According to 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.
According to thesciencetutor, 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 the capital.
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 nation.
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 Tosovsky.
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 population.
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 government.
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.
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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.