Czech History

500 - 1306: The Great Moravian Empire and the Přemyslid Dynasty
1310 - 1378: John of Luxembourg and Charles IV
1415 - 1526: The Hussite Era and George of Poděbrady
1526 - 1790: The Habsburg Dynasty to Joseph II
1790 - 1914: National Revival to World War I
1918 - 1945: The First Republic and World War II
1945 - 1989: The Communist Era
1989 - present: Velvet Revolution and Beyond

The Communist Era

Soon after WWII, the power in the country went largely to the hands of the Communist Party and the first wave of nationwide nationalization of the industry and other areas of the economy took place. At the same time, some two million Germans were expelled from the country and their property was confiscated.

The Communist Party seized complete power after the coup d'etat on February 25, 1948. This event marked the start of the Communist totalitarian regime that lasted until the Velvet Revolution of 1989. A second wave of nationalization took place and 95% of all privately owned companies became the property of the state. There were a number of political trials and executions in the following several years. The economy went steadily down under the socialist regime. Basic human rights were suppressed.

The 1960s were a time of greater political and cultural freedom and changes were made in the Communist Party itself. Alexander Dubček, secretary of the Communist Party, attempted to create a more humane version of socialism, "socialism with a human face", that would guarantee people's basic rights and reduce the amount of political persecution in the country. The changes culminated in the spring of 1968 (known as "Prague Spring") when changes reached the government. The growing political freedoms in Czechoslovakia were seen as a threat by the Soviet Union. On August 21, 1968, five Warsaw Pact member countries invaded Czechoslovakia and Soviet troops continued to occupy the country until 1989.

The period from 1968 to mid-1980s was the period of "normalization", the purpose of which was to put things back to the way they were before the attempted Prague Spring reform. Any sign of disapproval of the regime was persecuted and opposition moved underground or became limited to isolate acts of protest, such as the suicide of Jan Palach, student of Charles University, who lit himself on fire on Prague's Wenceslas Square in January 1969.

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