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Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated on the Vltava river in central Bohemia, it is home to approximately 1.2 million people. (It can be derived from jobs statistics, however, that an additional 300,000 work there without having registered as residents.)
Nicknames for Prague have included "city of a hundred spires" and "the golden city". Since 1992, the historic center of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. According to Guinness World Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world.
The land where Prague was to be built has been settled since the Paleolithic Age. Several thousands of years ago, there were trade routes connecting southern parts of Europe to northern Europe which passed through this area, following the course of the river. From around 500 BC the Celt tribe known as the Boii, were the first known inhabitants of this region known by name. The Boii named the region Bohemia and the river Vltava. In between the 6th and the 9th AD the Germanic tribe Marcomanni migrated to Bohemia and other Germanic tribes followed during the 5th century AD, but in the 6th century their elites and majority of inhabitants moved to the Danubian area which enabled a Slavic tribe invading from the West, to settle this area. The Czech Slavic tribe came to Bohemia in the 6th century and Forefather Czech became the founder of the Czech nation.
From around 936, the Czech rulers got most of Bohemia under their control. The first Bohemian ruler acknowledged by the historians was Czech Prince Borivoj Premyslovec, who ruled in the second half of the 9th century. He and his wife Ludmila (who became a patron saint of Bohemia after her death) were baptized by Metodej, who (together with his brother Cyril) brought Christianity to Moravia in 863. Borivoj moved his seat from the fortified settlement Levý Hradec to a place called Prague (Praha). It was also called the Prague castle grounds or shortly Prague Castle. Since Borivoj's reign, it became the seat of the Czech rulers. (Prague Castle became the largest inhabited fortress in the world, and is the seat of the Czech president today). ended with the defeat of Austro-Hungarian Empire and the creation of Czechoslovakia. Prague was chosen as its capital. At this time Prague was a true European capital with a very developed industrial base. In 1930 the population had risen to a startling 850,000.
For most of its history Prague had been a multiethnic city with important Czech, German, and Jewish populations. From 1939, when the country was occupied by Nazi Germany, and during World War II, most Jews either fled the city or were killed in the Holocaust. Most of the Jews living in Prague after the war emigrated in the years of Communism, particularly after the communist coup, the establishment of Israel in 1948, and the Soviet invasion in 1968. In the early 1990s, the Jewish Community in Prague numbered only 800 people compared to nearly 50,000 before the World War II. In 2006, some 1,600 people were registered in the Jewish Community.
During the war, Prague itself was one of few european cities that were not damaged by bombardment, the citizens of Prague were however widely oppressed and persecuted by the Nazis. Politicians (e.g. prime minister Alois Eliáš), university profesors and students and many others were murdered or imprisoned with assistance of Germans or Czech informers. Prague uprising started on May 5, 1945 when Prague's Czech people, assisted by a revolting Russian division formerly in service of the Waffen SS, had revolted against the Nazi German occupants. That same day, the General Patton's American Third Army (with 150 thousand soldiers) was in Pilsen (only a few hours away from Prague) while Marshal Konev's Soviet Army was on the borders of Moravia. General Patton was in favor of liberating Prague, but he had to comply with the instructions from General D. Eisenhower. General Eisenhower requested the Soviet Chief of Staff to permit them to press forward, but was informed that American help is not needed (a prior agreement from the Yalta Conference was that Bohemia would be liberated by the Red Army). Finally, on May 9, 1945 (the day after Germany officially capitulated) the Soviet tanks got to Prague. It was not until May 12, 1945 when the fight was completely over in the Czech Lands.
The ethnic German population, which had formed the majority of the city's inhabitants until the late 19th century, was expelled or fled for saving their lives and leaving all the property in the aftermath of the war and in the months after May, 1945. During the gathering and transfer of Germans limited local massacres happened with today unknown number of victims.
The Czechs genuinely felt gratitude towards the Soviet soldiers. People did not know that they became the victims in rival politics. The Soviet victory was both military and political. (Bismarck once declared: "He, who is master of Bohemia, is master of Europe...") Prague was henceforth the capital of a republic under the military and political control of the Soviet Union, and in 1955 it entered the Warsaw Pact.
The always lively intellectual world of Prague, however, suffered under the totalitarian regime, in spite of the rather careful program of rebuilding of and caring for the damaged monuments after World War II. At the 4th Czechoslovakian Writers' Congress held in the city in 1967 a strong position against the regime was taken. This spurred the new secretary of Communist Party, Alexander Dubcek to proclaim a new deal in his city's and country's life, starting the short-lived season of the "socialism with a human face". It was the Prague Spring, which aimed at democratic reform of institutions. The Soviet Union and the rest of the Warsaw Pact reacted, occupying Czechoslovakia and the capital in August 1968, suppressing under tanks' tracks any attempt of renovation.
In 1989, after the Berlin Wall had fallen, and the Velvet Revolution crowded the streets of Prague, Czechoslovakia finally freed itself from communism and Soviet influence, and Prague benefited deeply from the new mood. In 1993, after the split of Czechoslovakia, Prague became capital city of the new Czech Republic. Prague is capital of two administrative units of Czech Republic - Prague region (Czech: Pražský kraj) and Central Bohemian Region (Czech: Stredoceský kraj). As Prague is not geographically part of Central Bohemian Region it is a capital outside of territory it serves.
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