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INDEPENDENT BOHEMIA



INDEPENDENT
BOHEMIA

AN ACCOUNT
OF THE CZECHO-SLOVAK
STRUGGLE FOR LIBERTY

BY

VLADIMIR NOSEK

Secretary to the



Czecho-Slovak Legation in
LONDON




LONDON & TORONTO
J. M. DENT & SONS LTD.
NEW YORK: E. P. BUTTON 6- CO.



11 <=

HIST. 1



UK* I

All rights reserved



PREFACE

IN the following pages I have attempted to outline
the story of our movement for independence. The
manuscript of this book was completed over four
months ago. Since then many important changes have
occurred in the international situation. Chapters in
which we dealt with the then still existing Dual Mon-
archy must of course be read in the past tense, since
Austria exists no more. And again, many things
which we anticipated and hoped for in the future
have already become accomplished facts. However,
I trust that the story itself has not only lost none of
its value thereby, but has acquired an additional
interest from a historical point of view. Our aim of
national independence, only quite recently declared
by our adversaries to be " an empty dream of moon-
struck idealists," has become to-day not only a prac-
tical proposition, but an accomplished fact. We have
our own army, which is by no means the smallest
Allied army, and we also have our own Provisional
Government in Paris, recognised not only by the
Allies and by all Czecho-Slovaks abroad, but even by
Czech leaders in Bohemia, with whom we have since
the beginning of the war worked in complete harmony
and understanding. The organisation of our inde-
pendent State is rapidly proceeding. Austria-Hungary,



420654



vi INDEPENDENT BOHEMIA

exhausted economically and bankrupt politically, has
fallen to pieces by the free-will of her own subject
peoples, who, in anticipation of their early victory,
broke their fetters and openly renounced their alle-
giance to the hated Habsburg and Hohenzollern rule,
even before Austria had actually surrendered to the
Allies.

Events have moved rapidly in Austria, especially
since the momentous British declaration of August 9,
1918, recognising the Czecho-Slovaks those resident
in the Allied countries as much as those in Bohemia
as an Allied nation, and the Czecho-Slovak National
Council in Paris as well as in Prague as the Provi-
sional Government of Bohemia. British statesmen
already then foresaw the, coming collapse of Austria
and acted accordingly. It is also no more a secret to-
day that because of the promulgation of the British
and United States declarations our Council was able
to conclude special conventions with all the Allied
Governments during September last, whereby all the
powers exercised by a real government have been
granted to it.

In the meantime Germany had been losing more
and more control over her allies, being herself hard
pressed on the Western front, and the consequence of
this was a growing boldness on the part of the Austrian
Slavs. On October 2 deputy Stanek declared in the
name of the whole Czech deputation that the National
Council in Paris were their true spokesmen and repre-
sentatives with whom Austria would have to negotiate.
Soon afterwards the Austrian Poles went to Warsaw,
where thev formed a new all-Polish Government, and



PREFACE vii

the Southern Slavs entrusted the government of their
territorities to their National Council in Zagreb.
Similar councils were formed also by the Ruthenes
and Rumanians. On October 14 the Czecho-Slovak
National Council in Paris constituted itself as a
Government of which the Council in Prague acts as
an integral part. The latter took over the reins of
government in Bohemia a fortnight later. On
October 19 the Czecho - Slovak Council issued a
Declaration of independence which we publish in
the Appendix, arid from which it will be seen that
Bohemia will be progressive and democratic both in
her domestic and foreign policy. A glorious future
is no doubt awaiting her. She will be specially
able to render an immense service to the League of
Nations as a bulwark of peace and conciliation among
the various peoples of Central Europe.

The break-up of Austria will, of course, affect
enormously the constitution of the future Europe,
and in our last chapter we have tried to give an out-
line of these impending changes of conditions and
international relations. The break-up of Austria was
bound to come sooner or later, whether some mis-
informed critics or prejudiced pro- Austrian politi-
cians liked it or not. We ourselves were always
convinced, and we declared openly, that Austria
could not survive this war, because she was at war
with the majority of her own subjects, who wished for
nothing more than for her destruction. Unfortunately
the fact that the sympathies of the thirty million of
Austrian Slavs and Latins were on the side of the
Entente, constituting such an incontestable moral



viii INDEPENDENT BOHEMIA

asset for the Allies as it does, has not always been
fully appreciated by Allied public opinion. We our-
selves, however, never doubted for a moment that
the Allied cause would ultimately triumph and that
we would achieve our independence, because we knew
that in struggling for this aim we were only carrying
out the unanimous will of our whole nation. Without
waiting for any pledges, without regard as to which
side would be victorious, our nation has from the
beginning staked its all on the Allied victory and has
contributed with all its powers to hasten it. Despite
all adverse circumstances, our people, at first com-
pletely at the mercy of their enemies, ruthlessly
persecuted and tortured by them, nevertheless re-
mained firm and resolute. Their attitude was most
outspoken and courageous at all times, and they have
also rendered the Allies active assistance, which is
being duly appreciated by. them. It is chiefly due to
the efforts of the subject peoples themselves, of whom
the Czechs have certainly been the most outspoken,
that the collapse of Austria has occurred, which
finally sealed the fate of Kaiserism and of the Pan-
German plans of Mitteleuropa.

To-day our hopes for a better future are at last
being fulfilled as a result of the Allies' complete
victory, assuring the creation of a new and just inter-
national order. Our much-afflicted yet undaunted
people already consider themselves as independent.
The Peace Conference, at which the Czecho-Slovak
Government will be represented, will only confirm
the existence of an independent Czecho-Slovak State.

In conclusion, we should like to express our deep



PREFACE ix

gratitude to all our English friends for their valuable
assistance in our struggle for the realisation of our
ideals. We especially wish to thank once more the
British Government for the generous step taken by
them in recognising us as an Allied and belligerent
nation. It was chiefly because of this recognition and
of the gallant deeds of our army that we achieved
all our subsequent diplomatic and political successes.
We may assure Great Britain that the Czecho-
slovaks will never forget what they owe to her, and
that they will endeavour to do their best to merit
the trust so generously placed in them.



VLADIMIR NOSEK.



9, GROSVENOR PLACE, LONDON,
November, 1918.



CONTENTS

PAGE

"I. WHAT is AUSTRIA-HUNGARY? . . i

II. AUSTRIA-HUNGARY AND THE PRESENT WAR . . 13

III. CZECH POLITICAL PARTIES BEFORE AND DURING THE

WAR ... .24

IV. TERRORISM IN BOHEMIA DURING THE WAR . . 48

(a) Czech Deputies and Leaders imprisoned and

sentenced to Death;

(b) Monster Trials, Arbitrary Executions, Intern-

ment of Civilians, etc. ;

(c) Persecution of the Press ;

(d) Reichsrat Interpellations.

V. How THE CZECHO -SLOVAKS AT HOME ASSISTED THE !

ALLIES . . . . . . -69

VI. THE MILITARY AND POLITICAL ACTION OF THE

CZECHO-SLOVAKS ABROAD . . . . 81

VII. THE CZECHS AT HOME BEGIN TO SPEAK . 112

(a) Czech Declaration of May 30, 1917;

(b) Courageous Speeches delivered by Czech De-

puties in the Reichsrat;

(c) After the Amnesty ;

(d) During Peace Negotiations with Russia;

(e) The Constituent Assembly of Prague on January

6, 1918;

(/) The Oath of the Czecho -Slovak Nation;
(g) The Slovaks' Attitude;
(h) The Czecho-Slovak National Council in Prague.

VIII. CZECHO-SLOVAK CO-OPERATION WITH OTHER NON-
GERMAN NATIONS OF CENTRAL EUROPE . .141

(a) The Congress of Rome;

(b) The May Manifestations in Prague.

IX. BOHEMIA AS A BULWARK AGAINST PAN-GERMANISM . 157
APPENDIX OF SOME RECENT DOCUMENTS . .171

BIBLIOGRAPHY ....... 183

xi




THE INTERNATIONAL POSITION OF THE CZECHO-SLOVAK
REPUBLIC IN FUTURE EUROPE



INDEPENDENT BOHEMIA



WHAT IS AUSTRIA-HUNGARY?

i. THE Habsburg Empire is built upon centuries-
old traditions of reaction and violence. Its present
power is chiefly based on the alliance which Bohemia
and Hungary concluded with Austria against the
Turkish peril in 1526. The Czechs freely elected
the Habsburgs to the throne of Bohemia which
remained a fully independent state, its alliance with
Austria and Hungary being purely dynastic. But
soon the Habsburgs began to violate the liberties of
Bohemia which they were bound by oath to observe,
and this led finally to the fateful Czech revolution
of 1618. At the battle of the White Mountain in
1620 the Czechs suffered a defeat and were cruelly
punished for their rebellion. All their nobility were
either executed or sent into exile, and their property
confiscated. The country was devastated by the im-
perial hordes, and its population was reduced from
3,000,000 to 800,000 during the Thirty Years' War.

In 1627 Ferdinand II. greatly curtailed the
administrative rights of Bohemia, yet he did not
dare to deprive her entirely of her independence.
In his " Renewed Ordinance of the Land " Ferdinand
declared the Bohemian crown to be hereditary in



2 INDEPENDENT BOHEMIA

the House of Habsburg, and reserved legislative
power to the sovereign. But otherwise the historical
rights of Bohemia remained valid, notwithstanding
all subsequent arbitrary centralising measures taken
by the Habsburgs. Bohemia's rights were repeatedly
recognised by each succeeding Habsburg. Legally
Bohemia is an independent state to-day.

The heavy persecutions inflicted upon Bohemia
had a disastrous effect upon her intellectual life and
national development which were completely paralysed
until the end of the eighteenth century, when owing
to the humanitarian ideals of those times, and as a
reaction against the Germanising centralistic efforts
of Joseph II., the Czechs again began to recover
their national consciousness. This revival marked
the beginning of the Czecho-Slovak struggle for the
re-establishment of their independence. The move-
ment was at first literary, and only in the forties
became political. It was a continuous struggle
against reaction and absolutism, and if the Czecho-
slovaks to-day can boast of an advanced civilisa-
tion, it is only owing to their perseverance and hard
endeavours, and not because of any good- will on the
part of the Austrian Government which put every
possible obstacle in their way.

2. The present Austria-Hungary is primarily a
dynastic estate, for the crown was always its supreme
political driving force, although at present the
Habsburgs are mere slaves of their masters, the
Hohenzollerns. It is this characteristic which
justifies us in concluding that Austria is an auto-
cratic state par excellence. If there were no other



INDEPENDENT BOHEMIA 3

reason, this should be sufficient to make every true
democrat an enemy of Austria. Furthermore, it is
this characteristic which makes us comprehend why
the Habsburg monarchy is fighting side by side with
German autocracy and imperialism against the allied
democracies of the world.

Notwithstanding the so-called constitution which
is a mere cloak for absolutism, the monarch in
Austria is emperor by " Divine Right " alone, and is
the absolute master of his subject peoples in virtue
of his privileged position which confers on him an
inexhaustible amount of power and influence. The
internal as well as the foreign policy of the monarchy
is directed in the real or supposed interests of the
dynasty. The principle divide et impera is its
leading idea in internal politics, and the increase of
dynastic power in foreign policy. The question of
war and peace is decided by the emperor, to whom
it also appertains to order matters concerning the
management, leadership and organisation of the
whole army. And though in Hungary the power of
the monarch largely depends on the Budapest
Parliament, yet even here the constitutional power
of the dynasty is enormous, the King of Hungary
being a governing and legislative factor by no means
inferior to that of the parliament.

Even when attempts were made at enfranchising
the masses (as in 1896 and finally in 1905), the
motive again was purely dynastic. Such constitu-
tional measures as were taken, only strengthened
racial dissensions and were equally insincere and
inefficient. The present constitution of 1867, as



4 INDEPENDENT BOHEMIA

well as the previous constitutions of 1849, 1860 and
1861, was granted by the crown, to whom it was
reserved to reverse or modify the same. The parlia-
ment is absolutely powerless in Austria. It is a mere
cloak for absolutism, since the famous Paragraph 14
provides for absolutist government by means of
imperial decrees without parliament in case of
emergency. The dynasty took ample advantage of
this clause during the first three years of this war
when absolutism and terrorism reigned supreme in
the Dual Monarchy. While since 1861 up to the
beginning of the war 156 imperial decrees had been
issued, fully 161 have been passed during the first
three years of the present war.

The arbitrary power of the dynasty is based : upon
the organisation of the army, the leadership of which
is entrusted to the Germans; upon the feudal aristo-
cracy who are the only real Austrians, since they have
no nationality, though they invariably side with the
dominant Germans and Magyars; upon the power
of the police who form the chief instrument of the
autocratic government and who spy upon and
terrorise the population; upon the German bureau-
crats who do not consider themselves the servants of
the public, but look upon the public as their servant,
and whose spirit of meanness and corruption is so
characteristic of the Austrian body politic; finally,
the dynasty relies upon the Catholic hierarchy \vho
hold vast landed property in Austria and regard it
as the bulwark of Catholicism, and who through
Clericalism strive for political power rather than for
the religious welfare of their denomination. In alliance



INDEPENDENT BOHEMIA 5

with them are the powerful Jewish financiers who also
control the press in Vienna and Budapest. Clearly
Austria is the very negation of democracy. It stands
for reaction, autocracy, falsehood and hypocrisy, and
it is therefore no exaggeration to say that nobody pro-
fessing democratic views can reasonably plead for the
preservation of this system of political violence.

When we remember the enormous power of the
dynasty and the political system which supports it,
we understand why in the past Austria has
always played the part of the most reactionary,
autocratic and tyrannic state in Europe. Hopes have
indeed been expressed by some Austrophils in the
good-will of the new Austrian Emperor on account of
his amiable character. The Slavs have ample reason
to distrust the Habsburgs who have proved to be
treacherous autocrats in the past, and whose records
show them as an incapable and degenerate family.
As a political power Kaiser Karl is the same menace
to his subject Slavs as his predecessors. Above all,
however, he is of necessity a blind tool in the hands
of Germany, and he cannot possibly extricate him-
self from her firm grip. The Habsburgs .have had
their chance, but they missed it. By systematic and
continuous misgovernment they created a gulf between
the Slavs and themselves which nothing on earth can
remove. Every Habsburg believes he has a " mission "
to fulfil. The only mission left for Kaiser Karl is
to abdicate and dissolve his empire into its component
parts. There is no reason whatever why Austria
should be saved for the sake of the degenerate and
autocratic Habsburg dynasty.



6 INDEPENDENT BOHEMIA

3. Let us now examine the much misunderstood
racial problems of the Dual Monarchy. There is no
Austrian nation, since there is no Austrian language.
Austria is a mere geographical expression. In fact
the Slavs, constituting the majority of Austrian sub-
jects, would think it an insult to be called Austrians.
During the war they have been treated as subjects
of an enemy state, and to-day they have no part
or lot with Austria. The Czech statesman Rieger
once declared that when the Slavs no longer
desired the existence of Austria, no one would be
able to save her. And indeed, the claims raised by
the majority of Austria's population to-day mean
the death warrant of the Dual Monarchy.

To get a clear idea of the racial issue, we will quote
the official Austrian statistics, which tell us that in
Austria-Hungary there are:

AUSTRIA. HUNGARY. BOSNIA. TOTAL.

SLAVS: Million. Million. Million. Million. Million.

Czecho-Slovaks 6.4 2 8.4

Yugoslavs .2 3 1.8 6.8

Poles . 5 5

Ruthenes . 3.5 0.5 4

24.2

LATINS :

Italians . 0.8 0.8

Rumanians .0.3 2.9 3.2

._._,_. A

GERMANS .10 2 12

MAGYARS . 10 10

OTHERS . . 0.6 0.4 i

28.6 20.8 1.8 51.2



INDEPENDENT BOHEMIA 7

Thus it appears that the Slavs alone (without
Italians and Rumanians) form about 48 per cent,
of the total population. The Germans form only
24 per cent, of the population of Austria-Hungary,
while in Hungary proper the dominant Magyars do
not form quite 50 per cent, of the population. The
predominance of the German and Magyar minorities
is apparent not only from the fact that they hold the
reins of government, but also from their unfair pro-
portional representation in both parliaments. Thus
instead of 310 seats out of 516 in the Reichsrat the
Slavs hold only 259, while the Germans hold 232
instead of 160. By gaining 83 Polish votes in return
for temporary concessions, the Germans have thus
always been in the majority in the Reichsrat in the
past. In Hungary the proportion is still more unjust.
The Magyars hold 405 seats instead of 210 in the
parliament of Budapest out of the total number
of 413, while the non-Magyars, entitled according to
their numbers to 203 seats, have in reality only five
representatives in the " democratic " parliament of
Budapest.

All the above calculations are based upon official
statistics which are grossly exaggerated in favour of
the Germans and Magyars. The picture would be
still more appalling if we took into consideration the
actual number of the Slavs. The Austrian census is
not based upon the declaration of nationality or of the
native language, but upon the statement of the
" language of communication " (" Umgangsprache ").
In mixed districts economic pressure is brought
against the Slavs, who are often workmen dependent



8



INDEPENDENT BOHEMIA



upon German masters and bound to declare their
nationality as German for fear they should lose their
employment. From private statistics it has been
found that the percentage of Germans in Bohemia
can hardly exceed 20 per cent, as against 37 per cent,
given by the official census. Still greater pressure is
brought to bear against the Slavs by the Magyars in
Hungary, who are famous for the brutal methods
in which they indulge for the purpose of shameless
falsification of their official statistics. Thus the
actual strength of the rival races of Austria-Hungary
may with every justification be estimated as follows:



SLAVS :

Czecho-Slovaks
Yugoslavs .
Poles
Ruthenes .

LATINS :
Italians
Rumanians

GERMANS
MAGYARS
OTHERS




27 million



I < I

4 j



10
8



Total



51 million



4. The rule of the German-Magyar minority over
the Slav and Latin majority, finally established by
the introduction of dualism in 1867, was made possible
only by the demoralising system of violence described
above. One race was pitted against the other in



INDEPENDENT BOHEMIA 9

Austria and this enabled the Germans to rule tlrem
better, while the Magyars in Hungary, by keeping
their subject races in the darkness of ignorance and by
using the most abominable methods of violence, suc-
ceeded in securing for themselves the entire monopoly
of government. The Magyars, who are a race of
Asiatic origin, are truly the faithful descendants of
the ancient Huns, and true allies of the Huns of
to-day.

When Kossuth came to England in 1848, he was
hailed as the champion of freedom and liberty, and
entranced his audiences in London and other English
cities by his remarkable oratory. As a matter of fact
Kossuth, though called " the father of the Magyars,"
was himself a denationalised Slovak; instead of a
" champion of liberty," he might with much greater
justification have been called the champion of the
greatest racial tyranny in Europe. For even then,
while fighting for their own liberty and for the in-
dependence of Hungary, the Magyars denied the
most elementary political and national rights to the
other peoples living in Hungary.

In 1910 there were 2,202,165 Slovaks in Hungary
according to the official census. These two million
Slovaks had only two deputies (Dr. Blaho and Juriga),
while the 8,651,520 Magyars had 405 seats, so that
every Slovak deputy represented one million electors,
every Magyar deputy, however, 21,000. As regards
administration, all civil service officials in Hungary
have to be of Magyar nationality. The cases of
persecution for political offences are innumerable:
Slovak candidates were prevented from being elected



io INDEPENDENT BOHEMIA

by being imprisoned. Corruption and violence are
the two main characteristics of all elections in
" democratic " Hungary. Even to-day when some
Radicals in Budapest talk of electoral reform, they
want suffrage to be extended to Magyar electors
only, and also stipulate that the candidates shall
be of Magyar nationality. No Magyar politicians
will ever abandon the programme of the territorial
integrity of Hungary, their aims being expressed in
the words of Koloman Tisza: " For the sake of the
future of the Magyar State it is necessary for Hungary
to become a state where only Magyar is spoken. To
gain the Slovaks or to come to a compromise with
them is out of the question. There is only one means
which is effective Extirpation! " And this aim the
Magyars have faithfully kept before them for at least
the last hundred years.

In the same way also the economic development
of the non-Magyar nationalities has been systematic-
ally hampered, because the Magyars know that
economic dependence means also political sub-
servience. The Slovaks and Rumanians are not
allowed to found co-operative societies or banks on
the ground that such institutions " are opposed to
the interests of the elements which hold the Magyar
State together."

But it is not only the non-Magyars who suffer.
The Magyar working classes and the majority of the
Magyar country people themselves are deprived of
political rights, for Hungary is ruled by an oligarchy
and scarcely 5 per cent, of the population has the
suffrage right.



INDEPENDENT BOHEMIA n

We may say, therefore, without exaggeration that
to-day Hungary is the most reactionary country of
Europe. Nowhere else (not even in Prussia) have
the people so little power as in Hungary, where the
Socialists have not a single seat in parliament. The
" politics" in Hungary are the privilege of a few
aristocrats. Hungary is a typical oligarchic and
theocratic state.

When the Magyars plead to-day for " peace with-
out annexations " and for the integrity of Hungary,
they want to be allowed to continue to oppress and
systematically magyarise the Slavs and Rumanians
of Hungary. The triumphant allied democracies
will not, however, stoop before autocratic Hungary.
The dismemberment of Hungary, according to the
principle of nationality, is a sine qua non of a
permanent and just peace in Europe.

5. The four strongest races in Austria-Hungary,
then, are the Germans, Magyars, Czecho-Slovaks and
Yugoslavs, numbering from eight to ten million
each. The Austrian Germans and the Magyars
occupy the centre, while the Czecho-Slovaks inhabit
the north (Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia and Slovakia),
and the Yugoslavs ten provinces in the southern
part of the monarchy. In order to facilitate German


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Online LibraryVladimír NosekIndependent Bohemia, an account of the Czecho-Slovak struggle for liberty → online text (page 1 of 13)