Czech Republic

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Posted by motoman 03/07/2009 @ 11:07

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Study: Europe missile shield wouldn't work - United Press International
The stated goal of the United States in pushing for an anti-missile missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic is to protect Europe against nuclear attacks from Iran or other "rogue states." But a joint analysis by top US and Russian scientists...
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PRAGUE -(Dow Jones)- Czech state-owned crude oil pipeline operator Mero AS Tuesday reiterated its interest in acquiring an equity stake in pipeline operator Deutsche Transalpine Oelleitung GmbH, or TAL, to boost the Czech Republic's energy security....
Czech Republic - Factors To Watch on May 18 - Forbes
TUMA SAYS EURO NO PANACAEA: Czech central bank Governor Zdenek Tuma said on Friday that euro adoption was no panacea and he could imagine the Czech Republic maintaining independent monetary policy for some time. ZAMRAZILOVA SEES NO MORE EASING: There...
Exercise to improve interoperability - United Press International
PRAGUE, Czech Republic, May 19 (UPI) -- A multinational exercise taking place in the Czech Republic is designed to strengthen interoperability among armed forces ahead of future deployments. Troops from Denmark, Canada, Lithuania, Germany,...
Czech cbanker: cannot exclude rate lowering - Web site - Forbes
'With regards to how high the uncertainty is, it is not possible to say that further reduction in interest rates in the Czech Republic would be excluded,' the Web site quoted him as saying in an excerpt of an interview to be published by the...
Czech Republic building huge fuel reserves - Aktuálně.cz
Loukov - The biggest diesel oil reservoirs in the Czech Republic are being built at the foot of Hostýnské hory mountains. Once completed, the four reservoirs will have a capacity of 140000 cubic meters of fuel. The project is part of a plan to raise...
No case of new flu reported in Czech Republic - Prague Daily Monitor
Prague, May 15 (CTK) - None of the 84 people who have been tested in the Czech Republic on suspicion of being infected with the H1N1 flu has had a positive test so far, the Health Ministry reported on its website. The results of four tests have not yet...
DIARY - Czech Republic - to June 15 - Interactive Investor
PRAGUE - Summit EU - China (Troika) with Czech President Vaclav Klaus, European Commission President Jose Barroso, Secretary General of the Council of the European Union Javier Solana and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. News conference at 1400 GMT....
Czech ForMin: Council of EU condemns Burmese dissident's arrest - Prague Daily Monitor
Brussels, May 18 (CTK) - The council of EU foreign ministers Monday sharply condemned the arrest of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and it called for her immediate release, Jan Kohout, foreign minister of the EU-presiding Czech Republic,...
Domestic battles dominate the Czech European vote, writes DANIEL ... - Irish Times
AS THE Czech Republic nears the end of its turbulent presidency of the EU, campaigning for next month's European Parliament vote is dominated by disputes over the Lisbon Treaty, the fall of the national government and manoeuvring ahead of an autumn...

Czech Republic

Flag of Czech Republic

The Czech Republic (help·info) (Czech: Česká republika (help·info), IPA: , short form in Czech: Česko, IPA: ), is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country borders Poland to the northeast, Germany to the west, Austria to the south and Slovakia to the east. The capital and largest city is Prague (Czech: Praha). The country is composed of the historic regions of Bohemia and Moravia, as well as parts of Silesia. The Czech Republic is a member of NATO, since 1999 and the European Union, since 2004. As of 1 January 2009, the Czech Republic holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Following the Battle of Mohács, the Czech lands fell under Habsburg rule from 1526, later becoming part of the Austrian Empire and Austria–Hungary. The independent Republic of Czechoslovakia was formed in 1918, following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire after World War I. After the Munich Agreement, German occupation of Czechoslovakia and the consequent disillusion with the Western response and gratitude for the liberation of the major portion of Czechoslovakia by the Red Army, the Communist party won plurality (38%) in the 1946 elections. In a 1948 coup d'état, Czechoslovakia became a communist-ruled state. In 1968, the increasing dissatisfaction culminated in attempts to reform the communist regime. The events, known as the Prague Spring of 1968, ended with an invasion by the armies of the Warsaw Pact countries and the troops remained in the country until the overturn in 1989 by the Velvet Revolution, when the communist regime collapsed. On January 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved into its constituent states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The Czech Republic is a pluralist multi-party parliamentary representative democracy. President Václav Klaus is the current head of state. The Prime Minister is the head of government (currently Mirek Topolánek). The Parliament has two chambers — the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. It is also a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Council of Europe and the Visegrád Group.

The Czech Republic made economic reforms, such as fast privatizations and flat taxes. Annual gross domestic product growth has recently been around 6%. The country is the first former member of the Comecon to achieve the status of a developed country (2006), according to the World Bank. The Czech Republic also ranks best, compared to the former Comecon countries in the Human Development Index.

The English spelling of Czech derives from the Polish spelling of the original Čech. Following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the Czech half of the former nation found itself without a common single-word name in English. In 1993, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggested the name Czechia as an official alternative in all situations other than formal official documents and the full names of government institutions; however, this has not become widespread, despite the fact that many other languages have single-word names for the nation.

Archaeologists have found evidence of prehistoric human settlements in the area, dating back to the Neolithic era. In the classical era, from the 3rd century BC Celtic migrations, the Boii (see Bohemia) and later in the 1st century, Germanic tribes of Marcomanni and Quadi settled there. During the Migration Period around the 5th century, many Germanic tribes moved westwards and southwards out of Central Europe. In an equally significant migration, Slavic peoples from the Black Sea and Carpathian regions settled in the area (a movement that was also stimulated by the onslaught of peoples from Siberia and Eastern Europe: Huns, Avars, Bulgars and Magyars). Following in the Germans' wake, they moved southwards into Bohemia, Moravia and some of present day Austria. During the 7th century, the Frankish merchant, Samo, supporting the Slavs fighting their Avar rulers, became the ruler of the first known Slav state in Central Europe. The Moravian principality arose in the 8th century (see Great Moravia).

The Bohemian or Czech state emerged in the late 9th century, when it was unified by the Přemyslid dynasty. The kingdom of Bohemia was a significant regional power during the Middle Ages. It was part of the Holy Roman Empire during the entire existence of that confederation.

In 1212, King Přemysl Otakar I (1198-1230), bearing the title “king“ already since 1198, extracted a Golden Bull of Sicily (a formal edict) from the emperor, confirming the royal title for Otakar and his descendants. The 13th century was also a period of large-scale German immigration. The Germans populated towns and mining districts on the Bohemian periphery and in some cases, formed German colonies in the interior of the Czech lands. In 1241, the mighty Mongol army launched an invasion of Europe and after the Battle of Legnica, the Mongols carried their devastating raid into Moravia. King Přemysl Otakar II (1253–1278) earned the nickname of “the King of Gold and Iron” due to his military power and wealth. He met his death at the Battle on the Marchfeld in 1278, in a war with his rival, the Roman king Rudolph I of Germany. In 1306, the Přemyslid line had died out and, after a series of dynastic wars, a new House of Luxembourg captured the Bohemian crown. The 14th century, particularly the reign of Charles IV (1342-1378), is considered the Golden Age of Czech history. Of particular significance was the founding of Charles University in Prague in 1348. The Black Death, which had raged in Europe from 1347-1352, decimated the Kingdom of Bohemia in 1380.

Religious conflicts, such as the 15th century Hussite Wars and the 17th century Thirty Years' War, had a devastating effect on the local population. From the 16th century, Bohemia came increasingly under Habsburg control as the Habsburgs became first the elected and then the hereditary rulers of Bohemia. Czechs call the period from 1620 (the Battle of White Mountain), until the late 18th century, the "Dark Age". The population of the Czech lands declined by a third due to war, disease, famine and the expulsion of the Protestant Czechs. The Habsburgs banned all religions other than Catholicism. Ottoman Turks and Tatars invaded Moravia in 1663, taking 12,000 slaves.

The reigns of Maria Theresa of Austria (1740-80) and her son Joseph II (1780-90), Holy Roman Emperor and co-regent from 1765, were characterized by enlightened absolutism. In 1742, most of Silesia, then the possession of the Bohemian crown, was seized by King Frederick II of Prussia in the War of the Austrian Succession. After the fall of the Holy Roman Empire, Bohemia became part of the Austrian Empire and later of Austria–Hungary. The Great Famine, which lasted from 1770 until 1771, killed 12% of the Czech population, up to 500,000 inhabitants, and radicalized countrysides leading to peasant uprisings. Serfdom was not completely abolished until 1848. After the Revolutions of 1848, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria attempted to rule as an absolute monarch, keeping all the nationalities in check.

An estimated 150,000 Czech soldiers died in World War I. Following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I, the independent republic of Czechoslovakia was created in 1918. This new country incorporated regions of Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Slovakia and the Carpathian Ruthenia (known as the Subcarpathian Rus at the time) with significant German, Hungarian, Polish and Ruthenian speaking minorities. Although Czechoslovakia was a unitary state, it provided what were at the time rather extensive rights to its minorities. However, it did not grant its minorities any territorial political autonomy. The failure to do so resulted in discontent and strong support among some of the minorities for a break from Czechoslovakia. Adolf Hitler took advantage of this opportunity and, supported by Konrad Henlein's Sudeten German Party, gained the largely German speaking Sudetenland, through the 1938 Munich Agreement. Poland annexed the Zaolzie area around Český Těšín. Hungary gained parts of Slovakia and the Subcarpathian Rus as a result of the First Vienna Award in November 1938.

The remainders of Slovakia and the Subcarpathian Rus gained greater autonomy, with the state renamed to "Czecho-Slovakia" (The Second Republic; see German occupation of Czechoslovakia). After Nazi Germany threatened to annex part of Slovakia, allowing the remaining regions to be partitioned by Hungary and Poland, Slovakia chose to maintain its national and territorial integrity, seceding from Czecho-Slovakia in March 1939 and allying itself, as demanded by Germany, with Hitler's coalition. The remaining Czech territory was occupied by Germany, which transformed it into the so-called Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. The Protectorate was proclaimed part of the Third Reich and the President and Prime Minister were subordinate to the Nazi Reichsprotektor ("imperial protector"). Subcarpathian Rus declared independence as the Republic of Carpatho-Ukraine on 15 March 1939, but was invaded by Hungary the same day and formally annexed it on 16 March. Approximately 390,000 Czechoslovak citizens, including 83,000 Jews, were killed or executed, hundreds of thousands of others were sent to prisons and concentration camps or used as forced labour. A Nazi concentration camp existed at Terezín, to the north of Prague. There was Czech resistance to Nazi occupation, both at home and abroad, most notably with the assassination of Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich, in a Prague suburb on May 27, 1942. The Czechoslovak government-in-exile and its army fighting against the Germans were acknowledged by the Allies (Czechoslovak troops fought in Great Britain, North Africa, Middle East and Soviet Union). The occupation ended on 9 May 1945, with the arrival of the Soviet and American armies and the Prague uprising.

In 1945-1946, almost the entire German minority in Czechoslovakia, about 2.7 million people, were expelled to Germany and Austria. During this time, thousands of Germans were held in prisons and detention camps, or used as forced labour. In the summer of 1945, there were several massacres. The only Germans not expelled were some 250,000, who had been active in the resistance against the Nazis or were considered economically important, though many of these emigrated later. Following a Soviet-organised referendum, the Subcarpathian Rus never returned under Czechoslovak rule, but became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, as the Zakarpattia Oblast in 1946.

Czechoslovakia uneasily tried to play the role of a "bridge" between the West and East. However, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia rapidly increased in popularity, with a general disillusionment with the West, due to the pre-war Munich Agreement and a favourable popular attitude towards the Soviet Union, due to the Soviets' role in liberating Czechoslovakia from German rule. In the 1946 elections, the Communists gained 38% of the votes and became the largest party in the Czechoslovak parliament. They formed a coalition government with other parties of the National Front and moved quickly to consolidate power. The decisive step took place in February 1948, during a series of events characterized by Communists as a "revolution" and by anti-Communists as a "takeover", the Communist People's Militias secured control of key locations in Prague, and a new, all-Communist government was formed.

For the next 41 years, Czechoslovakia was a Communist state within the Eastern Bloc (see History of Czechoslovakia (1948–1989)). This period was marked by a variety of social developments. The Communist government completely nationalized the means of production and established a command economy. The economy grew rapidly during the 1950s and 1960s, but slowed down in the 1970s, with increasing problems during the 1980s. The political climate was highly repressive during the 1950s, including numerous show trials, but became more open and tolerant in the 1960s, culminating in Alexander Dubček's leadership in the 1968 Prague Spring, that tried to create "socialism with a human face" and perhaps even introduce political pluralism. This was forcibly ended by the 21 August 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion.

The invasion was followed by a harsh program of "Normalization" in the late 1960s and the 1970s. Until 1989, the political establishment relied on censorship of the opposition, though using more "carrot" than "whip" to secure the populace's passivity. Dissidents published Charter 77 in 1977 and the first of a new wave of protests were seen in 1988.

In November 1989, Czechoslovakia returned to a liberal democracy through the peaceful "Velvet Revolution". However, Slovak national aspirations strengthened and on January 1, 1993, the country peacefully split into the independent Czech Republic and Slovakia. Both countries went through economic reforms and privatizations, with the intention of creating a capitalist economy.

Due to disenchantment with the Soviet-style economy and an enormous amount of Western propaganda financed mostly by U.S. agencies set up to fill this goal, voters embraced the neoliberal model of economics, friendly to globalization objectives favored by Western elites. This enabled the Czech Republic to become the first post-communist country to receive an investment-grade rating from international credit rating agencies. Most state-owned heavy industries were privatized through voucher privatization systems, that essentially sold such assets to private concerns for a fraction of their actual value. The Czech Republic saw for a while modest budget deficits, low unemployment, a positive balance of payments, a stable exchange rate and a shift of exports from former communist economic bloc markets to Western Europe. This has changed over the past decade (see below). The most important change, since 1989, has been the return of the right to own property.

From 1991, the Czech Republic, originally as part of Czechoslovakia and now in its own right, has been a member of the Visegrád Group and from 1995, the OECD. The Czech Republic joined NATO on March 12, 1999 and the European Union on May 1, 2004.

The Czech landscape is quite varied. Bohemia, to the west, consists of a basin drained by the Elbe (Czech: Labe) and the Vltava (or Moldau) rivers, surrounded by mostly low mountains, such as the Krkonoše range of the Sudetes. The highest point in the country, Sněžka at 1,602 m (5,260 ft), is located here. Moravia, the eastern part of the country, is also quite hilly. It is drained mainly by the Morava River, but it also contains the source of the Oder River (Czech: Odra). Water from the landlocked Czech Republic flows to three different seas: the North Sea, Baltic Sea and Black Sea. The Czech Republic also leases the Moldauhafen, a 30,000-square-metre (7.4-acre) lot in the middle of the Hamburg Docks, which was awarded to Czechoslovakia by Article 363 of the Treaty of Versailles, to allow the landlocked country a place where goods transported down river could be transferred to seagoing ships. The territory reverts to Germany in 2028.

Phytogeographically, the Czech Republic belongs to the Central European province of the Circumboreal Region, within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the territory of the Czech Republic can be subdivided into four ecoregions: the Central European mixed forests, Pannonian mixed forests, Western European broadleaf forests and Carpathian montane conifer forests.

The Czech Republic has a temperate continental climate, with relatively hot summers and cold, cloudy and snowy winters. Most rain falls during the summer. The temperature difference between summer and winter is relatively high, due to the landlocked geographical position.

Within the Czech Republic, temperatures vary greatly, depending on the elevation. In general, at higher altitudes, the temperatures decrease and precipitation increases. Another important factor is the distribution of the mountains; therefore, the climate is quite varied.

At the highest peak of Sněžka (1,602 m/5,260 ft), the average temperature is only −0.4 °C (31 °F), whereas in the lowlands of the South Moravian Region, the average temperature is as high as 10 °C (50 °F). The country's capital, Prague, has a similar average temperature, although this is influenced by urban factors.

The coldest month is usually January, followed by February and December. During these months, there is usually snow in the mountains and sometimes in the major cities and lowlands. During March, April and May, the temperature usually increases rapidly, especially during April, when the temperature and weather tends to vary widely during the day. Spring is also characterized by high water levels in the rivers, due to melting snow with occasional flooding.

The warmest month of the year is July, followed by August and June. On average, summer temperatures are about 20 degrees higher than during winter. Especially in the last decade, temperatures above 30 °C (86 °F) are not unusual. Summer is also characterized by rain and storms.

Autumn generally begins in September, which is still relatively warm and dry. During October, temperatures usually fall below 15° or 10°C (59° or 50°F) and deciduous trees begin to shed their leaves. By the end of November, temperatures usually range around the freezing point.

According to the 2001 census, the vast majority of the inhabitants of the Czech Republic are Czech (94.24%). The most numerous national minorities are: Slovaks (1.89%); Poles (0.51%); Germans (0.38%); Ukrainians (0.22%); Vietnamese (0.17%); Hungarians (0.14%); Russians (0.12%); Romani (0.11%); Bulgarians (0.04%); and Greeks (0.03%). According to some estimates, there are actually more than 200,000 Romani people in the Czech Republic.

There were 431,215 foreigners residing in the country in 2008, according to the Czech Interior Ministry, with the largest groups being Ukrainian (131,965), Slovak (76,034), Vietnamese (60,258), Russian (27,178), Polish (21,710), German (15,700), Moldovan (8,038), Mongolian (6,028), Bulgarian (5,046), Chinese (4,986), American (4,452), Belarusan (3,977), British (3,775), Serbian (3,615), Austrian (3,373), Romanian (3,298), Kazakh (3,038), Italian (2,351), Croatian (2,327), Dutch (2,240), French (2,140), Bosnian (2,093), Macedonian (1,787), Armenian (1,624), Japanese (1,494) and Uzbek (1,148).

The Jewish population of Bohemia and Moravia, 118,000 according to the 1930 census, was virtually annihilated by the Nazis during the Holocaust. There were approximately 4,000 Jews in the Czech Republic in 2005.

Immigration increased the population by almost 1% in 2007. The fertility rate is a low 1.44 children per woman.

The Czech Republic, along with Estonia, has one of the least religious populations in all of Europe. According to the 2001 census, 59% of the country is agnostic, atheist, a non-believer or a non-organized believer, 26.8% is Roman Catholic and 2.5% is Protestant. According to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll in 2005, 19% of Czech citizens responded that "they believe there is a God" (the second lowest rate among European Union countries after Estonia with 16%), whereas 50% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 30% said that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force".

The Czech Republic is a pluralist multi-party parliamentary representative democracy, with the Prime Minister as head of government. The Parliament (Parlament České republiky) is bicameral, with the Chamber of Deputies (Czech: Poslanecká sněmovna) (200 members) and the Senate (Senát)(81 members).

The President of the Czech Republic is elected by a joint session of the parliament for a five-year term, with no more than two consecutive terms. The president is a formal head of state with limited specific powers, most importantly to return bills to the parliament, nominate Constitutional court judges for the Senate's approval and dissolve the parliament under certain special and unusual circumstances. He also appoints the prime minister, as well the other members of the cabinet on a proposal by the prime minister. Václav Klaus, current President of the Czech Republic, former Prime Minister and chairman of Civic Democrats (ODS), remains one of the country's most popular politicians.

The Prime Minister is the head of government and wields considerable powers, including the right to set the agenda for most foreign and domestic policy, mobilize the parliamentary majority and choose government ministers.

The members of the Chamber of Deputies are elected for a four year term by proportional representation, with a 5% election threshold. There are 14 voting districts, identical to the country's administrative regions. The Chamber of Deputies, the successor to the Czech National Council, has the powers and responsibilities of the now defunct federal parliament of the former Czechoslovakia.

The members of the Senate are elected in single-seat constituencies by two-round runoff voting for a six-year term, with one-third elected every even year in the autumn. The first election was in 1996, for differing terms. This arrangement is modelled on the U.S. Senate, but each constituency is roughly the same size and the voting system used is a two-round runoff. The Senate is unpopular among the public and suffers from low election turnout, overall roughly 30% in the first round and 20% in the second.

Membership in the European Union is central in Czech Republic's foreign policy. The Czech Republic has taken over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first half of 2009.

According to The Economist, the Czech Republic has earned "a reputation for promoting human rights at every turn". Czech officials have supported dissenters, everywhere from Burma to Belarus, Moldova and Cuba. Some EU officials have been irritated by the Czech Republic's activism in human rights. The Czech Republic, along with other countries emphasising human rights, have been in conflict with EU countries who favour closer ties with countries such as Cuba or Burma.

The Czech armed forces consist of the Army, Air Force and of specialized support units. In 2004, the Czech armed forces completely phased out conscription and transformed into a fully volunteer military army and air force. The country has been a member of NATO, since March 12, 1999. Defence spending is around 1.8% of the GDP (2006).

Since 2000, the Czech Republic is divided into thirteen regions (Czech: kraje, singular kraj) and the capital city of Prague. Each region has its own elected Regional Assembly (krajské zastupitelstvo) and hejtman (usually translated as hetman or "president"). In Prague, their powers are executed by the city council and the mayor.

The older seventy-six districts (okresy, singular okres) including three 'statutory cities' (without Prague, which had special status) lost most of their importance in 1999 in an administrative reform; they remain as territorial divisions and seats of various branches of state administration.

The Czech Republic possesses a developed, high-income economy with a GDP per capita of 82% of the European Union average. One of the most stable and prosperous of the post-Communist states, the Czech Republic has seen a growth of over 6% annually in the last three years. Recent growth has been led by exports to the European Union, especially Germany and foreign investment, while domestic demand is reviving.

Most of the economy has been privatized, including the banks and telecommunications. The current right-center government plans to continue with privatization, including the energy industry and the Prague airport. It has recently agreed to the sale of a 7% stake in the energy producer, CEZ Group, with the sale of the Budějovický Budvar brewery also mooted. With privatization, the economy has also begun to see an increase in unemployment, as well as a rapid income polarization with ever mounting percentages of GDP funneled to the top of the social pyramid. As well, the nation has begun to see a perceptible rise in crime, prostitution and drug use.

The country has fully implemented the Schengen Agreement and therefore, has abolished border controls, completely opening its borders with all of its neighbours, Germany, Austria, Poland and Slovakia, on December 21, 2007. The Czech Republic is also a member of the World Trade Organization.

The last Czech government led by social democrats had expressed a desire to adopt the euro in 2010, but the current centre-right government suspended that plan in 2007. An exact date has not been set up, but the Finance Ministry described adoption by 2012 as realistic, if public finance reform passes. However, the most recent draft of the euro adoption plan omits giving any date. Although the country is economically better positioned than other EU Members to adopt the euro, the change is not expected before 2013, due to political reluctance on the matter. On January 1, 2009, current Czech PM, Mirek Topolánek, declared that on November 1, 2009, the Czech government will announce a fixed date for euro adoption, since the country "currently fulfills all criteria for adoption of the euro." There are several challenges, however. The rate of corruption remains one of the highest among the other developed OECD countries and the public budgets remain in deficit despite strong growth of the economy in recent years. However, the 2007 deficit has been 1.58% GDP and the 2008 deficit is expected at 1.2% GDP, according to EU accounting rules, far less than original projections.

The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks the Czech education system as the 15th best in the world, higher than the OECD average.

Ruzyně International Airport is the main international airport in the country. In 2007, it handled 12.4 million passengers, which makes it one of the busiest airports in Central Europe. In total, Czech Republic has 46 airports with paved runways, out of which six are for international air service.

České dráhy is the main railway operator in the Czech Republic, with about 180 million passengers carried yearly. Its cargo division, ČD Cargo, is the fifth largest railway cargo operator in the European Union.

In 2005, according to the Czech Statistical Office, 65.4% of electricity was produced in steam, combined and combustion power plants (mostly coal); 30% in nuclear plants; and 4.6% from renewable sources, including hydropower. Russia, via pipelines through Ukraine and to a lesser extent, Norway, via pipelines through Germany, supply the Czech Republic with liquid and natural gas.

The Czech Republic is reducing its dependence on highly polluting low-grade brown coal as a source of energy. Nuclear energy presently provides about 30% of the total power needs, its share is projected to increase to 40%. Natural gas is procured from Russian Gazprom, roughly three-fourths of domestic consumption and from Norwegian companies, which make up most of the remaining one-fourth. Russian gas is imported via Ukraine (Druzhba pipeline), Norwegian gas is transported through Germany. Gas consumption (approx. 100 TWh in 2003-2005) is almost two times higher than the electricity consumption. South Moravia has small oil and gas deposits.

The Czech Republic has the most Wi-Fi subscribers in the European Union. By the beginning of 2008, there was over 800 mostly local WISPs, with about 350,000 subscribers in 2007. Mobile internet is quite popular. Plans, based on either GPRS, EDGE, UMTS or CDMA2000, are being offered by all three mobile phone operators (T-Mobile, Vodafone, Telefonica O2) and U:fon. Government-owned Český Telecom slowed down broadband penetration. At the beginning of 2004, local-loop unbundling began and alternative operators started to offer ADSL and also SDSL. This and later privatisation of Český Telecom helped drive down prices. On July 1, 2006, Český Telecom was renamed to Telefónica O2 Czech Republic. As of January 2006, ADSL2+ is offered in many variants, both with data limit and without with speeds up to 10 Mbit/s. Cable internet is gaining popularity with its higher download speeds beginning at 2 Mbit/s up to 20 Mbit/s. The biggest ISP, UPC (which has bought another CATV internet provider Karneval in 2007), is providing its service in the cities of Prague, Brno and Ostrava.

The Czech economy gets a substantial income from tourism. In 2001, the total earnings from tourism reached 118.13 billion CZK, making up 5.5% of GNP and 9.3% of overall export earnings. The industry employs more than 110,000 people - over 1% of the population. In 2008, however, there was a slump in tourist numbers in Prague, possibly due to the strong Czech koruna making the country too expensive for visitors, compared to the level of services that were available. The country's reputation has also suffered with guidebooks and tourists reporting overcharging by taxi drivers and pickpocketing problems. Since 2005, Prague's mayor, Pavel Bém, has worked to improve this reputation by cracking down on petty crime and, aside from these problems, Prague is a relatively safe city, most areas are safe to walk around even after dark. Also, the Czech Republic as a whole generally has a low crime rate.

There are several centres of tourist activity. The historic city of Prague is the primary tourist attraction, as the city is also the most common point of entry for tourists visiting other parts of the country. Most other cities in the country attract significant numbers of tourists, but the spa towns, such as Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně and Františkovy Lázně, are particularly popular holiday destinations. Other popular tourist sites are the many castles and chateaux, such as those at Karlštejn Castle, Český Krumlov and the Lednice–Valtice area. Away from the towns, areas such as Český ráj, Šumava and the Krkonoše Mountains attract visitors seeking outdoor pursuits.

The country is also famous for its love of puppetry and marionettes. The Pilsener style beer originated in western Bohemian city of Plzeň.

Czech cuisine is marked by a strong emphasis on meat dishes. Pork is quite common, beef and chicken are also popular. Goose, duck, rabbit and wild game are served. Fish is rare, with the occasional exception of fresh trout and carp, which is served at Christmas.

Aside from Slivovitz, Czech beer and wine, Czechs also produce two uniquely Czech liquors, Fernet Stock and Becherovka. Kofola is a non-alcoholic Czech soft drink, somewhat similar in look and taste to Coca-Cola, which is also popular.

Sport plays a part in the life of many Czechs, who are generally loyal supporters of their favourite teams or individuals. The two leading sports in the Czech Republic are football (soccer) and ice hockey, both drawing the largest attention of both the media and supporters. The many other sports with professional leagues and structures include basketball, volleyball, team handball, track and field athletics and floorball.

Sport is a source of strong waves of patriotism, usually rising several days or weeks before an event and sinking several days after. The events considered the most important by Czech fans are: the Ice Hockey World Championships, Olympic Ice hockey tournament, UEFA European Football Championship, FIFA World Cup and qualification matches for such events. In general, any international match of the Czech ice hockey or football national team draws attention, especially when played against a traditional rival: Germany in football; Russia, Sweden and Canada in ice hockey; and Slovakia in both.

A number of other scientists are also connected in some way with the Czech Republic, including the founder of psychiatry, Sigmund Freud.

Music in the Czech Republic has its roots both in high-culture opera and symphony and in the traditional music of Bohemia and Moravia. Cross-pollination and diversity are important aspects of Czech music. Composers were often influenced by traditional music; jazz and bluegrass music have become popular; pop music often consisted of English language hits sung in Czech. Notable Czech composers include Leoš Janáček, Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana.

Czech literature is the literature of the historical regions of Bohemia, Moravia and the Czech-speaking part of Silesia, (now part of the Czech Republic, formerly of Czechoslovakia). This most often means literature written by Czechs, in the Czech language, although Old Church Slavonic, Latin and German were also used, mostly in the early periods. Modern authors from the Czech territory, who wrote in other languages (e.g. German), are generally considered separately and their writing usually existed in parallel with Czech-language literature and did not interact with it. Thus Franz Kafka, for example, who wrote in German (though he also knew Czech rather well), falls within Austrian literature, though he lived his entire life in Bohemia.

Czech literature is divided into several main time periods: the Middle Ages; the Hussite period; the years of re-Catholicization and the baroque; the Enlightenment and Czech reawakening in the 19th century; the avantgarde of the interwar period; the years under Communism and the Prague Spring; and the literature of the post-Communist Czech Republic. Czech literature and culture played a major role on at least two occasions, when Czech society lived under oppression and no political activity was possible. On both of these occasions, in the early 19th century and then again in the 1960s, the Czechs used their cultural and literary effort to create political freedom, establishing a confident, politically aware nation.

1 Has part of its territory outside Europe.  2 Entirely in West Asia but having socio-political connections with Europe.  3 Has dependencies or similar territories outside Europe. 4 Name disputed by Greece; see Macedonia naming dispute. 5 Declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008 and is recognised by 55 United Nations member states.

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Politics of the Czech Republic

Coat of arms of the Czech Republic.svg

Politically, the Czech Republic is a multi-party parliamentary representative democratic republic. According to the Constitution of the Czech Republic, the President is the head of state while the Prime Minister is the head of government, exercising supreme executive power. The Legislature is bicameral, with the Chamber of Deputies (Poslanecká sněmovna) and the Senate (Senát).

The Czech political scene supports a broad spectrum of parties ranging from Communist Party on the far left to various nationalistic parties on the extreme right. Generally, the (liberal) right beyond the specific case of huge and conservative Civic Democratic Party is splintered and has failed in several attempts to unite.

Czech voters returned a split verdict in the June 2002 parliamentary elections, giving Social Democrats (ČSSD) and Communists majority, without any possibility to form a functioning government together due to Vladimír Špidla's strong anticommunism. The results produced a ČSSD coalition government with Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) and Liberals (US-DEU), while Civic Democrats (ODS) and Communists (KSČM) took place in opposition. The MP ratio was the tiniest 101:99. After many buffetings and, finally, after the catastrophic results of the June European Parliament election, 2004 Špidla resigned after a revolt in his own party and the government was reshuffled on the same basis.

As the system in Czech repeatedly produces very weak governments (a specific problem is that about 15% of the electorate support the Communists, who are shunned by all the other parties) there is constant talk about changing it but without much chance of really pushing the reform through. An attempt to increase majority elements by tweaking the system parameters (more smaller districts, d'Hondt method used) by ČSSD and ODS during their "opposition agreement" 1998–2002 was vehemently opposed by smaller parties and blocked by the Constitutional Court as going too much against the constitution-stated proportional principle; only a moderated form was adopted. This, however led to a stalemate in 2006 elections where both the left and the right each gained exactly 100 seats; as many commenters point out, the earlier system would have given the right 3-4 seats majority.

A government formed of a coalition of the ODS, KDU-ČSL, and the Green Party (SZ), and led by the leader of the ODS Mirek Topolánek finally succeeded in winning a vote of confidence on January 19, 2007. This was thanks to two members of the ČSSD, Miloš Melčák and Michal Pohanka, who abstained.

In March 2006, the parliament overturned a veto by President Václav Klaus, and the Czech Republic became the first former communist country in Europe to grant legal recognition to same-sex partnerships.

The President of the Czech Republic is elected by joint session of the parliament for five-year term (no more than two consecutive). The president is a formal head of state with limited specific powers, most importantly to return laws to the parliament, nominate Constitutional Court judges for Senate's approval, and dissolve the parliament under certain special and rare conditions. He also appoints the prime minister as well the other members of the cabinet on a proposal by the prime minister. Václav Klaus, now President of the Czech Republic, former Prime Minister and chairman of Civic Democrats (ODS) remains one of the country's most popular politicians.

The Prime Minister is the head of government and wields considerable powers, including the right to set the agenda for most foreign and domestic policy, mobilize the parliamentary majority, and choose governmental ministers.

The Parliament (Parlament České republiky) has two chambers. The Chamber of Deputies (Poslanecká sněmovna) has 200 members, elected for a four year term by proportional representation with a 5 % election threshold. There are 14 voting districts identical to the country's administrative regions. The Chamber of Deputies, at first the Czech National Council, has the powers and responsibilities of the now defunct federal parliament of the former Czechoslovakia.

The Senate (Senát) has 81 members, in single-seat constituencies elected by two-round runoff voting for a six-year term, with one third renewed every even year in the autumn. The first election was 1996 (for differing terms). This is patterned after the U.S. Senate but each constituency is of (roughly) same size and the system used is two-round runoff voting. The Senate is unpopular among the public and suffers from low election turnout (overall roughly 30% in the first round, 20% in the second).

The electoral party (the party on whose label the senator ran) can be volatile, especially with senators elected for tiny parties, so caucuses are more relevant.

The country's highest court of appeals is the Supreme Court. The Constitutional Court, which rules on constitutional issues, is appointed by the president with Senate approval, and its 15 members serve 10-year terms. The justices of the Constitutional Court have a mandatory retirement age of 70.

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Polish minority in the Czech Republic

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The Polish minority in the Czech Republic (Polish: Polska mniejszość narodowa/narodowościowa w Republice Czeskiej, Czech: Polská národní/národnostní menšina v České republice) is a Polish national minority living mainly in the Zaolzie region of western Cieszyn Silesia. The Polish community is the only national (or ethnic) minority in the Czech Republic that is linked to a specific geographical area. Zaolzie is located in the north-eastern part of the country. It comprises Karviná District and the eastern part of Frýdek-Místek District. Many Poles living in other regions of the Czech Republic have roots in Zaolzie as well.

Poles formed the largest ethnic group in Cieszyn Silesia in the 19th century, but at the beginning of the 20th century the Czech population grew. The Czechs and Poles collaborated on resisting Germanization movements, but this collaboration ceased after World War I. In 1920 the region of Zaolzie was incorporated into Czechoslovakia after an armed conflict between Poland and Czechoslovakia. Since then the Polish population demographically decreased. In 1938 it was annexed by Poland and in 1939 by Nazi Germany. The region was then given back to Czechoslovakia after World War II. Polish organizations were re-created, but were banned by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. After the Velvet Revolution Polish organizations were re-created again and Zaolzie had adopted bilingual signs.

Historically, the largest ethnic group inhabiting the Zaolzie area was the Poles. During the 19th century the number of Germans grew. At the beginning of the 20th century and later from 1920 to 1938, the Czech population grew significantly (mainly as a result of immigration and the assimilation of locals) and the Poles became a minority, which they are to this day.

From 1848, the national consciousness of the local people grew and from 1848 to the end of the 19th century local Poles and Czechs co-operated, uniting against the Germanizing tendencies of the Austrian Empire, and later of Austria-Hungary. Various Polish clubs were founded. Most schools were Polish, followed by German and Czech. At the end of the century, ethnic tensions appeared as the area's economic significance grew. This growth caused a wave of immigration from Galicia, when about 60,000 people arrived and settled between 1880 and 1910. They settled mainly in the Ostrau region, but also in Zaolzie. The new immigrants were Polish and poor, about half of them being illiterate, and worked mostly in coal mining and metallurgy. For these people, the most important factor was material well-being; they cared little about the homeland from which they had fled, more readily assimilating into the Czech population which was demographically dominant in the Ostrava region in the heart of Czech Silesia. The social structure of the territory was generally divided along ethnic lines. Germans were economically strongest, mostly owners, Czechs were mostly clerks and other officials, and Poles were mostly manual workers, miners, and metallurgists. This structure had changed over time but in 1921 it was still very similar, with 61.5% of Poles working as labourers.

There was a very tense climate in 1918–1920, a time of decision. It was decided that a plebiscite would be held in Cieszyn Silesia asking people which country the territory should join. Plebiscite commissioners arrived at the end of January 1920 and after analyzing the situation declared a state of emergency in the territory on 19 May 1920. The situation in the territory remained very tense. Mutual intimidation, acts of terror, beatings, and even killings affected the area. A plebiscite could not be held in this atmosphere. On 10 July both sides renounced the idea of a plebiscite and entrusted the Conference of Ambassadors with the decision. Eventually 58.1% of the area of Cieszyn Silesia and 67.9% of the population was incorporated into Czechoslovakia on 28 July 1920 by a decision of the Spa Conference. This division was in practice what gave birth to the concept of the Zaolzie—which literally means "the land beyond the Olza River" (looking from Poland).

The local Polish population felt that Warsaw had betrayed them and they were not satisfied with the division of Cieszyn Silesia. It is not quite clear how many Poles were in Zaolzie in Czechoslovakia. Estimates range from 110,000 to 140,000 people in 1921. The 1921 and 1930 census numbers are not accurate since nationality depended on self-declaration and many Poles declared Czech nationality mainly as a result of fear of the new authorities and as compensation for some benefits. Czechoslovak law guaranteed rights for national minorities, but the reality in Zaolzie was quite different. The local Czech authorities made it more difficult for local Poles to obtain citizenship, while the process was expedited when the applicant pledged to declare Czech nationality and send his children to a Czech school. Newly-built Czech schools were often better supported and equipped, thus inducing some Poles to send their children there. This and other factors contributed to the assimilation of Poles and also to significant emigration to Poland. After a few years, the heightened nationalism typical of the period around 1920 receded and local Poles increasingly co-operated with the Czechs. Still, Czechization was supported by Prague, which did not abide by certain laws related to language, legislative, and organizational issues.

On 1 October 1938 Zaolzie was annexed by Poland following the Munich Conference. The Polish Army, commanded by General Władysław Bortnowski, annexed an area of 801.5 km² (309.5 mi²) with a population of 227,399. The Polish side argued that Poles in Zaolzie deserved the same rights as Germans in the Munich Agreement. The vast majority of the local Polish population enthusiastically welcomed the change, seeing it as a liberation and a form of historical justice. But they quickly changed their mood. The new Polish authorities appointed people from Poland to various positions from which Czechs had been dismissed. The Polish language became the sole official language. Rapid Polonization followed. Czech organizations were dismantled and their activity was prohibited. Czech education ceased to exist. About 35,000 Czechs emigrated to Czechoslovakia by choice or forcibly. The behaviour of the new Polish authorities was different but similar in nature to that of the Czech authorities before 1938. Two political factions appeared: socialists (the opposition) and rightists (loyal to the new authorities). Leftist politicians and sympathizers were discriminated against and often dismissed from their jobs. The Polish political system was artificially implemented in Zaolzie. Local Polish people continued to feel like second-class citizens and a majority of them were dissatisfied with the situation after October 1938. Zaolzie remained a part of Poland for only eleven months.

During the war, strong Germanization was introduced by the Nazi authorities. The Jews were in the worst position, followed by the Poles. Poles received lower food rations, they were supposed to pay extra taxes, and were not allowed to enter theatres, cinemas, and other venues. Polish and Czech education ceased to exist, Polish organizations were dismantled and their activity was prohibited. The Nazis especially targeted the Polish intelligentsia and many functionaries died during the war. The German authorities introduced terror into Zaolzie. Mass killings, executions, arrests, taking locals to forced labour, and deportations to concentration camps all happened on a daily basis. The most notorious war crime was a murder of 36 villagers in and around Żywocice on 6 August 1944. Most of the victims were Poles. This massacre is known as Tragedia Żywocicka (the Żywocice tragedy). The resistance movement, mostly of Poles, was fairly strong in Zaolzie.

Volkslists, documents introduced by the Nazi authorities were soon introduced during the war. A non-German citizen declared that he had some German ancestry by signing it and refusal to sign this document could lead to deportation to a concentration camp. Local people who signed the lists were later on enrolled in the Wehrmacht. Many local people with no German ancestry were also forced to sign them. The World War II death toll in Zaolzie is estimated at about 6,000 people: about 2,500 Jews, 2,000 other citizens (80% of them being Poles), and more than 1,000 locals who died in the Wehrmacht (those who signed the Volksliste). Also a few hundred Poles from Zaolzie were among those murdered by the Soviets in the Katyń massacre. Percentage-wise, Zaolzie suffered the worst human loss out of the whole of Czechoslovakia – about 2.6% of the total population.

Immediately after World War II, Zaolzie was returned to Czechoslovakia within its 1920 borders, although local Poles hoped it would again be given to Poland. The local Polish population again suffered discrimination, as many Czechs blamed them for the discrimination by the Polish authorities in 1938–1939. Polish organizations were banned, and the Czech authorities made many arrests and dismissed many from their jobs. Polish property stolen by the Germans during the war was never returned. The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia was the only political party defending the rights of the Polish minority. In the 1946 elections, the majority of Poles voted for the communists. In Zaolzie, 51% of elected communist officials were ethnic Poles. The situation improved somewhat when the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia took power in February 1948. The PZKO (Polish Cultural and Educational Union) was created in 1947. The creation of other Polish organizations was prohibited. This was the only Polish organization representing the Polish minority in the communist era, and was therefore under the strong influence of the Communist Party. It remains today the Polish organization with the largest membership. During the communist era, rapid urbanization and growth of heavy industry occurred. Whole villages in the coal mining areas were destroyed by the mining activity. These conditions quickened the assimilation of the Poles. Another cause of assimilation was the high rate of intermarriage. During the 1960s cultural life flourished. Polish books were published and Polish sections in Czech libraries were set up. For example, the state Czech Postal and Newspaper Service was delivering 72 magazines from Poland. During the Prague Spring, the more liberal atmosphere also contributed to the growth of cultural life. After 1968, purges were conducted throughout Czechoslovak society, including the Polish minority. Reformists were fired from their positions. Normalization also affected the PZKO. From 1976 the law recommended the introduction of bilingual signs in some municipalities. Being only a recommended measure, it was not implemented.

After the Velvet Revolution of 1989, under democratic conditions, Polish organizations were quickly created. The Rada Polaków (Council of Poles) was created in 1990. The founders of the Council argued that the PZKO was not fulfilling its function of representing the Poles. The organization was renamed "Kongres Polaków" (Congress of Poles) in 1991. It is the main body representing the Polish minority in negotiations with the Czech government, etc. Local border crossings with Poland were opened in mid-1991, two years after the fall of communism.

The primary language of the Polish population in Zaolzie is the Cieszyn Silesian dialect, with the vast majority of Poles using it in everyday communication. The dialect is very prestigious and contributes to the pride of local people. It is also used by some local Czechs. Local Poles also feel a strong regional identity. In the Zaolzie region, a few church services are conducted in Polish. 90% of worshippers among Polish secondary school students are reported to pray in Polish.

Concerning literature, there is a great variety of authors, genres, and editions produced in Polish. For traditional music, many groups are united in the association Ars Musica; this association also includes many choirs, such as Collegium Iuvenum, Collegium Canticorum, and Canticum Novum. Many other choirs and traditional folk vocal and dance groups exist, including Olza, Bystrzyca, Oldrzychowice, Suszanie, and Błędowianie, among others. Pop and rock bands include Glayzy, Glider, P-metoda, Apatheia, Poprostu and other groups. The Cieszyn Theatre in Czeski Cieszyn (Český Těšín) has a Polish Scene (ensemble). It is the only professional Polish theatre outside Poland.

Many cultural, folk, and music festivals are organized each year. The largest folklore festival of the Polish community and also the largest folklore festival in the Zaolzie region is the annual Gorolski Święto (lit. Highlander's Festival) organized in Jabłonków (Jablunkov). Dożynki (harvest festivals) are organized each year in several villages. Music festivals include Zlot in Bystrzyca, Zlot in Wędrynia and Dni Kultury Studenckiej (Days of Student Culture) in Bystrzyca.

There is a 15-minute daily radio broadcast in Polish by Czech Radio Ostrava. Czech TV has been broadcasting in Polish for ten minutes a week since September 2003; television programmes from Poland can also be received. In 2003, Czech Television’s studio in Ostrava launched a regular five-minute news and current affairs weekly in Polish. The broadcast was shortened to four minutes in 2007. The largest Polish newspaper in the country is Głos Ludu; the largest magazine is Zwrot.

The Polish national minority has a network of schools including kindergartens, primary schools, grammar schools, and secondary modern schools, with Polish as a language of instruction. A number of the teachers have been educated at Polish universities. There are currently 25 Polish primary schools and three Polish high schools in Zaolzie, attended by 2,347 students. Including students attending Polish classes in several Czech high schools, the figure comes to 2,430 students (Data from 12 September 2006). There are also many Polish kindergartens in Zaolzie. Polish education is the only ethnic minority education in the Czech Republic to cover the complete cycle from kindergarten through high school.

Polish primary schools function in the following towns and villages: Błędowice Dolne (Dolní Bludovice), Bukowiec (Bukovec), Bystrzyca (Bystřice), Cierlicko (Těrlicko), Czeski Cieszyn (Český Těšín), Czeski Cieszyn-Sibica (Český Těšín-Svibice), Gnojnik (Hnojník), Gródek (Hrádek), Jabłonków (Jablunkov), Karwina-Frysztat (Karviná-Fryštát), Koszarzyska (Košařiska), Łomna Dolna (Dolní Lomná), Lutynia Dolna (Dolní Lutyně), Milików (Milíkov), Mosty koło Jabłonkowa (Mosty u Jablunkova), Nawsie (Návsí), Olbrachcice (Albrechtice), Oldrzychowice (Oldřichovice), Orłowa (Orlová), Ropica (Ropice), Stonawa (Stonava), Sucha Górna (Horní Suchá), Trzyniec I (Třinec I), Trzyniec VI (Třinec VI), and Wędrynia (Vendryně).

The main and most prestigious Polish high school is the Polish Gymnasium in Český Těšín which also offers classes in Karviná. Polish classes are open in the Technical School in Karviná, the Economic School in Český Těšín, and the Medical School in Karviná. In the past there were more Polish schools in the area, but the number is historically declining along with the demographic decline in the Polish population as a whole.

First Polish sport organizations have been founded in the 1890s. In the interwar period there was a plethora of organizations of all types in all Central European countries, the Zaolzie region wasn’t exception. Sport clubs there were often multi-sport, associating several sport branches, mostly football, athletics, volleyball, table tennis etc.

The Sokół movement was active in Cieszyn Silesia even before World War I. After 1920 division of the region, Sokół became active in Czechoslovakia. At the beginning of the 1930s it associated 11 local branches and about 1,500 members. After World War II, it hasn’t renewed its activity.

Another large sport organization was Siła (Power). It was created in 1908 but established again in 1921 as Polskie Stowarzyszenie Robotnicze Siła (Polish Workers' Association ‘Power’). The organization was of socialist and workers' character and in 1937 associated 25 local branches. After World War II Siła operated half-legally in 17 local branches, and after the communist takeover of power in 1948 was liquidated by Czechoslovak communist authorities.

Another large organization was Polskie Towarzystwo Turystyczne ‘Beskid Śląski’ (Polish Tourist Association ‘Silesian Beskids’) established in 1910. Initially it focused on organizing the Polish tourist movement and building mountain huts in the Beskids but later widened its activities to skiing, football, athletics and volleyball. In the 1930s it associated 27 local branches. After World War II it operated half-legally and as Siła, was liquidated by Czechoslovak communist authorities after the Victorious February 1948. It resumed its activity again in 1991, after the fall of communism.

The last notable multi-sport club was Proletariacka Kultura Fizyczna (PFK, Proletarian Physical Culture). It was created in the mid-1920s and was of communist character. In the 1930s it associated about 40 active local branches. After the Zaolzie region was annexed in 1938 by Poland it was banned together with the communist party.

The most popular sport was football. Volleyball, athletics, table tennis and other sports were also popular. The club with most members was PKS Polonia Karwina, associating some 1,000 members. Its football branch was the best Polish football club of Zaolzie.

After World War II many Polish sport clubs resumed slowly their activity. After the communist takeover of power in Czechoslovakia in February 1948 communists began to curb number of organizations in the country and tried to achieve the state of only several active nationwide organizations. Therefore many Polish clubs after 1948 stopped their activity. The ones who still operated were subjected to rising pressure since 1951. Last independent Polish organizations were dissolved in 1952.

After 1952 the Polish sport life was organized through the Polish Cultural and Educational Union. Through the communist era Polish minority declined demographically and this process continue to date, hence after the fall of communism in 1989 only a few sport organizations resumed their activity. Beskid Śląski, the only notable one, focuses on tourism. No exclusively Polish sport club exists today in Zaolzie.

The erection of bilingual signs has technically been permitted since 2001, if a minority constitutes 10% of the population of a municipality. The requirement for a petition by the members of a minority has been abolished, thus simplifying the whole process. However, only a couple of villages with large Polish minorities have bilingual signs yet (Vendryně/Wędrynia for instance). For a list of all municipalities with a Polish population of at least 10%, see Polish municipalities in the Czech Republic.

The Polish population is historically declining. This is primarily caused by low natural birth rate, assimilation, high intermarriage rate (the majority of Poles live in mixed relationships), and migration to other parts of the country as a result of job seeking.

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Source : Wikipedia