*** The Czech Lands

The Czech Lands

Czech Lands
Figure 1.--This studio portrait was taken in 1903 by Josef Picek. He was a professional photographer in Jicín, a town in Bohemia, Czechia, about 85 km northeast of Prague. Bohemia at the time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The portrait shows four siblings. We know that their names were Jenda (Johnnie), Karel (Charlie), Mána (Mary) and Véna (Wenceslas). We don't know the family name. The photo was used for a Crate-de-Visite. Studio portraits of barefoot children (except very little children) were not common in Europe. Also note how boyish the littke girl looks. It is a good example of how children with short hair wearing dresses can not be assumed to be boys.

The Czech Republic now has a relatively homogenious population of ethnic Czechs. This has not been the case over time for the different political regimes govering what is now the Czech Republic. Many different people have lived there. The Czechs were ruled for centuries by the Austrian Hapsburgs. This has meant a close association with Germany. Most recently Bohemia and Moravia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Ethnic Czechs dominated in Bohemia and Moravia. The Empire desintegrated at the end of World War I with the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1919. The country was dominated by the Czechs, but had important Slovak and German minorities. The German minority was concentrated in the Sudetenland, but also lived in smaller numbers throughout the country, mostly in cities. There was also a small Jewish population. Slovaks were concentated in Slovakia. We do have some information on the Sudetenland which is now part of the Czech Republic. The country was dismembered by Hitler and the NAZIs in 1938-39 even before World War II. The Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. It was reconstituted after the War and after a Communist coup became a Soviet-style People's Republic. With the fall of Communism (1989) the country continued for a few years as a united nation. As as a result of the Velvet Revolution, Czechoslovakia peacefully dividedd into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, two countries on which HBC has yet to obtain much information.


The Czech Lands are is the term used for the area inhabited by the Czech people for all the historic period and political/frontier changes. The three historical regions are Bohemia, Moravia, and Czech Silesia). Bohemia is the western rgion of the Czech Lands and the most important. Moravia is the eastern region. Czech Sileia is the area in the Sudetes Mountains in the northeast, the border of which was disputed with Poland. Slovakiawhichbwas fused withbthe Czech lands to form Czrchoslovakia was nver part of the zech labds. The term Czech Lands has different meanings. Czech tend to use the term to mean the territory ruled by the Kings of Bohemia (the lands of the Bohemian Crown -- země Koruny české. This was established by Emperor Charles IV (14th century). This included territories like the Lusatias which fell to Saxony (1635) and all of the Silesia--perhaps the most fought iver privince in Europe. All ofthese territories were ruled from Prague Castle by the Kings of Bohemia. Finally after the conquest of Silesia by Prussian Frederick the Great (1742), the remaining lands of the Bohemian Crown (Bohemia, Moravia and Austrian Silesia) were more or less the modern boundaries of the Czech Republic.


The history of the Czech people is somewhat complicated because because of the many different political changes over time. The existence of an independent Czech state is a relatively recent political phenomenon. It began with the Czech-Slovak state after World War I--Czechoslovakia. The history of the Czech people goes back much further. The Czechs while a realitively small population have played a rle at the center stage of history. The were early converts to Lutherenism during the Reformation. It was in the 20th century, however, that the Czechs were at the center stage of history. They were Hitler's first foreign target (1938). The Czechs later attempted to soften the face of Communism, but were brutally supressed by the Soviets (1968).


The medevil Czech economy was agricultural. The Czechs in Bohemia by the high middle ages were a unified tribe slowly changing into to a medieval nation. The population in Moravia also spoke Czech. The Czech aristocracy through association with bordering German regions were part of a wider medival feudal, chivalric society. The peasants became serfs bound to the feudal lord by what in the Cech Lands were called the robota. They were able to keep possession of their lands and pass them on to their children. This feudal relationship between lords and their vassals became standard in the Czech lands became. Colonists of varying foreign origin emigrated into the Czech Lands ringing new products and skills. This included the Western European three-tiered field (three fields) economy, which gradually became adopted trough out the Czech lands. The first field was for winter wheat. The secomd field was for spring crops. The third field would be left fallow and served as pasture for grazing animals. The fields were used in a three-year cycle. They alternated as to which field was left fallow. The was no understnding as to why this system worked relatively well. The general concept was that the fieds needed to 'rest'. Grain yield were low and fluctuated at a ratio of 1:3 to 1:8. This was a basic problem with wheat in northern Europe as it was a crop developed in the warm, rather arid Middle East. In addition to wheat which was the most prized crop because it was used to bake bread, other crops included barley, legumes peas and various kinds of vegetables. Livestock included beef (cattle), pigs, goats and sheep. There were advances in agriculture, but as was the case of northern Europe in general, there was always the risk of weather related crop failure. Famine was thus a very real threat. This did not change until Spanish conquistadores coquered the Aztec and Incan Empires (16th century). While they were after gold and slver, perhaps the most consequential product they brought back to Europe was corn (maize) and the humble potato. Both but especially the potato revolutionized agriculture in northern Eurioe, substantially increasing yields and making possible a huge growth of opulations. The Czech Lands were one of many areas affected. And because the potato was better suited for the cold climate, famine became much less common. Important urban centers with craft or merchant centrs only began appearing in the High Middle Ages, first in Bohemia. There was no clear legal definition for the merchants and artisans. This changed (13th century). A network of towns developed from the older craft markets and administrative centers as well as new towns that were rising in wildreness being develoed. Much of this process was set in motion by by German immigrants, especially in Silesia. Important Czech and Moravian towns began to be draw the attention of the monarchy which gave oral or written recognotio to their founding and awarded them legal rights. They became known as royal cities. As the urban centers grew both craftsmen and merchnts became increasingly importnt. The monarchs were interested in these urban centers because tax revenues became an important part of their revenue which is why they were also called 'dowry towns'. Some 40 royal cities were recognized (by the end of the 13th century). Silver mining in Bohemia became an important part of the economy (13th century). Kutná Hora was especilly important. King Wenceslaus II of Bohemia issued the new royal mining code Ius regale montanorum (also known as Constitutiones Iuris Metallici Wenceslai II) (1300). The silver thaler which originated in Bohemia was a silver coin used throughout Europe for nearly four centuries. It was also widely used in colonial and early independent America and was the origin of the term 'dollar'.


Bohemia was within the historic Holy Roman Empire during the medieval and early modern era. In fact the Holy Roman Emperor establisged the the dimensions of the Czech Lands. The Empire did not develop into a centralized nation state, but it was dominated by Germans. Because of all the different political changes, borders changed, and varying ethnic groups inhabiting what used to be the Czech Lands and Czechoslovalkia and now the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic is a little different than many other European countries. This is a little complicated. It is rather complicated to develop a page for Czech boys clothes. The political character of the Czech srates have varied substanially depending on the political regime. The Czech Republic now has a relatively homogenious population of ethnic Czechs, althiugh ther is still the complicatio of Moravia and some of Silesia. This has not been the case over time for the different political regimes govering what is now the Czech Republic. Many different people have lived in Bohemia. While borders have changed, geograohy has not. Thus the one constannt has been the influence of Germany and the power the German ecomomy and German cultural area. The Germans during Workd war II murdered Czech Jews and if they had won the War would have begun murdering Czechs. The Germans themselves were expelled after World War II, although there continues to be a strong Germsn influence. .


The Czech Republic has a population of over 10 mmillion peopple divided into two primary ethnic groups. The najor ethnic group is the Czechs. They are about 65 percent of the population. They were initially called the Bohemians because they settled in Bohemia during the late-Iron Age. Strangely the English language term Bohemian means peole who practice an unconventional lifestyle, often involving artistic or spiritual pursuits. We are not sure how that came about. It may be that it is related to the Frebch belief that Gypsies entered France fro Bohenia. Historically Václav Havel brought the Czechs to Bohemia and established a dynasty that ruled for 400 years (until 1306). Czechs live in the three regions of Czech Republic, namely Bohemia, Czech Silesia, and Moravia. Moravians constitute about 5 percent of the population. Moravians live predominantly in the Moravia regions, the south eastern area of the Czech Republic. They speak a destinctive dialect. Moravians began settling in the regions and lower parts of Austria (9th cntury). The ethnic situation is complicated by the fact that many Czechs today do not report an ethnicity (about 30 percent). There was a Jewish community, but they were murdered by the NAIs in the Holiocaust. The NAZIs planned to murder the Czech population after the won World War II. There was a sizeable German population in Czechoslobakia, but given the ethnic cleanng operation planned by the Gemans, they were expelled after the War. A substanial Ukrania (Ruthenia population existed in fae eastern Czechoslovakia. It was annexed by the Soviet Union ant the end of World War II. There was a substatial Slovak population in Czechoslovakia, but only a few were left in the Czech Republic after the country was divided betweemn the Czechs and Slovaks (1993).


Social class commonly affected family life in countries around the world. Etnicity can also be important. In Czechoslovakia with the coming of World War II it became a very serious matter and for Jews a matter of life and death. We do not have much information on Czechoslovakian families at this time as is the case of most small countries. And because that the Czech lands were for several centuries part of the multi-national Austrian Empire, there was a considerable mixing of ethnicities. This is reflected in the family images we have found from Czechoslovakia. The Czechs finally got gtheir own country--the Czech Repunlic (1990s) also caled Czechia. It is basically historical Bohemia.


We do not know much about Czech photography yet. The great advances in photography were made in England and France abd later in America. The German economic area in central Europe did not make major contributions. Germans took to the new technology enthusiastically. Many of the early photographic studios in Central Europe were opened by German entrprenuers. And this was also true in Eastern Europe, including Tsarist Europe. What is now the Czech Republic was during the 19th and early-20th century ruledd by Austria (Aistrian Empire or Austro-Hungarian Empire). Thus there is no way of kmowing who the subjects are. The populations throughout the Empire were more mixed than is the case today. The subjects in the portraits could b Cechs or theu could be Germans/Austrians, Slovaks, Hungarians, Ruthenians (Ukranians), Poles or Jews. Fortunately the city is often specified on CDVs and cabinet cards, so we know whee the portrait was taken. After World War I. Czechoslovakia was created. Photographic trends ere similar to those in Germany. There was some shiting of population, but until World War II the country still had a very mixed population. We do not yet know about photographic trends in Communist Czechoslovakia. Only with the Velvet Revolution and the disolution of the union with Slovakia (1993) did the Czech Reoublic become alargely Czech state.


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Crerated: 11:18 PM 9/16/2009
Last updated: 3:20 AM 3/14/2017