Obviously, thirteen year old me was frightfully mistaken. Defenestration is a real word; Prague is not in Russia; and the Defenestration of Prague of 1618 played a pivotal role in modern European history. Throwing opponents out of windows is a peculiarly Czech solution to intractable political debates and, though the most significant from a historical standpoint, the Defenestration of 1618 was only one of three such events in Bohemian history.
Before understanding the defenestrations, readers should know that the Czechs have a long tradition of questioning authority and combating oppression, specifically when that oppression came via religious persecution. Prague itself was one of the first places to question the growing decadence of the medieval Catholic Church.
The fiery and passionate preacher Jan Hus decried the opulence of the church during his time. Hus would eventually be tied to a stake and set ablaze for the troubles he created. His teachings and grisly demise ignited the Hussite Wars, a proto-Protestant movement that lasted for several decades and left Bohemia a devastated, backwards province, removed from power, and without any capacity for self-government. The Hussite Wars were set off with the First Defenestration of Prague in 1419, when town council members were thrown to their death from the New Town Hall.
The story of the Czech people’s struggle is often tragic. Surrounded by powerful neighbors, placed in the middle of the most historically mercurial continent on earth, the Czechs have sought for centuries to assert their national character on their own lands. The Czechs seem to have been the victims of every historical villain of the past 500 years, whether this villainy came in the form of corrupt priests, power-hungry Austrians, Lebensraum-seeking Nazis, or the Warsaw Pact. Troubled past aside, my experiences with the Czechs have been absolutely peaceful and pleasant, although I have made it a point to avoid standing near windows.