The Czech Republic ( (listen) CHEK; Czech: Česká republika, pronounced [ˈt͡ʃɛskaː ˈrɛpuˌblɪka] (listen), short form Czechia (Czech: Česko [ˈt͡ʃɛsko]), is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Germany to the west, Austria to the south, Slovakia to the east and Poland to the north. Its capital and largest city, with 1.3 million inhabitants, is Prague. The Czech Republic includes the historical territories of Bohemia and Moravia, as well as a small part of Silesia.
The Czech state, formerly known as Bohemia (Čechy), was formed in the late 9th century as a small duchy around Prague, at that time under the dominance of the powerful Great Moravian Empire. After the fall of the Empire in 907, the centre of power was transferred from Moravia to Bohemia, under the Přemyslids. Since 1002 it was formally recognized as part of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1212 the duchy was raised to a kingdom and during the rule of Přemyslid dukes/kings and their successors, the Luxembourgs, the country reached its greatest territorial extent (13th–14th century). During the Hussite wars the kingdom faced economic embargoes and crusades from all over Europe. Following the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the Kingdom of Bohemia was gradually integrated into the Habsburg monarchy as one of its three principal parts, alongside the Archduchy of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary. The Bohemian Revolt (1618–20) lost in the Battle of White Mountain, led to Thirty Years' War and further centralization of the monarchy including forced recatholization and Germanization. With the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the Bohemian kingdom became part of the Austrian Empire. In the 19th century the Czech lands became the industrial powerhouse of the monarchy and the core of the Republic of Czechoslovakia which was formed in 1918, following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I. After 1933, Czechoslovakia remained the only democracy in central and eastern Europe.
Following the Munich Agreement and the Polish annexation of Zaolzie, Czechoslovakia fell under German occupation during World War II. By 1945, a major portion of the country was liberated by the Red Army, and the subsequent gratitude towards the Soviets, combined with disillusionment with the West for failing to intervene, led the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia to the majority of seats in the 1946 elections. In the 1948 coup d'état, Czechoslovakia became a communist-ruled state. In 1968, the increasing dissatisfaction culminated in attempts to reform the communist regime. The events, known as the Prague Spring of 1968, ended with an invasion by the armies of the Warsaw Pact countries (with the exception of Romania); the troops remained in the country until the 1989 Velvet Revolution, when the communist regime collapsed. On 1 January 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved into its constituent states, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.
In 2006, the Czech Republic became first former member of the Comecon to achieve the status of a developed country according to the World Bank. In addition, the country has the highest level of human development in Central and Eastern Europe, ranking among the top 30 nations in the world. The Czech Republic ranks as the ninth-most peaceful country in Europe, while achieving the best performance in democratic governance and infant mortality in the region. It is a pluralist parliamentary representative democracy with membership in the European Union, NATO, the OECD, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the Visegrád Group.
Zaolzie was an area disputed between Poland and Czechoslovakia, west of Cieszyn. The term "Zaolzie" is used predominantly in Poland (literally meaning "lands beyond the Olza River") and also commonly by the Polish community living on this territory. In Czech it is more frequently referred to with the term České Těšínsko/Českotěšínsko or by the neutral Těšínsko and Těšínské Slezsko (meaning Cieszyn Silesia). Zaolzie was made up of the former districts of Těšín and Fryštát and since the 1960 reform of administrative divisions it has been made up of Karviná District and the eastern part of Frýdek-Místek District. It is de facto eastern part of the western portion of Cieszyn Silesia.
Historically, the largest ethnic group inhabiting this area were the Poles. Under Austrian rule, the Cieszyn area was divided into four districts. One of them, Friedeck, had a mostly Czech population, the other three were mostly inhabited by Poles. During the 19th century the number of Germans grew. After decline at the end of the 19th century, at the beginning of the 20th century and later from 1920 to 1938, the Czech population grew significantly (mainly as a result of immigration and the assimilation of locals) and Poles became a minority, which they are to this day. Another significant ethnic group were the Jews, but almost the entire Jewish population was exterminated during World War II.
Franz Kafka (1883–1924) was a German-language writer of novels and short stories, and is regarded as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. His works, such as "Die Verwandlung" ("The Metamorphosis"), Der Process (The Trial), and Das Schloss (The Castle), are filled with themes and archetypes of alienation, brutality, parent–child conflict, and mystical transformations. Kafka was born into a middle-class Jewish family in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He trained as a lawyer and worked for an insurance company, writing in his spare time – he complained all his life about his lack of time to write. Kafka wrote hundreds of letters to family and close female friends, including his fiancée Felice Bauer. Only a few of Kafka's stories appeared during his lifetime in story collections and literary magazines. His novels and other unfinished works were published posthumously, mostly by his friend Max Brod, who ignored his wish to have the manuscripts destroyed. Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre are among the writers influenced by Kafka's work; the term Kafkaesque has entered the English language to describe surreal situations like those in his writing.