rhe Czecls li ZWcAias
HENRY R. MARESH
T HE CZECHS are a Slavic people who have lived continuously
in Bohemia and Moravia since the fifth century. While the
political boundaries of Bohemia and Moravia have been stabi-
lized by an almost land-locking topography, their position as key-
stone of the Slavic Arch has always exposed them to the threat of
invasion from their neighbors. Marauding Avars, Magyars, Mon-
gols, Poles, Tartars, Huns, Romans, and Germans have taken
advantage of this position at various times, usually trying to
impose their current political and religious views on the Czechs,
destroying, mutilating, or changing the pattern of life as they
found it. The unity of the Czechs has therefore been cultural
rather than nationalistic. This durable ethnic fabric has per-
servered through centuries, firmly bound by ties distinctly its
In the ninth century, many of the Bohemian nobility, finding
themselves squarely between the two great centers of Christian
thought, Rome and Constantinople, accepted baptism under
Eastern Orthodox rites, and presently the arrival of Cyril and
Methodius, missionaries from the Byzantine court, punctuated
the most significant event in the history of the Czech people.
These learned men, already fluent in the spoken Slav tongue,
created the Cyrillic alphabet, which became the liturgic lan-
guage of the Eastern Slavonic Church, the vehicle of the first
Slavic Bible, and the foundation of modern Russian literature.
By the tenth century, however, Slavic priests were not in evi-
dence, Bohemia and Moravia having become Roman Catholic.
In the fourteenth century, Jan Hus and Jerome of Praha
prepared the ground for the dissent that Martin Luther voiced
so effectively a century later, Hus becoming the spearhead
of the Czech reformation. After his death in 1415 he
became a symbol of the Czech spirit of freedom of thought.
Meantime in 1348 the University of Praha had been founded,
and the Czech renaissance was in full flower.
By the end of the sixteenth century, Bohemia had become the
richest country in Europe, only to lose its independence at the
Battle of White Mountain in 1620. In the Thirty Years' War,
Bohemia was one of the principal battlegrounds; and the Czechs
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 50, July 1946 - April, 1947. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101117/. Accessed March 9, 2014.