Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/14

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The Bohemian Review

which, radical though it be, finds approval in the eyes of all freedom-loving citizens of the country of liberty.

It was, however, inevitable that newspapers sympathizing with the Germans would twist certain demands of the Allies into unjust, wicked designs of rapacious would-be conquerors. In particular the intention of the Allies to liberate Italians, Slavs, Rumanians and Czecho-Slovaks from foreign domination has been emphasized by friends of Germany in this country as a proof that the enemies of Germany want to commit the great crime of dismembering a nation.

It is true that the liberation of the races just enumerated implies the dismemberment of Austria. Nothing would be left of the present empire of the Hapsburgs, numbering over fifty million subjects, except eight or nine million Germans and about the same number of Magyars, and these two fragments would be separated and would no longer form even a dualistic state. But when people talk about the dismemberment of Austria-Hungary as if it were a crime, they either totally misunderstand or wilfully refuse to understand the nature and composition of the queer monarchy on the Danube. For Austria is not a nation, like the other great powers of Europe, it is not a living organism that could be dismembered; it is a handful of provinces and races acquired by the Hapsburgs through lucky marriages and more or less clever diplomacy, held together only through common subjection to one family enforced by a great army. When Poland was partitioned nearly 150 years ago by Austria, Russia and Prussia, that was indeed a crime, for a living nation was cut into three pieces; the civilized world now asks unanimously that Poland be reunited and only the Teuton powers object. If the Allies proposed to make the dismemberment of Germany one of the conditions of peace, the neutrals would be justified in protesting against the idea as unnatural and pregnant with menace for the future. But the disappearance of Austria from the family of nations is in reality necessary if Europe is to enjoy permanent peace.

Fifteen years ago a writer in “The World’s Work” described conditions in Austria-Hungary as follows:

“The fundamental fact of the realm of the Hapsburgs is that its development has been one long exception to the ordinary rules of national growth. The races that compose it never fused as the Celts and Gallo-Romans, Franks and Iberians have fused in France, as nearly every nationality under the sun is fusing in the United States today. No dominant type has arisen to master its weaker neighbors and weld them into a homogeneous nation. Indeed, as the late Professor Freeman used to insist with lofty impatience and somewhat rasping iteration, the word “nation” has no application to Austria, and very little to Hungary. To talk of either state so as to give the impression that it can act or think as a unit, is, to use his own shattering conclusion, to talk nonsense. It is this variegated contradictoriness of Austria-Hungary that makes up its fascination for the political student. There is hardly a problem of those that are common to all modern countries with which it is not faced, and in addition it is an inexhaustible problem itself—a paradox, a mosaic without obvious cement, a Tower of Babel erected into a system of government, everything, in short, that is abnormal, unreasonable and impossible. The nationalities that inhabit it have owned a common sceptre and jostled side by side for centuries in an area smaller than Texas, and yet never mingled. Each race has lived its own life, made its own history, produced its own literature, preserved, and, of course, tried to extend, its own nationality.

“Austria today is what Metternich with less truth called Italy, little more than a geographical expression. Three bonds, to be touched on later, do indeed unite its discordant nationalities; but for the too hasty observer the country might well seem in the last stages of decomposition. There is nothing really Austrian in Austria—no Austrian interests, no Austrian language, or literature, or patriotism, no Austrian nobility, no Austrian standard of civilization, nothing except the Emperor, and the army, and the cockpit of Reichsrat that the races share in common.”

The foundations for the present Austrian empire were laid in 1526, when Ferdinand, to whom his elder brother Charles conveyed the Hapsburg dominions on the Danube and in the Alps, secured his election to the thrones of Bohemia and Hungary made vacant by the death of his brother-in-law Louis. Austria-Hungary of today contains in addition to these three elements only the Polish-Ruthenian provinces of Galicia and