Plzeň pŭl´zĕnyə [key], Ger. Pilsen, city (1991 pop. 173,008), W Czech Republic, in Bohemia, at the confluence of several rivers. One of the Czech Republic's largest cities, it lies near a belt of coalfields in an area where sugar beets and hops are raised. Plzeň is internationally famous for its beer (Pilsner), exported worldwide, and for the huge Skoda works, which produce heavy machinery, machine tools, military aircraft, locomotives, automobiles, and armaments. Other manufactures include paper, chemicals, cement and pottery. Founded in 1290 by King Wenceslaus II of Bohemia, the city was an important Bohemian trade center. It remained a stronghold of Catholicism in the Hussite Wars (15th cent.) and served briefly (1633–34) as the headquarters of the German imperial general Wallenstein during the Thirty Years War. One of the earliest printing presses was established in Plzeň in 1468. Rapid industrialization dates from the late 19th cent., when the Skoda works grew quickly. Plzeň was part of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy until 1918, when it was included in newly independent Czechoslovakia. It was taken by German forces in 1939 and became a leading producer of German armaments during World War II; Allied bombing heavily damaged the munitions factories. In 1945 the city was liberated and returned to Czechoslovakia. Plzeň's historic buildings include the 13th-century Gothic Church of St. Bartholomew and a 16th-century Renaissance town hall. Among the city's educational and cultural facilities are a medical school, a technical university, and museums and theaters.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Czech Political Geography