This landlocked country is situated
in the geographic centre of Europe and consists of
three historical areas – Bohemia, Moravia and
the Czech part of Silesia. The Czech Republic is called
the roof of Europe since all the rivers which have
their source in the area drain into neighbouring countries.
The territory of the Czech Republic
was historically one of the most economically developed
and industrialised part of Europe. As the only country
in central Europe to remain a democracy until 1938,
the then Czechoslovakia was among the ten most developed
industrial states of the world before the second world
war. Coal and lignite are in abundant supply. There
are also deposits of mercury, antimony, tin, lead,
zinc and iron ore, and a number of major European
uranium deposits. Processing industries (machinery,
steel, chemicals, glass, and agri-food) are the most
highly developed. Cereals, sugar beet and hops are
intensively cultivated, although agriculture plays
a comparatively small role alongside the traditional
engineering and other industries.
The attractiveness of the Czech Republic
and especially of its capital city, Prague, lies in
a remarkable historical and architectural heritage
stretching back over 1 000 years, and brings over
10 million visitors a year to the Czech Republic.
Throughout the centuries Prague preserved its unrivalled
richness of historical monuments of different styles.
Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Art Nouveau
and cubism form a unique aesthetic unit. Castles and
chateaux built in the past centuries still dominate
the Czech landscape. Many monuments of folk architecture,
picturesque villages and living traditions of folk
music and local folk costumes are typical for the
Czech beverages such as Czech beer
or mineral water from more than 900 natural springs
(a world record) are extremely popular.
After World War II, the political system in Czechoslovakia
was greatly affected by the introduction of a Soviet-style
Communist regime, as it was in the other countries
of central and eastern Europe. The system of power
was distorted. In effect this imbalance meant that
the three branches of power necessary for democratic
development - executive, legislative and judicial
- were substituted by a unified Communist power. Its
power was based on the constitution and for forty
years it ruled all layers of social and political
life throughout the country with the help of oppressive
institutions. After February 1948, the Communist Party
became the only autonomous political entity. It allowed
a few other parties to exist within the so-called
National Front; however, these parties held no real
power and were created to provide an outward image
of Czechoslovakia as a democratic state.
After the revolutionary events of November
1989 which brought about the downfall of the Communist
regime, the entire country faced the uneasy task of
resuming its pre-Communist traditions and building
a democratic political system. A wide diversity of
political parties were well-established even before
the break-up of Czechoslovakia on December 31, 1992.
The constitution of the Czech Republic, which
became valid on the day of the birth of the new state,
explicitly defined civil rights, the relationship
between the executive and legislative branches of
power, and the independence of the judiciary.