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Czech Republic

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The Czech Republic is a Central European state that came into being in 1993, as a result of the dissolution of the former Czechoslovak federation into the independent Czech and Slovak Republics. It is a land-locked country bordered by Germany to the west and north-west, Poland to the north-east, Austria to the south and Slovakia to the east.

The Czech Republic is a member of the United Nations Organization, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and it is on the verge of admission to the European Union. The country has a plural political system, with the legislative power vested in the bicameral parliament consisting of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The executive power is vested in the government headed by the prime minister. The prime minister is appointed by the president, who is the head of state elected by the parliament. The capital of the Czech Republic is Prague.

The Czech Republic is a unitary state, with Bohemia and Moravia being its major historical lands. About 95 per cent of its inhabitants declare themselves Czech, the rest are primarily ethnic Poles and Slovaks, whose languages are easy for Czechs to understand. The country's official language is Czech, a West Slavic language which is very rich and beautiful, but rather difficult for foreigners to learn. Nine-year elementary education is compulsory in the country.

Almost the whole territory of the Czech Republic is encircled by numerous mountain ranges which form the country's natural borders from historic times. The medieval Czech Kingdom is associated primarily with Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia, who, among many other historic deeds, founded the first Central European University in Prague in 1348. In 1526, the Czech Lands fell under the rule of the Habsburg family, and it was only after World War I, in 1918, that the independent Czechoslovak Republic came into being, combining Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia, the latter formerly ruled by Hungary. In 1939, Slovakia seceded from Czechoslovakia to form an independent Slovak Republic, one day before the Czech Lands' occupation by Nazi Germany. The Czechoslovak Republic was restored after World War II, falling under the influence of the then Soviet Union. The communist rule was overthrown only in 1989, in a peaceful coup known as the "Velvet Revolution", which brought Czechoslovakia back among countries based on parliamentary democracy. Three years later, the two parts of the then Czechoslovak federation decided to form two independent states, the Czech Republic (Bohemia and Moravia), and the Slovak Republic. Václav Havel, the leading figure of the 1989 Velvet Revolution, was elected president of the newly born Czech Republic, and he stayed in office until the year 2003.

The complicated historical development left the territory of the Czech Republic rich in historical monuments, castles, chateaux, and numerous practically intact historical city centres. The country's extraordinary natural beauty and rich historical monuments make it a place luring large numbers of foreign tourists all the year round.

The territory of the Czech Republic is very varied, with numerous mountain ranges (the highest elevation is 1,600 metres at Mount Sně¸ka in the north of the country), fertile lowlands, vast forest areas, and many rivers and lakes. The landscape testifies to the country's advanced agriculture, with major crops being grain, potatoes and beet, and with livestock production focused on cattle, pigs, sheep and poultry. The Czech Republic is self-sufficient in the production of basic foods.

Even though the country does not abound in raw material resources, it ranks among industrially advanced countries. Its major industry is mechanical engineering, e.g. manufacture of cars, lorries and light aircraft. Also highly developed is the food, chemical, glass and other industries. The Czech economy is largely dependent on foreign trade which is oriented towards advanced West European markets. The diversification of industrial activities is one of the factors supporting stability of the Czech economy.

Statistical data on the Czech Republic: