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The Czech Republic can be found in Central Europe and is a member of the European Union (EU). This landlocked country is bordered by Poland to the north and Germany to the west and northwest. Austria and Slovakia can be found on the south and east borders, respectively. The nation's capital is Prague, incidentally a popular area for high-minded tourists with an eye for art, architecture, and even romance.
The Czech Republic has its origins in the country of Bohemia of the late 9th century, as unified by the Přemyslid Dynasty. While the state was part of the Holy Roman Empire during the life of the confederation, it should be noted that it was taken under increasing Hapsburg Control during the 16th and 17th centuries, due in part to the wars in the region. When the Roman Empire finally fell, Bohemia was absorbed into the Austrian Empire, later Austria-Hungary. The state was then reborn, along with its neighbor Slovakia, as Czechoslovakia in 1918, following World War I.
Czechoslovakia turned to communism for 40 years beginning in 1948. It is theorized that the country's adoption of communism was influenced by the general public's favorable attitude towards the Communist Soviet Union, which helped liberate the country from the Germans during the war. Communism did not gain deep enough support in the country however, and Czechoslovakia eventually reverted back to democracy through a non-violent revolution, also called the Velvet Revolution, in 1989. The Czech Republic then split from Slovakia on 1 January 1993 in peaceful agreements.
Interestingly, perhaps as a holdover from its communist days, the Czech Republic is one of the most secular countries in the European Union, second only to Estonia. According to a census conducted in 2001, almost 60% of the country is agnostic, atheist, or non-religious. Four years later in 2005, a poll shows that only 19% of the population actually believe in a God, although 50% do believe in some sort of "life force".
At present, the Czech Republic is thriving and takes great pride in its cultural heritage. As the city of the likes of Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein, as well as Milan Kundera, Vaclav Havel, Ivan Klima, and Arnost Lustig, it cannot be denied that the country is imbued with much academic and intellectual energy. This energy is tirelessly carried over to the country's many museums and galleries, as well as universities and other scholastic institutions. For a while in the last century, Prague, with its high cathedrals and gothic church spires, was even seen as a sort of thinkers' haven, where independent minds met to discuss the rise and fall of the world.
Some of the Czech Republic's most famous museums and galleries include the Národní muzeum v Praze (National Museum in Prague) and the České muzeum výtvarných umění v Praze (Czech Museum of Fine Art in Prague), with their vast collections of medieval, classical, and Baroque art. Prague also boasts a thriving cafe culture, world class restaurants, and outstanding nightclubs to rival those of New York or London. Out in the countryside, hiking, cave exploration, and agro-tourism are popular.
The Czech Republic enjoys a robust economy. It is at 80% of the EU average in terms of GDP per capita. Unfortunately, it also has some of the highest rates of corruption among the countries who belong to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The country has a temperate climate with hot summers and cold, snowy winters. It is famous for puppetry as well marionettes, and quite well-known for its beer. In fact, the pilsen style of brewing originated here.
The Czech Republic is also known for its achievements in sport. Long distance runner Emil Zátopek won three gold medals in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. The Czech Republic also produces strong hockey players like Jaromír Jágr.
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