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This programme is the restitution to Poland of the mouth of the
Vistula, of Dantzig and of the Polish portion of the Baltic coastline.
This programme will prevent Lithuania and the Ukraine from becoming
instruments of Prusso-German oppression and Austrian intrigue. It is
only such a Poland as this which will be able to fulfil its historic
mission as a rampart against the Germans.

"Its resistance will be still more effectual when united with that of
an independent Czecho-Slovak State, and of a strong Rumania, healed of
all the wounds inflicted by the war, and if, at the same time, the
Yugoslav peoples achieve their unity and independence. The Poles, in
claiming the Polish districts of Austria, declare themselves
categorically for the complete liberation of Bohemia, which would
otherwise be left at the mercy of the German-Austrians. _The
independence of neighbouring Bohemia is as necessary to an independent
Poland as a great independent Poland is necessary to the very existence
of Bohemia._ The united forces of the Polish, Czecho-Slovak and
Rumanian nations, forming a great belt from the Baltic to the Black
Sea, will prove a barrier against the German 'Drang nach Osten.' For,
since the collapse of Russia, these are the only real forces upon which
the Allies can depend."

On the day following the congress its leaders were officially received by
the Italian Premier, Signer Orlando, who conveyed to them the warm
greetings of the government:

"We have seen with keen satisfaction this assembly here in Rome, where
for centuries the representative spirits of all peoples and races have
always found refuge, and where hard facts seem to assume a prophetic
form and ideal meaning.

"These neighbouring nationalities are, in their turn, subjected to
Austria, and it has only been the traditional astuteness of this state
which has unchained the ethnic passions of the oppressed races,
inciting one against the other in order more easily to rule them.
Hence, it seems natural and necessary to follow the opposite policy
from that which has so greatly helped the enemy, _and to establish a
solidarity sprung from common suffering_. There is no substantial
reason for a quarrel, if we sincerely examine the conditions of mutual
existence, remember the mutual sacrifices and agree in our
determination to grant just guarantees to those racial minorities which
necessity may assign to one or the other of the different state groups.

"Italy should be able to understand better than any other country the
aspirations of the nationalities, since the history of Italy, now
completed, is simply your history now awaiting completion.... No other
people, before forming itself into a free and independent state, had to
undergo so long an apprenticeship, so methodical an oppression, such
varied forms of violence. Like generous Poland, Italy was shattered,
partitioned by strangers, and treated for centuries as a _res nullius.
The firm resolve of the Bohemian people to revive the glorious kingdom
which has so valiantly stemmed the onset of the Germans is the same
resolve which moved our ancestors and our fathers to conspiracy and
revolt, that Italy might become a united state_. The impetuous and
vigorous character of the Southern Slavs and the Rumanians of
Transylvania already has led to the making of heroes and martyrs; and
here they are met by the endless stream of our heroes and martyrs; who
across time and space fraternise on the scaffold erected by their
common enemy.

"For your nations 'To be or not to be' is the inexorable choice at this
moment. Here cautious subtleties are of no avail, nor the adroit
reservations borrowed from diplomacy, nor discussions more or less
Byzantine, 'while the Turk is at the gates.' The necessities are Faith
and Work; it is thus that nations are formed."

We have already mentioned that the U.S. Government identified themselves
with the resolutions adopted by the Rome Conference. As regards Great
Britain, Lord Robert Cecil made the following declaration on May 23, 1918:

"Above all _I welcome especially the recent congress at Rome_, which
has done so much to strengthen the Alliance of which Italy is a part. I
believe that the congress was valuable for its wisdom and its
moderation. I believe that it was valuable for the spirit of
brotherhood which it displayed. But above all I welcome it because it
showed that the Italian Government, as expressed by the speech of the
Italian Prime Minister (Signor Orlando), recognise to the full that the
principles on which the kingdom of Italy was founded were not only of
local application, but extend to international relations. (Cheers)
_Italy has shown herself ready to extend to the Poles, to those gallant
Czecho-Slovaks, to the Rumanians, and last, but not least, to the
Yugoslavs, the principles on which her own 'Risorgimento' was founded_,
and on which she may still go forward to a greater future than she has
ever seen in the past. (Cheers.) _That is a great work, and those who
have borne any part in it may well be proud of their accomplishment_.

"People talk sometimes about the dismemberment of Austria. I have no
weakness for Austria; but I venture to think that that is the wrong
point of view. The way to regard this problem is not the dismemberment
of Austria, _but the liberation of the population subject to her rule.
We are anxious to see all these peoples in the enjoyment of full
liberty and independence; able by some great federation to hold up in
Central Europe the principles upon which European policy must be
founded,_ unless we are to face disasters too horrible to contemplate.
The old days of arbitrary allotment of this population or that to this
sovereignty or that are gone - and, I trust, gone forever. We must look
for any future settlement, to a settlement not of courts or cabinets,
but of nations and populations. _On that alone depends the whole
conception of the League of Nations,_ of which we have heard so much;
and unless that can be secured as the foundation for that great idea, I
myself despair of its successful establishment."

_(b) The May Manifestations in Prague_

A direct re-percussion of the Rome Conference was the great meeting which
took place in Prague on May 16, on the occasion of the jubilee celebration
of the foundation of the Czech National Theatre.

The manifestations took pre-eminently a political character, especially as
they were attended by numerous distinguished foreign guests. These included
delegates from all parts of the Southern Slav territories, Poles, Rumanians
and Italians. The Russians, although invited, could not take part, because
of the obstacles placed in the way by the Austrian Government. As regards
the Yugoslavs, there were over 100 delegates from the Slovene districts
alone, including Dr. Pogacnik, deputies Ravnicar and Rybár, the Mayor of
Lublanja, Dr. Tavcar, President of the Chamber of Commerce, J. Knez and
others. The Yugoslavs were further represented by Count Vojnovitch and M.
Hribar, by delegates of the Croatian Starcevic Party, the Serbian
Dissidents, Dr. Budisavljevic, Mr. Val Pribicevic, Dr. Sunaric, Mr. Sola
from Bosnia, representatives of the national, cultural, economic
institutions, and representatives of the city of Zagreb, with the mayor,
Dr. Srpulje, at the head.

There were seventeen Italians with deputies Conci and De Caspari at the
head. The Rumanians from Hungary and Bukovina also arrived. The Slovaks of
Hungary met with the most hearty welcome. They were led by the poet
Hviezdoslav. An inspiring feature was the presence of the Poles, of whom
about sixty took part in the manifestations, the majority of them from
Galicia, three from Silesia and one from Posen.

The delegation from Galicia included prominent representatives of the
Polish Democratic Party, Count Dr. A. Skarbek, deputy and ex-minister
Glombínski and deputy Witos, the Socialist leader Moraczewski whose father
took part in the Pan-Slav Congress of Prague in 1848, deputy Tetmajer,
representatives of the cities of Lvoff and Cracow and of the University of
Cracow, members of municipal and county councils, journalists, artists,
painters, sculptors, authors and others.

At a meeting arranged in honour of the Slav guests, Dr. Kramár declared
that "the Czech nation is stronger to-day than ever before. There is no
worse policy than that which gives in before danger. I am sure that our
people will not give way. We have suffered so much that there is no horror
which could divert us from the path we follow. Happily enough, we see that
what we want is also desired by the whole world. We see that we are not
alone. To-day the representatives of other nations, which have suffered in
the same way as ourselves, have come to us. Of course, they did not come to
us only to take part in our festivals, but also to express on the Bohemian
soil their determination that their nations want to live freely. We are
united by the same interests. Our victory is theirs and theirs is ours."

The Yugoslav deputy Radic thanked the Czechs, in the name of the Yugoslavs,
for unity and solidarity. The Polish deputy Moraczewski expressed his
thanks not only for the welcome accorded to the Poles in Prague, but also
for the proclamation of the watchword: "For your liberty and ours!"

The main celebrations took place in the Bohemian Museum on May 16. Since
the speeches delivered on that occasion were of such significance and are
sure to prove of great international importance in the near future, we
propose to quote at least the chief passages from them.

The first speaker was Dr. Kramár who declared:

"You know that they are in vain trying to crush us. Every wrong will
come back to the authors. That is our firm belief, and therefore you
will find no despondency in Bohemia, but only _firm determination not
only to defend to the last the integrity of our kingdom, but also to
accomplish the unity of the whole Czecho-Slovak nation. We firmly
believe in the ultimate victory of the right of nations to liberty and
self-determination._ And we therefore welcome you in our beautiful
golden city of Prague, because we know that your presence here to-day
is the best proof that our faith is the faith of all nations who have
hitherto been clamouring in vain for right and justice.

"Allow me to make a personal remark. We were far away from public life,
confined in prison, and only very little news reached us. Various
events filled us with anxiety and despondency. Bohemia seemed to be
like a large, silent and dead churchyard. And all of a sudden we heard
that underneath the shroud with which they tried to cover our nation
there still was some life. Czech books were read more than ever, and
the life of the national soul expressed itself in the performances in
the National Theatre. When we heard about the storm of enthusiasm which
greeted the prophecy in Smetana's opera _Libusha_, we felt suddenly
relieved, and we knew that our sufferings were not in vain.

"We placed everything that we want into the prophecy of Libusha - a new
life, free, not constrained by disfavour or misunderstanding. _We do
not want to remain within the limits prescribed to us by Vienna_
(applause), we want to be entire masters of our national life as a
whole. We do not need foreign spirit and foreign advice; our best guide
is our past, the great democratic traditions of our nation. We have
enough strength and perseverance not to be afraid of anything that
threatens us, because _we want the full freedom for the whole nation,
including the millions of our oppressed brothers beneath the Tatra
Mountains_. (A stormy applause.)

"That does not depend on any circumstances outside our scope; it
depends entirely upon ourselves, upon our will. _We must show that we
are worthy of liberty and of the great future which we are striving
for_. It must not be left to the generosity of individuals to support
our peoples who under oppressive conditions are awakening national
consciousness in their countrymen. _We must mobilise our whole nation_.
All of us will be required to assist in the great tasks which are
awaiting us.

"I think we may confidently look into the future. The war has united us
internally, and it has taught us that all party politics which for a
long time past have poisoned our life, are insignificant in view of the
great issues of our national future which are at stake. We have lived
long enough to see our whole people united in the demand for an
independent Czecho-Slovak State, although the modern times have
deepened class differences.

"We recollect our past to-day with a firm hope for a better future. The
hearts of all are to-day filled with joyous confidence and expectation
that we shall live to see the day when in our National Theatre we shall
rejoice over the victory of liberty, justice and self-determination of
nations. _Our golden Slav Prague will again become a royal city, and
our Czech nation will again be free, strong and glorious_."

After Dr. Kramár had finished, the aged Czech author Jirásek described the
history of the National Theatre during the past fifty years, and concluded:

"To-day as fifty years ago our nation is united without party
distinction. _We form a single front, and follow a single policy. We
all demand our natural and historic rights, and strengthened by the
co-operation of the Yugoslavs, we firmly believe that as we succeeded
in erecting our National Theatre, so shall we also obtain our rights
and be able to rejoice with a song of a full and free life_."

When the enthusiasm which followed Jirásek's speech subsided, the great
Slovak poet Hviezdoslav "conveyed the greeting from that branch of the
Czecho-Slovak nation which lives in Hungary," and assured the assembly that
after going back he would spread everywhere the news of the enthusiasm
animating the Czechs so as to cheer up his sorely suffering
fellow-countrymen, the Slovaks of Hungary.

Professor Kasprovicz from Lemberg, who followed, declared in the name of
the Poles:

"We are united with you not only by blood affinity, but by our united
will, and we can reach the goal only by co-operation and by joint

"This co-operation is perplexing to our enemies who, therefore, do all
in their power to disrupt this union. Their endeavours are in vain.
_All of us believe that neither the Czech nor the Polish nation will
perish_, that even a great war cannot bring about their extirpation;
that besides the war there is something greater than all human efforts,
that the day of justice will also come, and that the _Czech and Polish
nations not only must be but already are victorious_."

A tremendous applause ensued, and the people sang "Jeszcie Polska
niezgynela" ("Poland has not perished yet"). And when the chairman
announced that the next speaker was to be the Italian Irredentist deputy,
Signer Conci, another storm of applause and cries of "Eviva!" burst out.
Signor Conci declared:

"I convey to you the expression of the heartiest greetings from all
Italians who are participating in this brilliant manifestation, and
from all those who, like myself, follow with great sympathy everything
that concerns the fate of the noble Czech nation.

"An old verse speaks about 'Socii dolorum' ('Friends in suffering'),
and I must say that this consolation for the different nations of this
state has been amply provided for. _But nothing helps the union and
brotherhood better than the common misfortune and common persecutions_
which strengthen the character of the nation. In defence against this
menace, we and you have written on our shield: 'Fanger, non flector'
('I can be broken but not bent').

"When I saw with what indomitable firmness you withstood all unjust
persecutions, and with what a fervent devotion and enthusiasm the whole
nation supported your best and unjustly persecuted leaders, I realised
that _this nation cannot die_, and that when the time comes its just
cause will triumph. And I bring you our sincere wish that this may be
as soon as possible. _It is a wish from one oppressed nation to
another_, from a representative of an afflicted nation which has
suffered and still is suffering intolerable oppression. May the roaring
Bohemian lion soon be able to repose in peace and fully enjoy his own

Dr. Tavcar, representing the Slovenes, declared:

"We Yugoslavs are deeply feeling how much the Czech culture is helping
us and how great is its influence upon us. _We are the most faithful
allies of our brother Czechs_, and at the same time their assiduous and
I dare say very gifted pupils. At a moment when our oppressors want to
build a German bridge over our bodies to the Slav Adriatic, we come to
you as your allies. We shall fall if you fall, but our victory is

Two other Yugoslav leaders, Dr. Srpulje, Mayor of Zagreb, for the Croats,
and V. Sola, President of the Bosnian Sabor, for the Serbs, expressed the
same sentiments.

After the speech of the Czech author Krejcí, M. Stanek, President of the
Bohemian Parliamentary Union, concluded the meeting.

Stormy demonstrations then took place in the streets of Prague, where the
people loudly cheered Professor Masaryk and the Entente.

On the same day also the Socialists had a meeting in which prominent Czech,
Polish and Yugoslav Socialists took part.

The Polish Socialist deputy Moraczewski, from Cracow, declared that "the
Poles, like the Czechs, are fighting for self-determination of nations."
Comrade Kristan, speaking for the Slovene workers, emphasised the idea of
Yugoslav unity. The spokesman of the Social Democrats from Bosnia, comrade
Smitran, hailed the Czecho-Yugoslav understanding, and said that, although
living under intolerable conditions, his nation hopes for deliverance, and
like the Czecho-Slovak nation, demands liberty and independence. After the
Polish comrade Stanczyk, the leaders of the two Czech Socialist parties,
Dr. Soukup and Klofác, delivered long speeches in which they emphasised the
solidarity of the three Western Slav nations, the Poles, Czecho-Slovaks and
Yugoslavs, and their identical claims for liberty and independence. Dr.
Soukup declared that "Socialism is to-day a great factor not only in
Bohemia, but in the whole world." The manifestation was concluded by the
Czech Socialist deputy Nemec, and by the singing of the Czech
national anthem.

On the day following, fresh manifestations were held in Prague, and a
meeting was arranged, described by the Czech press as the Congress of
Oppressed Nations of Austria-Hungary. Among those who supported the
resolutions were representatives of Czecho-Slovaks, Yugoslavs, Rumanians
and Italians, as well as Poles. The resolution carried unanimously by the
assembly reads as follows:

"The representatives of Slav and Latin nations who for centuries past
have been suffering under foreign oppression, assembled in Prague this
seventeenth day of May, 1918, have united in a common desire to do all
in their power in order to assure full liberty and independence to
their respective nations after this terrible war. They are agreed that
a better future for their nations will be founded and assured by the
world democracy, by a real and sovereign national people's government,
and by a universal League of Nations, endowed with the necessary

"They reject emphatically all steps of the government taken without the
consent of the people. They are convinced that the peace which they,
together with all other democratic parties and nations, are striving
for, will only be a just and lasting peace if it liberates the world
from the predominance of one nation over another and thus enables all
nations to defend themselves against aggressive imperialism by means of
liberty and equality of nations. All nations represented are determined
to help each other, since the victory of one is also the victory of the
other, and is not only in the interests of the nations concerned, but
in the interests of civilisation, of fraternity and equality of
nations, as well as of true humanity."



From the foregoing chapters it is clear that:

_(a)_ The Austro-Hungarian Government represents only the Habsburgs, and
the Austrian Germans and the Magyars, who form a minority of the total
population of the monarchy. The majority, consisting of Slavs and Latins,
is opposed to the further existence of Austria-Hungary.

_(b)_ The Austrian Germans and Magyars, who exercised their hegemony in
Austria and Hungary respectively, will always be bound to look to Germany
for the support of their predominance as long as Austria-Hungary in
whatever form exists. The collapse of the Habsburg Empire in October, 1918,
practically put an end to this possibility.

_(c)_ The Habsburgs, Austro-Germans and Magyars, just like the Bulgars,
became the willing and wilful partners of Prussia in this war, while the
Austrian Slavs, especially the Czecho-Slovaks, have done all in their power
to assist the Allies at the price of tremendous sacrifices. Under these
circumstances, the only possible policy for the Allies is to support the
claims of those peoples who are heart and soul with them. Any policy which
would not satisfy the just Slav aspirations would play into the hands
of Germany.

_(d)_ The restoration of the _status quo ante bellum_ of Austria or Hungary
is out of the question. The Allies have pledged themselves to unite the
Italian and Rumanian territories of Austria with Italy and Rumania
respectively. The aim of Serbia is to unite all the Yugoslavs. Deprived of
her Italian, Rumanian and Yugoslav provinces, Austria-Hungary would lose
some twelve million Slavs and Latins. The problem of Poland also cannot be
solved in a satisfactory way without the incorporation in Poland of the
Polish territories of Galicia. If the _status quo_ were re-established, the
Czecho-Slovaks, whom Great Britain has recognised as an Allied nation,
would be placed in a decisive minority and would be powerless in face of
the German-Magyar majority. This the Allies in their own interests cannot
allow. They must insist upon the restoration of Bohemia's full

_(e)_ The disappearance of Austria-Hungary therefore appears to be the only
solution if a permanent peace in Europe is to be achieved. Moreover, as we
have already pointed out, her dissolution is a political necessity for
Europe, and is to-day already an accomplished fact.

The dismemberment of Austria does not mean a destructive policy. On the
contrary, it means only the destruction of oppression and racial tyranny.
It is fundamentally different from the dismemberment of Poland, which was a
living nation, while Austria is not. The dismemberment of Austria will, on
the contrary, unite nations at present dismembered, and will reconstruct
Europe so as to prevent further German aggressive attempts towards the East
and South-East. A close alliance between Poland, Czecho-Slovak Bohemia,
Greater Rumania, Greater Serbia (or Yugoslavia) and Italy would assure a
stable peace in Central Europe.

The issue really at stake was: Central Europe either Pan-German or
anti-German. If Germany succeeded in preserving Austria-Hungary, the
Pan-German plans of Mitteleuropa would be a _fait accompli_, and Germany
would have won the war: the Germans would, with the aid of the Magyars and
Bulgars, directly and indirectly control and exploit over one hundred
million Slavs in Central Europe. On the other hand, now that Austria has
fallen to pieces the German plans have been frustrated. The Germans will
not only be unable to use the Austrian Slavs again as cannon-fodder, but
even the economic exploitation of Central Europe will be barred to them.

From the international point of view, Bohemia will form the very centre of
the anti-German barrier, and with the assistance of a new Poland in the

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Online LibraryVladimír NosekIndependent Bohemia An Account of the Czecho-Slovak Struggle for Liberty → online text (page 11 of 13)