Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
HISTORY]
33
AUSTRIA–HUNGARY

million Germans would be placed in a position of subordination; but for the last twenty years there had been a constant encroachment by Czech on German. This was partly due to the direct action of the government. An ordinance of 1880 determined that henceforward all business which had been brought before any government office or law court should be dealt with, within the office, in the language in which it was introduced; this applied to the whole of Bohemia and Moravia, and meant that Czech would henceforward have a position within the government service. It was another step in the same direction when, in 1886, it was ordered that “to avoid frequent translations” business introduced in Czech should be dealt with in the same language in the high courts of Prague and Brünn. Then not only were a large number of Czech elementary schools founded, but also many middle schools were given to the Czechs, and Czech classes introduced in German schools; and, what affected the Germans most, in 1882 classes in Czech were started in the university of Prague—a desecration, as it seemed, of the oldest German university.

The growth of the Slav races was, however, not merely the result of government assistance; it had begun long before Taaffe assumed office; it was to be seen in the census returns and in the results of elections. Prague was no longer the German city it had been fifty years before; the census of 1880 showed 36,000 Germans to 120,000 Czechs. It was the same in Pilsen. In 1861 the Germans had a majority in this town; in 1880 they were not a quarter of the population. This same phenomenon, which occurs elsewhere, cannot be attributed to any laxity of the Germans. The generation which was so vigorously demanding national rights had themselves all been brought up under the old system in German schools, but this had not implanted in them a desire to become German. It was partly due to economic causes—the greater increase among the Czechs, and the greater migration from the country to the towns; partly the result of the romantic and nationalist movement which had arisen about 1830, and partly the result of establishing popular education and parliamentary government at the same time. As soon as these races which had so long been ruled by the Germans received political liberty and the means of education, they naturally used both to reassert their national individuality.

It may be suggested that the resistance to the German language is to some extent a result of the increased national feeling among the Germans themselves. They have made it a matter of principle. In the old days it was common for the children of German parents in Bohemia to learn Czech; since 1867 this has ceased to be the case. It may almost be said that they make it a point of honour not to do so. A result of this is that, as educated Czechs are generally bilingual, it is easier for them to obtain appointments in districts where a knowledge of Czech is required, and the Germans, therefore, regard every order requiring the use of Czech as an order which excludes Germans from a certain number of posts. This attitude of hostility and contempt is strongest among the educated middle class; it is not shown to the same extent by the clergy and the nobles.

The influence of the Church is also favourable to the Slav races, not so much from principle as owing to the fact that they supply more candidates for ordination than the Germans. There is no doubt, however, that the tendency among Germans has been to exalt the principle of nationality above religion, and to give it an absolute authority in which the Roman Catholic Church cannot acquiesce. In this, as in other ways, the Germans in Austria have been much influenced by the course of events in the German empire. This hostility of the Church to the German nationalist movement led in 1898 to an agitation against the Roman Catholic Church, and among the Germans of Styria and other territories large numbers left the Church, going over either to Protestantism or to Old Catholicism. This “Los von Rom” movement, which was caused by the continued alliance of the Clerical party with the Slav parties, is more of the nature of a political demonstration than of a religious movement.

The Germans, so long accustomed to rule, now saw their old German hostility. ascendancy threatened, and they defended it with an energy that increased with each defeat. In 1880 they founded a great society, the Deutscher Schulverein, to establish and assist German schools. It spread over the whole of the empire; in a few years it numbered 100,000 members, and had an income of nearly 300,000 gulden; no private society in Austria had ever attained so great a success. In the Reichsrath a motion was introduced, supported by all the German Liberal parties, demanding that German should be declared the language of state and regulating the conditions under which the other idioms could be recognized; it was referred to a committee from which it never emerged, and a bill to the same effect, introduced in 1886, met a similar fate. In Bohemia they demanded, as a means of protecting themselves against the effect of the language ordinances, that the country should be divided into two parts; in one German was to be the sole language, in the other Czech was to be recognized. A proposal to this effect was introduced by them in the diet at the end of 1886, but since 1882 the Germans had been in a minority. The Czechs, of course, refused even to consider it; it would have cut away the ground on which their whole policy was built up, namely, the indissoluble unity of the Bohemian kingdom, in which German and Czech should throughout be recognized as equal and parallel languages. It was rejected on a motion of Prince Karl Schwarzenberg without discussion, and on this all the Germans rose and left the diet, thereby imitating the action of the Czechs in old days when they had the majority.

These events produced a great change on the character of the New German parties. German opposition. It became more and more avowedly racial; the defence of German nationality was put in the front of their programme. The growing national animosity added bitterness to political life, and destroyed the possibility of a strong homogeneous party on which a government might depend. The beginning of this movement can be traced back to the year 1870. About that time a party of young Germans had arisen who professed to care little for constitutionalism and other “legal mummies,” but made the preservation and extension of their own nationality their sole object. As is so often the case in Austria, the movement began in the university of Vienna, where a Leseverein (reading club) of German students was formed as a point of cohesion for Germans, which had eventually to be suppressed. The first representative of the movement in parliament was Herr von Schönerer, who did not scruple to declare that the Germans looked forward to union with the German empire. They were strongly influenced by men outside Austria. Bismarck was their national hero, the anniversary of Sedan their political festival, and approximation to Germany was dearer to them than the maintenance of Austria. After 1878 a heightening of racial feeling began among the Radicals, and in 1881 all the German parties in opposition joined together in a club called the United Left, and in their programme put in a prominent place the defence of the position of the Germans as the condition for the existence of the state, and demanded that German should be expressly recognized as the official language. The younger and more ardent spirits, however, found it difficult to work in harmony with the older constitutional leaders. They complained that the party leaders were not sufficiently decisive in the measures for self-defence. In 1885 great festivities in honour of Bismarck's eightieth birthday, which had been arranged in Graz, were forbidden by the government, and the Germans of Styria were very indignant that the party did not take up the matter with sufficient energy. After the elections of 1885 the Left, therefore, broke up again into two clubs, the “German Austrian,” which included the more moderate, and the “German,” which wished to use sharper language. The German Club, e.g., congratulated Bismarck on his measures against the Poles; the German Austrians refused to take cognizance of events outside Austria with which they had nothing to do. Even the German Club was not sufficiently decided for Herr von Schönerer and his friends, who broke off from it and founded a “National German Union.” They spoke much of Germanentum and Unverfälschtes Deutschtum, and they advocated a political union with the German empire, and were strongly anti-Hungarian and wished to resign all control over Galicia, if by a closer union with Germany they could secure German supremacy in Bohemia and the south Slav countries. They play the same part in Austria as does the “pan-Germanic Union” in Germany. When in 1888 the