Cultural Overview

According to the 2001 census, the Czech Republic has a population of approximately 10.2 million (4,982,071 men and 5,247,989 women), of whom some 93% are Czech or Moravian, 1.8% Slovak, and less than 1% each ethnic Poles, Germans, Ukrainians, or Vietnamese. Romani (Gypsies) are the most visible ethnic minority but make up less than 1% of the population. The predominant language is Czech, a West Slavic Indo-European language closely related to Slovak and Polish. Some 1 million ethnic Czechs also live abroad, mainly in Canada, the United States, Australia, and various parts of Central Europe.

The Czech lands have been inhabited since the 7th century ce by Slavic peoples. Christianity was introduced by saints Cyril and Methodius in the 9th century, and the Czech lands reached their political height in the 14th century when Prague became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Power later passed to the Austrian Habsburgs and the Czechs were subordinated to German-speaking Austria until the end of World War I. The Czechs and the closely related Slovaks were united in an independent Czechoslovakia in 1918 as the only stable democracy in Central Europe between the wars. This First Republic ended with the infamous Munich Agreement in 1938, when the Allies handed the Czechs over to Hitler as a protectorate and Slovakia became an autonomous fascist puppet state.

Czechoslovakia was reunited again in 1945 after liberation by Soviet troops, and a Soviet-backed Communist coup took power in 1948 under Klement Gottwald. A brief experiment with liberalization, the Prague Spring, was crushed by the invasion of Warsaw Pact troops in 1968, beginning a period of repressive "normalization." Communism finally fell with the Velvet Revolution in late 1989, and the Czech Republic and Slovakia peacefully separated with the so-called "velvet divorce" in 1993. The current government is a stable parliamentary democracy with several major parties ranging from reformist Communist to Christian Democrats.

Czech society is highly secularized, though with a visibly Roman Catholic past. Culturally, the Czech lands occupy a transitional space between Central and Western Europe. During the Communist period, Czech society became more "Eastern" under Russian influence; since the end of Communism in 1989, Czech society is once again approximating Western European patterns. Family structure is predominantly nuclear and of a Western European type.

From 1948 to 1989, Czechoslovakia had a "real socialist" economy with extremely effective income and wealth equalization and a strong emphasis on the development of mining (mostly brown coal, but also uranium and some metals) and heavy industry. Since the end of Communism and through an ongoing process of privatization, capital has turned back toward the more profitable light industry (glass, ceramics, leather, and textiles), and the service industries are growing. Social classes are re-emerging after the end of Communism, but are not yet highly differentiated. The economy is generally regarded as one of the strongest in post-Communist Central Europe, and the Czech Republic expects to join the European Union within the next few years.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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