Czech Socialist Republic

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Czech Socialist Republic


(Česká Socialistická Republika, CSR), a republic in western Czechoslovakia (Czechoslovak Socialist Republic), encompassing the historical provinces of Bohemia and Moravia. With an area of 78,900 sq km and a population of 10 million (estimate, Jan. 1, 1976), the republic occupies more than 60 percent of Czechoslovakia’s area and accounts for 68 percent of its population. Czechs constitute 94.2 percent and Slovaks 3.6 percent of the republic’s population. Prague is the capital of both the republic and the country. The other major cities are Brno, Ostrava, Plzeñ, Hradec Králové, Havířov, Olomouc, České Budějovice, Karviná, Pardubice, Liberec, Ústí, Gottwaldov, and Kladno. About two-thirds of the republic’s population lives in urban-type settlements. Administratively, the CSR is divided into seven provinces: Central, South, West, North, and East Bohemia and South and North Moravia.

The Czech Socialist Republic is an equal and voluntary member of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, a federal state uniting the national states of the Czech and Slovak peoples. The CSR’s system of government was established under the 1960 Constitution of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic and the Constitutional Law of 1968 on the Czechoslovak Federation. The highest governing body is the Czech National Council, whose members are elected by the republic’s population for five-year terms by universal, equal, and direct suffrage and secret ballot. The executive body, the government of the republic, is appointed by the Presidium of the Czech National Council.

Natural features. Most of the republic lies within the bounds of the Bohemian Massif, which is encircled by the medium-elevation ranges of the Šumava, the Bohemian Forest, the Ore Mountains, and the Krkonoše, rising to 1,602 m on Mount Sněžka. The interior of the Bohemian Massif, called the Bohemian Basin, consists of several lowlands separated by low-mountain massifs. Moravia, also a land of hills and low mountains, encompasses the Moravian Kras, with its karst formations, and the western spurs of the Carpathians. The Bohemian-Moravian Uplands occupy the southern and central parts of the republic. The climate is temperate, and the annual precipitation ranges from 450 mm to 600 mm in the plains and from 1,200 mm to 1,600 mm in the mountains. The mountain slopes are covered with mixed and coniferous forests.

Historical survey. The territory of the present-day republic was settled as early as the Lower Paleolithic. Celts arrived in the area circa 400 B.C., and from the second century B.C. the region was inhabited by the Celtic Boii tribes, from whom the Latin name Bohemia (German, Bóhmen) is derived. At the beginning of the Common Era the Celts were overrun by the Marcomanni and other Germanic tribes. By the middle of the first millennium Slavic tribes had moved into the region, which was included in the state founded by Samo in the seventh century and formed part of the Great Moravian State in the ninth and early tenth centuries. Christianity, first Byzantine Orthodoxy and then Roman Catholicism, spread into Bohemia and Moravia in the ninth century.

Arising in the tenth century under the Pfemyslid dynasty, the Prague Principality became the nucleus of an early-feudal Czech state. The princely authority and Czech state were considerably strengthened by Prince Bfetislav I (ruled 1034–55). By this time the state ruled by the Pfemyslids encompassed not only Bohemia (the historical region that today forms the western part of the Czech Socialist Republic) but also Moravia. In 1085 the Czech prince received the royal title, and in 1198 the Czech lands became a hereditary kingdom. In the period of feudal fragmentation, which lasted from the mid-llth to the late 12th centuries, the Czech lands were invaded by German feudal lords, who were defeated at Chlumec in 1126. The Czechs also routed the Mongol-Tatars who invaded Moravia in 1241.

A feudal estate monarchy arose in the Czech lands in the late 13th and the first half of the 14th centuries. After the Pfemyslid dynasty died out in 1306, the Czech lands were incorporated into the domains of the Luxembourgs in 1310. Charles I, who was vicegerent of Bohemia and Moravia from 1333 and king of Bohemia from 1346 to 1378, was elected Holy Roman Emperor as Charles IV. Under Charles the importance of Prague increased, the Czech kings acquired the prerogatives of imperial electors in 1356, the Prague Archbishopric was established in 1344, and the University of Prague (Charles University) was founded in 1348.

Intensified feudal exploitation in the 14th and early 15th centuries strengthened the resistance of the Czech people to the oppression of the secular and spiritual feudal lords and the urban patricians, many of whom were Germans. (Colonization of the Czech lands by Germans had begun in the 13th century.) J. Hus played a leading role in the growth of the antifeudal and national liberation movement. In the first half of the 15th century the Czech lands were engulfed by a strong social-revolutionary, national liberation, and anti-Catholic movement (seeHUSSITE REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT). The tyranny of the Czech magnates after the suppression of the Hussite revolutionary movement impelled the burghers of the Czech royal cities and the lower nobility to elect George of Podébrady to the throne (ruled 1458–71). After his death the Czech magnates enthroned Vladislav II (ruled 1471–1516) and then Louis II (ruled 1516–26) of the Polish Jagiel-lonian dynasty.

After the Ottoman Turks defeated the combined Hungarian-Czech forces at the battle of Mohács in 1526, during which Louis II was killed, the Czech feudal lords elected the Austrian archduke Ferdinand I Hapsburg to the throne (ruled 1526–64). The Czech lands were to remain under the rule of the German-Austrian Hapsburgs until 1918. The rights and liberties of the Czech estates were restricted, and Germans became firmly entrenched in the bureaucracy, in the cities, and in commerce. The Reformation spread to the Czech lands in the 16th century. The Czech Uprising of 1547 was the first open rebellion against the Hapsburgs. The pro-German and Catholic policy of King Matthias (ruled 1611–19) fanned the discontent of the Czech estates, and the ensuing Czech uprising of 1618–20 signaled an international conflict that was to escalate into the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48).

The defeat of the Czech estates at the decisive battle of the White Mountain (Bílá Hora) on Nov. 8,1620, was followed by an “age of darkness” brought on by the triumph of feudal Catholic reaction in all spheres of the country’s political, economic, and cultural life. Under the Revised Land Ordinance, promulgated in 1627, the Czech lands lost all vestiges of political independence. The growing feudal and national oppression provoked the Peasant uprising of 1680, the struggle of the Chods (seeCHODS) in the late 17th century, and the Czech uprising of 1775, which obliged the Austrian government to reduce the corvée that same year. The personal dependence of the peasants was abolished in 1781.

The expansion of capitalist relations from the late 18th century was accompanied by the formation of a Czech bourgeois nation (seeCZECHS). A national movement known as the Czech Renaissance unfolded in the Czech lands in the late 18th and the first half of the 19th centuries. Members of the Czech intelligentsia played a prominent role in fostering the people’s national awareness and developing a national culture. Among these “awakeners” were J. Dobrovsky, F. Pelel, J. Jungmann, F. Palacký, and P. J. Šafařík. The Matice Česká, a cultural and educational society, was founded in 1831. In the Czech lands the Revolution of 1848–49 culminated in the Prague uprising of 1848. Although the revolution was defeated, it resulted in the liberation of the peasants from feudal dependence and the abolition of the corvée in return for redemption payments.

The industrial revolution, which began in the Czech lands in the early 19th century, accelerated the development of capitalism. From the 1860’s the Czech lands were transformed into the most industrialized part of the Hapsburg Empire, renamed Austria-Hungary in 1867. The liberal bourgeoisie that headed the Czech national movement split in 1874 into the conservative Old Czechs and the left-wing Young Czechs. From the late 1860’s socialist ideas were disseminated by J. B. Pecka, L. Zápotocký, and J. Hybes, and the growing strength of the workers’ movement was manifested in the Svárov strike of 1870. The Czechoslovak Socialist Democratic Labor Party, founded in 1878, was part of the Social Democratic Party of Austria until 1893. At the end of the 19th century the strike movement assumed mass proportions; May Day of 1890 was marked by rallies and demonstrations. However, the Czech workers’ movement was weakened by opportunism and the growing influence of bourgeois nationalism, whose mouthpiece was the Czech National Socialist Party, founded in 1897.

The Old and Young Czechs’ support of the Austrian government gave rise to several new Czech political parties that reflected the interests of various groups of the Czech bourgeoisie: the Czech Radical Progressive Party (1897), the Czech Radical State Rights Party (1899), the Czech Agrarian Party (1899), and the Czech Progressive Party (1900). Under the influence of the Revolution of 1905–07 in Russia, large workers’ demonstrations took place in the Czech lands, notably the general strike of Nov. 28,1905. The Austrian government was obliged to consent to the introduction of universal suffrage in 1907.

After the outbreak of World War I a mass antiwar movement unfolded in the Czech lands. The Austrian government established a regime of police terror, suspended political freedoms, and set up military field tribunals. Most of the Czech bourgeois political parties adopted pro-Austrian positions, and the leadership of the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Labor Party pursued an opportunist policy. In 1915 pro-Entente bourgeois politicians headed by T. G. Masaryk founded the Paris-based Czechoslovak Foreign Committee, reorganized the following year as the Czechoslovak National Council. The February Revolution of 1917 and particularly the October Socialist Revolution in Russia gave impetus to the revolutionary movement in the Czech lands. The Czech working class took part in the general strike that spread across Austria-Hungary in January 1918 and in the May Day demonstrations of that year. In May 1918 the garrison of Rumburk in northern Bohemia rebelled in protest against the war. The October general political strike of 1918 in the Czech lands dealt a heavy blow to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. On Oct. 28, 1918, amidst the collapse of Austria-Hungary, the National Committee in Prague (founded in 1916 and including representatives of all the Czech political parties from the middle of 1918) announced the formation of an independent Czechoslovak state. On Nov. 14, 1918, the Provisional National Assembly in Prague proclaimed the Czechoslovak Republic.

Down to the late 1930’s the Czech lands, the most highly industrialized part of Czechoslovakia, were the main arena of class battles and antigovernment demonstrations. Such major confrontations as the December political strike of 1920 and the Most strike of 1932 were part of the struggle of the working class of all Czechoslovakia. The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPC) was founded in 1921. The persecution of the CPC and other progressive organizations that began in the 1920’s with the enactment of the Law on the Protection of the Republic (1923) intensified in the 1930’s after several emergency laws were adopted in 1932–33. Under these conditions Czech fascist organizations, notably the National Union, stepped up their activity, and the fascist Sudeten German Party began campaigning in the northwest.

After the Munich Pact of 1938, by which the Sudeten region was ceded to Germany on October 1, the authorities disbanded the CPC and other progressive organizations in December. In March 1939, after the further dismemberment of the Czechoslovak state by fascist Germany, all the Czech lands except the areas detached in 1938 were declared the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, to be administered by a Reich protector.

The aggressors established a fascist regime in the Czech lands, arresting about 6,000 Communists. After the outbreak of World War II the Nazis arrested more than 2,000 people, most of them members of the Czech intelligentsia, and incarcerated them in the German concentration camps of Dachau and Buchenwald. Communists headed the resistance movement in the Czech lands, which gained momentum after fascist Germany’s attack on the USSR.

After an attempt on the life of the Reich protector R. Heydrich by Czechoslovak patriots on May 27, 1942, the Nazis intensified the mass repression. Some 1,800 people were executed. On June 10, 1942, the village of Lidice was wiped off the face of the earth, and on June 24 the same treatment was meted out to the village of Lezaky in Chrudim District. In the summer of 1942 partisan detachments organized by Czech patriots and by Soviet parachutists and prisoners of war who had escaped from German concentration camps began operating in the Brdy Forest, in the Beskids, and in other areas. The Slovak national uprising of 1944 spurred the resistance movement in the Czech lands. A clandestine Central Committee of the CPC was formed at the end of 1944 for the purpose of uniting all the resistance groups in Czechoslovakia and preparing for an armed uprising. Through the efforts of the CPC the Czech National Council, which included representatives of all the main groups in the resistance, was formed in the spring of 1945. The liberation movement in the Czech lands escalated under the influence of the successful offensive of the Soviet Army. Revolutionary national committees seized power in a number of cities and villages. During the People’s Uprising of 1945, which broke out in the Czech lands in early May and which was supported by the Soviet offensive, Prague was liberated on May 9 as a result of the Prague Operation.

The liberation of the country from the fascist German aggressors created favorable conditions for the reunification of the Czech lands and Slovakia within a people’s Czechoslovakia. The Kosice Program, adopted on Apr. 5, 1945, proclaimed, among other democratic principles, the equality of the Czech and Slovak peoples. The restoration of Czechoslovakia’s independence and the establishment of a people’s democratic system heralded profound social and economic changes, including an agrarian reform, in both the Czech lands and Slovakia. In February 1948 the working people of the Czech lands, together with the working class and the laboring peasantry of the entire country, decisively defeated the bourgeoisie, which tried to stage a counterrevolutionary coup d’etat (seeFEBRUARY EVENTS of 1948). The February victory opened the way for the building of a socialist society.

The Czech and Slovak peoples embarked on the building of socialism, whose victory in Czechoslovakia was legally reinforced by the Constitution of July 11, 1960. The CPC and the working people of the Czech lands helped implement measures aimed at eliminating the consequences of the actions of the antisocialist forces that tried in 1968 to detach Czechoslovakia from the socialist community (seeCZECHOSLOVAKIA). The Constitutional Law, which was adopted by the National Assembly and went into effect on Jan. 1,1969, transformed the Czechoslovak Socalist Republic into a federal state of two equal peoples, the Czechs and the Slovaks, and made the Czech Socialist Republic (CSR) one of two equal socialist republics in a federation.

G. E. SANCHUK (to the 18th century), K. P. GOGINA (from the 18th century to 1918), and O. P. SELIANINOV and A. KH. KLEVANSKII (since 1918)

Economy. The CSR has a highly developed industry and agriculture. In 1975 industry and construction employed 49.5 percent of the labor force, compared to 39.1 percent in 1948, and agriculture and forestry engaged 12.5 percent, as against 32.9 percent in 1948. The republic accounts for 74 percent of Czechoslovakia’s national income, for 74 percent of its industrial output, for 66 percent of its construction, and for 67 percent of its agricultural output.

In the course of socialist construction, the national income increased by a factor of about 5 between 1948 and 1975, the industrial output by a factor of 7.7, and the agricultural output by a factor of 1.8. The economy of the republic has been radically reorganized and modernized. The structure of industry has been altered by the rapid expansion of the machine-building, metalworking, and chemical industries, whose output rose by a factor of more than 17 from 1948 to 1975. The main branches of the republic’s highly diversified industry are fuel and energy (accounting for 10 percent of the total gross output of the CSR), ferrous metallurgy (10.6 percent), machine building and metalworking (32.8 percent), chemicals (6.8 percent), textiles (6.1 percent), and food and condiments (14.8 percent).

The CSR produces all the bituminous coal mined in Czechoslovakia; most of the 28 million tons extracted in 1975 came from the Ostrava-Karviná and Kladno basins. The republic also accounts for most of the country’s brown coal output (more than 80 million tons in 1975), extracted from the North Bohemian and Sokolov basins, and for the greater part of the electric power generated (about 50 billion kW-hrs in 1975). A large metallurgical and machine-building complex has been established. In 1975 most of the republic’s output of 9 million tons of coke, more than 6 million tons of cast iron, more than 10 million tons of steel, more than 7 million tons of rolled metals, and more than 1.2 million tons of pipes came from three metallurgical plants in the Ostrava-Karviná Basin. The CSR accounts for three-fourths of the country’s machine-building output and for almost its entire output of power equipment, means of transportation, machine tools, tractors, electrical engineering goods, and certain other types of machinery and equipment.

The large chemical industry manufactures, in addition to inorganic chemical products derived from coal, organic chemical products obtained by processing hydrocarbon raw materials, chiefly petroleum. Major products include plastics, chemical fibers, and synthetic rubber. Most of the chemical enterprises are situated in the North Bohemian Brown Coal Basin, along the middle and lower Labe, and around Ostrava. Cement and other building materials are produced on a large scale. North Bohemia has numerous glassworks, and West Bohemia is famous for its porcelain. The logging and woodworking industry of the mountain regions produces paper, furniture, and pencils. The textile industry, a traditional industry in North Bohemia, manufactures cotton, wool, silk, and linen fabrics and clothing. The leather and footwear industry, concentrated in Gottwaldov, produces for the world market. The main products of the thriving food and condiments industry are refined sugar and beer. The most important industrial regions are the Prague-Plzeň region, Brno and its environs, the Ostrava-Karviná region, the area along the Labe River, and central Moravia.

The republic’s agriculture is highly intensive, market-oriented, and diversified. In addition to grain crops, beets, potatoes, fodder crops, hops, fruit, and vegetables are widely grown. Wheat, sugar beets, and barley are cultivated mainly in the fertile valleys of Moravia and along the Labe; rye and potatoes are grown in the hilly areas. Animal husbandry is flourishing; beef and dairy cattle, hogs (mechanized farms), and poultry are raised. Commercial pond fishing is important. The CSR is situated at the junction of important European transportation routes. The Vltava and the Labe are used for shipping.


Cultural affairs and public health. In the 1975–76 school year about 317,000 children attended 6,203 kindergartens admitting children between the ages of three and five years. That year about 1.2 million pupils were enrolled in 5,908 compulsory primary schools, about 72,000 students in four-year secondary general-education schools (Gymnasiums), about 215,000 students in vocational schools, and more than 183,300 students in three– or four-year secondary vocational schools. The republic’s 23 higher educational institutions had an enrollment of about 92,300. The largest and oldest institutions of higher learning in Prague are Charles University (University of Prague), founded in 1348 and attended by more than 24,100 students in the 1976–77 academic year, the Technical University, higher schools of chemical technology, economics, and agriculture, the Academy of Art, and the Academy of Fine Arts. Located in Brno are the University of Brno, the Technical University, and the L. Janáček Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Two other major schools are the F. Palacký University in Olomouc and the State College of Mining and Metallurgy in Ostrava.

The highest scientific institution is the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, some 70 of whose research institutes and other scientific institutions are located in the republic, chiefly in Prague and Brno. In addition, various scientific sections of the Czechoslovak Academy of Agriculture, which was detached from the Academy of Sciences in 1974, are based in the republic. Prague is the site of several research institutes affiliated with ministries and agencies of the Czechoslovak government, notably the Geological Survey (founded 1919), the Hydrometeorological Institute (1920), and the Water Research Institute (1920). Outside Prague, there are major specialized research institutions in Brno, Ostrava, Gottwaldov, Olomouc, and Jihlava. Scientific work is also conducted at higher educational institutions, some of which maintain research institutes. Attached to the University of Prague, for example, are institutes of Marxism-Leninism (1970) and astronomy (1887), and the School of Economics in Prague has established an institute of industrial economics. There are a number of learned societies.

The largest libraries in Prague are the State Library of the Czech Socialist Republic (founded 1958; 4.6 million volumes in 1976), the Library of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences (1952; more than 700,000 volumes), the National Museum Library (1818; 2.4 million volumes), the City Library (1891; 2,048,000 volumes), and the State Technical Library (1707; 724,000 volumes). Brno’s largest libraries are the State Technical Library (1899; 1.1 million volumes) and the University Library (1815; 1,689,000 volumes). Research libraries have also been established in Opava, Ostrava, Olomouc, Plzeň, and other cities.

The principal museums are the National Museum, founded in Prague in 1818, the National Gallery (1796) in Prague, the Museum of the Capital City of Prague (1883), the Brno Municipal Museum (1904), and the Moravian Museum (1818) in Brno. Also important are the city museums in Karlovy Vary and Pardubice and the regional museums in Gottwaldov, Teplice, and Opava.

In 1975 the republic had 18 daily newspapers, 186 weeklies, 112 biweekly magazines and newspapers, and 282 monthly magazines; 4,310 books and pamphlets were published, totaling more than 58,000 copies. The most influential dailies, all published in Prague, are Rudé právo (since 1920; 1975 circulation, about 1 million), the organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia; Práce (since 1945; circulation, about 290,000), the organ of the Czechoslovak Revolutionary Trade Union Movement; Miadá fronta (since 1945; circulation, 238,000), the organ of the Socialist Union of Youth; Svobodné slovo (since 1945; circulation, 227,800), the organ of the Czechoslovak Socialist Party; and Lidová demokracie (since 1945; circulation, 216,900), the organ of the Czechoslovak People’s Party.

Czechoslovak Radio, founded in 1923, and Czechoslovak Television, inaugurated in 1953, are government organizations of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. Most of the radio broadcasting is done by the Prague Radio Station, which broadcasts five programs. Television studios in Prague, Brno, Ostrava, and Plzeň broadcast two programs each.

In 1975 the republic had 5,762 hospitals and maternity homes, 615 specialized medical facilities, 433 therapeutic sanatoriums, 509 medical research institutes, and 76 clinics for safeguarding the health of mothers and infants. That year there were 27,896 doctors, or one for every 362 inhabitants.

Health resorts such as the world-famous spas of Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně, Františkovy Lázně, and Poděbrady have developed around the republic’s many mineral springs.

Literature. The appearance of the earliest Czech literary works—religious songs, saints’ lives, and legends written in Old Church Slavonic—was made possible by the educational activity of the brothers Cyril and Methodius and their disciples at the turn of the tenth century. In the late 11th century, as the Roman Church became stronger, Old Church Slavonic was displaced by Latin. The most important medieval work in Latin was the Czech Chronicle (1125) by Cosmas of Prague. A vernacular and secular literature emerged in the late 13th century. The spread of Renaissance ideas into Bohemia and Moravia promoted the flowering of Czech literature in the 14th century. A remarkable historical work was the Boleslav (or Dalimil) Chronicle, composed in verse between 1308 and 1314 by Dalimil Meziřičský. Fourteenth-century Czech literature included satirical and didactic works, such as the folk drama The Seller of Medicinal Ointments, chivalric tales and epics, love lyrics, and the lyric and satirical songs of the vagants, wandering monks and students. The first known Czech writer was the satirist S. Flaška (mid–14th century to 1403), whose works reflect a conflict between the king and the feudal nobility. The works of T. Štítné (circa 1333–1405) inveighed against foreign domination and foreshadowed the coming struggle for religious reform.

A new phase in literary development opened with the Hussite revolutionary movement of the first half of the 15th century, which produced anti-Catholic sermons (Jan Hus [c. 1371–1415] and Jan Želivsky [died 1422]), epistolary works (Jan Hus and Jan Zizka [c. 1360–1424]), leaflets, manifestoes, appeals in verse (Prague’s Dispute With Kutná Hora), and battle songs (“Those Who Are God’s Warriors”). After the suppression of the Hussite movement, its patriotic spirit was kept alive by such writers as P. Chelčický (c. 1390–1460).

In the Czech lands the first printed books were issued in 1468. With the consolidation of feudalism in the late 15th century, Czech authors turned to scholarly writing. Some works protested against ossified medieval traditions. Chronicle writing flourished in the 16th century.

The domination of Catholicism in the 17th and 18th centuries hindered literary development. Latin was once again given preference over Czech, books written in Czech were destroyed, and many writers emigrated. An unwavering humanitarianism distinguished the pedagogical writings and philosophical literary works of the leading writer of that time, J. A. Comenius (1592–1670), one of whose best-known works was The Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart (1623). Apart from the official literature, serving the aims of Catholic propaganda, Czech books circulated in manuscript form, copied by anonymous scribes who wished to preserve them for future generations. Love lyrics were composed in the baroque style. Oral folk poetry played an important role in the spiritual life of the Czech people during these centuries.


The literature of the Czech national renaissance, spanning the late 18th and first half of the 19th centuries, was in large measure shaped by the “awakeners.” It initially arose as an Enlightenment literature championing the ideals of rationalism (J. Dobrovsky, 1753–1829) and the use of the Czech language, in which odes, fables, and secular lyrics were written (A. J. Puchmajer, 1769–1820). In the second and third decades of the 19th century the philologist and poet J. Jungmann (1773–1847) and the publicist P. J. Šafařik (1795–1861) formulated a program for the development of an indigenous national literature. Essentially prero-mantic, the works produced between 1810 and 1830 drew on folklore, poeticized the heroic past, and affirmed the kinship of the Slavic peoples and their cultures. Two major early 19th-century works, known as the Králové Dvůr (1817) and Zelená Hora (1818) manuscripts, were written by V. Hanka (1791–1861) and J. Linda (1789–1834) in the style of ancient patriotic legends and passed off as genuine historical texts. Other important works included the narrative poem Daughter of Sláva (1824, 2nd ed. 1832) by J. Kollár (1793–1852), the bard of Slavic brotherhood, and the verse collections Echo of Russian Songs (1829) and Echo of Czech Songs (1839) by F. L. Čelakovský (1799–1852). The revolutionary romanticism of the 1830’s brought to literature, along with a passionate longing for freedom and subjective lyricism, a broad range of philosophical issues. Its leading exponent was K. H. Macha (1810–36), best known for his lyrical narrative poem May (1836). Dramaturgy was represented by J. K. Tyl (1808–56).

During the Revolution of 1848–49 realist tendencies emerged in Czech literature, whose social criticism and heroic and patriotic overtones became stronger, as illustrated by Tyl’s plays The Miners of Kutná Hora (1848) and Jan Hus (1849). Antiabsolutist and anticlerical satire appeared in the narrative poems of K. Havlicek-Borovsky (1821–56), the author of Tyrolean Elegies (1852, published 1861) and The Baptism of St. Vladimir (1848–54, complete text published 1876). During the Hapsburg reaction of the mid–19th century the novellas of B. Némcová (1820–62) mirrored social antagonisms and portrayed the common people as the main bearer of moral and ethical values (The Grandmother, 1855). K. J. Erben (1811–70) carried on the romantic folklore traditions in his Bouquet (1853), a collection of ballads.

From the 1860’s to the 1880’s realism developed further, its principles expounded in the critical articles of J. Neruda (1834–91). Realist poetics are affirmed in the civic verse and intimate lyrics of Neruda’s Book of Poems (1868), Simple Motifs (1883), and Ballads and Romances (1883). Neruda also introduced urban themes into literature, frequently ridiculing the petite bourgeoisie, as in the Tales of the Little Quarter (1878). Social and moral issues were raised in two fine novellas about rural life: In the New Village (1873) by V. Hálek (1835–74) and A Village Romance (1869) by K. Světlá (1830–99).

By the early 1890’s social criticism became more pronounced in realism, and writers evinced a heightened interest in the individual’s relationship to society and man’s inner world. Several outstanding historical novels were written. A. Jirásek (1851–1930) re-created critical moments of Czech history, portraying the panorama of the Hussite movement as a people’s liberation war in Between the Currents (vols. 1–3, 1887–90) and Against Everyone (1893). The social conflicts of their own day were depicted by A. Stasek (1843–1931) in the novel In the Turbid Whirlpool (1900) and by J. Arbes (1840–1914) in the novel Modern Vampires (1882).

Criticism of social evils, patriotism, and a romantic anticipation of revolutionary changes infused the narrative poem Songs of a Slave (1894) by S. Čech (1846–1908), the collection Village Songs and Bohemian Sonnets (1890) by J. V. Sládek (1845–1912), and the collection Fragments of an Epic (1886) by J. Vrchlicky (1853–1912). The realist plays Her Stepdaughter (1890) by G. Preissová (1862–1946), Maryša (staged 1894) by A. Mrštík (1861–1925) and V. Mrštík (1863–1912), and Jirásek’s Woman Warrior (1890) and The Father (published 1895) depicted the tragic fate of the peasants and showed the impact of capitalist relations on the countryside.

At the turn of the century the literary scene was marked by diversity and contradiction. Although literature was clearly influenced by the labor movement and socialist ideas, the rejection of bourgeois reality was often accompanied by individualistic rebellion, which prompted the Manifesto of the Czech Modernists (1895). While condemning bourgeois relations, the poetry of J. S. Machar (1864–1942), notably his collections Tristium vindobona (1893) and Golgotha (1901) and his narrative poem Magdalena (1894), offered no clear alternatives. A spirit of spontaneous proletarian class protest animated the Silesian Songs (published separately in 1909) of P. Bezruč (1867–1958).

Modernist and decadent trends, finding extreme expression in the magazine Moderní revue (1894–1925), had only a partial influence on such writers as V. Dyk (1877–1931), whose principal poetic works were imbued with antimilitarist and patriotic fervor. Dreams of a humane world and freedom were typical of the symbolist poets, notably O. Bfezina (1868–1929), best known for his collection Hands (1901), and A. Sova (1864–1928), author of the collection The Adventure of Daring (1906). K. M. Čapek-Chod (1860–1927) portrayed society’s ills in a naturalist vein. Anarchist feelings pervaded literature. A spirit of rebellion marked the early symbolist-influenced poetry of S. K. Neumann (1875–1947), gathered in the collections The Glory of Satan Among Us (1897) and A Dream About a Crowd of Desperate People and Other Verses (1903). The same defiant spirit informed the poetry of K. Toman (1877–1946), F. Šrámek (1877–1952), and F. Gellner (1881–1914). The short stories, pamphlets, and feuilletons of the brilliant Czech satirist J. Hašek (1883–1923) expressed the hatred of the lower classes for the Hapsburg monarchy, the social elite, the bourgeois bureaucratic system, and militarism. I. Olbracht (1882–1952) and M. Majerová (1882–1967) began their careers in the early 20th century.


The establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918 and the upsurge in the country’s labor movement opened up new prospects for the development of literature. The Great October Socialist Revolution had a strong influence on the evolution of progressive Czech literature. A revolutionary trend emerged in the 1920’s; its leading exponents were Z. Nejedlý (1878–1962), Neumann, Olbracht, Majerová, and young writers and artists of the Devětsil group. The theoreticians of proletarian poetry, which appeared in the early 1920’s, were Neumann, J. Hora (1891–1945), and J. Wolker (1900–24). Revolutionary motifs were developed in the collection A City in Tears (1921) by J. Seifert (born 1901), and Neumann’s collection Red Songs (1923) introduced new kinds of civic and agitation lyrics. Wol-ker’s works, notably his collection Hour of Birth (1922), embodied the ideals of revolutionary humanism; his poetics reflected a love of metaphor and experimentation with new forms of free verse. V. Nezval (1900–58) took a highly original approach to revolutionary romanticism in his narrative poem The Amazing Magician.

In the mid–1920’s Devětsil rejected the program of proletarian poetry and advanced an avant-garde theory of poetics claiming that true revolutionary art was “pure lyricism.” This notion was expounded by the theoretician K. Teige (“1900–51) and the poets Nezval, Seifert, and K. Biebl (1898–1951). Despite such pronouncements, however, the best works of the Devétsil poets remained in the proletarian tradition. Nezva’s narrative poem Edison (1928) was an innovative masterpiece of revolutionary art. Among the best proletarian prose works of the 1920’s were Hasek’s antimilitarist and satirical novel The Good Soldier Švejk (1921–23, unfinished), Majerová’s realist novel The Best of Worlds (1923), Olbracht’s realist novel Anna the Proletarian (1928), and the novel-parable The Baker Jan Marhoul (1924) by V. Vanfiura (1891–1942). Critical realism was continued by A. M. Tilschová (1873–1957), K. Nový (born 1890), and B. Klička (1897–1943). K. Čapek’s novels and plays were an unusual blend of antibourgeois satire and social utopianism.

In the 1930’s the Marxist critics J. Fučík (1903–43), B. Václavek (1897–1943), K. Konrad (1908–41), and L. Stoll (born 1902) worked on the theoretical problems of socialist realism. Writers of the Left Front, founded in 1930, polemicized with the group of surrealists formed by Nezval in 1934. The advocates of socialist realism formed the Alliance in 1935, which also included Slovak writers. The progressive camp opposed the Catholic writers, notably J. Durych (1886–1962), and the ruralism that reflected the ideology of the reactionary Agrarian Party. A prominent place was held by the civic and philosophical lyrics of Neumann and the proletarian poetry of J. Noha (1908–66), J. Taufer (born 1911), and F. Nechvátaí (born 1905). Besides surrealist poems, Nezval wrote political poems on current themes. The poetry of V. Závada (born 1905) dealt with social concerns, and Neumann and F. Halas (1901–49) wrote poems about the Spanish Civil War. A very different voice was heard in the existential poetry of Halas and V. Holan (born 1905) and in the “pure lyricism” of Hora and Seifert. In the face of Nazi aggression, the progressive Czech poets were united in their dedication to antifascist and patriotic literature.

The socialist realist novel flowered in the 1930’s. Social consciousness was combined with profound psychological analysis in the novels The Siren (1935) by Majerová, People at the Crossroads (1937, first part of a trilogy) by M. Pujmanová (1893–1958), The Shoe Machine (1933) by T. Svatopluk (1900–72), The Sources (1924–33; unfinished) by J. Kratochvfl (1885–1945), and Three Rivers (1936) by Vancura. In Olbracht’s novel Nikola; Suhaj, Bandit (1933) motifs from folk legends are skillfully woven into the realist fabric of the work. Fučík and Pujmanová produced essays, reportage, and books about the USSR. Capek’s satirical and philosophical antifascist novel War With the Newts (1936) gained world renown. It was followed by two fine antifascist plays, The White Plague (1937) and Mother (1938). Vančura abandoned abstract philosophical dramaturgy in favor of realist plays.

Avant-garde literary criticism was represented in those years by Teijge and “academic” criticism by the Prague structuralists (seePRAGUE, LINGUISTIC CIRCLE OF). F. Šalda analyzed literature from a general democratic perspective.

During World War II, Vančura, Fučik, Konrad, Kratochvfl, Václavek, and other writers died in fascist prisons and concentration camps. Literature was full of the ideas of the antifascist resistance, eloquently expressed in Vančura’s Scenes From the History of the Czech People (vols. 1–3,1939–40), Fučík’s Notes From the Gallows (published 1945), and the poetry of Halas and Neumann.

In the first postwar years, the people’s liberation struggle and the victory over fascism was a central theme in Czech literature, notably in the poetry of F. Hrubfn (1910–71), Nezval, Holan, Halas, and Pujmanová and the prose of J. Drda (1915–70). Nevertheless, representatives of bourgeois ideology remained influential. The victory over reaction in February 1948 marked the beginning of a new stage in the struggle for socialist literature.

In the 1950’s prose writers showed a predilection for epic panorama. The historical destiny of the Czech people and their path to socialism were depicted in novels by Pujmanová (Playing With Fire, 1948; Life Against Death, 1952) and A. Zápotocký (1884–1957). Socialist construction was the theme of the novels The Offensive (1951) and The Battle (1954) by V. Řezáč (1901–56), Without a Chief (1953) by Svatopluk, and The Peasant (vols. 1–2, 1955–58) by B. Říha (born 1907). The complex conflicts of modern times were explored by J. Otčenášek (born 1904) in the novel Citizen Brych (1955) and by Z. Pluhaf (born 1913). The antifascist struggle, a persistent theme, was portrayed in Lame Orpheus (1964) by Otčenášek and Box for the Living (1956) by N. Frýd (1913–76). V. Neff (born 1909) and J. Toman (1899–1977) wrote historical novels. The narrative poem Song of Peace (1950) and other works by Nezval became known throughout the world. The poetry of Závada, Hrubín, Taufer, and I. Skála (born 1922), imbued with antiwar fervor, evoked the spiritual world of modern man. Other poets, notably M. Florian (born 1931), chose to write about intimate personal experiences and the beauty of the Czech landscape. Hrubfn also wrote psychological plays about contemporary life (Crystal Night, 1961), and Nezval created the antiwar philosophical fantasy play Today the Sun Still Sets Over Atlantis (1956).

Nihilist tendencies emerged in the mid–1960’s, becoming strong during the political crisis of 1968, when they often turned into a rejection of socialism. The influence of Western modernism—the “new novel,” the theater of the absurd, and “concrete” poetry—became increasingly apparent. After the April Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPC (1969), a campaign was launched to overcome the consequences of the crisis in ideology, culture, and literature. The Union of Czech Writers, founded in May 1972, united the Czech literary forces around socialist realism.

In the early 1970’s continuity was restored with the best traditions of the preceding period, and socialist literature experienced a strong revival. Significant poetic works have been created by Závada, whose collection On the Threshold (1970) was widely acclaimed, Taufer, Skála, J. Rybák (born 1904), Florian, and V. Hons (born 1938), best known for his narrative poem February (1973). The problems of building a new society and developing a socialist morality are posed in the novels St. Michael (1971) and The Stork’s Nest (1976) by J. Kozák (born 1921), Doctor Meluzín (1973) by Říha and My Boy and I (1974) by J. Kolárová (born 1919). Influential literary critics have included Stoll, Taufer, J. Hájek (born 1919), V. Dostál (1930–75), S. Vlasin (born 1924), H. Hrzalová (born 1929), and V. Rzounek (born 1921).


Architecture and art. Archaeological excavations in Bohemia and Moravia have yielded Paleolithic figurines, Neolithic pottery (grooved ware, Bandkeramik, and corded ware), and art works of the Proto-Slavs and of the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures. Ancient Slavic pottery of the Prague type has survived from the seventh century. Silver, gold, and bronze jewelry has been found among the remains of fortified Slavic settlements dating from the eighth to the tenth centuries. The most important such sites are in Prague and Staré Mšsto near Uherské Hradište.

After the adoption of Catholicism, stone churches were built, some conforming to Byzantine models (ruins of a ninth-century church near Staré Město) and others to Western European, mainly Carolingian, prototypes (St. Vitus Rotunda in Prague, c. 930). The Romanesque style, which flourished from the 11th to the 13th century, determined the austere forms of the 11th-century St. Vitus Basilica and the 12th-century St. George Basilica in Pražský Hrad. Stone houses and fortifications were built in the cities that arose around the castles of feudal lords. A fusion of German and Byzantine influences is discernible in the art of the 11th to 13th centuries, notably the Vyšehrad Codex miniatures (1085) and the wall paintings depicting members of the Přemyslid dynasty in the St. Catherine Rotunda in Znojmo (1134). The reliefs decorating the 12th-century St. George Basilica in Pražský Hrad are notable for their highly expressive simplified forms.

From the mid–13th to the mid–15th century the consolidation of the feudal state, the rise of an urban culture, and the turbulent social movements that erupted into the Hussite wars contributed to a flowering of Gothic architecture and art. Severely majestic forms and restrained magnificent decoration, clear in design, are characteristic of 14th-century Gothic buildings. The finest examples of the Gothic style in Bohemia may be found in Prague: the eastern section of the St. Vitus Cathedral with its graceful reticulated vaults (the building of the cathedral, begun in 1344, was continued by Peter Parler from 1356 to 1399), the 14th-century Town Hall of the Old Town, and the 14th-century buildings of Charles University. The bridges built in the 13th and 14th centuries in Prague (Charles Bridge, 1357–78, P. Parler), Pisek, and Roudnice are noteworthy for their bold arch design. In the 14th and 15th centuries reconstructed older cities and new urban centers (New Town in Prague) acquired a regular layout and a rectangular central square (České Budějovice, Telč, Český Krumlov). The castles built by feudal lords between the 13th and 16th centuries consisted of a fortified center and a surrounding settlement; the castle proper usually had a donjon, a chapel, inner courtyards with Gothic arcaded galleries, and grand halls with reticulated vaults, as illustrated by the castles in Křivoklát (13th–16th centuries) and Zvíkov (13th century). Blending naturally with the landscape, Karlstein Castle is remarkably harmonious in composition.

In the second half of the 15th and the early 16th centuries the decorative element grew stronger in architecture, and vault patterns became more elaborate, as may be seen in Vladislav Hall in Prazsky Hrad (architect B. Rejt) and the Cathedral of St. Barbara in Kutná Hora. Basifican churches were replaced by hall churches, the finest example of which is the Church of the Ascension of St. Mary in Most, built in the first half of the 16th century. Even some town halls, notably that of Tábor (14th–16th centuries), were built as halls divided by aisles.

The fine art of the 14th century creatively assimilated the artistic traditions of France, Germany, and Italy. In sculpture canonically strict images (Madonna of Strakonice, mid–14th century) yielded to a penchant for lyricism and elegant representation (statues of the Master of the Michelska Madonna, second quarter of the 14th century). In painting, some artists combined delicate drawing with an attempt at modeling (Roudnice Predella, c. 1340), while others strove for realistic composition and vibrant coloration (Master of the Vyssí Brod Altar, mid–14th century).

The realist tendencies in Gothic art reached their peak in the second half of the 14th century in the reign of Charles IV. The busts carved in the triforium of the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague (1374–85, P. Parler) are noteworthy for their striking individual traits and clarity of plastic form. The panels depicting saints in the chapel of Karlstein Castle (c. 1357–67, Master Theodoric) are distinguished by a monumental quality, keen observation, and soft modeling. In the more dramatic paintings of the Master of the Třeboň Altar (fourth quarter of the 14th century) the images are highly individualized, and the color scheme gains an emotional intensity. The “soft style” became popular in the late 14th century. In the early 15th century art became more secular and at times even anticlerical, as evidenced by the early 16th-century miniatures of the Jena Codex. The finest example of Bohemian manuscript illumination of the 14th and 15th centuries is the Passional of the Abbess Kunhuta, completed before 1320. Bohemian craftsmen excelled in artistic glasswork, silver and gold embroidery, and the making of jewelry, stained glass, and mosaics.

After the establishment of Hapsburg rule in 1526, the Renaissance style was introduced into Bohemia, chiefly by Italian architects. The most famous Renaissance structures, all in Prague, are the Belvedere Palace, surrounded by an elegant arcaded gallery (c. 1535–63), the games court in the royal garden (1560’s), and the Schwarzenberg Palace. Castles rebuilt in the Renaissance style acquired galleries with columned arcades, loggias, and grand halls (Pardubice, Jindřichův Hradec). In the second half of the 16th and early 17th centuries a highly original Renaissance style evolved in urban construction through the mingling of Renaissance and still vigorous Gothic forms. The homes of wealthy burghers were decorated with ornate pediments and attics, arcaded galleries, balconies, and sgraffito murals (Tábor, Telč, Pardubice, and Litoměřice).

In the late 15th and the 16th centuries Renaissance influences affected altar painting, which reached a high level in the work of the Master of the Litoměřice Altar. Secular genres developed, such as stucco decoration, sgraffito wall painting, and simplified tombstone sculpture portraying the dead. At the turn of the 17th century Prague was one of the last centers of European mannerism, which was cultivated by Italian, Dutch, and German masters, notably B. Spranger, G. Arcimboldo, and A. de Vries, who worked at the court of Rudolph II.

A new architectural revival began in the second half of the 17th century, when the baroque style became popular in palace architecture. The baroque buildings erected in Prague, all original interpretations of Italian, Austrian, and French architecture, are marked by flexible composition, festive grandeur, and elegant decoration. The most impressive of them are the Černin Palace (1669–1750), the Kinský Palace (begun 1755, architect K. I. Dientzenhofer), and the Clam-Gallas Palace (c. 1713, architect J. B. Fischer von Erlach). The palaces were surrounded by elaborate garden and park complexes. The Gothic silhouette of the cities was modified by baroque churches, either single-aisled or circular structures with majestic domes, multitier towers, and lavish sculptural decoration. An outstanding example is the Church of St. Nicholas in Mala Strana, Prague (1704–55), designed by the architect K. I. Dientzenhofer.

Bohemian baroque art of the 17th and 18th centuries evinced realist and democratic tendencies, which are especially strong in the portraits and murals of K. Škréta and P. Brandl, the splendid, eloquent frescoes and landscapes of V. V. Reiner, the portraits of J. Kupecký, the engravings of V. Hollar, and the still lifes of R. Byss and J. V. Angermayer. The leading sculptors were M. B. Braun and F. M. Brokoff, who together produced many of the expressively modeled statues on the Charles Bridge in Prague in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Rococo and classical influences appeared in the mid–18th century in the sculpture of I. Platzer and the fine genre paintings of N. Grund. Artistic glass-work, metalwork, and embroidery reached a high level of excellence in the 17th and 18th centuries.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the period known as the Czech Renaissance, when the national liberation movement spread through the Czech lands, art joined the struggle for national self-assertion. After a brief and limited triumph of classicism, a national romantic style, marked by eclecticism, became firmly established in architecture after 1850. The grand monumentality and rich ornamentation of the neo-Renaissance and neo-baroque edifices built between the 1860’s and the 1890’s may be seen in the National Theater (1868–83, architects J. Zitek and J. Schulz), the Rudolfinum (1876–84), and the National Museum (1885–90), all in Prague. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the art nouveau style yielded to nationalist trends, reflected in the buildings designed by J. Kotěra in Hradec Králové and Prostějov and by O. Novotný in Prague.

The development of art was promoted by the founding in Prague of the Patriotic Society of the Friends of Art (1796) and the Academy of Arts (1799). In the first half of the 19th century, realistic tendencies emerged alongside the prevailing classicism and romanticism. Themes from national history and representations of contemporaries were skillfully rendered in L. Kohl’s etchings and A. Machek’s lithographs and portraits. The Czech landscape received poetic treatment in the works of K. Postl, A. Kosárek, and A. Manes. The genre scenes and still lifes of J. Navrátil are notable for their freedom and refined lightness of style. The common people, who became an important theme during the Revolution of 1848–49, were masterfully portrayed in the romantically inclined works of J. Manes. In addition to poeticized scenes from folk life and generalized natural panoramas, Manes produced portraits showing keen observation, as well as lyrical illustrations of folk songs. J. Čermák’s works extolled the liberation struggle of the Slavic peoples. In the late 1850’s and the 1860’s democratic realism was represented by K. Purkyné’s portraits and still lifes, executed in a vigorous and sensuous style.

In the last third of the 19th century the artists of the “National Theater generation,” headed by the painter M. Aleš, a follower of J. Manes, had a considerable influence on the development of Czech art. In his paintings of popular legends and events from national history and his illustrations to folk songs Aleš affirmed democratic principles and the lyrical and epic trend in art. The works of other students of Mánes, notably F. Ženíšek and J. Tulka, as well as the historical compositions of V. Brožík, show the influence of academicism. Two other major painters of the late 19th century were J. Mařák, noted for his monumental epic landscapes, and A. Chittussi, who turned to plein air painting in the 1880’s. J. V. Myslbek was the foremost sculptor of the late 19th century.

In the early 20th century, amid conflicting trends in art, a progressive school emerged to oppose the decadent tendencies. The leading landscape painters were Mafák’s students F. Kaván, B. Dvořák, and A. Kalvoda. The impressionist A. Slavíček created generalized epic images of his native landscapes. A poetic lyricism infused the landscapes of A. Hudeček and the paintings of M. Jiránek. J. Úprka and L. Kuba painted picturesque scenes from peasant life. A critical view of society underlay K. Myslbek’s severe, monumental pictures and etchings. Symbolist elements are present in J. Preisler’s visionary canvases and murals, full of vague foreboding, and F. Kupka’s compositions and caricatures. In M. Švabinský’s pictures and engravings symbolism is combined with a strong faith in life. Graphic art reached a high level in the etchings of Z. Braunerová and T. F. Šimon. The prevailing art nouveau style was best expressed in the engravings of V. Preissig, the posters of A. Mucha and A. Hofbauer, and the book illustrations of J. Lada, A. Kašpar, and A. Šajner. The leading sculptors at the turn of the century were S. Sucharda, J. Mařatka, J. Štursa, O. Španiel, L. Šaloun, and F. Bilek.

The early 20th-century aspiration toward a synthesis of the arts gave rise to the creative cooperation of the architect J. Kotěra and the painter J. Preisler. Many artists, notably F. Bilek, A. Mucha, and S. Sucharda, devoted much attention to decorative applied art, chiefly glasswork, ceramics, and interior decoration. From around 1910 to 1920 Czech painters came under the influence of European avant-garde styles (fauvist and cubist paintings of B. Kubišta, E. Filia, V. Novák, and A. Procházka), although some artists sought to reinterpret such styles in a national spirit (painting and graphic art of V. Špála, J. Čapek, J. Zrzavý, and R. Kremlička). The painters V. Rabas, V. Rada, and V. Sedláček followed national artistic traditions.

The establishment of an independent bourgeois Czechoslovak state in 1918 stimulated a flowering of artistic culture, which was increasingly influenced by the communist and labor movement. A national functionalist school of architecture emerged in the 1920’s and 1930’s; its leading exponents were J. Gočár, K. Honzfk, and J. Havlicek. Besides designing villas and public buildings (Gočár’s structures in Hradec Králové), architects became involved in planning residential housing complexes using standard designs. One of the first cities to initiate such housing projects was Zlin, now Gottwaldov. Nevertheless, down to the mid–20th century most Czech cities retained their medieval appearance, while slums proliferated on the outskirts. Two notable achievements of the prewar years were the completion of the western part of the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague (1929) and the construction of the National Liberation Monument on Vitkov Hill (begun 1929, architect J. Zázvorka).

In art, realistic and democratic tendencies were strengthened in the 1920’s and 1930’s through the clash of opposing views on the nature of art. Some avant-garde artists turned to the traditions of realism, as illustrated by the landscapes, still lifes, and genre paintings of V. Novák, O. Nejedlý, and O. Kubin. The folk aspect was strengthened in the work of J. Čapek, V. Špála, and J. Lada. In their landscapes and scenes from folk life V. Rabas, V. Rada, and V. Sedláček continued to develop the national traditions of realism. The “social” art that arose in the 1920’s and 1930’s truthfully depicted the life and struggle of the working class. The artists of this school—notably the painters K. Holan, P. Kotik, and M. Holy, the graphic artists V. Silovský, J. Rambousek, and K. Štika, and the sculptors K. Kotrba, K. Pokorný, J. Lauda, and O. Gutfreund—produced intensely dramatic works employing expressionist and primitivist techniques. Several artists close to the communist movement, such as K. Teige, F. Muzika, and J. Šima, gravitated toward constructivism and “poetism.”

The growing threat of fascism gave impetus to antifascist political satire, whose undisputed masters were F. Bidlo, A. Pele, and J. Čapek. Social art found a brilliant exponent in K. Štěch, and the courage of the proletariat and the beauty of labor were affirmed in the works of K. Pokorný. A fresh approach to the homeland theme marked the landscapes and peasant scenes of V. Rabas, V. Rada, and B. Dvorský. In their antiwar and antifascist works, pervaded by a sense of tragedy, E. Filia, J. Čapek, V. Sychra, V. Tittelbach, and F. Muzika resorted to symbol and allegory and at times even a surrealist mask.

The progressive national traditions were carried on during the German occupation, when many artists died in concentration camps.

The liberation of Czechoslovakia from fascist oppression in 1945 and the victory of the people’s democratic system opened up new opportunities for artistic development. Standard designs and industrial techniques were widely adopted in construction. In 1948 new residential districts with schools, hospitals, sports installations, and public centers were built in Prague, Gottwaldov, Horní Litvínov, Olomouc, Znojmo, and other cities. Hydroelectric power plants were built on the Labe and Vltava, and new cities, such as Miada Boleslav, were founded. The brick apartment buildings erected in the early 1950’s were decorated with national ornamental motifs. From the mid–1950’s formally severe buildings were constructed using large blocks and panels, and perimetric planning was replaced by a freer layout. The public buildings of the 1960’s, marked by rational simplicity and severe elegance of form, show a subtle appreciation of the expressive possibilities of such modern materials as glass, aluminum, and plastic. Since the early 1970’s architects have been emphasizing plastic expressiveness and individuality in building design. A fine example of this trend is the Federal Assembly Building in Prague (1970–73, architect K. Práger).

After 1945 the painters and graphic artists E. Filia, J. Brož, Z. Seydl, A. Paderlik, V. Sedláček, and L. Šimák turned to antifascist themes, revolutionary history, and socialist construction. The sculptors V. Makovský, K. Lidický, K. Pokorný, J. Wagner, and J. Malejovský created victory monuments and works honoring the heroes of the Prague uprising, Soviet soldiers, and Czech cultural figures. The older generation of realistic artists, including M. Švabinský, V. Rabas, L. Kuba, V. Sedláček, J. Zrzavý, and V. Novák, embarked on a new fruitful period of activity. Monumental decorative art flourished in the mosaics of V. Sychra and M. Svabinsky, the sgraffito of A. Zábransky, and the frescoes of V. Tittelbach. Book illustration was represented by K. Svolinsky, C. Bouda, V. Fiala, A. Strnadel, F. Muzika, and O. Hlafsa. Among the finest achievements of those years were the thematic paintings of J. Brož, the poetic generalized landscapes of B. Dvorsky, J. Slavíček, and F. Jiroudek, and the still lifes of A. Paderlik. Modern urban life and the world of technology were portrayed by F. Gross, J. Smetana, and K. Souček. Decorative applied art reached a high level in the artistic glasswork of J. Brychta and L. Smrčková, the fabrics of A. Kybal, the ceramics of O. Eckert, the medallions of K. Lidicky, M. Knobloch, and Z. Kolařský, and the stage designs of F. Troester and J. Svoboda.

In the late 1950’s and the 1960’s the younger artists’ concern with pressing contemporary themes was joined to a quest for new expressive artistic solutions and a predilection for symbolic and poetic imagery. Some artists were preoccupied with formal experimentation and followed Western neo-avant–garde trends.

The early 1970’s saw a return to democratic and realistic traditions and to socialist ideals. In the 1970’s events from revolutionary history were depicted in the monuments of J. Malejovsky, M. Axman, J. Hana, and V. Dobrovoíny and the paintings and graphic art of A. Zábransky, K. Soucek, R. Kólař. and J. Brož.

I. L. MATSA (architecture from the ninth to 19th centuries) and E. K. VINOGRADOVA (art)

Music. Czech musical culture evolved out of the ritual folk songs and dances that developed among the Czechs through the ages and that were very different from the Gregorian chant that the Catholic clergy imposed from the ninth century. Among the oldest folk instruments were the bagpipe, the reed pipe (fujara), and the tambourine. Flutes and drums were introduced in the 11th century, and the zither, trumpet, kettledrum, harp, and psaltery came into use in the 13th century. In 1256 an organ was installed in one of Prague’s cathedrals.

In the 13th century, anonymous authors composed monophonic sacred songs, of which the most famous was “Saint Wen-ceslas.” The melodies of such religious songs as “God the Almighty” and “Jesus Christ, Our Generous Lord,” dating from the first half of the 14th century, eventually became folk melodies. From the 12th to the 14th century Christmas and Easter pageants were accompanied by solo and choral singing. Secular music began developing in the 13th century under the influence of the minnesingers. Over the next two centuries wandering musicians entertained audiences with religious and secular performances whose traditions, like those of sacred folk music, would survive down to the 19th century. The influence of ars nova spread to Czech music in the early 14th century. The 15th-century Hussite songs marked a flowering of Czech song culture. The melodies of such songs as “Arise, Arise, Great City of Prague” and “Those Who Are God’s Warriors” were later used by the greatest Czech composers. Bohemian polyphonic music of the 16th century bore national traits derived from folk music. The leading composers of Bohemian Renaissance polyphonic music were A. Michna of Otradovic, V. Holan Rovenský (second half of the 17th century), J. Rychnovský, T. Turnovský, and K. Harant of Polžic.

After the Czech lands were absorbed into the Hapsburg Empire in 1526, many Czech composers emigrated to Russia, Poland, Italy, Germany, and other countries, whose musical culture they enriched with Czech traditions. Prominent among the Czech composers who worked abroad in the 17th and 18th centuries were J. D. Zelenka (Dresden), B. Černohorský (Padua), and J. V. Stamitz, F. X. Richter, and A. Filtz, who together formed the Mannheim school. Cernohorsky founded the 18th-century Czech polyphonic school, which included J. Zach, F. I. Tůma, J. N. Seger, and F. X. Brixi. These composers continued to develop the national traditions despite the artificial grafting of German culture. In the 18th century Prague, the “conservatory” of Europe, was the home of outstanding composers who influenced the development of West European music. V. F. Míča was one of the originators of the symphony genre, which was further developed by Stamitz. Operas were composed by J. Mysliveček, melodramas by J. Benda, and violin music by F. Benda. Working abroad in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Czech composers J. Mareš, P. Vranicky, A. Vranický, J. L. Dusík, and A. Reicha did not lose touch with the folk music of their homeland; they introduced Czech folk melodies into classical European instrumental music. The development of Czech opera was stimulated by the founding in Prague of the Kotcu Theater (1737), Bohemia’s first opera theater, and the national Nostitz Theater (1783), renamed the Estates Theater in 1797.

The emergence of a national school of classical music in the 19th century owed much to the educational activity of the “awakeners,” who strengthened the national consciousness of the people and promoted their national culture. The national awakening is reflected in the work of F. Dušek, who initiated the Czech school of piano playing, J. J. Ryba, and V. J. Tomášek, whose student J. Voříšk expanded the genres of piano music. F. Skroup, who composed the first opera in Czech, The Tinker (staged 1826), and the patriotic song “Where Is My Home” (which was originally written for J. K. Tyl’s play Fidlovacka and which later became the national anthem), prepared the ground for the operas of B. Smetana, the founder of Czech classical music.

Blending the traditions of national music with the highest achievements of world music in his operas The Brandenburgers in Bohemia (1863) and Libuše (1872, staged 1881) and in his symphonic cycle My Country (1874–79), Smetana evoked the heroes of Czech history, the natural beauty of his land, and scenes from folk life. As the principal conductor of the Provisional Theater in Prague, founded in 1862, and director of the Hlahol Pražský chorus and orchestra, organized in 1861, Smetana encouraged the development of national realistic art and strengthened the ties with Russian music by staging Russian operas. Czech music became world famous through the works of A. Dvořák, who composed ten operas (1870–1903), various works for chorus and orchestra, nine symphonies (1865–93), symphonic poems, such other orchestral works as the Slavonic Dances (1878–87) and Slavonic Rhapsodies (1878), a cello concerto (1895), and other well-known works. The Czech classical traditions were developed by Z. Fibich, who wrote dramatic and emotionally charged operas and melodramas.

The extremely personal style of L. Janáček marked a new phase in the development of Czech music. Working with a great variety of themes and genres, Janáček drew on Moravian folk music and sometimes chose subjects from Russian literature, as in his Slavonic rhapsody for orchestra Taras Bulba (1918) and his operas Kát’a Kabanová (based on A. N. Ostrovskii’s play The Thunderstorm, 1921) and From the House of the Dead (after Dostoevsky, 1928). Other prominent composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were J. B. Foerster, Dvořák’s pupils V. Novak and J. Suk, and Fibich’s pupils K. Kovařovic and O. Ostrčil, both distinguished conductors at the National Theater.

Czech musicology, founded by O. Hostinský, has been strongly influenced by Z. Nejedlý, who championed realism in music in his publicistic and scholarly works. The founding in Prague of a conservatory (1811), an organ school (1831), the National Theater (1881), the Czech Quartet (1891), the Czech Philharmonic Society (1901), and other music organizations and schools contributed to a high level of musical performance. From the 1830’s Bohemia produced many outstanding performers, among them the violinists J. Slavik, F. Laub, F. Ondříček, O. Ševčik, and J. Kubelík, the cellist G. Vigan, and the singers V. Heš, B. Benoni, J. Lev, J. Paleček, K. Čech, K. Burian, E. Destinová (Destinn), and B. Foersterová–Lautererová.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, while composers of the older generation continued to develop the classical traditions and to favor operas based on national folk music, a modernist trend emphasizing formal experimentation emerged under the leadership of A. Haba, the inventor of the quarter-tone system. National music was popularized by the conductors O. Ostrcil and V. Talich and the musicologist V. Helfert. Both new and classical works were performed by the Prague Quartet (1920), the Ondncek Quartet, the Prague Wind Quintet (1928), and the various ensembles formed earlier. Antifascist and patriotic themes, recurrent from the mid–1930’s, were brilliantly expressed in Ostrcil’s opera Honza’s Kingdom (1934), E. Schulhoffs Symphony of Freedom (1941), and B. Martinů’s play for orchestra Memorial to Lidice (1943).

After the victory over fascism in 1945 musical life was invigorated by the founding of numerous music institutions (Academy of Arts in Prague, 1946) and performing groups and the holding of regular festivals (Prague Spring, from 1946). The general cultural revival that followed the triumph over reaction in Czechoslovakia in 1948, coinciding with the democratization of music and the affirmation of realism, brought forth optimistic compositions about the building of a new life, principally cantatas and mass songs. V. Dobiás and E. Axman emerged as major composers, and Z. Nejedlý’s articles influenced the development of music. B. Martinü, who did not lose touch with his homeland during his long stay abroad, held a prominent place in Czech music in the 1940’s and 1950’s, composing 15 operas, some of them on Russian subjects, ten ballets, symphonic works, concerti, and numerous instrumental chamber works. Among other prolific composers were K. Burian (eight operas, cantatas), J. Rídký (seven symphonies), and I. Krejči (operas, ballets, concerti).

Several gifted composers came to prominence in the 1960’s and 1970’s, notably J. Pauer (operas and ballets), V. Sommer (orchestral and other works), L. Železný, S. Havelka, and V. Kalabis (Symphony of Peace). The best-known performing groups—besides those founded before 1918—are the Smetana and Janáček string quartets, the Suk Trio, the Sluk Song and Dance Ensemble, and various choral groups (seeCZECHOSLOVAKIA: Music).


Theater. The Czech theater has its roots in ancient pagan rituals and in the peasant festivals of later times. The introduction of interludes into mystery plays in the 14th century signified a shift from religious subjects to everyday-life scenes. The first school drama to be written and performed in Czech was P. Kyrmezer’s Czech Comedy About a Rich Man and Lazarus, published in 1566. The school theater fostered by the Jesuits stood in marked contrast to the amateur folk theater, which mirrored the struggle of the democratic strata of the population for national independence and their fight against social oppression.

The upsurge in the national liberation movement during the late 18th and first half of the 19th centuries—the period known as the national renaissance—heralded a new phase in the development of the Czech theater. The Czech “awakeners” revived the national traditions, developed a national dramaturgy, and trained actors. The Kotcu Theater, built in Prague in 1737, staged operas and later plays. The Nostitz Theater, founded in 1783 in Prague for the staging of German plays, began presenting plays in Czech in 1785. (In 1797 it was renamed the Estates Theater.) From 1786 to 1789 the Bouda (Patriotic) Theater in Prague staged plays in Czech four times a week.

Performances in Czech were banned in 1806, and Prague’s company of Czech actors, which had been playing in various buildings after 1789, disbanded in 1811. In 1824 the Estates Theater began giving regular performances of Czech plays, directed by J. N. Štěpánek and with B. Allramová, J. Grabinger, and V. Šmiller playing the leading roles. When performances in Czech were discontinued at the theater in 1834, the dramatist J. K. Tyl organized the theater’s Czech actors as an amateur company calling itself the Kajetán Theater, which existed until 1837.

Under pressure from the progressive intelligentsia, the Estates Theater, now under the direction of Tyl, once again began staging Czech plays in 1846. By this time the stage had become more professional, and the national repertoire was expanding. The leading exponent of romantic theater was the actor, dramatist, and prominent man of the theater J. Kolár. Founded in 1845, the Society for the Creation of a National Czech Theater for many years collected money for the construction of a theater building. The Provisional Theater, which operated in Prague from 1862 to 1883 and which had both an opera and an acting company, attracted the best performers, notably K. Šimanovský, O. Sklená–fová–Malá, F. Kolár, and J. Mošna, and the foremost Czech directors, namely J. Kolár and E. Chvalovský. The National Theater, which had drama, opera, and ballet companies, was built in Prague in 1883 with funds collected from the public. The work of the Provisional Theater and the opening of the National Theater stimulated the formation of touring theaters in provincial towns, including Plzeň (1865) and Brno (1884).

Despite the appearance of various artistic trends in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, realism prevailed in the theater, largely owing to the fine acting of Kvapilová, E. Vojan, J. Mošna, J. Šmaha, and M. Hübnerová. The performances given by the Moscow Art Theater in Bohemia in 1906 influenced the development of the Czech realist school.

From the moment the National Theater opened, the progressive segment of the public urged the democratization of the theater and the establishment of close ties with the working-class theatergoer. Professional actors were able to assist workers’ drama groups through the Union of Workers’ Amateur Theater Activity, organized in 1911. The development of the Czech theater in the bourgeois Czechoslovak republic, founded in 1918, mirrored all the stages of a bitter class struggle. The founding of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in 1921 contributed to the spread of socialist ideas in the theater milieu and to the strengthening of contacts with the Slovak theater. Of great importance was the work of J. Fučík, M. Majerová, K. Konrád, B. Václavek, and Z. Nejedlý.

Disregarding official policy, the country’s progressive theater men staged antibourgeois plays. The National Theater produced K. Čapek’s The Insect Comedy (1922,1926, and 1932), The White Plague (1937), and Mother (1938) and F. Šalda’s The Child. New professional and semiprofessional revolutionary theaters were organized. At the Liberated Theater, founded in 1925, the director J. Honzl staged antibourgeois political revues written and performed by the actors J. Voskovec and J. Werich, with music by J. Jezek. The D–34 Theater was founded in 1933 by E. F. Burian, who drew on folklore and the experience of the Soviet theater. Czech theaters staged successful productions of such Soviet plays as M. Gorky’s Egor Bulychov (D–34 Theater) and Vassa Zheleznova (National Theater in Prague), an adaptation of M. A. Sholokhov’s Virgin Soil Upturned (Vinohrady Theater in Prague), and V. V. Vishnevskii’s An Optimistic Tragedy (Municipal Theater in Olomouc).

An acting style developed that strove for subtle psychological portrayal and stressed rhythmic movement and external characterization. Its leading exponents were V. Vydra, Z. Baldová, J. Průcha, L. Dostálová, O. Scheinpflugová, and Z. Štepanek. The emergence of a new generation of gifted stage designers, among them V. Hofman, F. Troester, F. Kysela, F. Zelenka, J. Čapek, and M. Koufil, contributed to the theatrical revival.

After the liberation of Czechoslovakia from the fascist occupation in 1945, the Czech theater took an active part in developing a socialist culture. The government abolished private theaters and enacted the Theater Law in 1948. Among the new theaters founded in the 1940’s and 1950’s for the ideological education of the working people were the Realist Theater (later the Nejedlý Theater) in Prague and the Workers’ Theater in Gottwaldov. Also founded were the Academy of Arts, the Disk Theater Workshop, and the Union of Creative Workers in the Theater (1957). The most famous of the experimental “theaters of miniatures” that sprang up in the 1960’s and 1970’s are the Zábradlí (Balustrade), Semafor, and Rococo in Prague and the Evening Brno. The achievements of the contemporary Czech theater owe much to the skillful directing of K. Palouš, E. Sokolovský, Z. Míka, Z. Kaloč, J. Kačer, and P. Scherhaufer, the, splendid acting of V. Záborský, J. Petrovická, M. Rúžek, J. Švorcová, H. Vranová, and V. Šmeral, and the fine stage designs of J. Svoboda, O. Šimáček, and J. Sládek.



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There were roughly twice the deputies elected in the Czech Socialist Republic compared to deputies elected in the Slovak Socialist Republic.

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