Městys (or, unofficially or obsolete, městečko) is a status conferred on certain municipalities in the Czech Republic, lying in terms of size and importance higher than that of obec (village municipality, commune), but lower than that of město (city, town). Sometimes, "město" is translated as "city" (although some of them are relatively small towns) and "městys" is translated as "town" or "market town".
Historically a městys was a locality which had the right to stage livestock markets (and some other "extraordinary" and annual markets), and it is therefore often translated as "market town". The term went out of official use in Czechoslovakia in 1954, but was reintroduced in the Czech Republic in 2006. As of 2009, there are 192 localities on which the status of městys has been conferred.
The development of the městečka began in the 14th century, decreed by the reigning monarch primarily on the land of the nobility and church. From the 16th century on, it became possible for settlements with significant springs to get the title městys. The village then became entitled to call itself "městec", resulting in such place names as Městec Králové and Heřmanův Městec.
The typical městečko was very small, and a large number were created during the 14th century. Eduard Maur estimated that the average distance between two městečka was 5–20 km.
After the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918, the status was conferred by the Ministerial Council on the basis of a detailed application from the village. According to the "Statistický lexikon obcí v Republice československé" (Statistical lexicon of villages in Czechoslovakia), there were 503 městys in Czechoslovakia in 1930.
After the coup d'état of February 1948, the Communist ruling authorities ceased using the term by around 1950.
After the Velvet Revolution of 1989, there was intense lobbying for the revival of the městys status from the representatives of villages which had previously held the title. On 27 January 2006 their efforts succeeded; the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic approved an amendment to the Municipalities Act (Establishment of Municipalities) , which amongst other matters restored the title of městys. The amendment was approved by the Senate of the Czech Republic on 29 March, was signed by the president on 11 May and came into force on 1 July 2006.
Municipalities that had the right to carry the title of městys prior to 17 May 1954 are to inform the chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, so that the restoration of the status can be arranged.
On 10 October 2006, the chairman of the Chamber of Deputies announced the first 108 municipalities which can continue to use the title.
Many other countries in Europe have similar designations, for example:
Městyse also existed on the territory of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and before Communism these municipalities often used the terms:
A very approximate equivalent to this title in the former USSR was the "urban-type settlement" (Russian: посёлок городского типа, Ukrainian: селище міського типу, Belarusian: пасёлак гарадскога тыпу). The criteria for awarding this title differed greatly between members of the federation, and still do in Russia to this day. This category also existed in Poland between 1954 and 1972 (Polish: osiedle typu miejskiego).
More information on the restoration of the městys designation from Union of Towns and Municipalities of the Czech Republic (Svaz měst a obcí ČR):