Countryaah data, the Czechs are one of Europe's most secular people,
especially in the Bohemian region. According to the 2017
World Atlas survey, 51.9 percent of the Czech population is
not affiliated with any religious community, 34.2 percent
are declared atheists or agnostics, 10.3 percent belong to
the Roman Catholic Church, 0.5 percent are members of the
Bohemian Brothers Evangelical Church and 0.4 percent are
members of the Czechoslovak Hittite Church. Other religious
communities are even smaller.
The areas of Central Europe that make up the Czech
Republic were largely Christianized in the 800s. Around the
year 1400, a religious reform movement with a strong
national character, led by Jan Hus, led to the establishment
of a national Bohemian church (house rites). The Hussites
were widely spread until the Habsburgs expelled them in
1620. Since then, the majority of Christians have been
Catholics, but the legacy of Jan Hus lives on in the form of
several less Protestant denominations.
Following the Communist coup in 1948, the various
religious communities were subject to scrutiny and pressure
from the authorities. The Catholic Church underwent a
difficult period, marked by a significant drop in church
attendance. The ecclesiastical leaders were controlled by
the communist regime, and the denominations were seized.
From 1985, however, the search for churches was renewed,
partly inspired by developments in neighboring Poland,
especially after the Polish cardinal Karol Wojtyła was
elected pope in 1978 (John Paul 2). The reception received
by Pope John Paul 2 during visits to Poland and other
countries, and the messages the Pope received during these
visits impressed the people of the Czech Republic.
After the transition from communist dictatorship to
democratic multi-party system in 1989, religious freedom in
the Czech Republic again became available, and the church
communities regained their seized property.
1992 Division of the country
At the June 1992 parliamentary elections, the Czech Civil
Democratic Party and the Movement for one Slovakia gained
the majority in their respective republics. As negotiations
for the status of a new federal state went into hardship,
Czech and Slovak leaders decided to divide, which meant that
Czechoslovakia disappeared from the political map, instead
giving way to the Czech Republic, with Prague as its
capital, and the Republic of Slovakia, where Bratislava is
Czechoslovak Federal President Vaclav Havel announced the
resignation of the National Assembly on July 17, 1992,
following the Slovak Declaration of Independence. In 1993,
Havel became the first Czech president and Vaclav Klaus
became the first prime minister of the new independent
In March 1994, the Czech Republic became the 11th
co-signer of the Partnership for Peace - an organization
formed by NATO for the purpose of enlisting countries from
the disbanded socialist bloc.
The heavily indebted country remained inferior to the
other former communist countries in the region, while
foreign investment was among the largest. Prime Minister
Klaus was the architect of the economic reform, which was
based on a hasty privatization campaign. In 1995, the banks
discovered a larger number of bank accounts, where the
balance came from illegal economic activities. The same
year, the Czech Republic became the first former communist
country to join the OECD.
The Social Democrats' progress in the June 1996 elections
meant that Klaus lost the absolute majority in parliament.
In December, the Czech Republic and Germany signed a
reconciliation document in which Germany offered an official
apology for Nazi crimes during World War II, while the Czech
Republic apologized for the expulsion of 3 million Sudeter
Germans after the end of the war.
The devaluation of the national coin's foot, the crown,
led to political chaos. The Right Wing Party The Citizens'
Party, led by Klaus, was accused of favoring in the
privatization campaigns the finance groups that paid bribes
to several party members. Havel officially asked Klaus to
resign, which he did in November; he was followed by Josef
The economic crisis coincided with an increase in
xenophobia expressed through increasing racial violence
against minority groups as gypsies. The violence seemed to
find support among a significant and growing portion of the
In April 1998, the Czech Republic became a member of
NATO. The June election was won by the Social Democracy,
which got 32.3% of the vote and 74 seats in parliament,
while the Conservative Civil Democratic Party gained 27.7%
and 63 seats. As a result of the difficulties of reconciling
a majority, the Conservatives agreed to hand over the
government to the Social Democrats against the fact that
Conservative leader Vaclav Klaus became president of
parliament. Under the agreement, the Social Democrats could
form the first-left government in the period following the
collapse of communism. The goal of the minority government
was to fight corruption, raise the minimum wage and slow
down the "return" of the Catholic Church's properties.
However, the government had serious problems in adopting
its finance law and in implementing the points in its own
program. Unemployment peaked at the end of 1998 and
inflation exceeded 11½%. The economy improved somewhat
through 1999, but in December, demonstrations were attended
with up to 50,000 people demanding the resignation of the
In early 2000, the media began to speculate on the
possibility that US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
would stand as presidential candidate for the 2002 election.
The idea had been proposed by President Havel himself in
1998 following a trip to the United States where he had had
discussions with the diplomat, who was born in Prague before
World War II. Albright admitted that Havel had spoken on the
subject but stated that she had never considered the
proposal as serious.
In late September 2000, the World Bank and the IMF for
the first time held a summit in Prague, trying to show the
Czech Republic as their greatest success in a former Eastern
Bloc country - where only 5% of the population was poor. But
civil disobedience and widespread protest demonstrations by
the anti-globalization campaign forced the meeting to end a
day earlier than planned.
The publisher of Hitler's "Mein Kampf" in Czech, Michal
Zitko, was sentenced to 3 years in prison in December for
promoting Nazism. The book had been sent out on the street
in March in a 100,000 edition, and was immediately
successful, but had at the same time triggered strong
reactions from the Jewish community in the Czech Republic,
from anti-fascists and from various politicians. A first
limited edition was circulated in 1993 and contained a
number of critical comments on Nazism written by former
Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jiri Hajek, but the new
edition was complete and contained no critical comments.
The same month, reporters at the state TV station refused
to accept the appointment of Jiri Hodac as director, due to
his close ties to Vaclav Klaus and his conservative party.
Hodac had been appointed by Parliament. Klaus demanded the
station's privatization, and Hodac had fired 20 journalists,
who he accused of threatening editorial freedom. At the same
time, Hodac intervened in political journalism to favor the
Conservatives and the Social Democrats. A consequence of the
bargaining in Parliament around his appointment. President
eventually declared that he supported the journalists, and
after thousands of people attended the largest
demonstrations since the fall of communism, in January Hodac
was forced to resign.