EuNIC-Europe: European Information Center for Culture

Culture in the Czech Republic

The Czech Republic is a landlocked nation in Central Europe that can trace its origins as a nation back to the 9th century. The culture of the Czech Republic has been formed by the Czech inhabitants of the historical territories of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia; by repression and oppression by invaders; by the Czech Republic’s neighbours, including Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland; and by the various ethnic groups, such as Roma, within the nation.

A secular state with laws guaranteeing freedom of religious expression, the Czech Republic has one of the least religious populations anywhere in the world with around 60% identified as atheist or agnostic and an annually declining membership of established religions such as Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.

Reviving Czech nationalism

Czech culture has been defined greatly by centuries under foreign rule. The majority of Czechs are of Slavic origin but German ancestry is also common as the country spent almost 1000 years under, first, the Holy Roman Empire and then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the 18th and 19th centuries, a cultural movement known as the Czech National Revival began to revive the Czech language, culture and national identity in response to what was seen as the “Germanisation” of Czech life.

Its success was in restoring the language to widespread use and encouraging authors and playwrights to express themselves in the language of the nation and from the revival movement came such institutions as the National Theatre and National Museum.

Poetry in motion

Literature is perhaps the defining facet of Czech culture. The Czechs are keen readers and have maintained a long tradition of prose, plays and poetry. While independent thought and work was suppressed during the Communist era, some of the greatest Czech writers went into exile to continue to chronicle the experience of ordinary lives. Lyric poetry can be considered the great love of the Czech people and perhaps the dominant feature in Czech culture.

Sport plays an important role in Czech culture and life with winter sports particularly popular, but it is tennis that has given the nation two of its great sporting heroes in Martina Navratilova and Ivan Lendl.