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The city of Prague is the largest city in the Czech Republic, its limits encompassing some 192 square miles, and it serves as both the national capital and the capital of the Středočeský region. It is situated on both sides of the Vltava River at the intersection of ancient trade routes across Europe. There is a history of human settlement in the area from Paleolithic, Neolithic, and Celtic periods. The site of Prague itself was settled by the second half of the ninth century CE. A ruling family, the Premyslids, established itself in the region later called Bohemia with Prague as its capital. From 800 to 1306 trade flourished under the protection of the Premyslids and the city grew and prospered, becoming the nucleus for the Bohemian kingdom. It was a brilliant medieval center, with a university founded in 1348 that drew scholars from all over Europe. The city grew to cover both banks of the Vltava River. Prague was the scene of Hussite rebellions in the early 15th century, ultimately put down with much violence by the Hapsburg emperors of Austria who became rulers of Bohemia. The religious strife plus two outbursts of plague sent the city into decline in the 17th century, but it revived with great economic growth in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1918, Prague became the capital of the newly founded nation of Czechoslovakia. Following the end of World War II, restoration of the older sectors and buildings of the city began to take place. In 1968, a growing liberalism within the communist state was crushed by Soviet military occupation. In 1989, rebellion against the communist government was centered in Prague, and with the establishment of the Czech Republic in 1993, it was named the capital. Prague is one of the world's richest centers of culture, its Old Town being declared a World Heritage site in 191992. In the year 200, it was named a European City of Culture. It is famed for its astounding architecture, with churches and civic buildings from the Medieval, Baroque, and Classical periods. Its many churches give it the nickname of the "city of spires." Economically it serves as a center of trade and industry. The 2003 estimated population was 1,169,800.
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