Český Těšín is a town in the Karviná District in the Moravian-Silesian Region of the Czech Republic. It has about 24,000 inhabitants. The town is commonly known in the region as just Těšín (Polish: Cieszyn).
Český Těšín lies on the west bank of the Olza river, in the heart of the historical region of Cieszyn Silesia. Until the 1920 division of the region between Poland and Czechoslovakia it was just a western suburb of the town of Teschen, which after the division fell to Poland as Cieszyn.
As of 2011, the Poles make up 13.7% of the town’s population, although the number of people with Polish heritage is considerably higher. The town is an important cultural and educational center of the Polish minority in Zaolzie. The number of Poles is however decreasing as a result of continuing assimilation. Although a border town, there is no longer any real ethnic tension between Czechs and Poles. Alongside several Czech primary schools and one gymnasium the town has both a Polish primary school and a gymnasium. Těšín Theatre has Czech and Polish ensembles, where plays are presented in both the Czech and Polish languages. Together with ensembles in Vilnius and Lviv it is one of the few theatres outside Poland which has a professional Polish ensemble.
The town is a centre of commerce, including the paper industry.
Places of worship
The diversity of the town is not only ethnic, but also religious. Many Christian denominations are present in the town. In the past a large Jewish community lived there. According to the 2011 census there are 9,552 believers in the town (39.2% of the population), out of whom 4,028 (42.2%) are Roman Catholics, 518 (5.4%) Czech Brethren, 161 (1.7%) Jehova’s Witnesses and 4,810 others, mainly Lutherans.
The oldest sacral building in the town is the Empire style chapel from 1848, located near the cemetery. The Neo-Gothic Catholic Sacred Heart of Jesus Church was built in 1894 by Viennese architect Ludwig Satzky. After the division of the town of Teschen in 1920, there were no Lutheran churches in Český Těšín. In 1927 the local German population built a Lutheran church in the town, and in 1932 the second Lutheran church was built. The church of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren was constructed in 1929. There is also a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, prayer house of the Apostolic Church and several other prayer houses in the town.
There were four synagogues or Jewish prayer houses in Český Těšín before World War II. The oldest one had existed since the beginning of the 20th century. It was run by the Schomre Schabos (Guardians of Shabbat) society. In 1928–1929 the society built a new synagogue on Breitegasse Street. It is to date the only synagogue in the town which still stands. Nazis did not destroy it due to its proximity to other residential buildings. In 1967 the building was bought by the Polish Cultural and Educational Union (PZKO). The Maschike Hatora (Upholding the Law) Orthodox society built its own prayer house on the Felix Dahn Street shortly after the Schomre Schabos synagogue began operating. In 1931–1933 a prayer house was built on the Friedrich Schiller Street but was burned down when Nazis entered the town on 1 September 1939.