Page:The Bohemians (Czechs) In The Present Crisis.djvu/14

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scribe or express the long struggle of the Czech people to maintain and to regain such independence.

Time was when the whole world listened with bated breath to what was going on in the heart of Europe, in Bohemian lands. In this connection it is a very significant fact, which we must always remember, that at the council of Basle, one of the Bohemian heresies, condemned by the council, was the Hussite thesis that each nation has the right to govern itself.

The right to independence and to self-government was never surrendered by the Czech people, and when the Hapsburgs were called to the Bohemian throne in 1526 they took a solemn oath to maintain Bohemian independence, and such oaths were repeatedly reaffirmed thereafter by members of this reigning family, but never really seriously observed.

Encroachments upon Bohemian independence began by Ferdinand I as early as 1547, when the autonomy of Bohemian cities was destroyed, and the leaders of the movement for such autonomy executed at what is now known in Bohemian history as the "Bloody Diet".

After that the history of Bohemia is largely one of a struggle between the Hapsburgs, aiming at centralization and Germanization on the one hand, and the Bohemians seeking to preserve their independence on the other hand.

The struggle culminated in a Bohemian defeat in 1620, and was followed by ruthless oppression of the nation for almost three centuries thereafter.

However, no amount of persecution, no amount of Germanization could stamp out the spark of Czech national life, and only a few years ago it seemed that no power on earth could prevent the Czechs from achieving self-government within Austria.

It was only the influence and power of Berlin that thwarted the Czech desires during the nineteenth century, and one of the causes of this war may be sought in the desire of Berlin and Budapest to once and forever be