Bohemia (Čechy in Czech, Böhmen in German) is an historical region in central Europe, occupying the western and middle thirds of the Czech Republic. With an area of 52,750 sq. km. and 6.25 million of the country's 10.3 million inabitants, Bohemia is bounded by Germany to the west, Poland to the north-east, the Czech province of Moravia to the east and Austria to the south. Bohemia's borders are marked with mountain ranges such as the Bohemian Forest, the Ore Mountains or Krkonoše as part of the Sudeten mountains.

Roman authors provide the first clear reference to this area as the home of the Boii, a Celtic people. As part of the territory often crossed during the major Germanic and Slavic migrations, the area was settled from the 1st century BC by Germanic (probably Suebic) peoples including the Marcomanni. After their migration to the south-west, they were replaced around the 6th century by the Slavic precursors of today's Czechs.

After freeing themselves from the rule of the Avars in the 7th century, Bohemia's Slavic inhabitants came (in the 9th century) under the rule of the Premysl dynasty, which continued until 1306. With Bohemia's conversion to Christianity in the 9th century, close relations were forged with the East Frankish kingdom, then part of the so-called Carolingian empire, later the nucleus of the Holy Roman Empire of which Bohemia was an autonomous part from the 10th century.

The title of "King of Bohemia", already granted to the Premyslid dukes Vratislav II (1085) and Vladislav II (1158), became hereditary (1198) under Ottokar I, whose grandson Ottokar II (king 1253-1278) founded a short-lived empire also covering modern Austria. The mid-13th century saw the beginning of substantial German immigration as the court sought to make good the losses resulting from the brief Mongol invasion of 1241. In 1346, Charles IV became king of Bohemia. In 1348 he founded central Europe's first university in Prague.

A national Czech movement against (mainly German) foreign immigrants was promoted by the religious movement of Hussites under the leadership of Jan Hus, a precursor of Martin Luther, who was eventually burned at the stake. When the crusade against heresy was declared by the Pope, it created a period of turmoil in Bohemia called the Hussite Wars. Bohemia was granted freedom of religion on July 6, 1609, but this lasted for only a short time.

Bohemia was an independent kingdom until 1627, when it became a part of the Austrian Habsburg empire, and German became the official language. The Czech nobility were largely expelled after the battle of White Mountain in 1620, and the ruling classes came to be German-speaking. In the early 17th century opposition to Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor as King of Bohemia led to the Thirty Years War and the selection of an alternative protestant king, Frederick V, Elector Palatine.

Modern Bohemia

In the late 18th century Czech people, at the time mostly lower classes, started their national awakening, forming a movement called Oldczechs. After the transformation of the empire into Austria-Hungary, Bohemia became an autonomous province, but Czechs already made up a majority of the people. National tensions arose in Sudetenland where the population was mainly German, and this eventually led to the paralysis of Austria.

After World War I, Bohemia became the cornerstone of the newly-formed country of Czechoslovakia.

1939-1945 Bohemia together with Moravia formed the German Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia (Reichsprotektorat Böhmen-Mähren).

After the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, Bohemia became a part of the new Czech Republic in 1993.

See also

Bohemia is also a place in the State of New York in the United States of America: see Bohemia, New York.