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Europe: History

Brief Timeline

Turn of 5th -6th century:  Arrival of Slavs to the lands of the Bohemian Crown

863: Cyril & Methodius introduce Slavic liturgy

1085:  First Czech King, Vratislav II, start of Přemyslid dynasty

1306:  End of Přemyslid dynasty with death of Václav III

1355: Charles IV crowned Holy Roman Emperor

1415:  Jan Hus burned at the stake

1419-1434:  The Hussite Wars

1526-1918:  Habsburg Monarchy

1620:  Battle of White Mountain

1781:  Abolition of serfdom

18th-19th centuries:  Czech National Revival

1848:  The Revolution of 1848

1914-1918:  World War I

1918:  T. G. Masaryk elected first president of Czechoslovak Republic

1938:  The Munich Agreement

1939-1945:  World War II

1968:  Prague Spring

1989:  Velvet Revolution

1993:  Split of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia

2004:  The Czech Republic joins the European Union

Czech Coat of Arms

The Czech coat of arms combines the three arms of the historical regions of the Czech Republic:

  • Bohemia: double-tailed lion
  • Moravia:  red and silver chequered eagle
  • Silesia:  black eagle with "clover stalk"

To learn more about Státní znak České republiky, visit Prague Castle's website:

Czech Legend

Czech legend holds that any usurper who places the Crown of Saint Wenceslas (Sv. Václav) on his head will die within a year.  Although it is not proven that Reinhard Heydrich placed the crown on his head when he was named Deputy Protector of Bohemia and Moravia during World War II, he was assassinated within a year of this rumor. 

Czech Defenestrations

Defenestration:  the act of throwing someone or something out of a window

The First Defenestration of Prague occurred July 30, 1419.  Seven members of the city council were thrown out windows by a group of radical Hussites.  Shortly after this event, the Hussite Wars began.

The Second Defenestration of Prague occurred on May 23, 1618.  Three men were thrown from the windows of Prague Castle after the election of Ferdinand as King of Bohemia.  All three men survived because they landed in a pile of horse manure.  This act is closely associated with the start of the Thirty Years' War.

The unofficial "Third Defenestration of Prague" occurred on March 10, 1948.  Jan Masayrk was found outside the window of the Czechoslovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Although his death was officially ruled a suicide, rumors accused multiple sources, including the Communist government, of murdering T.G. Masaryk's son.  

The Lands of the Bohemian Crown

The history of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown spans across Bohemian dynasties, foreign empires and monarchies, dictatorships, and independence.  To gain a rudimentary understanding of who controlled the lands of present day Czech Republic over time, take a look at the timeline on the left sidebar.  The history of the Czech Republic is ripe with religious and cultural innovations, as well as a determination for independence from foreign governments.  Hugh LeCaine Agnew's book The Czechs and the Lands of the Bohemian Crown offers a comprehensive overview of the history of the present day Czech Republic.  This book offers a good starting point for learning about the history of Bohemia.

To search your home library's collection for works on Czech history, you can use the following call numbers depending upon your library's chosen classification system:

  • Dewey Decimal Call Numbers:  943.71-943.72
  • Library of Congress Call Numbers: DB2000-3150

To search your home library's collection for works on Czech history by subject, you can use the following Library of Congress Subject Headings:

  • Czech Republic -- History
  • Czechoslovakia -- History
  • Bohemia (Czech Republic) -- History
  • Moravia (Czech Republic) -- History
  • Czech Republic -- Civilization
  • Czechoslovakia -- Civilization

Please take notice that subject headings "Czech Republic" and "Czechoslovakia" do not always overlap.  Both headings should be checked to gain a sense of a library's complete collection on Czech history.

The Czech words for the discipline of history:  historie and dějiny

Linguistic History


The Czech language began flourishing with the Czech National Revival movement of the 18th and 19th centuries.  Josef Dobrovský (above left) wrote an influential book on Czech grammar in 1809.  Josef Jungmann (above right) published a multi-volume Czech-German dictionary from 1834-1839 which became an influential work on the formation of the Czech language.  To learn more about either of these figures, you can do an author search in the online catalog.  Here is standard form of their names as authorized by the Library of Congress:

  • Dobrovský, Josef, 1753-1829
  • Jungmann, Josef Jakub, 1773-1847

If you would like to learn more about Czech linguistic history, the following Library of Congress Subject Headings can help get you started:

  • Czech language - History
  • Czech language - History and criticism

Call number ranges for Czech linguistics are:

  • Dewey Decimal Call Numbers:  491.86 
  • Library of Congress Call Numbers:  PG4001-5146

Below are two documents that will help the Czech language learner think about the language's relationship with other Slavic languages.  The source for these documents is:

    Comrie, Bernard and Greville G. Corbett, eds., The Slavonic Languages.  London: Routledge, 1993.

Občan Havel

In an effort to increase transparency in the modern age, Václav Havel allowed a film crew to document his political and personal life over a 13 year period.  Beginning in 1992 with Havel's initial bid for the presidency of the Czech Republic, the documentary reveals the man behind the office in an often humorous portrayal.  The film often portrays Havel's tumultuous relationship and rivalry with Václav Klaus.  Because the documentary premiered on the verge of Klaus's presidential reelection, the unfavorable depiction of Klaus is no coincidence.  Of particular interest to many students may be President Bill Clinton's visit to Prague, Havel's disdain for American food, and a concert by The Rolling Stones.

Below is the official trailer for the film.  A knowledge of Václav Havel's life and the modern Czech political scene will be helpful since this documentary does not provide much background information.  The film can be found with English subtitles, as well.

For more information, you can visit the documentary's official website:


A special thank you to the staff at the Slavic Reference Service of the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana for the use of this guide.

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