Czech Republic Minorities
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Following the First World War, the closely related Czechs and Slovaks of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire merged to form Czechoslovakia. There were other ethnic minorities within the republic, most notably the Sudeten Germans and the Ruthenians (Ukrainians).
Ethnic groups: Czech 90.4%, Moravian 3.7%, Slovak 1.9%, other 4% (2001 census)
Note: A minority group is a subordinate group whose members have significantly less control or power over their own lives. The number of people in a group does not necessarily determine its status as a social minority. "Ethnic" which derives from the Greek word "ethnos" pertains to culture. An ethnic group is a cultural group. They are distinguished by language, customs, cuisine, modes of dress and so on.
Slavic tribes entered the Czech lands in the sixth century numbering about 500,000 in 650 A.D. The population approached 1 million in about 1100 and 2 million in 1300. Despite a dip in the 1400s caused by the Black Death, the population exceeded 3 million by 1600. The Thirty-Years War was devastating in the Czech lands. By 1648 when the war ended, the population had shrunk by one-quarter. Pre-war numbers were not reached again until 1700. The 1700s and 1800s were periods of accelerating growth. The population rose to 5 million by 1800 and 9.4 million in 1900. Natural increase was even higher than these numbers would indicate. Many Czechs emigrated to other parts of Austria. (By 1910, 8% of all Czechs lived in the Austrian capital, Vienna.) After 1850 Czechs left for the new world in droves; over 1 million emigrated between 1850 and 1914. The Czechoslovak state established after World War I experienced far less emigration, but the rate of natural increase slowed also. In 1921 there were 10 million inhabitants. At the eve of the Second World War in 1939, the population stood at only 10.9 million. The war drastically reduced this figure. The new Czechoslovak government soon expelled those Sudeten Germans who didn’t flee when the Russians liberated the Czech lands in 1945. Altogether, more than 2 million moved out. In 1950 the Czech population stood at only 8.8 million. The population peaked at 10.4 million in 1994. Since 1994, however, the population has been decreasing (10.3 million in 1998), and is expected to fall to around 10 million by 2020.
Now most of the population, 95.1%, is ethnically Czech. Other groups include Slovak 3%, Polish 0.6%, German 0.5%, Romany Gypsies 0.3%, Hungarian 0.2%, and other 0.3%. In 1921, however, Germans made up 29% of the populace.
In 1900 the Austrian census showed most people were Catholic 95%; 3.2% of the population was Protestant; and Jews made up 1.5% percent. With greater religious freedom after the end of Austrian rule, the percentages changed again by 1930 when the religious distribution included 71.7% Roman Catholic, 12.1% Lutheran, 6.4% Greek Catholic, 4.3% Reformed, 0.2% Orthodox, and 5.3% others (including Jews). Forty-five years of official suppression under Communism caused a significant decline in religion. In 1995 a question concerning religious faith was again included in the census. Only 43.9% described themselves as “religious.” 39.9% described themselves as atheist, 16.2% identified no religion. Roman Catholicism was still the largest religion with 39%. Other religions include Evangelical Protestants with 2.5%, Czech Hussite 1.7%, and other 0.7%.
- The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Czech Republic,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1999.