Moravia: History

With Bohemia and Czech Silesia, Moravia makes up the Czech Lands, which have been the homeland of the Czechs, a branch of the Western Slavs, since they displaced the Germanic tribes that occupied the region from the 1st to the 5th cent. AD Before then, Moravia had been inhabited by the Celtic Boii and Cotini. Subjugated by the Avars, the Czechs freed themselves under the leadership of Samo (627–c.660), who established the first state of the Western Slavs. The state disintegrated after his death, but by the 9th cent. the Moravians, again united, formed a great empire, including Bohemia, Silesia, Slovakia, S Poland, and N Hungary. In 863 the missionaries Cyril and Methodius were sent to Moravia on the appeal of Duke Rotislav, and the Moravians accepted Christianity, placing themselves under the Roman Catholic Church. The Moravian empire reached its height under Svatopluk (d. 894), but after his death it broke apart and (early 10th cent.) fell to the Magyars.

When Emperor Otto I defeated (955) the Magyars, Moravia became a march of the Holy Roman Empire. From the early 11th cent. it was in effect a crownland of the kingdom of Bohemia, with which it passed (1526) under Austrian rule. However, Moravia retained its separate diet and was at times separated from the Bohemian crown (e.g., at periods during the Hussite Wars of the 15th cent. and from 1608 to 1611, when Bohemia was ruled by Emperor Rudolf II and Moravia by his brother Matthias). Moravia, generally more tolerant of Hapsburg authority than Bohemia, suffered less in the religious and civil strife of the 16th cent. and even experienced a flowering of Protestantism during a period of religious toleration. In 1618, however, the Czechs of Bohemia revolted and were crushed at the battle of the White Mountain by the Hapsburgs, who thereafter took reprisals against the Moravian Czechs as well. Moravia's diet was reduced to total ineffectiveness. The Moravian towns underwent thorough Germanization from the 13th cent. Under Hapsburg rule nearly the entire upper and middle classes were German; cities such as Brno, predominantly German-speaking, were surrounded by a countryside of Czech-speaking people. In 1849, following an abortive revolution during which the Czechs of Bohemia and Moravia demanded unification of their historic lands and creation of a common diet, Moravia was made an Austrian crownland.

Hapsburg rule was finally overthrown in 1918, and Moravia was incorporated into Czechoslovakia. In 1927, Moravia, with Czechoslovak Silesia, was constituted into the province of Moravia and Silesia. The German element, however, continued to play an important part in Moravian life. The Munich Pact of 1938 resulted in the annexation by Germany of Czechoslovak Silesia, of NW and S Moravia, and of N and W Bohemia (the Sudetenland). In 1939 Moravia and Bohemia became a German protectorate.

After World War II the pre-1938 boundaries were restored, and the larger part of the German-speaking population was expelled. In 1949 the province of Moravia and Silesia was replaced by four administrative regions, and in 1960, in a new administrative reorganization, Moravia was divided into the South Moravian region (5,795 sq mi/15,009 sq km) and the North Moravian region (4,271 sq mi/11,062 sq km). On Jan. 1, 1969, the Moravian region, along with Bohemia and Czech Silesia, was incorporated into the Czech Socialist Republic, renamed the Czech Republic in 1990. The Czech Republic became an independent state when Czechoslvakia was dissolved on Jan. 1, 1993.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Czech Political Geography