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The Bohemian Review

Jaroslav F. Smetanka, Editor, 2324 S. Central Park Ave., Chicago.
Published by the Bohemian Review Co., 2627 S. Ridgeway Ave., Chicago, Ill.

Vol. I, No. 5. JUNE 1917

10 cents a Copy
$1.00 per Year

What the Sokols Stand For.

By Ludvík Fisher
President, Bohemian National Alliance of America.

As soon as the United States broke off relations with Germany, Sokols in America realized that the time had come to prove that the ideals of their great organization were realities and that they demanded sacrifice from every member. Although opposition to militarism has ever been one of the cardinal principles of the great Slav movement which calls itself the Falcons, yet the noble call of President Wilson to arms in defense of democracy and rights of small nations found an echo in the Bohemian Sokol societies in the United States. Hundreds of them in Chicago, New York, Detroit, Omaha and other Bohemian centers joined the American army, and for the first time almost the great newspapers of this country had occasion to refer frequently, and in terms very complimentary, to the Bohemian gymnasts rushing to do their bit.

Among the many powerful fraternal organizations that flourish in this country, none occupies such a pre-eminent place in the affections of the American people as do the Sokols among the Bohemians. Over in Bohemia the Sokols have been the favorite child and the pride of the nation, comprising the flower of the Czech youth—the peaceful army of a people that had no army of its own. To understand them, their principles and their success, it is necessary to speak of their founder, Dr. Miroslav Tyrš, and, in fact, to go back of him to the days of Bohemian revival.

The enlightened absolutism of the latter part of the eighteenth century stirred up the Czech people, who had been lying in a death-like torpor ever since the Hapsburgs crushed out their unsuccessful rebellion in 1620. Joseph II., by his toleration edict and by abolishing the worst evils of serfdom, put a new life into the peasants who, at that period, composed all that was left of the nation. But at the same time Joseph tried to make of his hereditary possessions a unified empire that would be German in language and sentiment. He threatened to take away from the Czechs their only remaining national possession, and the one dearest to them, their mother’s tongue. The result was that the vitality of the Bohemian people, a race looked upon by their German masters as a race of aborigines doomed to speedy disappearance, asserted itself once more. Men arose who lovingly took up the neglected and despised Slav language, resurrected its priceless literary treasures, defined the laws governing it and laid a foundation for its intensive cultivation in the field of modern literature. Joseph Dobrovsky is the greatest name among the linguists and authors of this period.

The literary revival was accompanied by the rediscovery of Bohemian history. For five generations the story of Bohemia’s glorious fight for civil and religious liberty had been suppressed. But now Palacky| gave his people a stirring narrative of the days of Czech independence and of the Hussite victories and taught the educated classes and the residents of the cities to be proud of being born of Bohemian blood. And so after the literary and historical revival came finally the new political life inaugurated by the martyred Karel Havlíček.

At this time, when the Bohemian nation was once more fully alive, but after its first ardent hopes had been disappointed by the return of absolutism under Bach, comes Miroslav Tyrš, a sober philosopher, who submits to a critical examination the essence of national organism, weighs its right to existence and defines its tasks and duties. “All history and all nature is an eternal struggle where everything succumbs that does not establish its right to live.” From this starting point Tyrš takes up the solution of the Bohemian problem.

All that lives is subject to this inexorable law of nature either increase and flourish, or disappear and make room for other forms of life. Individuals and nations that cannot keep step with others are doomed to defeat. How does that apply to the Bohemian nation? Here is a small people, recently awakened from death-like sleep, a nation that had claimed from its rulers the