Ales Broz.

Three years of the Czechoslovak republic, a survey of its progress and achievements online

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There can be no doubt that certain mistakes have been made, espe-
cially as regards the administration of Slovakia. Such mistakes, however,
were bound to occur in view of the fact that the country had to be
built up from nothing. Moreover, the whole of the system of administra-
tion, of justice, of food supplies, was different in Slovakia from that in
tlie Czech regions. Owing to the lack of competent officials among the
Slovaks, it was necessary to supply Slovakia with Czechs who were
thoroughly efficient in their home duties, but who were bewildered when
faced by administrative conditions entirely strange to them. Hence arose
some dissatisfaction among the Slovaks. However, the agitation which
has been carried against the Czechs in Slovakia is due mainly to unjust
generalisations which have been drawn from isolated instances. It is, of
course, true that some of the Czech officials were responsible for various
blunders. The Czechs are mostly trained in a scientific direction, while
the tendency of the Slovaks is a strongly religious one. The people in
Slovakia are inclined to be devout in character, while the Czechs, owing
to their Hussite traditions, are to a great extent freethinkers. This distinc-
tion, however, was not sufficiently recognised.

On the present l.-rritory of Slovakia there are about half a million


Magj'cir.s, while the Magyar State still contains about ^oO.OOO Slovaks.
An exact separation upon racial principles was not possible because, for
the purposes of Magyarisation, the former Magyar State formed settle-
ments of Magyars in the middle of non-Magyar regions. It was in this
way that the Magyars have encroached upon the geographical territory
of the Slovaks in the course of the last two lunidred years.

Among the Magyar intellectuals in Slovakia there is certainly a
desire to return to the Magyar regime. This desire is just as natural as
the desire of the Slovaks in Hungary to come under the jurisdiction of
Slovakia. It will perhaps be possible to eliminate these anomalies by
means of mutual colonisation. Territorial changes, and considerable chan-
ges in the frontiers are hardly possible, since the present frontiers are
possibly the only ones which are rational from a geographical point
of view.

Slovakia, though much neglected by the Magyars, is a country with
a very promising future. North Slovakia possess State-owned forests,
the value of which is enormous. The country also contains a large number
of spas and some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. When
sufficient railway communication has been established Slovakia may be-
come a second Switzerland. She has abaundant supplies of ores, and her
connection with the industrial district of Ostrava-Karvin, and the electri-
fication by water-power will transform the country into one of the most
industrial lands in Europe. Slovakia has not only the high Tatra moun-
tains and the lovely Carpathians, but in the south she owns extensive
plains with extremely rich soil, and this district is a real granary of the
Czechoslovak Republic.

The whole of Slovakia will for a long time to come be in a state
of transformation. Under the Magyar regime there were hardly any
public inscriptions in the Slovak language; all were in Magyar. To-day
the reverse is the case. In most of the Slovak towns, where under the
Mag\^ar regime one heard hardly a word of Slovak spoken in public,
very little Magyar is now heard. The Slovaks have now their own public
buildings, schools, courts, town halls, museums, etc. Of course, there is
still much to be done, but the progress Slovakia has made during the
last three years justifies the most optimistic hopes for the future.


1 he most eastern part of the Czechoslovak Republic constitutes
a region which is called Carpathian Ruthenia. Up to the end of the war
this region was under the Magyar Government, but by the Peace Trea-
ties of St. Germain, and as the result of a free decision on the part


of its inhabitants, it was united with the Czechoslovak Republic. Car-
pathian Ruthenia contains ever half a million inhabitants, of which
two-thirds are Ruthenians, and the rest are Magyars and Jews. The
number of Magyars who have been left upon the territories of Slovakia
and Carpathian Ruthenia, amounts to about 20 per cent. In fixing the
frontiers it was impossible to adhere to ethnographical factors only, as
economic and strategic conditions also had to be considered. For this
reason the Danube was taken as the frontier of southern Slovakia from
Bratislava past Komarno as far as Ostrihom, and upon similar principles
the river Tisza was taken as a basis for the southern frontier of Car-
pathian Ruthenia.

Already during the war the Ruthenian leaders had begun to consider
the question of their future political allegiance. The Ruthenians living
in America, declared themselves in favour of union with the Czecho-
slovak State, and this attitude was also adopted by the Ruthenians at
home. The Peace Conference at Paris approved of their decision, so that
Carpathian Ruthenia forms an autonomous part of the Czechoslovak
Republic. The Czechoslovaks accepted this resolution, for under the
prevailing conditions there was no other alternative. Any attempt to
leave the territory in the hands of the Magyars would have met with
violent opposition from all the Ruthenians, while to unite it with the
Ukraine, either independently or within the confines of a future fede-
rative Russia, would have meant exposing the country to further chaos
and upheaval. Thus, this solution had the additional advantage of pro-
viding the Czechoslovak State with no small share in the consolidation
of Central Europe,

This task involved many difficulties, for it was not merely a question
of administrative and economic reconstruction, but it included also the
necessity for uplifting a nation which, though possessing great abilities,
had become materially and morally impoverished. The status of Carpa-
thian Ruthenia was adjusted by the legislative constitution of the Czecho-
slovak Republic in accordancs with the terms of the Peace Treaties
By virtue of the treaties, Carpathian Ruthenia possesses the maximum
of autonomy compatible with the unity of the Czechoslovak Republic.
It is to have a special Diet vested with jurisdiction over linguistic, eccle-
siastical, educational and other matters which are referred to it by the
Czechoslovak parliament. At the head of the State is a Governor ap-
pointed by the President of the Czechoslovak Republic who is assisted
in his duties by a Vice-Governor and a number of commissioners, each
of whom is in charge of a special department. In legislative affairs they
have a Council comprising sixteen members, four of whom are nomi-
nated, the remainder being elected by the municipalities.

Czechoslovakia's endeavours to transform Carpathian Ruthenia into


a region capable of its own administration met with a number of serious
obstacles as the Magyar Government had left the country in a state of
intellectual and economic bankruptcy. Owing to the Magyarisation of
all the Ruthenian schools, a process which had begun shortly after the
introduction of Austro-Hungarian dualism in 1867, there was a very
large percentage of illiterates. In 1871 Carpathian Ruthenia still possessed
353 schools in which Ruthenian was the language of instruction, but
this number rapidly grew less, so that in 1914, the Ruthenians did not
have a single Government school of their own. Ruthenian children were
obliged to attend Magyar schools, supported by the State. The Ruthenians
themselves possessed only eighteen schools which they maintained from
their own private resources. Careful and unremitting action was neces-
sary to remedy this low educational standard. In spite of the fact that
there was a critical shortage of teachers, considerable success has al-
ready been achieved with the help of Czech teachers. During the two
years of its administration in Carpathian Ruthenia, the Czechoslovak
Government has established and maintained 10 secondary schools, 1 mu-
nicipal commercial school and 447 elementary schools. The number of
schools provided for the Magyar minority corresponds to the proportion
of Magyar inhabitants. In addition to the above, three higher secondary
schools and three training colleges for teachers have been established
and maintained.

The former lack of education involved also economic backwardness
and poverty of the country. It was accompanied by alcoholism, and it
represented the most serious obstacle to any progress. Under these
conditions the task of the Czechoslovak Republic was extremely difficult.
It was necessary to replace some of the corrupt Magyar officials by
honest and reliable authorities, and this could be accomplished only by
a gradual process, and with the co-operation of Czechoslovak intellec-
tuals. Only by a good administrative system was it possible to imbue
the people with respect for the laws and their fellow-citizens. Thus the
administration is at the same time the source of incisive economic and
social reforms, without which the country would be doomed to continual

Carpathian Ruthenia is an agricultural country possessing only very
inconsiderable industries. As however this agriculture is carried on only
in a primitive fashion, and consists mainly in the care of cattle on the
mountain pastures, its produce is inadequate for the support of the po-
pulation. Under the Magyar regime no attempt was made to improve
the standard of agriculture. On the contrary, the greater part of the
landed property was kept under the ownership of groat landed propri-
etors. As the peasants were unacquainted with any scientific system of
management, they also fell into debt, and the resulting economic chaos


led to their wholesale emigration. In order to cope with these difficul-
ties, the Czechoslovak Government has entered upon a scheme for the
gradual distribution of land. The forests, which are tlie source of great
natural wealth to Carpathian Ruthenia, are also being administered on
a large scale. In this way, an increasing number of people will be sup-
plied with a means of livelihood, while at the same time it will be pos-
sible to achieve a systematic development of the timber trade, and apply
the forest resources to the extension of industries. The new administra-
tion is also endeavouring to effect an immediate increase in the agri-
cultural yield by improving the methods of cultivation. This will help
to free the peasantry from debt, and to make the country self-supporting.
It will be even possible to develop an export trade which is already
being carried on with fruit, wine and potatoes, of which there is a surplus.
An important task which will be carried out in the future consists of
employing the natural resources of the Carpathians, and the water-power
for the purposes of electrification and industries. In many localities there
have already been founded small technical schools which will become
the centres for developing the future industries of Carpathian Ruthenia.
The struggle against social misery, alcoholism and tuberculosis is being
carried on by the Government and various philanthropic societies with
gratifying results.

Thus, Carpathian Ruthenia, which was hitherto unknown to the
world as a separate country, has entered the ranks of free nations, and
is rapidly developing towards the stage when it will be fully capable
of autonomy. Within a very short time there is to be a session of its
own Parliament, the elections having already been announced. It will
be the task of this Parliament to solve the problems which go to the
very roots of the national life. And in whatever manner they are dealt
with, their solution will be the work of the Ruthenians themselves.


Ihe \v

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Online LibraryAles BrozThree years of the Czechoslovak republic, a survey of its progress and achievements → online text (page 3 of 4)