and Black Sea.

The local climate is temperate with warm summers and cold, cloudy, humid winters, typified by a mixture of maritime and continental influences.


Main article: Economy of the Czech Republic

One of the most stable and prosperous of the post-Communist states, the Czech Republic has been recovering from recession since mid-1999. Growth in 2000-2001 was led by exports to the EU, especially Germany, and foreign investment, while domestic demand is reviving. The rate of corruption remains one of the highest among OECD countries.

Uncomfortably high fiscal and current account deficits could be future problems.

Moves to complete banking, telecommunications, and energy privatisation will add to foreign investment, while intensified restructuring among large enterprises and banks and improvements in the financial sector should strengthen output growth.

The Czech government has expressed a desire to adopt the euro currency in 2010, but the introduction of the currency is currently only in the early planning stages.


Main article: Demographics of the Czech Republic

Population of the Czech lands (CSU, Prague)
Year Total Change Year Total Change
1857 7,016,531 - 1930 10,674,386 6.6%
1869 7,617,230 8.6% 1950 8,896,133 -16.7%
1880 8,222,013 7.9% 1961 9,571,531 7.6%
1890 8,665,421 5.4% 1970 9,807,697 2.5%
1900 9,372,214 8.2% 1980 10,291,927 4.9%
1910 10,078,637 7.5% 1991 10,302,215 0.1%
1921 10,009,587 -0.7% 2001 10,230,060 -0.7%

The majority of the inhabitants of the Czech Republic (95%) are ethnically Czech and speak Czech, a member of the Slavic languages. Other ethnic groups include Slovaks, Germans, Roma, Hungarians, Ukrainians and Poles. After the 1993 division, some Slovaks remained in the Czech Republic and comprise roughly 2% of the current population. The border between the Czech Republic and Slovakia is open for citizens of the former Czechoslovakia. Given the massive rise of tourism in Prague, English is becoming widely popular among business-owners and public servants.

The most concentrated linguistic minority in the Czech Republic are ethnic Poles, historically the majority, and today constituting between 10 and 45% of the population in the Cesky Tesin/Czeski Cieszyn district. Poles have the right to use their language in official dealings, and there are some Polish primary and secondary schools in the area. The Polish minority has been decreasing substantially since World War II as education in Polish was difficult to obtain, while Czech authorities did not permit bilingual signs to maintian Polish awareness among the population.

The remaining German minority of the Czech Republic (2.9 million were forcibly expelled after World War II), and historically the largest minority of the country, is granted some rights on paper, however the actual use of German in dealings with officials is usually not possible. There is no bilingual education system in Western and Northern Bohemia, where the German minority is most concentrated.

While the erection of bilingual signs is technically permitted since 2001, if a minority constitutes 10% of the population, members of the minority are also forced to sign a petition in favour of the signs in which 40% of the adult minority population must participate. Many of the historically intimidated and often elderly members of the Polish and German minorities of the Czech Republic still fear repercussions if they sign a document in favour of bilingualism. Hence only a couple of villages with large Polish minorities have so far been able to collect the necessary signatures.

According to the 2001 census there remain 38 and 13 municipalities and settlements in the Czech Republic with more than 10% Poles and Germans respectively.

Many representatives of expelees organizations support the erection of bilingual signs in all formerly German speaking territory as a visible sign of the bilingual linguistic and cultural heritage of the region.

In 2005 Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek announced an initiative to publicise and formerly recognise the deeds of Sudeten German Anti-Nazis, including members of the German minority. Although the move was received positively by most Sudeten German expelees and the German minority, there has been criticism that the initiative is limited to Anti-Nazis who actively fought for the Czechoslovak state, but not Anti-Nazis in general. The German minority in particular also expected some financial compensation for their mistreatment after the War.

Despite the very visible presence of cathedrals and church buildings all over the country, the majority of Czechs (59%) are agnostics or atheists or without any dogmatic organization of belief. Significant religious groups include Roman Catholics (27%), Protestants (1.2%), and Czechoslovak Hussites (1%).

International rankings[edit]


External links[edit]

Anarchist Yellow Pages: Czech Republic
Abolishing the Borders from Below (Eastern European Anarchist Newspaper)
Alternative Network for Eastern Europe (Alter-EE)
"Infoshop Krtkova Kolona" in prague (Informations, Internet4free, Vegefood etc. First target of anarchist newbie in Prague)