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Bohemia

The central European region of Bohemia (?echy in Czech, Bhmen in German)
occupies the western and middle thirds of today's 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 Krkono?e 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 covering also 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 the 15th century there was turmoil in Bohemia during the Hussite Wars; in
fact, a crusade against heresy was declared by the Pope. The leader of the
Hussites, Jan Hus, a precursor of Martin Luther, was eventually burned at
the stake.

Bohemia was granted freedom of religion on July 6, 1609.

Bohemia in the Holy Roman Empire

Prague was one of the great cities of the Holy Roman Empire. Bohemia was an
independent kingdom until 1627. 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

After World War I, Bohemia, which had been part of Austria-Hungary, became
the cornerstone of the newly-formed country of Czechoslovakia.

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, German Nazi troops occupied
Bohemia and other parts of Czechoslovakia starting on March 15, 1939.
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