Opava (German Troppau, Polish Opawa, Silesian Uopawa / Uopava,
Latin Opavia / Oppavia) is a statutory town in the Moravian-Silesian
Region. It is located in the Opava Uplands on the Opava River and
has a population of approximately 56,000. It was originally the
center of the Opava principality and in the years 1742 to 1928 the
capital of Austria, respectively. Czech Silesia with provincial
The Provincial Archive, the Silesian Museum, the Silesian Theater or the Silesian University are located here. The Bezručova Opava festival is held in the town every year.
The town of Opava belongs to the old residential
areas. The first witness settlements in archaeological finds date
back to the Early Stone Age. Almost every period of prehistory has
left its mark here. The last of them was a Slavic fortified
settlement in Kylešovice, whose inhabitants most probably belonged
to the Holasovice tribe, mentioned in the name of the nearby village
of Holasovice. The medieval settlement of Opava was probably
established in the 12th century in the form of a merchant
settlement, situated near the ford across the river Opava on the
trade route from Moravia to Poland. This road was part of the "Amber
Trail" connecting the Adriatic with the Baltic. The first written
report on the existence of Opava also comes from 1195, but it is
considered a forgery. The importance and position of the merchant
settlement was confirmed by the town's status, which it acquired
sometime around 1215. The decree of Přemysl Otakar I from 1224
speaks of Opava for the first time as a town.
The core of the settlement was concentrated at the crossroads of trade routes in the Horní náměstí area and spread along them to Mezi trhy Street and the western part of Dolní náměstí. The original fortifications of the town were probably formed only by a moat and earthen ramparts with a wooden palisade, later stone walls were built interrupted in three places by the city gates - Jaktařská, Ratibořská and Hradecká. In addition to the two squares already mentioned, there was also a market space at that time - the Cattle Market - on the site of today's Masarykova Street. In the area of Horní náměstí, in the place of the later Hláska, a merchant's house was built in 1327, the oldest shopping center of the town. There has been a mint in the town since the end of the 13th century, on the site of which a modern Hotel Koruna was built in the 1980s. Opava's Přemyslid on the Opava princely throne was replaced by the son of King George of Poděbrady, Viktorín of Poděbrady, who was later forced to give in to the claims of the son of the Hungarian King Matthias, Jan Korvín. After Matyáš's death, however, he did not survive either, and the Opava principality was subordinated directly to the Czech kings.
In the 16th century, Opava was severely affected by the Reformation and most of the population belonged to Protestants in the pre-White Mountain period. The people of Opava got into sharp conflicts, especially with the bishops of Olomouc. The protesting of the Opava principality to Charles of Liechtenstein by Emperor Matthias in 1613 also met with resistance from Protestants. A great disaster for Opava was caused by a fire in 1689. In 1625, the Jesuit order was called to Opava, and five years later a Jesuit grammar school was established there. The Jesuit dormitory in Sněmovní Street was rebuilt in the Baroque style in the years 1711–1723, after the abolition of the Jesuit order in 1773 it fell to the estates. A museum was established at the grammar school in 1814, the oldest in the Czech state. Since 1853, the building has served the Provincial Assembly, and is currently the seat of the Provincial Archive.
Even after the end of the Thirty Years' War, Opava remained the center of the principality, but the very importance of princely powers and thus the importance of the central city decreased with the advancing centralization tendencies of the Habsburg monarchy. The ethnic composition of the city gradually changed in favor of the German population, and in the 1920s the Czechs represented only about one-seventh of the population of Opava.
The defeat of Maria Theresa and the division of Silesia between Prussia and Austria brought Opava to the position of the center of Austrian Silesia. In addition to the authorities, a number of members of the Silesian nobility built their headquarters here. The importance of Opava in the 19th century was underlined by the so-called Opava Congress or the Congress of the so-called Holy Alliance in 1820, which brought together European rulers (Austrian Emperor Francis I, Russian Tsar Alexander I and King of Prussia Frederick William III). and diplomats.
In the field of industry, several mainly textile companies were established. A brewery was built in 1825, and in the middle of the 19th century two sugar factories were established in the Jaktařské suburb. A significant impetus for the development of industry was the opening of a railway connection within the Northern Ferdinand Railway in 1855. As the capital of Austrian Silesia, Opava was also an important administrative and self-governing center. The Silesian Provincial Assembly was located here, headed by the provincial governor and the provincial committee. The state administration for Silesia was performed here by the provincial president and the provincial government (governorate). The district court was also located here.
In 1883 a Czech grammar school was founded in Opava, in 1877 Matice opavská. Opavský besedník, then Opavský týdenník, from the German newspaper Troppauer Zeitung and others were published in the town. The political and ethnic situation escalated after the end of the First World War, when Opava became the capital of the Sudetenland province at the end of 1918. An attempt at revolt against the emerging Czechoslovak state ended with the occupation of the city by Czechoslovak military units without a fight on December 18, 1918.
Until November 30, 1928, Opava was the capital of Czechoslovak
Silesia. In connection with the creation of the land, the
Moravian-Silesian town ceased to be the seat of the provincial
authorities. The city was still significantly dominated by the
German population, subject to the Nazi ideology of Henlein's Sudeten
German Party, especially in the second half of the 1930s, which
overwhelmingly welcomed the annexation to Nazi Germany in 1938. The
local synagogue was burned down. Opava became the capital of one of
the three government districts in the occupied Sudetenland.
In World War II, the city was liberated from 22 to 24 April 1945, but with very heavy losses. It was destroyed by almost one third, not a single factory was operating. Most of the original inhabitants were displaced and the city changed not only its appearance but also its national character. Already in October 1945, the permanent professional Czech stage of the Silesian National Theater in Opava began its activities. In 1948, the Silesian Study Institute was established in Opava, today part of the Silesian Museum. In the years 1953–1959, there was a pedagogical school in the town, which was then transferred to Ostrava.
On Ostrožná Street, in a building built on the site of Petr Bezruč's birthplace, an exhibition on the poet's life and work was opened in 1956. Since 1958, the Bezručova Opava cultural festival has been held every September in honor of the poet. The House of Art has been operating in the reconstructed building of the former Dominican monastery since 1974, regularly organizing art exhibitions and other cultural events in its premises. Since 1990, Opava has again been a statutory city. In the same year, the Faculty of Arts of Masaryk University in Brno started its first school year here, and on this basis, on July 9, 1991, the Czech National Council approved the Act on the Establishment of the Silesian University based in Opava.