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Bohemia and Moravia

The Bohemian Basin had been a melting pot for various ethnic groups since time immemorial: Celts, Germans and Slavs had all settled there. In the Middle Ages, its Czech rulers, the Přemyslid dynasty, invited Germans to come and live in Bohemia and Moravia. The newcomers were guaranteed certain rights and independence in matters of language and culture. In 1176, Duke Sobeslav II of Bohemia issued the famous charter of freedom for the German inhabitants of Prague. The influx of German settlers to the lands of Bohemia during the Middle Ages peaked in the 13th century under King Přemysl Otakar II.

The cultural significance of ethnic Germans for Bohemia, Moravia and the Sudeten part of Silesia – historical regions that now make up the Czech Republic – cannot be adequately conveyed within the space available here. Not only was their number greater than the total of all the other regions looked at here, but they also made up a greater percentage of the population. The census of 1910 registered around 3.25 million Germans living in these regions – equivalent to almost one third of their total population. At the peripheries of Bohemia and Moravia where they adjoined German-speaking countries, that is to say, along the borders with Bavaria, Saxony, Silesia, and Austria, the areas inhabited by Germans were basically continuous. Here they made up over 90% of the population. Apart from these, there were German-speaking enclaves in the majority Czech interior of the country, such as Schönhengstgau and the area around Iglau. The percentage of Germans in Prague varied over the course of history, dwindling considerably in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1945, some 42,000 Germans native to Prague still lived in the city. Brünn (Brno), the capital of Moravia, also had an economically and culturally significant German minority population until 1945. The use of the term 'Sudeten Germans' to refer to all of these people dates from the late 19th century.