Ostrava, Czech Republic
Ostrava is the third largest city of the Czech Republic, close to the meeting point of the Czech, Slovakian and Polish borders. On the Ostravice River, it is a major industrial and mining centre.
There was a Slavic settlement in the area surrounding Ostrava from the eighth century. In 1267 Bishop Bruno of Olomouc established Ostrava as a fortified town. It fell briefly under Hussite occupation in 1428. A fire devastated the town centre in the mid-sixteenth century. During the 30 Years War Ostrava was twice occupied by Swedish forces (1621 and 1622) and once by Danish forces (1626). The coal reserves of the nearby Silesian coalfield were discovered in the 1760s.
The Rudolf Foundry, which later became the Vitkovice Ironworks, was established by the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1828. As part of Czechoslovakia in the inter-war period Ostrava suffered an economic downturn. It fell under Nazi rule during World War II and Hermann Göring established one of the Third Reich’s largest munitions factories in the area. Liberated in April 1945, as part of communist Czechoslovakia the city’s population expanded. Under Klement Gottwald the munitions factory was replaced by the Nova Hut (New Forge) steelworks, employing over 30,000 people.
Among the city’s most important industries are mining, metalwork, chemicals and vehicle manufacturing. Following the collapse of the communist regime in 1989, the coal industry went into serious decline. Banking and tertiary industries are making an impact. In 1997 the city was hit by major flooding in the Moravian region.
There is an international airport and the city is a road and rail hub. Public transport includes trams, buses and trolleybuses.
Places of Interest
Leading attractions include an observatory and planetarium, a geological pavilion, the Ostravar brewery, a zoo and the New City Hall viewing tower. St Wencelas Church dates from the thirteenth century and the Old Town Hall houses the city museum. The castle, from the thirteenth century, has been empty since the 1930s and is in bad repair. Restoration will be difficult as it sits on a hill which has sunk 15 metres owing to mine shaft subsidence.