The Czech Republic or Czechia is a landlocked country in the geographical center of Europe, roughly equidistant from the Baltic and Adriatic seas. Being at the heart of Europe, the country was for centuries a crossroads of trading routes and a place where different religious and national traditions came into close contact. Here are some interesting facts about the Czech Republic.
Facts about the Czech Republic
1. The Czech Republic is the official name of the country while “Czechia” is the official short geographic name.
The names of the country originate from the name of the Slavic tribe, Čechové or Češi, and the tribe’s leader, Čech. In 2016, the Czech government agreed to make “Czechia” the official short name and in the same year registered it at the United Nations for approval.
Depending on who you ask, Czechs prefer their country to be known as the ‘Czech Republic’ or ‘Czechia’. Some feel the use of the formal name (Czech Republic) should be limited to international treaties and the diplomatic protocol and that in all other situations, including the everyday speech, media, sports, schools, academia, administration, written documents etc., only Czechia should be used.
The world is slowly adapting to the name Czechia. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest use the name. System settings and maps in Apple iOS and Google Maps use Czechia as well.
2. Czechia is the 115th largest country in the world.
Czechia has an area of 78,866 km² (30,450 sq mi), which makes it slightly smaller in size than the US state of South Carolina.
3. The Czech Republic is landlocked and shares a land border with four countries.
4. The highest peak in the Czech Republic is Sněžka.
The Czech Republic’s highest point is Sněžka at 1,602 m (5,256 ft), a mountain in the Krkonose Mountains along the north-central border with Poland.
5. Two-thirds of the Czech Republic lies at an altitude below 500 m (1,640 ft) and the lowest point is Hřensko.
The Czech Republic’s western region of Bohemia is really just a high plateau surrounded by mountains of modest size, while the eastern region of Moravia is mostly a lowland region with just a handful of mountains. The lowest point in the Czech Republic is Hřensko (115 m/377 ft) at the border with Germany on the Elbe River.
6. Approximately one-third of the Czech Republic is made up of forests.
Just a little over one-third of the Czech Republic consists of forests. There are four national parks in the Czech Republic – Krkonoše National Park (Biosphere Reserve), Šumava National Park (Biosphere Reserve), Podyjí National Park, and Bohemian Switzerland.
7. The name ‘Bohemia’ for the western province of Czechia derives from a Celtic tribe.
One of the most fascinating facts about Czechia is that the Latin name ‘Bohemia’ derives from the Boii, one of the two Celtic tribes who, from the 3rd century BC, settled in the territories of the present-day Czech Republic.
8. The Slavs first settled in Czechia in the 6th and 7th centuries.
In the 6th and 7th centuries, large populations of Slavs began arriving in the regions of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia (present-day Czechia) from the east, driving out the Celts and pushing German tribes further to the west.
9. The Czech Republic and Slovakia were formerly one country – Czechoslovakia.
Following the defeat of Austria-Hungary in World War I cleared the way for a union of the Czech lands and Slovakia, and the independent state of Czechoslovakia was founded on 28 October 1918.
In March 1939, German troops occupied all of Bohemia and Moravia, which became German protectorates for the duration of World War II. Slovakia was allowed ‘independence’ as long as it remained a Nazi puppet state. In 1945 Czechoslovakia was reconstituted as an independent state and the restored republic became part of the Soviet sphere of power.
From the Communist coup d’état in February 1948 to the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Czechoslovakia was ruled by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. During the era of Communist Party rule, scores of Czechoslovaks faced political persecution, and some were even tortured to death.
The Communist regime in Czechoslovakia finally collapsed thanks to the “Velvet Revolution”. The Velvet Revolution was a relatively peaceful transition of power taking place from 17 November to 29 December 1989.
Large-scale demonstrations against the single-party government of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia led to the end of 41 years of one-party rule in Czechoslovakia, and the subsequent conversion to a parliamentary republic.
10. Modern-day Czech Republic was born with the dissolution of Czechoslovakia.
Following the Velvet Revolution, the historical tensions between the Czechs and Slovaks reappeared. The Czechs and Slovaks are two quite different people with different histories and there was much economic and cultural dissimilarity in the two regions.
The return of democratic political reform saw a strong Slovak nationalist movement emerge by the end of 1991, which sought independence for Slovakia. When the general elections of June 1992 failed to resolve the continuing coexistence of the two republics within the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic, Czech and Slovak political leaders agreed to divide their states into two fully independent nations.
On 1 January 1993, Czechoslovakia dissolved and two separate independent countries were established – the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Due to the peaceful manner in which the dissolution of Czechoslovakia was completed it became known as the “Velvet Divorce”.
11. The Czech Republic’s political name changed nine times in the 20th century.
One of the interesting facts about the Czech Republic is how often the country’s official name changed in the 20th century. The different names that the country went by are:
- Lands of the Bohemian Crown (until 1918)
- Czechoslovak Republic (1918-1938)
- Czecho-Slovak Republic (1938-1939)
- Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (1939-1945)
- Czechoslovak Republic (1945-1960)
- Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (1960-1990)
- Czechoslovak Federative Republic (1990)
- Czech and Slovak Federative Republic (1990-1992)
- Czech Republic (1993 onwards)
12. The Czech Republic is a member of the European Union (EU) and NATO.
Czechia joined NATO on 12 March 1999 and has been an EU member country since 1 May 2004.
13. The currency of Czechia is the Czech Koruna (CZK).
Despite being a member of the European Union, Czechia is not a Eurozone country. The Czech koruna has been the official currency of the Czech Republic since 1993 when it replaced the Czechoslovak koruna.
14. The world-famous Pilsner was first brewed in the Czech Republic.
No other beer style has had such a profound effect on the beer world as the pilsner. Pilsner is an easy-drinking, pale lager with a crisp, refreshing taste that gets its slight spicy note from hops. It was originally brewed in the town of Pilsen (Plzeň) in the Bohemian region of Czechia.
Although beer had been brewed in Pilsen since the 13th century, locals had grown frustrated with the common, brown, murky, inconsistent ales. To rectify this situation, the Pilsen brewery brought in Bavarian brewer Josef Groll to brew lager beer.
By using Bavarian lager yeast, Pilsen’s soft water, Czech pale malt, and elegant Saaz hops, Groll brewed the world’s first crisp, golden lager. The beer acquired the name Pilsner Urquell (urquell is German for “original source”), in honor of the language of the ruling Austrian Empire. Today, the beer is still brewed in Pilsen to Josef Groll’s epoch-making recipe and exacting standards.
15. The Czech Republic has the highest per capita beer consumption in the world.
It is an understatement to say that Czechia has a strong beer culture. Czech beer ranks among the best in the world and some of the most popular Czech beers include Pilsner Urquell, Gambrinus, Staropramen, Budvar, Kozel, and Starobrno.
The Czech Republic has remained the world’s top per-capita beer consumption country since 1993. Based on the annual report by Japanese brewery Kirin, the average Czech drank 188.6 liters of beer in 2019, nearly double the amount of the next highest nation, Austria at 107.8 liters per capita.
16. The Czech capital Prague is home to the largest ancient castle in the world.
According to Guinness World Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, occupying an area of almost 70,000 m² (753,474 sq ft) at about 570 m (1,870 ft) in length and an average of about 130 m (427 ft) wide, which is roughly equal to seven football fields.
The first records of Prague Castle date back to 870 and parts of it have been rebuilt over the years due to destruction or fire. It has been the seat of the Bohemian Kings and Holy Roman Emperors and since 1918, the residence of the President of the Czech Republic.
17. The word defenestration originates from an incident that occurred in Prague Castle in 1618.
One of the most unique facts about Czechia is that the word defenestration (the act of throwing someone out a window as a means of execution) originates from an incident that occurred in Prague Castle in 1618.
When the Habsburgs attempted to make Catholicism the sole religion of the empire in 1617, the Protestants of Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic) took umbrage at the suppression of their religion.
On 23 May 1618, defiant Bohemian nobles in Prague chucked two Catholic regents and their secretary out of the windows of Prague Castle! Luckily, a manure pile cushioned their fall and they escaped. The incident, which became known as the “Second Defenestration of Prague”, triggered one of the most calamitous wars in European history, the Thirty Years’ War.
The first notable defenestration to occur in Prague took place at the New Town Hall on July 30, 1419, when a mob of townspeople, followers of the martyred religious reformer Jan Hus, hurled Catholic town councilors out the windows.
A third “defenestration” in Prague occurred on 10 March 1948, when Czechoslovak foreign minister Jan Masaryk, the country’s only remaining non-socialist minister, was found dead under a bathroom window of the foreign ministry in Prague following the establishment of a Communist government in February 1948. Though no evidence has been found to incriminate the regime speculation over the cause of his death continues to this day.
18. The Czech Republic is home to the oldest university in Central Europe.
Charles University was founded in 1348 by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, from whom it takes its name. It is Central Europe’s oldest university and one of the oldest universities in the world which are continuously in operation.
19. The famous Škoda Auto brand is from the Czech Republic.
The famous Czech automobile manufacturer Škoda was founded in 1895 as Laurin & Klement by automotive pioneers Václav Laurin and Václav Klement. In 1925, the company was re-branded as Škoda Auto, which is today a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group. Škoda Auto headquartered in the city of Mladá Boleslav, about 50 km (31 mi) north of Prague.
Interestingly, Tatra, which is the third-oldest existing car manufacturer in the world, is also from the Czech Republic. Tatra is famous for its heavy off-road trucks, commercial trucks, and vehicles.
20. Czechia is home to the oldest functioning astronomical clock in the world.
Prague’s world-famous astronomical clock is the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still functioning. probably the best-preserved astronomical clock of all. It was built in 1410 by Mikuláš Kadaň, a clockmaker, and Jan Šindel, an astronomer. The clock displays Babylonian time, Old Bohemian time, German time, and Sidereal time.
21. The deepest freshwater cave in the world can be found in the Czech Republic.
The flooded limestone cave of Hranice Abyss, located in the eastern part of the Czech Republic, is the deepest freshwater cave in the world. In August 2020, a scientific study revealed that the cave is about 1 km (0.62 mi) deep.
22. Czechia ranks as one of the least religious countries worldwide.
In the last census in 2011, only 21% of Czechs self-identified as believers. The rest are atheists, agnostics, or don’t declare any faith.
23. The two most popular sports in the Czech Republic are football and ice hockey.
Football is the most popular sport in the Czech Republic. Following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic has featured in one FIFA World Cup, the 2006 tournament, and has taken part in every European Championship.
The Czech men’s national football team’s biggest success came in Euro 96 when they finished runners-up. As part of Czechoslovakia, the country had two runner-up finishes in World Cups, in 1934 and 1962, and won the European Championship in the 1976 tournament.
Some of the most notable Czech footballers include František Plánička, Josef Masopust, Antonín Panenka, Karel Poborský, Pavel Nedvěd, and Petr Čech.
Ice hockey runs football a close second as the nation’s most popular sport. The Czech men’s national ice hockey team is one of the six strongest men’s ice hockey nations.
The Czechs have won the IIHF World Championships six times. Some of the most notable Czech footballers include František Pospíšil, Vladimir Martinec, Václav Nedomanský, Jaromír Jágr, and Dominik Hašek.
24. The word “robot” is of Czech origin.
The word robot is relatively new to the English language. The word itself derives from the Czech word “robota,” meaning “servitude,” “forced labor” or “drudgery”. It was first used by world-renowned Czech playwright and journalist Karel Čapek who introduced it in his 1920 hit Czech-language play, R.U.R., or Rossum’s Universal Robots.
25. The Czech Republic has been the birthplace of many inventions.
One of our favorite facts about Czechia is that it has been the place where some important things were conceived. Some of the most important things to have originated in Czechia are soft contact lenses, the first grounded lightning rod, polarography, arc lamps, Semtex explosive, remoska (a small portable electric oven), and sugar cubes.
26. The first person in space who was not American or Soviet was Czech.
Although he was the 88th person in space, Czech cosmonaut and military pilot Vladimír Remek became the first person to go in space who wasn’t either American or Soviet. Remek flew aboard Soyuz 28 from 2 to 10 March 1978, and to date remains the only Czech in space.
27. Czechia has the densest rail network in the world.
One of the more obscure facts about the Czech Republic is that the country has the densest rail network in the world. With over 9,400 km (5,841 mi) of track, the Czech Republic has a rail network density of 122.6 m/km².
28. Some prominent Hollywood films have been shot in Czechia.
Since the 1970s, and particularly from the early 1990s, the Czech Republic has provided the background for and, sometimes, played a central part in numerous Hollywood productions. Prague, in particular, is a highly sought-after film location due to its breathtaking beauty and iconic architectural landmarks.
Some of the most notable Hollywood films to have been shot in the Czech Republic are The Bridge at Remagen (1969), Slaughterhouse-Five (1972), Operation: Daybreak (1975), Amadeus (1984), Kafka (1991), Immortal Beloved (1994), Mission: Impossible (1996), Les Misérables (1998), Casino Royale (2006), and The Illusionist (2006).
29. There are 14 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Czechia.
Some of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic are the Historic Centre of Český Krumlov; the Historic Centre of Prague; Kutná Hora: Historical Town Centre with the Church of St Barbara and the Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec; Litomyšl Castle; and Tugendhat Villa in Brno.
30. Notable Czechs or people of Czech origin include:
- Miloš Forman – Oscar-winning film director
- Milan Kundera and Karel Čapek – writers
- John Amon Comenius – pedagogue and philosopher, considered the father of modern education
- Jaroslav Seifert – writer and poet, Nobel Prize winner in literature
- Jan Hus – 15th-century Czech religious reformer and spiritual father of the Hussite Movement
- Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana – composers
- Alfons Mucha – painter, author of the Slav Epic
- Tomáš Baťa – entrepreneur and founder of the Bata Shoes company
- Otto Wichterle – chemist, inventor of the soft contact lenses
- Jan Hammer – Grammy Award-winning musician and composer
- Antonín Holý – scientist, inventor of the most effective drug used for the treatment of AIDS
- Madeleine Albright (born Marie Jana Korbelová) – former United States Secretary of State
- Václav Havel – former dissident, writer, statesman and former President of the Czech Republic
- Ivana Trump – businesswoman, former model
- sportstars Petra Kvitová, Martina Navrátilová, Jana Novotná, Hana Mandlíková, Jan Kodeš, Ivan Lendl, Petr Korda (tennis), Roman Šebrle, Emil Zátopek, Jan Železný, Jarmila Kratochvílová, Barbora Špotáková (athletics), Ester Ledecká (snowboarder), and Věra Čáslavská (gymnastics)