Food in Prague Beer in Prague Tours of Prague Travel to Prague  
  Greater Moravia  
Czech Republic Regions
Great Moravia in Europe
Map of Moravia

Great Moravia

Great Moravia (Greek: Μegale Moravia, Czech: Velká Morava, Slovak: Veľká Morava), the Great Moravian Empire, (historiographical terms – original formal name is unknown) or simply Moravia, was the first major state that was predominantly Slavonic to emerge in the area of Central Europe. Its core territories were located on the Morava river which gave its name to the kingdom. "Morava" in both Czech and Slovak refers to both the river and the land of Moravia - the medieval Margraviate of Moravia, which is now the eastern part of the Czech Republic. The river Morava flows south through the whole of Moravia, later forming the present-day border between the Czech Republic and Slovakia before finally becoming the border between Slovakia and Austria (where it is called the March in German).

Moravia Coat of ArmsThe kingdom saw the rise of the first ever Slavic literary culture in the Old Church Slavonic language. After the fall of Great Moravia, its core territory was gradually divided between the newly ascending Czech Kingdom (Bohemia) and Hungarian Kingdom: the frontier was originally settled on the Morava river (the Czech Kingdom to its west, and Hungary - present-day Slovakia - to its east). However, from the 12th century, the Czech kings managed to gain more and more of the region on the eastern bank - eventually gaining the whole stretch of the eastern territory from Uherské Hradiště down to Strážnice, and this region retained its non-Czech identity in its designation "Slovácko" as an alternative dialectal for "Slovakia". After this, the Czech-Hungarian border shifted east to the White Carpathians. The core region of Great Moravia along the Morava river, thus divided between the present-day Moravia and Slovakia, has retained a unique culture in the rich folklore tradition both on the western bank of the Morava (including the southern Záluží region) and the eastern bank - the Slovácko (in Moravia) and Záhorie (in Slovakia).

Záhorie also boasts the only surviving building from Great Moravian times - the chapel at Kopčany just across the Morava from the archaeological site of Mikulčice. The core of Great Moravia was established, according to legend, in the early 830s, when Prince Mojmír I ([moimi:r]) crossed the Morava and conquered the principality of Nitra (present-day western Slovakia). The former principality of Nitra was used as the údelné kniežatsvo, or the territory given to, and ruled by, the successor to the throne, traditionally the nephew (sister's son) of the ruling kъnendzь or Prince.

The extent and location of Great Moravia are a subject of debate. Rival theories place the center of it either south of the river Danube (the river Morava in Serbia) or on the Great Hungarian Plain. The exact date when the Moravian state was founded is also disputed, but it probably occurred in the early 830s under Prince Mojmír I, (r. 820s/830s–846), who is the first known ruler of the united Moravia. Mojmír and his successor, Rastislav ("Rostislav" in Czech), who ruled from 846 to 870, initially acknowledged the suzerainty of the Carolingian monarchs, but the Moravian fight for independence caused a series of armed conflicts with East Francia beginning in the 840s.

Moravia reached its largest territorial extent under Svätopluk I, (Svatopluk in Czech), who ruled from 870 to 894, and who was occasionally styled as king in contemporaneous sources. Although the borders of his empire cannot be exactly determined, he controlled the core territories of Moravia as well as other neighbouring regions, including Bohemia, most of Slovakia and parts of Slovenia, Hungary, Poland and Ukraine, for some periods of his reign. Separatism and internal conflicts emerging after Svätopluk's death contributed to the fall of Great Moravia, which was overrun by the Hungarians. The exact date of Moravia's collapse is unknown, but it occurred between 902 and 907.

Moravia experienced significant cultural development under Prince Rastislav, with the arrival in 863 of the mission of Saints Cyril and Methodius. Rastislav had asked the Byzantine emperor to send a "teacher" (učitelja) to introduce literacy and a legal system (pravьda) to Great Moravia. The brothers Cyril and Methodius introduced a system of writing (the Glagolitic alphabet) and Slavonic liturgy, the latter eventually formally approved by Pope Adrian II. The Glagolitic script was probably invented by Cyril himself and the language he used for his translations of holy scripts and his original literary creation was based on the Slavic dialect he and his brother Methodius knew from their native Thessaloniki. The language, termed Old Church Slavonic, was the direct ancestral language for Bulgarian, and therefore also referred to as Old Bulgarian. Old Church Slavonic, therefore, differed somewhat from the local Slavic dialect of Great Moravia which was the ancestral idiom to the later dialects spoken in Moravia and western Slovakia.

Later, the disciples of Cyril and Methodius were expelled from Great Moravia by King Svätopluk I. Arriving in the First Bulgarian Empire, the disciples continued the Cyrilo-Methodian mission and the Glagolitic script was superseded by Cyrillic. The Cyrillic script and translations of the liturgy were disseminated to other Slavic countries, particularly in the Balkans and Kievan Rus', charting a new path in these Slavic nations' cultural development.

The earliest possible reference to Slavic tribes living in the valley of the northern Morava river was made by the Byzantine historian, Procopius. He wrote of a group of Germanic Heruli who "passed through the territory of all of the Sclavenes" while moving towards Denmark in 512. Archaeological sites yielding hand-made ceramics and objects with close analogies in southern Poland and western Ukraine appeared at the confluence of the northern Morava River and the Middle Danube around 550.



Moravia (Czech: Morava; Latin: Moravia) is a historical country in the Czech Republic (forming its eastern part) and one of the historical Czech lands, together with Bohemia and Czech Silesia. The medieval and early modern Margraviate of Moravia was a crown land of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown (from 1348 to 1918), an imperial state of the Holy Roman Empire (1004 to 1806), later a crown land of the Austrian Empire (1804 to 1867) and briefly also one of 17 former crown lands of the Cisleithanian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1867 to 1918. During the early 20th century, Moravia was one of the five lands of Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1928; it was then merged with Czech Silesia, and eventually dissolved by abolition of the land system in 1949.

Moravian FlagMoravia has an area of over 22,348.87 km2 and about 3 million inhabitants, which is roughly 2/7 or 30% of the whole Czech Republic. The statistics from 1921 states, that the whole area of Moravia including the enclaves in Silesia covers 22,623.41 km2. The people are historically named Moravians, a subgroup of Czechs (as understood by Czechs). The land takes its name from the Morava river, which rises in the northern tip of the region and flows southward to the opposite end, being its major stream. Moravia's largest city and historical capital is Brno, however before being sacked by the Swedish army during the Thirty Years' War, Olomouc was another capital.

Though officially abolished by an administrative reform in 1949, Moravia is still commonly acknowledged as a specific land in the Czech Republic. Moravian people are considerably aware of their Moravian identity and there is some rivalry between them and the Czechs from Bohemia.

An area in South Moravia, around Hodonín and Břeclav, is part of the Viennese Basin. Petroleum and lignite are found there in abundance. The main economic centers of Moravia are Brno, Olomouc and Zlín, plus Ostrava lying directly on the Moravian-Silesian border. As well as agriculture in general, Moravia is noted for its viticulture; it contains 94% of the Czech Republic's vineyards and is at the center of the country's wine industry.


Regions of Moravia

  • Hanakia (Haná) in the central and northern part
  • Lachia (Lašsko) in the northeastern tip
  • Moravian Highlands (Horácko) in the west
  • Moravian Slovakia (Slovácko) in the southeast
  • Moravian Wallachia (Valašsko) in the east


Moravian Statutory Cities

  • Brno, ca 380,000 inhabitants, former land capital and nowadays capital of South Moravian Region; industrial, judicial, educational and research center; railway and motorway junction
  • Ostrava, ca 300,000 inh. (central part, Moravská Ostrava, lies historically in Moravia, most of the outskirts are in Czech Silesia), capital of Moravian-Silesian Region, center of heavy industry
  • Olomouc, ca 100,000 inh., capital of Olomouc Region, medieval land capital, seat of Roman Catholic archbishop, cultural center of Hanakia and Central Moravia
  • Zlín, ca 75,000 inh., capital of Zlín Region, modern city developed after First World War by the Bata Shoes company
  • Frýdek-Místek, nearly 60,000 inh., twin-town lying directly on the old Moravian-Silesian border (the western part, Místek, is Moravian), in the industrial area around Ostrava
  • Jihlava, ca 50,000 inh. (mostly in Moravia, northwestern periphery lies in Bohemia), capital of Vysočina Region, center of the Moravian Highlands
  • Přerov, ca 45,000 inh., important railway hub and archaeological site (Předmostí)


Moravian Cities

  • Prostějov (44,000 inh.), center of clothing and fashion industry
  • Třebíč (37,000), another center in the Highlands, with exceptionally preserved Jewish quarter
  • Znojmo (34,000), historical and cultural center of southwestern Moravia
  • Kroměříž (29,000), historical city in southern Hanakia
  • Valašské Meziříčí (28,000), largest city of the Moravian Wallachia
  • Nový Jičín (28,000), historical city with hatting industry
  • Šumperk (27,000), center of the north of Moravia, at the foot of Hrubý Jeseník
  • Vsetín (27,000), center of the Moravian Wallachia
  • Uherské Hradiště (25,000), cultural center of the Moravian Slovakia
  • Hodonín (25,000), another city in the Moravian Slovakia, the birthplace of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk
  • Břeclav (25,000), important railway hub in the very south of Moravia
  • Kopřivnice (24,000), center of automotive industry (Tatra), south from Ostrava
  • Vyškov (21,000), local center at a motorway junction halfway between Brno and Olomouc
  • Blansko (21,000), industrial city north from Brno, at the foot of the Moravian Karst


Famous Moravians

  • Mojmir I of Moravia (820BC–846BC), first known ruler
  • King Rastislav of Moravia, second known ruler of Moravia (846BC–870BC)
  • King Svatopluk I of Moravia, (840BC–894BC, reigned 870BC–894BC) "Slovak King"
  • Mojmir II of Moravia (871BC–901BC), last known ruler (894)
  • Svatopluk II (884–906), Moravian prince of Nitra (894–899)
  • John Sobieslaw of Moravia (1352–1394), Patriarch of Aquilea
  • František Palacký (1798–1876), historian & politician, "The Father of the Czech nation"
  • Gregor Mendel (1822–1884), father of genetics
  • Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (1850–1937), philosopher and politician, first president of Czechoslovakia
  • Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), father of psychoanalysis
  • Alfons Mucha (1860–1939), founder of freemasons in Prague, epic painter
  • Tomáš Baťa (1876–1932), entrepreneur, founder of Bata Shoes company
  • Ludvík Svoboda (1895–1979), general of I Czechoslovak Army Corps, 7th president of Czechoslovakia
  • Klement Gottwald (1896–1953), first communist Czechoslovak president
  • František Tomášek (1899–1992), Archbishop of Prague
  • Jan Kubiš (1913–1942), paratrooper who assassinated Nazi despot R. Heydrich
  • Otto Wichterle (1913–1998), chemist, inventor of contact lenses
  • Thomas J. Bata (1914–2008), entrepreneur, son of Tomáš Baťa and former head of the Bata shoe company
  • Ivana Trump (1949–), fashion model, first wife of U.S. president Donald Trump
  • Dagmar Havlová (1953-), actress and former First Lady of the Czech Republic (1997–2003)
  • Bohuslav Sobotka (1971–), Czech Prime Minister since 2014


Ancient History of Moravia

Attracted by suitable living conditions, early modern humans settled in the region by the Paleolithic period. The Předmostí archeological (Cro-magnon) site in Moravia is dated to between 24,000 and 27,000 years old. Caves in Moravský kras were used by mammoth hunters. Venus of Dolní Věstonice, the oldest ceramic figure in the world, was found in the excavation of Dolní Věstonice by Karel Absolon.


Roman Era

Around 60 BC, the Celtic Volcae people withdrew from the region and were succeeded by the Germanic Quadi. Some of the events of the Marcomannic Wars took place in Moravia in AD 169–180. After the war exposed the weakness of Rome's northern frontier, half of the Roman legions (16 out of 33) were stationed along the Danube. In response to increasing numbers of Germanic settlers in frontier regions like Pannonia, Dacia, Rome established two new frontier provinces on the left shore of the Danube, Marcomannia and Sarmatia, including today's Moravia and western Slovakia.

In the 2nd century AD, a Roman fortress stood on the vineyards hill known as German: Burgstall and Czech: Hradisko ("hillfort"), situated above the former village Mušov and above today's beach resort at Pasohlávky. During the reign of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the 10th Legion was assigned to control the Germanic tribes who had been defeated in the Marcomannic Wars. In 1927, the archeologist Gnirs, with the support of president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, began research on the site, located 80 km from Vindobona and 22 km to the south of Brno. The researchers found remnants of two masonry buildings, a praetorium and a balneum ("bath"), including a hypocaustum. The discovery of bricks with the stamp of the Legio X Gemina and coins from the period of the emperors Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius and Commodus facilitated dating of the locality.


Ancient Moravia

A variety of Germanic and major Slavic tribes crossed through Moravia during the Migration Period before Slavs established themselves in the 6th century AD. At the end of the 8th century, the Moravian Principality came into being in present-day south-eastern Moravia, Záhorie in south-western Slovakia and parts of Lower Austria. In 833 AD, this became the state of Great Moravia with the conquest of the Principality of Nitra (present-day Slovakia). Their first king was Mojmír I (ruled 830–846).

Louis the German invaded Moravia and replaced Mojmír I with his nephew Rastiz who became St. Rastislav. St. Rastislav (846–870) tried to emancipate his land from the Carolingian influence, so he sent envoys to Rome to get missionaries to come. When Rome refused he turned to Constantinople to the Byzantine emperor Michael. The result was the mission of Saints Cyril and Methodius who translated liturgical books into Slavonic, which had lately been elevated by the Pope to the same level as Latin and Greek.

Methodius became the first Moravian archbishop, but after his death the German influence again prevailed and the disciples of Methodius were forced to flee. Great Moravia reached its greatest territorial extent in the 890s under Svatopluk I. At this time, the empire encompassed the territory of the present-day Czech Republic and Slovakia, the western part of present Hungary (Pannonia), as well as Lusatia in present-day Germany and Silesia and the upper Vistula basin in southern Poland. After Svatopluk's death in 895, the Bohemian princes defected to become vassals of the East Frankish ruler Arnulf of Carinthia, and the Moravian state ceased to exist after being overrun by invading Magyars in 907.


Kingdom of Bohemia

Following the defeat of the Magyars by Emperor Otto I at the Battle of Lechfeld in 955, Otto's ally Boleslaus I, the Přemyslid ruler of Bohemia, took control over Moravia. Bolesław I Chrobry of Poland annexed Moravia in 999, and ruled it until 1019, when the Přemyslid prince Bretislaus recaptured it. Upon his father's death in 1034, Bretislaus became the ruler of Bohemia. In 1055, he decreed that Bohemia and Moravia would be inherited together by primogeniture, although he also provided that his younger sons should govern parts (quarters) of Moravia as vassals to his oldest son.

Throughout the Přemyslid era, junior princes often ruled all or part of Moravia from Olomouc, Brno or Znojmo, with varying degrees of autonomy from the ruler of Bohemia. Dukes of Olomouc often acted as the "right hand" of Prague dukes and kings, while Dukes of Brno and especially those of Znojmo were much more insubordinate. Moravia reached its height of autonomy in 1182, when Emperor Frederick I elevated Conrad II Otto of Znojmo to the status of a margrave, immediately subject to the emperor, independent of Bohemia. This status was short-lived: in 1186, Conrad Otto was forced to obey the supreme rule of Bohemian duke Frederick. Three years later, Conrad Otto succeeded to Frederick as Duke of Bohemia and subsequently canceled his margrave title. Nevertheless, the margrave title was restored in 1197 when Vladislaus III of Bohemia resolved the succession dispute between him and his brother Ottokar by abdicating from the Bohemian throne and accepting Moravia as a vassal land of Bohemian (i.e., Prague) rulers. Vladislaus gradually established this land as Margraviate, slightly administratively different from Bohemia. After the Battle of Legnica, the Mongols carried their raids into Moravia.

The main line of the Přemyslid dynasty became extinct in 1306, and in 1310 John of Luxembourg became Margrave of Moravia and King of Bohemia. In 1333, he made his son Charles the next Margrave of Moravia (later in 1346, Charles also became the King of Bohemia). In 1349, Charles gave Moravia to his younger brother John Henry who ruled in the margraviate until his death in 1375, after him Moravia was ruled by his oldest son Jobst of Moravia who was in 1410 elected the Holy Roman King but died in 1411 (he is buried with his father in the Church of St. Thomas in Brno – the Moravian capital from which they both ruled). Moravia and Bohemia remained within the Luxembourg dynasty of Holy Roman kings and emperors (except during the Hussite wars), until inherited by Albert II of Habsburg in 1437.

After his death followed the interregnum until 1453; land (as the rest of lands of the Bohemian Crown) was administered by the landfriedens (landfrýdy). The rule of young Ladislaus the Posthumous subsisted only less than five years and subsequently (1458) the Hussite George of Poděbrady was elected as the king. He again reunited all Czech lands (then Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Upper & Lower Lusatia) into one-man ruled state. In 1466, Pope Paul II excommunicated George and forbade all Catholics (i.e. about 15% of population) from continuing to serve him. The Hungarian crusade followed and in 1469 Matthias Corvinus conquered Moravia and proclaimed himself (with assistance of rebelling Bohemian nobility) as the king of Bohemia.

The subsequent 21-year period of a divided kingdom was decisive for the rising awareness of a specific Moravian identity, distinct from that of Bohemia. Although Moravia was reunited with Bohemia in 1490 when Vladislaus Jagiellon, king of Bohemia, also became king of Hungary, some attachment to Moravian "freedoms" and resistance to government by Prague continued until the end of independence in 1620. In 1526, Vladislaus' son Louis died in battle and the Habsburg Ferdinand I was elected as his successor.


Habsburg Rule (1526–1918)

The epoch 1526–1620 was marked by increasing animosity between Catholic Habsburg kings (emperors) and the Protestant Moravian nobility (and other Crowns') estates. Moravia, like Bohemia, was a Habsburg possession until the end of World War I. In 1573 the Jesuit University of Olomouc was established; this was the first university in Moravia. The establishment of a special papal seminary, Collegium Nordicum, made the University a center of the Catholic Reformation and effort to revive Catholicism in Central and Northern Europe. The second largest group of students were from Scandinavia.

Brno and Olomouc served as Moravia's capitals until 1641. As the only city to successfully resist the Swedish invasion, Brno become the sole capital following the capture of Olomouc. The Margraviate of Moravia had, from 1348 in Olomouc and Brno, its own Diet, or parliament, zemský sněm (Landtag in German), whose deputies from 1905 onward were elected separately from the ethnically separate German and Czech constituencies.

The oldest surviving theater building in Central Europe, the Reduta Theater, was established in 17th-century Moravia. Ottoman Turks and Tatars invaded the region in 1663, taking 12,000 captives. In 1740, Moravia was invaded by Prussian forces under Frederick the Great, and Olomouc was forced to surrender on 27 December 1741. A few months later the Prussians were repelled, mainly because of their unsuccessful siege of Brno in 1742. In 1758, Olomouc was besieged by Prussians again, but this time its defenders forced the Prussians to withdraw following the Battle of Domstadtl. In 1777, a new Moravian bishopric was established in Brno, and the Olomouc bishopric was elevated to an archbishopric. In 1782, the Margaviate of Moravia was merged with Austrian Silesia into Moravia-Silesia, with Brno as its capital. This lasted until 1850.


Czechoslovakia & Moravian-Silesian Land

Following the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, Moravia became part of Czechoslovakia. As one of the five lands of Czechoslovakia, it had restricted autonomy. In 1928 Moravia ceased to exist as a territorial unity and was merged with Czech Silesia into the Moravian-Silesian Land (yet with the natural dominance of Moravia). By the Munich Agreement (1938) were southwestern and northern peripheries of Moravia annexed by Nazi Germany, and during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia (1939–1945), the remnant of Moravia was an administrative unit within the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.

In 1945 after the end of World War II and Allied defeat of Germany, Czechoslovakia expelled the ethnic German minority of Moravia to Germany and Austria. The Moravian-Silesian Land was restored with Moravia as part of it. In 1949 the territorial division of Czechoslovakia was radically changed, as the Moravian-Silesian Land was abolished and Lands were replaced by "kraje" (regions), whose borders substantially differ from the historical Bohemian-Moravian border, so Moravia politically ceased to exist after more than 1100 years (833–1949) of its history. Although another administrative reform in 1960 implemented (among others) the North Moravian and the South Moravian regions (Severomoravský and Jihomoravský kraj), with capitals in Ostrava and Brno respectively, their joint area was only roughly alike the historical state and, chiefly, there was no land or federal autonomy, unlike Slovakia.

After the fall of the Soviet Union and the whole Eastern Block, the Czechoslovak Federal Assembly condemned the cancellation of Moravian-Silesian land and expressed "firm conviction that this injustice will be corrected" in 1990. However, after the breakup of Czechoslovakia into Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, Moravian area remained integral to the Czech territory, and the latest administrative division of Czech Republic (introduced in 2000) is similar to the administrative division of 1949. Nevertheless, the federalist or separatist movement in Moravia is completely marginal.

The centuries-lasting historical Bohemian-Moravian border has been preserved up to now only by the Czech Roman Catholic Administration, as the Ecclesiastical Province of Moravia corresponds with the former Moravian-Silesian Land. The popular perception of the Bohemian-Moravian border's location is distorted by the memory of the 1960 regions (whose boundaries are still partly in use).


Americans in Prague on Google Plus Americans in Prague on FaceBook Americans in Prague on Twitter Americans in Prague on Pinterest Watch Americans in Prague Videos on YouTube Americans in Prague Blog Blog with RSS Feed