Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

Today marks the most important national holiday of the year... Independence Day!

On October 28, 1918, Czechoslovakia was granted independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I, with Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk as its first president.  Czechoslovakia arose as one of the succession states of Austria-Hungary at the end of WWI.  

The time between WWI and WWII, which was also a golden age for the culture, is now called "the First Republic".  It's a time when Czechoslovakia had a parliamentary democracy, concentrated 70% of the industry of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, and had an economy that was the strongest in the world.  Prague was similar to Paris then, as exemplified by the great Czech-French art nouveau painter, Alphonse Mucha.

First Czechoslovak President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk

Why must all good things come to an end??  
The First Republic era only lasted 20 years.  Czechoslovakia was betrayed by allies in 1938 in the Munich agreement, thus Nazi Germany legally occupied Sudetenland, the Czechoslovakian borders with Germany, and in 1939 the whole country was under protectorship of Hitler's Germany.

Map of Sudetenland (highlighted in black)

After the second World War, the Nazi troops were replaced by Soviet troops, and the Czechs had to wait for the restoration of democracy until the end of 1989.  

We celebrate October 28th mainly to remember this happy era known as the First Republic.  The president's speech is televised and is followed by awarding medals to Czechs who have done great deeds.  Every year on this day, a few thousand of the Czech Republic's leading citizens are invited to the Independence Day ceremony at Prague Castle, where the great halls are open and delicious food and drink are served.

Independence Day Ceremony at the Spanish Hall...Prague Castle

So honor this special day with us... raise your glass to mark this day in 1918 when Czechoslovakia emerged from the shadows of the Austro-Hungarian Empire!

Václav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic