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Bohemian Kingdom


When the Great Moravian Empire disintegrated, a new political entity, the Bohemian Kingdom, emerged. It would play an important role in the development of the Czech nation. The Bohemian Kingdom was a major medieval and early modern political, economic, and cultural entity and subsequently was viewed by many Czechs as one of the brightest periods of Czech history. But whatever its longrange implications for Czech history, it is important to remember that the Bohemian Kingdom was a medieval state in which ethnic or national questions were far overshadowed by dynastic politics.

The Bohemian Kingdom emerged in the tenth century when the Premyslid chiefs--members of the Cechove, a tribe from which the Czechs derive their name--unified neighboring Czech tribes and established a form of centralized rule. Cut off from Byzantium by the Hungarian presence, the Bohemian Kingdom existed in the shadow of the Holy Roman Empire. In 950 the powerful emperor Otto I, a Saxon, led an expedition to Bohemia demanding tribute; the Bohemian Kingdom thus became a fief of the Holy Roman Empire and its king one of the seven electors of the emperor. The German emperors continued the practice of using the Roman Catholic clergy to extend German influence into Czech territory. Significantly, the bishopric of Prague, founded in 973 during the reign of Boleslav II (967-99), was subordinated to the German archbishopric of Mainz. Thus, at the same time that Premyslid rulers utilized the German alliance to consolidate their rule against a perpetually rebellious regional nobility, they struggled to retain their autonomy in relation to the empire.

After a struggle with Poland and Hungary, the Bohemian Kingdom acquired Moravia in 1029. Moravia, however, continued to be a separate margravate, usually ruled by a younger son of the Bohemian king. Because of complex dynastic arrangements, Moravia's link with the Bohemian Kingdom between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries was occasionally severed; during such interludes Moravia was subordinated directly to the Holy Roman Empire or to Hungary (see fig. 2). Although Moravia's fate was intertwined with Bohemia's, in general it did not participate in Bohemia's civil and religious struggles. The main course of Czech history evolved in Bohemia proper.

Data as of August 1987