The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country borders Poland to the northeast, Germany to the west and northwest, Austria to the south and Slovakia to the east. The capital and largest city is Prague. The country is composed of the historic regions of Bohemia and Moravia, as well as parts of Silesia. The Czech Republic has been a member of NATO since 1999 and of the European Union since 2004. From 1 January 2009 to 1 July 2009, the Czech Republic held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Following the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the Czech lands fell under Habsburg rule, later becoming part of the Austrian Empire and Austria–Hungary. The independent Republic of Czechoslovakia was formed in 1918, following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire after World War I. After the Munich Agreement, German occupation of Czechoslovakia and the consequent disillusion with the Western response and gratitude for the liberation of the major portion of Czechoslovakia by the Red Army, the Communist party won plurality (38%) in the 1946 elections. In a 1948 coup d'état, Czechoslovakia became a communist-ruled state. In 1968, the increasing dissatisfaction culminated in attempts to reform the communist regime. The events, known as the Prague Spring of 1968, ended with an invasion by the armies of the Warsaw Pact countries (with the exception of Romania); the troops remained in the country until the 1989 Velvet Revolution, when the communist regime collapsed. On 1 January 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved into its constituent states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The Czech Republic has a rich scientific tradition. From the invention of the modern contact lens and separation of modern blood types, to the production of the Semtex plastic explosive, the world owes much of its scientific insight to prominent Czech scientists, including Jan Amos Komenský (1592 – 1670), educator and national hero, often considered the founder of modern education for his work in pedagogy.
Music in the Czech Republic has its roots both in high-culture opera and symphony and in the traditional music of Bohemia and Moravia. Cross-pollination and diversity are important aspects of Czech music. Composers were often influenced by traditional music; jazz and bluegrass music have become popular; pop music partially consisted of English language hits sung in Czech (mostly in years 1960-1989). Notable Czech composers include Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana. Great classical composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are also linked closely to the Czech Republic throughout the period of the Habsburg Empire.
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