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Country Czech Republic
Settled ca 885
Population 1,259,079
Area (sq mi) 192 sq mi
Current mayor Adriana Krnáčová
Co-ordinates 50.0° N., 14.4° W.[1]

Prague (Czech: Praha) is the capital city of the Czech Republic; it was the capital of Czechoslovakia between 1918 and 1993, and is the traditional capital of Bohemia. It lies on the River Vltava and has a population of 1.18 million. The rich gothic and baroque architectural heritage of Prague has led it to be considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and since the fall of Communism in 1989 it has become a major tourist destination.

19th century scene near the gates

The Prague Spring was the period of liberalization undertaken by the Communist government of Alexander Dubcek between April and August 1968 which was crushed by the intervention of troops from the Soviet Union.

Prague is a cultural treasure trove, with museums, galleries, theaters and music venues.


Capital of Holy Roman Empire

Emperor Rudolf II (r 1576-1612) in 1583 moved his capital to Prague. Rudolf II dabbled in and patronized alchemy, astronomy/astrology and art, and thus attracted many artists and astronomers from the "The School of Prague" painters and surrealist painter Giuseppe Archimboldo,[2] to court astronomers Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe, who invented modern astronomy.[3] Rudolf's architects built fine palaces in the Mannerist style; many are still extant making the city a great treasure house of Renaissance architecture.

Rudolf's architectural vision for the imperial residence was coherent, ambitious, and proto-baroque.Rudolf granted considerable liberty in terms of academic, political, and religious freedom. He sought the company of scholars, who often published and disseminated unorthodox opinionsl he permitted marriage between Catholics and Protestants. Rudolf was aware, however, that some members of the clergy and nobility wished to limit freedom of expression and conscience; while there was constant tension in Prague during this period between tolerance and intolerance, tolerance predominated.

Religious tensions and Thirty Years War

In 1609, Rudolf II, acting as Holy Roman Emperor, issued a "Majesty" that decreed freedom of religion in Bohemia. The Bohemian estates had sought such a decree since the end of the Hussite Revolution in the early 15th century. The Hussite Revolution had left Prague, and Bohemia generally in disarray, as the archbishop converted to the Hussite cause, and Catholic orders and imperial forces left the city. For over a century, fundamental issues remained unresolved concerning religious practice and authority, the structure of the social-political order, and Bohemia's relationship with the Holy Roman Empire and the church.

Rome now intervened. He had no heir, so it forced him to abdicate in favour of his Catholic brother Matthias. As Matthias also had no heirs, he put forward his cousin Ferdinand II as his successor. The largely Protestant Czech nobility in Prague protested and their uprising of 1611 was a precursor to their violent actions in 1618 that led to the Thirty Years War. The 1611 uprising was not only a reaction to an invasion by the army of the bishop of Passau, which was involved in the dynastic dispute between Emperor Rudolf and his brother Matthias, but a reaction to the vigorous Catholic renewal that was taking place. The defenestration of Catholic leaders and the destruction and theft of Catholic objects illustrates that the mobs were not randomly destroying, but trying to halt Catholic renewal. This conflict "signaled the end of peaceful coexistence" of Catholics and Hussites in Prague.[4]

In 1618, members of the Bohemian estates (the nobility), mostly Protestants, threw Catholic Habsburg officials out of a window of the Prague castle, killing them. The Prague defenestration, the catalyst for the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War, is one of the best known acts of rebellion in early modern Europe, but it led to a very long horrible war and failed in the end.

Czech nationalism

Shops in Prague: "Ukrainians not welcome".

In the time of Emperor Joseph II (reigned 1765 to 1790) language in Bohemia did not connote nationality but social class, as German was the language of culture and civility and Czech was the language of the peasantry. In the course of the 19th century national revival a rejuvenated Czech language became a component of the invented traditions of a Czech nation conceived as having been oppressed by the Germans since Hussite times, while immigration from the countryside made Czech the first language of the Prague working class and of a growing middle class. The connections between language and nationality made Prague the city of three nationalities, Czech, German, and Jewish; by 1880a certain Czech identity could now be seen as self-evident.[5]

Prague Circle

Beginning in 1895 a circle of Prague Jews ("Der Prager Kreis") established themselves as champions and translators into German of Czech literature, particularly poetry. This was done at a time when interest elsewhere in the culture of Germany's Slav neighbors was nonexistent. These Jews - Friedrich Adler (1857-1938), Otto Pick, Rudolf Fuchs, Max Brod (1884-1968), Franz Werfel (1890-1945), among others - were mediators between two hostile cultures and builders of bridges of understanding. they oscillated incessantly between yearning for a concrete and closed identity, according to the "Völkisch" creed, and the opposing desire to break national boundaries. Their deep sympathy for the awakening national Czech culture did not prevent them from maintaining their deep engagement with German culture. Their representation of German identity as culture and not as ethnos helped them to combine their strong German identification with their sentiments for Czech nationalism and their adherence to Zionism. They, in fact, reinterpreted "Völkism" itself as a cultural category. In this way, German "Völkisch" categories shaped the way in which they represented and valued Jewish and Czech identities. Like other attempts at cultural symbiosis, the effort ended with the rise of Hitlerism. Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was the most famous of the Prague Circle.[6]

See also



Culture and society

  • Becker, Edwin et al., ed. Prague 1900: Poetry and Ectasy. (2000). 224 pp.
  • Burton, Richard D. E. Prague: A Cultural and Literary History. (2003). 268 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Cohen, Gary B. The Politics of Ethnic Survival: Germans in Prague, 1861-1914. (1981). 344 pp.
  • Fucíková, Eliska, ed. Rudolf II and Prague: The Court and the City. (1997). 792 pp.
  • Holz, Keith. Modern German Art for Thirties Paris, Prague, and London: Resistance and Acquiescence in a Democratic Public Sphere. (2004). 359 pp.
  • Iggers, Wilma Abeles. Women of Prague: Ethnic Diversity and Social Change from the Eighteenth Century to the Present. (1995). 381 pp. online edition
  • Porizka, Lubomir; Hojda, Zdenek; and Pesek, Jirí. The Palaces of Prague. (1995). 216 pp.
  • Sayer, Derek. "The Language of Nationality and the Nationality of Language: Prague 1780-1920." Past & Present 1996 (153): 164-210. Issn: 0031-2746 Fulltext: in Jstor
  • Spector, Scott. Prague Territories: National Conflict and Cultural Innovation in Kafka's Fin de Siècle. (2000). 331 pp. online edition
  • Svácha, Rostislav. The Architecture of New Prague, 1895-1945. (1995). 573 pp.
  • Wittlich, Peter. Prague: Fin de Siècle. (1992). 280 pp.


  1. (1922) World Almanac and Book of Facts for 1923, series: World Almanac and Book of Facts (in English). New York: Press Pub Co. (The New York World), 63.  Rounded down toward zero.
  2. Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, The School of Prague: Painting at the Court of Rudolf II. (1988)
  3. Peter Marshall, The Magic Circle of Rudolph II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague (2006)
  4. James R. Palmitessa, "The Prague Uprising of 1611: Property, Politics, and Catholic Renewal in the Early Years of Habsburg Rule." Central European History 1998 31(4): 299-328. Issn: 0008-9389 Fulltext: Ebsco
  5. Derek Sayer, "The Language of Nationality and the Nationality of Language: Prague 1780-1920." Past & Present 1996 (153): 164-210.
  6. Scott Spector, Prague Territories: National Conflict and Cultural Innovation in Franz Kafka's Fin de Siecle (2000).

External links