THE object of this volume is to make Bohemia and her people better known to the English-speaking world. The average Englishman’s and American’s knowledge of Bohemia is very vague. It is only within recent years that Anglo-American writers have begun to take a deeper interest in her people. Among the more prominent students of Bohemian contemporary life should be mentioned: Will S. Monroe, Emily G. Balch, and Herbert Adolphus Miller, in the United States; and A. R. Colquhoun, Richard J. Kelly, F. P. Marchant, James Baker, Wickham H. Steed, Charles Edmund Maurice, W. R. Morfill, and R. W. Seton-Watson in England. Count Lützow has written in English a number of works on Bohemian matters.

While it is yet too early to foresee the precise results of the Great War, one may judge of coming events by the shadows they cast before them. A close observer of the Austrian shadows is justified in thinking that the Bohemian people, so long suppressed, stand on the threshold of a new destiny. This destiny points to the restoration of their ancient freedom. If the Allies win—and every loyal son of the Land of Hus fervently wishes that their arms might prevail, notwithstanding the fact that Bohemian soldiers are constrained to fight for the cause of the two Kaisers—Bohemia is certain to re-enter the family of self-governing European nations. The proclamation which the Russian Generalissimo addressed to the Poles may be said to apply with equal force to the Bohemians: “The hour has sounded when the sacred dream of your fathers may be realized. . . . Bohemia will be born again, free in her religion, her language, and autonomous. . . . The dawn of a new life begins for you. . . . In this glorious dawn is seen the sign of the cross, the symbol of suffering and the resurrection of a people.”

At the close of the Franco-Prussian War, Frenchmen erected in the Place de la Concorde in Paris the Statue of Strassburg, which they have kept draped, as a sign of mourning for the loss of their beloved Alsace-Lorraine. The Bohemians have grieved for their motherland much longer than the French for the “Lost Provinces.” Bohemia put on her mourning garb in 1620, the year her rebel army was defeated by the imperialist troops of Ferdinand II., at the Battle of White Mountain near Prague, the capital of the kingdom. May it not be hoped that the joyous moment is near when her sons can substitute for the black and yellow of Austria the red and white of Bohemia—the colors that Charles Havlíček loved so well. “My colors are red and white,” declared this fearless patriot to his Austrian tormentors. “You can promise me, you can threaten me, but a traitor I shall never be.”

Never during the three hundred years of Austrian misrule were conditions so propitious for throwing off the shackles of oppression as now. In the darkest hours of national humiliation, the children of Hus and of Komenský (Comenius) did not despair. “We existed before Austria,” Palacký used to tell them, “and we shall survive her.” May not the words of the “Father of his Country,” as Palacký was affectionately called by his countrymen, come true, in view of what is taking place in the Hapsburg Monarchy to-day?

With what form of government would Bohemia make her re-entry into the European family of nations as a free state, as a dependency of Russia, as a ward of the Allies, or incorporated in a federation of the states remaining to the Hapsburg Empire?

It was a favorite theory of Palacký that the Austrian nations would, for their own protection, have to create an Austria, if she were ever destroyed. But what Palacký has said may no longer be true, because the events of 1914 have created issues and opened up possibilities undreamt of in his times, Palacký, let it be understood, had in mind a Confederated Austria that should form a bulwark for small races against German expansion from the north and the west.

It has been intimated that the Allies might agree to create Bohemia and Hungary as independent buffer states to curb German aggression, just as Belgium and Holland are buffer states between Germany and France. If this war has shown anything, it has demonstrated the usefulness of a small state like that of the Belgians. Albania, it will be recalled, had been brought into being by Austria and Italy, not for humanitarian reasons, we may be sure, but to menace and weaken Serbia, of whose growth they were jealous.

Another probability is that Russia might demand, as one of the prizes of war, the cession of the northern part of Austria-Hungary, which is wholly Slavic. She might contend that she could not carry out her traditional policy of guardianship of the Slavs, unless her kinsfolk came under her influence, if not actually under her rule.

Francis Josef waged two wars in the past, both of which ended disastrously for the empire. Yet from both of these wars good has come to his subjects. The campaign in Italy, which resulted in the defeat of the Austrians at Magenta and Solferino in 1859, dealt a severe blow to the bureaucracy, liberating, incidentally, the Italians who were trampled under foot by Radecky. As a result of the war with Prussia in 1866, the Magyars came to their own. Hungarian autonomy dates from 1867. Now it is the turn of the Bohemians to profit from Austria’s predicament.

Self-government is not only an ideal but a necessity to Bohemians. Why should Bohemia, in addition to paying for her own needs, make good the deficits of lands which are passive, and in whose domestic affairs she has no greater interest than the State of New York has, for instance, in the local constabulary of Nevada? Year after year Bohemians justly complain that Vienna wrings millions in taxes from them that it spends on lands that are passive. It is partly this feature of the case, the high revenue flowing from the Bohemian Kingdom, which has made Vienna hostile to the home rule agitation. Is it reasonable to suppose, however, that if Austria could not wholly suppress the national aspiration of Bohemians in times of peace, under normal conditions, she is more likely to accomplish it if she returns home from the war exhausted, humiliated, perchance vanquished?

It may seein hazardous to forecast Austria’s future in the event of the Allies winning. But this much is already apparent, that the Austria of 1914, the government of which rested on the mediæval idea that one white race was superior to another white race, is doomed to perish. Austria needed a crushing blow from without, such as a lost war, to send toppling the ramshackle structure that has menaced for so long a time the security of the Slavic inhabitants. For, though rent by internal discord, the monarchy obviously lacked forces powerful enough to effect its own redemption. If the Teutonic forces are beaten, the logical sequel will be the breakdown of the Germanic hegemony and a corresponding rise of Slavism. With Poland resuscitated and Serbia strengthened, Vienna, it is certain, will be powerless to hold the Bohemians down.

But no matter what may happen, whether Austria-Hungary will remain Hapsburg, whether the Allies will impose their will on her destiny, or whether the Russians will become the masters of the North Slavs, let us hope that the future mapmakers will not be military conquerors, as was the case at the Congress of Vienna in 1814, or statesmen of the Bismarck type, who, at the Berlin Congress in 1878, were determined to separate the people of one race, instead of uniting them. Let the map-makers be ethnologists who will, wherever practicable, deliminate boundaries according to racial, not political lines, giving German territory to the Germans, Magyar territory to the people of that race, Slavic lands to the Slavs.

Bohemia would not assume the serious task of self-government as an inexperienced novice. Bohemia is one of the oldest states in Central Europe. As a kingdom she antedates the German kingdoms, not excepting Prussia, Saxony, Bavaria. Some of these were yet minor states when she already played a conspicuous rôle in the affairs of Europe. In point of population the United States of Bohemia—including Bohemia herself, Moravia, Silesia, and Slovakland—would have within her borders a population numbering about 12,000,000. The combined area of the three first-named states is almost twice the size of Switzerland. Prague, the capital, had in 1910 581,163 inhabitants. As a wealth-providing and revenue-yielding country Bohemia stands unrivalled among the Hapsburg States.T. Č.

New York

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1929.

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