The Czech Republic is a culturally and economically attractive option for expats. The country’s turbulent history, especially in the second half of the 20th century, has left its mark. However, it has also given the people living in the Czech Republic the chance for a new beginning. Our article will briefly deal with some historical facts about the Czech Republic and then focus on providing information for expats living there.
Between 1620 and 1989, the Czech Republic enjoyed only a very brief period of self-rule. United under Habsburg rule for 300 years, Czechs and Slovaks formed a joint independent state after the collapse of the monarchy at the end of World War I. Their short-lived independence was tarnished by minority problems as well as cultural and economic differences between the Czechs and the Slovaks.
Pressures from Nazi Germany, strengthened by the German minority within Czechoslovakia, finally led to the German annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938, and only one year later to the German invasion of the remaining Czech territory. Not many of the 100,000 Jews who lived in what is now the Czech Republic survived; very few went back to living in the Czech Republic after the war.
The Czech and Slovak people were liberated by the Soviets, who subsequently sabotaged Czechoslovakia’s attempts at choosing its own form of government and quickly turned it into a satellite state of the Soviet Union. The 1968 reforms under Alexander Dubcek, who wanted to give socialism “a human face”, were brutally crushed by invading Soviet troops.
It wasn’t until 1989 that the people of the Czech Republic and Slovakia recovered from this experience and became politically active again. Under the leadership of Vaclav Havel, several human rights groups united to form the Civic Forum in response to police violence at peaceful student demonstrations. Within a month, the Communist party collapsed and Havel was elected President of Czechoslovakia. The union of people living in what were soon to be the Czech Republic and Slovakia didn’t last long, and in January 1993, the two countries separated peacefully.
Of the roughly 10.5 million people who live in the Czech Republic, around 64% are ethnically Czech, 4.5% Moravian, 1.5% Slovak and 30% other. There were about half a million foreigners living in the Czech Republic in 2014. Foreigners comprise 4% of the total population and represent 13% of those living in the capital.
The largest groups of foreign residents are Ukrainians, Slovaks, and Vietnamese. After these nationalities, the Russians, Poles, and Germans are migrating to the Czech Republic in relatively large numbers.. Citizens of other Western European countries and the Balkans also make up a significant share of foreigners living in the Czech Republic.
According to the 2011 census, a surprisingly large percentage of the people in the Czech Republic described themselves as atheists (34.5%). Christians make up 11.5% of people residing in the Czech Republic while 54% classified themselves as “other” or chose not to specify.
Cultural life in the Czech Republic is represented abroad by the country’s many famous composers: Bedřich Smetana, Leoš Janáček, Antonin Dvořák, Bohuslav Martinů and Erwin Schulhoff. These names are synonymous with musical life in the Czech Republic. Furthermore, Czech films, both pre- and post-Soviet era, enjoy great popularity in Europe. So does Krtek, the little mole, probably the Czech Republic’s most famous export, who has been a fixture on children’s television shows in 80 countries around the world. The Good Soldier Švejk, a military satire by Jaroslav Hašek about life in the Czech Republic towards the end of the Habsburg Empire, has been translated into numerous languages. Other world famous Czech writers include Milan Kundera and, of course, the late Vaclav Havel.
The Czech Republic has a famous tradition of puppetry and (often comical) marionette theater. Slavic humor may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but you will undoubtedly encounter it during your time in the Czech Republic.
Czech cuisine may not be famed for its refinement, but it is hearty and tasty. Czechs enjoy their meat and their beer: the Czech Republic has the highest beer consumption per capita in the whole world at 143 liters from 2013–2014. The latter is, of course, also enjoyed outside the Czech Republic, especially in the form of its two famous brews Pilsner Urquell and Budvar.
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