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Slavic peoples settled, in several waves of migration, into the region of Bohemia and Moravia in the sixth century. One Slavic chieftain, Mojmír, succeeded in building a consolidated domain in eastern Moravia and along the Slovak Danube in the 830s. He accepted Christianity and his successors expanded the realm to include Bohemia, Moravia, much of Slovakia, and even part of southern Poland. This expanded domain became known as the Great Moravian Empire. After the fall of Great Moravia in the early tenth century, Prague became the center of a new independent state ruled by the Premyslid dynasty. This Czech state succeeded in preserving its sovereignty despite formal vassal ties to the Holy Roman Empire. Officially elevated to the status of kingdom in 1212, the medieval Czech state of Bohemia reached the height of its power and importance in the 1340s during the reign of Charles IV, who later also became Holy Roman Emperor. During his reign, Prague was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire.
The end of this period, however, brought economic and political strife to the area. Protestant Hussites battled and defeated five waves of crusaders sent by the Catholic Church from1420 to 1437. The Czech lands became the first European nation where Protestantism flourished. Through intermarriage, the Austrian Habsburgs captured the Bohemian throne in the 1500s. The efforts of the Habsburgs to re-Catholicize the region began the Thirty-Years War in 1618. The Czech armies were utterly defeated at the battle of White Mountain in 1620 and the Czech nobility lost the power to elect their own rulers. The Czech crown was made hereditary for both male and female Habsburg rulers. Protestant nobles were banished and the Czech people were forcefully turned back to Catholicism. Habsburg rule of the Czech lands was mostly repressive and harsh; Czech language and culture were suppressed, and the country went into deep economic decline. Not until 1781 was toleration extended to non-Catholics. Czechs emigrated in several waves after the feudal system was abolished in 1848.
After the First World War, in October 1918, the Czech lands of Austria were included in the new sovereign state of Czechoslovakia along with the northern Slovak counties of Hungary. For twenty years democracy flourished in Czechoslovakia and the country became one of the most prosperous and industrialized in Eastern Europe. The Czech half of the country was occupied by the Germans from 1938 to 1945. Following the Second World War, the state of Czechoslovakia was reestablished and from 1948 until 1989 the country was ruled by a Communist government. In November of 1989, the Communist leadership stepped down and in December of the same year a new government was established. Free elections were held in 1990 and 1992, but there was a growing rift between the Czechs and Slovaks. Efforts to find a compromise at the federal level fell apart. In July 1992, the Slovaks voted in favor of total separation and in November the federal parliament voted to dissolve Czechoslovakia as of 31 December 1992. On 1 January 1993 the Slovak and Czech Republics became two separate, independent states. The Czech Republic today is set to join NATO and is striving to become a member of the European Union and other western political and economic structures.
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