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The majority of Czechs (39.2 percent) are Roman Catholic, with a smaller number (4.1 percent) adhering to Protestant denominations. The capital city, Prague, preserves one of the oldest and richest architectural traditions in Europe, with many buildings, such as the Romanesque Church of St. Masaryk, consists of a blue triangle on a rectilinear background of white and red.The Czechs are a Slavic people, closely related to the Slovaks in speech and custom, but with a distinct history and national identity.

But after occupation by the invading forces of Adolph Hitler in 1939, the republic never completely regained autonomy.In the aftermath of World War II, the Soviet Union began to tighten its control over central Europe, and in February 1948 it staged a governmental crisis in Czechoslovakia that solidified Communist control over the Czech government.A trend toward democratic liberalization in the 1960s culminated in the events of the Prague Spring in 1968, when a cultural revolution headed by the reformer Alexander Dubček was suppressed by the military intervention of the Soviet Union.This year also saw the arrival of Vojta Naprstek, a radical free thinker and a vocal opponent of the Austrian government who, as part of a general amnesty extended to political refugees, returned in 1857 to his native land where he opened an American museum to acquaint European Czechs with America.By the late 1850s there were an estimated 10,000 Czechs living in the United States.By the turn of the century, a widening gap between the first and second generations was already in evidence.

In 1900 there were 199,939 American-born Czechs as opposed to 156,640 Czechs who had been born in Europe.

Under the leadership of Masaryk, Edvard Beneš (1884-1948), and Milan Rastislav Štefanik, they were able to persuade the Allied governments to dissolve the Habsburg Empire.

With the surrender of Austria on October 28, 1918, a revolutionary committee in Prague declared the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic.

Chicago, tied to the West by rail and more readily accessible to the immigrants, became the most populous Czech settlement.

By 1870, other cities with Czech concentrations included St. At the turn of the century, Czech immigrants were more likely to make the journey to the United States with their families. Moreover, it was not uncommon in large families for the head of the household to make more than one trip to the United States, bringing along one or more children each time.

Divided between the followers of Hus—the Hussites—and the Catholics, the country was attacked by crusaders and plunged into turmoil.

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