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social sciences

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Prague's fall from an imperial seat to a provincial town led to a severe economic collapse and a steady decline in population.

With the Industrial Revolution, beginning in the late eighteenth century, Prague's fortunes began to change, however, as factories took advantage of the coal mines and ironworks of the nearby region.

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Additionally, the Czech National Revival Movement (Národní Obrození) gained momentum, restoring prominence to the Czech language, culture, and national identity. Institutions such as the National Theater and the National Museum opened to celebrate Czech history and culture.

In 1918, with the end of World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed and the independent state of Czechoslovakia was created, comprised of the historical Czech lands of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia, as well as Slovakia and Ruthenia. Prague was named its capital city and Prague Castle the seat of its first president.

Nazi German forces entered Prague on March 15, 1939 and proclaimed the region a German protectorate. Czech resistance to German occupation culminated in the Prague Uprising of May 5, 1945, a three-day attempt to liberate the city, where some 1,700 Czech residents and defenders died during fighting.

On May 9, 1945, the Soviet Red Army arrived in Prague and liberated the city and most of the rest of Czechoslovakia from German occupation. Subsequently, the country came under the political and military control of the Soviet Union.

Czech autonomy was stifled under the repressive totalitarian Soviet regime. Over time, however, political and artistic freedoms were granted, leading to the reforms which came to be known as the "Prague Spring" of 1968, a short-lived season with the goals of full democracy, an end to censorship, and "socialism with a human face."

The Soviet Union and its allies reacted with an invasion of Czechoslovakia by 200,000 troops and 2,000 tanks on August 21, 1968. The military response suppressed any further attempts at democratic reforms.

The newly stringent Soviet leadership maintained control of the country until the "Velvet Revolution," a non-violent insurrection that began in the streets of Prague on November 17, 1989, and surprisingly soon overthrew the Soviet government.

Czech and Slovakian separatist movements subsequently inspired the peaceful split of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on January 1, 1993, in what has become known as the "Velvet Divorce." Václav Havel, the Czech writer and former dissident, was elected as the first president and Prague was named the capital city of the new Czech Republic.

The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999 and became a member of the European Union in 2004.

GLBTQ Rights

In contrast to the repressions that characterized life under the Communist government of Czechoslovakia, life in the Czech Republic today is characterized by a great deal of personal freedom. Indeed, the Czech Republic is considered one of the most liberal countries in Central Europe and has become more glbtq-friendly in recent years.

Although homosexuality was decriminalized in Czechoslovakia in 1961, gay and lesbian life was closely monitored and sometimes harshly regulated by the soviet government. After the fall of Communism in Czechoslavia, citizens experienced a marked increase in all kinds of personal autonomy, including sexual choices.

The age of consent for sexual activity was equalized in 1990, from 18 for homosexuals to 15 for both homosexual and heterosexual partners. Homosexual prostitution, for persons 18 years or older, was decriminalized the same year.

The Czech National Labor Code was revised in 2001, providing anti-discrimination protection on the basis of sexual orientation. Consequently, the Czech Army does not question the sexual orientation of its soldiers.

Limited legal recognition of domestic partnerships has been available to same-sex couples in the Czech Republic since 2001, when "persons living in a common household" were granted inheritance and succession rights in housing.

Registered Partnerships

Registered partnership legislation for same-sex couples, granting many of the same financial benefits and civil rights as legally married heterosexuals, had been proposed, and subsequently rejected, by the Czech government multiple times, beginning in 1995, before finally going into effect in 2006.

In 1995, the Czech government announced plans to update its civil code on family law and a registered-partnership proposal was put forward, based on the groundbreaking Danish Registered Partnership Act of 1989. But by the end of the year, the registered-partnership bill had been sidelined.

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