|The New Europe|
|Vol. II, No. 19.||February 22, 1917|
The Future Status of Bohemia
“Before Austria was, we were, and when Austria no longer is, we still shall be.”—Palacky, on Bohemia.
In a previous article, “Bohemia and the European Crisis,” an attempt was made to show by a succinct historical sketch the political meaning of the Bohemian question. Until the war broke out Western public opinion displayed little interest in the constitutional and political problems of the AustroHungarian Monarchy and its constituent countries, and even during the war attention has been mainly directed to Germany to the exclusion of Austria-Hungary. It was but natural that many political amateurs should fight against a recognition of the fact that Austria-Hungary was no less an enemy of Great Britain than Germany herself. Fortunately the leading statesmen of Britain and her Allies grasped the true situation, as has been clearly shown by their programme proclaiming the liberation of the non-German and non-Magyar nations of Austria-Hungary—in other words, the dismemberment of the Dual Monarchy. One of the nations to be liberated is the Czecho-Slovak, which, as I have tried to show, has the full right to independence. Bohemia is, indeed, in point of law, an independent State whose ancient rights are disputed and violated by the Germans and Magyars. The Bohemian question is not a mere question of nationality, and cannot be solved by granting a greater or less degree of home rule and autonomy; there are political considerations as well. Bohemia is struggling for independence, and the achievement of that independence is in the interests of the Allies—nay more, it is a necessity for them.
The present article deals with the proposed independent Bohemian State and its administrative and constitutional organisation.
1. Area and Population.—The Bohemian State would be composed of the lands of the Crown of St. Wenceslas, namely, Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia; and to these would be added the Slovak districts of North Hungary. The frontiers of the three former would, in the main, follow the lines laid down by history and tradition, but the southern and eastern frontiers of Slovakia could not be fixed without opposition from the Magyars, in spite of their being mainly ethnographical, and including as little of the Magyar population as possible. The new State would thus have about 12,000,000 inhabitants, and would extend to about 50,000 English square miles (Belgium=11,373).
2. The Name.— It is necessary to settle the question of terminology first. This is not a mere matter of philology; behind the name there lies a certain political and legal conception and an attempt at definition. It is well known that this question of terminology caused great difficulties between Austria and Hungary at the time when the Dual system was established, and similar difficulties might arise in our case.
Bohemia, strictly speaking, designates Bohemia proper, the chief Bohemian country, exclusive of Moravia and Silesia; but the “Bohemian” Crown designates all these countries as a constitutional unit. In that sense the name might designate the whole future State. Its origin appears to be Celtic; the Boii were a Celtic people who inhabited part of the land, and were succeeded by the German tribe of Marcomanni, who, in their turn, were supplanted by the Slav Czechs. Čech is the Slav name for the Slav people and language in Bohemia and its provinces, and as there is a German and Polish minority in these provinces, the terms used to designate the whole country, the State, are “Bohemia” and “Bohemian.” The Czechs themselves do not adopt this distinction but use the word “Czech” in both senses. When writing German or Latin, however, they do use the words “Böhme,” “Bohemus,” but the French have adopted the Slav designation, and this is also used by the Germans.
The Slovaks extend from the south-east corner of Moravia far into Hungary. They are part of the Czech nation. Incorporated in Hungary as early as the tenth century, and being thereby separated from the Czechs, they have formed a national unit against the Magyars. In the eighteenth century they adopted their own dialect as their literary language; but the language question does not play a prominent rôle, inasmuch as every Czech understands Slovak quite well, and vice versâ.
There has always been a party among the Slovaks who; though adhering to their own dialect, are in favour of the union of these two branches of the same nation. The word “Czecho-Slovak” or “Czechoslovak” (the latter form being intended to designate a closer union) is very widely used, although it is not accepted by the radical Slovaks, who claim an absolutely distinct nationality. The political relationship between Bohemia and Slovakia can be variously formulated in terms of the nomenclature. The same questions may arise as those which are discussed in fixing the relationship of Austria to Hungary. It will depend, for instance, how close the union is as to whether the name “Czechoslovak,” “Czecho-Slovak,” or “Czech and Slovak,” will be decided upon. There is no doubt that the union of the two branches will grow. So far, the political spokesmen of the Czechs and Slovaks in the European and American colonies (in Bohemia and Slovakia the people cannot publicly express their opinion) have agreed to claim one common, united State, and it is taken as a matter of course by both parties that the Slovaks of Slovakia will freely use their language as they choose. There will, indeed, be no language question; the political interest of the problem is concerned only with the financial organisation of Slovakia and her economic and educational development. And, in that respect, the interests of Slovakia are best served by the closest possible union, because the Magyars have purposely neglected her, and have tried, as far as possible, to keep her, economically, at the old primitive stage of development.
It will, therefore, be generally agreed that the best designation of the State, which is to be composed of the Czechs and Slovaks, and of the non-Slav minorities, will be Bohemia. This will almost certainly be the name adopted for international use, for, in this case, terminology need take no account of internal qualifications, and will inevitably choose the simple term, especially as it happens to be the one by which the country is generally known.
3. Constitution and Government.—Bohemia is projected as a monarchical State, though the more radical politicians advocate a Bohemian Republic. It must be admitted that the experience of foreign dynasties in the Balkans induces even the more conservative politicians to admit the expediency of the republican constitution.
The dynastic question is left to the decision of the Allies, who might perhaps give one of their own princes. There might be a personal union between Serbia and Bohemia, if the Serbs and Bohemians were to be neighbouring countries. A personal union with Russia or with Poland, if the latter were to be quite independent, has also been suggested. (German and Austrian princes must eo ipso be excluded.) The Bohemian people are thoroughly Slavophil. A Russian dynasty, in whatever form, would be most popular; and, in any case, Bohemian politicians desire the establishment of the kingdom of Bohemia in complete accord with Russia. The greatest of the Slav States could then assume the initiative in the solution of any Slavonic question.
Bohemian politicians, though alive to the difficulties of reconstituting Bohemia, do not shrink from the responsibility of the work to be done. If they wish for complete independence, it is because they desire to use all the political forces of the nation to build a strong State. Russia and all the Allies will be best served by strong Slav States and nations, and this aim can be best attained if these nations themselves bear the full responsibility for their policy.
Bohemia will of course be constitutional and democratic. The regeneration of Europe will be achieved, not only by the reform of foreign policy, but, above all, by the active furtherance of liberty and progress in the inner life of the European nations; for this task the Allies and Europe can fully rely on the Bohemian nation.
4. Economic and Financial Problems.—Economically and financially Bohemia is acknowledged to be the “pearl of Austria,” and she will in the future be as rich as she is now; she will, in fact, be richer, because she will not have to support the economically weaker provinces of Austria.
Bohemia was, from the beginning of the union with Hungary and Austria, the political backbone of Austria; the Alpine countries were poor, Trieste and the sea were of little importance, Hungary had no economic significance at all. Bohemia exported grain and manufactured goods; it was only in the second half of the nineteenth century that Hungary became the granary of Austria and partly of Bohemia, which then, like the rest of Austria, imported the grain and flour she required from America.
At present the population of the Bohemian countries is, in round numbers, half agricultural, half industrial. In Bohemia proper, 35 per cent, are employed in agriculture, the rest in industry, commerce, and the so-called liberal occupations. In Moravia and Silesia, 50 per cent, live on agriculture; in Slovakia a much higher percentage still.
The following facts will suffice to indicate the economic strength of the Bohemian countries:—
In the years 1906–1914 the average production of grain was (in round figures), in Bohemia 544 mill, cwt., in Moravia 24 mill., in Silesia 4 mill.
After making due allowance for grain used for sowing purposes, and for grain wasted, this works out at an average of over 810 lbs, a year per head in Bohemia, and in Moravia the average is 890 lbs, per head. The Bohemian lands altogether give an average of 815 lbs, per head for a population of little less than ro millions, while, in the rest of Austria, it is hardly 511 lbs, per head. It should be remarked that half of this grain can be used for milling, and gives flour and foodstuffs of excellent quality, which, together with the yearly produce in potatoes, peas, lentils, vegetables and excellent fruit, is more than sufficient for general consumption. In 1914 the harvest was so good that it gave an average of 839 Ibs, per head. It should be remembered that cultivation in Bohemia has not reached the same stage of development as that of Denmark or Belgium. There are great possibilities ahead if the rate of development evinced during the last ten years is maintained. The great number of large estates in the south and west are an important asset, particularly in regard to cattle-breeding.
During the years 1906–1910 Bohemia and Moravia contributed almost 46 per cent, of the total grain produced in Austria, 41 % of the potatoes, 44 % of the clover and fodder, and 93 (!) % of beet sugar. The Austrian sugar industry is almost entirely confined to the Bohemian lands. The statistics of the production of fruit, vegetables, cereals, etc., are equally indicative of Bohemia’s importance. And this, in spite of the fact that these lands represent only 26·4 % of the soil of Austria and hardly 351 % of her inhabitants.
To the total amount of brown coal produced in Austria (261 mill. tons) Bohemia alone contributes 83 %, and to the 15·8 mill. tons of black coal, 86·66 %. These results place Bohemia among the richest States in the world, along with England, the United States and Germany, for she produces about 261 cwt. of black and almost 51 cwt. of brown coal for every one of her 10 million inhabitants.
Of the iron ore turned out by Austria (27 mill. cwt.), about a third is produced in Bohemia. Though the country itself is not very rich in iron ore, yet, in consequence of the great production of coal, the iron works in Bohemia are very extensive, forming over 60 % of the entire industry in Austria. As these two branches of natural wealth and industry are the most important of all, the Bohemian lands are invaluable to Austria.
In the other industries as well, the importance of Bohemia is equally paramount. She monopolises 93 % of the entire sugar industry and about 46 % of the breweries. Hops are grown only in the Bohemian lands, whence they are exported. The engineering industry also has its seat chiefly in Bohemia, as do the textile (cotton and wool), glass, paper and leather industries, stone-cutting and grinding, graphite quarrying, chemistry and electro-technology.
In consequence of this industrial activity, Bohemia returns the highest profits for railways, posts and telegraphs. Her network of railways is the thickest, and she alone, out of the whole of Austria, can boast of private railways run for the benefit of particular factories. This feature is especially characteristic of the north of Bohemia. The Bohemian postal system yields 52 % of the total profits.
In banking and exchange the Bohemian lands used to be dependent on Vienna, but they have been emancipated since 1895, and, during these 20 years, the capital of the Bohemian banks has increased sevenfold, having risen from 48 mill. to 336 mill. crowns. And it must be remembered that the chief source of the banking capital of Vienna is the trade with the Bohemian lands. The development of Bohemian trade has, during the last few years, been exceedingly rapid.
The Slovak territory in the north of Hungary is very different. It is mostly agricultural, as yet comparatively undeveloped, and as the country is very hilly and the methods of cultivation obsolete, it is much poorer than the other Bohemian lands. The southern part, being less hilly, is fertile enough, producing, indeed, very good wine; and as the hilly north has much natural wealth in the form of iron ore, great forests, etc., which is as yet unexploited, the country could be industrialised to great advantage. It could supply the other Bohemian lands with the commodities of which they are short, such as iron ore, copper and tin; and finally, the country is good for sheep and cattle raising. This territory is very similar to Silesia, the larger part of which is now industrial, and could be turned to the same use.
Nor must we forget the wealth of the compounds of uranium and radium, mined at Joachimsthal, nor the baths at Karlsbad, Franzensbad and Marienbad, Teplitz, have an abundance of everything necessary for cultural development, so that, as an independent country, they would be quite self-sufficing, and would, moreover, be able to export not only their agricultural, but a great part of their industrial products as well., Mšene, Luhačovice and Pistany. Bohemian territory is, in this respect, one of the richest countries in the world. In short, except for salt, mercury and naphtha, the Bohemian lands
From the point of view of modern political economy, Bohemia may be said to be an ideal country, being in possession of all the necessary conditions for putting into practice the modern theories of free trade and protectionism. It has great possibilities of realising that harmony between agriculture and industry, that economic self-sufficiency which, by many theorists, is put forward as a postulate for forming even the smallest autonomous State (cf. the chapter on free trade in Gide’s “Political Economy.”
In emergencies such as war the Bohemian lands would also be thoroughly competent to hold their own, both agriculturally as well as industrially.
The natural and industrial riches of the Bohemian lands, making possible as they do a very heavy system of taxation, have always formed the financial foundation of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The population of the Bohemian lands is much denser, and the whole standard of life is much higher, than that of the other lands of Austria.
The following table illustrates the Bohemian contribution on the basis of direct taxation to the Austrian finances:—
|The Bohemian lands pay—||Other provinces|
(except Lower Austria)
House property taxes
|493 %||503 %|
Tax on earnings
|611 %||383 %|
|56·7 %||41·3 %|
|The total of all direct taxes||57 %||43 %|
The Bohemian lands and the other Austrian lands (not counting Lower Austria and Vienna) have 25·04 million inhabitants, in the proportion of 40·5 % and 59·5 % respectively. Lower Austria is placed separately, because the position of Vienna, as the capital, is a privileged one; it is the real centre of Bohemian industry and export trade. Many Czech undertakings have their central offices and rights of domicile there because the scale of taxation and the municipal rates of Vienna are lower than in Bohemia.
That explains why the rateability of Bohemia tends to drop, while that of Vienna and Lower Austria tends to rise. If we could include those figures in the statistics, and if we entered the precise rateability of those Bohemian undertakings that are domiciled in Vienna, in the archives of the Bohemian lands, the difference would be still more in our favour. But even as it is, the rateability of the Bohemian lands is 11·90 crowns per head, whereas in the rest of the Austrian lands it is only 6 crowns.
Still more significant are the statistics of indirect taxation in Austria (taxes on beer, sugar, spirits, salt, paraffin, tobacco, and excise taxes, etc.). With the exception of spirits, the consumption of all those articles is far greater in the Bohemian lands.
The Bohemian lands are, indeed, the “pearl of Austria,” not only from the point of view of agricultural and industrial production, but also, and as the inevitable result thereof, from the financial standpoint. In the other lands of the Monarchy the State expenses are greater than the income received from them in return, and this deficit is made good by the Bohemian countries. In view of the foregoing facts few people will entertain any doubts as to Bohemia’s chances of being self-supporting and progressive.
Bohemia has, unfortunately, no seaboard (except in one of Shakespeare’s plays), and that, no doubt, is a great drawback as compared, for instance, with little Denmark and the other sea-bordered countries. But Bohemia does not stand alone in that respect; she is no worse off than Serbia, Hungary, Switzerland. The example of Switzerland shows that not only political independence can be preserved, but also that modern means of communication enable even a landlocked country to maintain a flourishing industry. Switzerland has not even any coal, and yet she has succeeded in becoming an industrial country. Bohemia, on the other hand, is very rich in coal, and will therefore be able to run the necessary railways. But she will have at her disposal Trieste, which, it may be presumed, will be a free port; and she will also have the Serbo-Croatian ports and Polish Danzig, should her relations with Germany prevent the use of Hamburg. The distance from Prague to Hamburg is the same as that to Trieste; Danzig is a little further, as is also Fiume. There is the possibility of creating a cheap waterway by a Moravia-Oder-Vistula channel, of which there already exists the beginning.
Although the sea undoubtedly furnishes comparatively strong strategical frontiers, yet the development of modern navies easily counterbalances that advantage, as has been experienced in this war. Belgium, Denmark, Norway, for instance, can make little use of the sea.
Bohemia would, of course, take her share of the Austrian public debt contracted before the war; but she will decline to participate in the debt resulting from the war. The financial situation of Austria-Hungary is very precarious; the war has cost the country an enormous amount of money, and the Austro-Hungarian bank has been degraded into an institute for false coining.
Independent Bohemia would have to begin her own administration with a considerable financial burden; and the leading political men of Bohemia are well aware of their serious task, and of the necessity for a solid, thoroughly balanced financial administration. It may be mentioned that after the war the financial exhaustion of all the nations will necessitate the most stringent financial administration. But it may be said without exaggeration that Bohemia will have excellent administrators in all departments of public and private service, who will be quite fit for the work of remodelling the new State.
In this outline it is impossible to discuss all the social and economic problems of Bohemia. But it is of general interest to point out the peculiar position of the Bohemian landed proprietors or aristocracy, which is very similar to that of the famous East Elbian Junkers. As in East Prussia, the Germans confiscated the soil of the Slavs, so did Austria and her aristocratic accomplices in Bohemia after the battle of the White Mountain. It was as a result of these and former robberies that, in Bohemia, landed estates were created of a size equal to some of the small German States. These proprietors, for the most part, are Austrian in sentiment, and would perhaps form a dangerous element. Bohemia might, in that case, follow the methods of land purchase and parcelling out adopted in Ireland: as indeed, all the liberal parties demand.
5. The National Minorities in Bohemia.—As it is not my intention to hide the difficulties which face the establishment of a free Bohemia, reference must be made to the question of national minorities.
The Bohemian State would be composed, in round figures, of 9,000,000 Czechs and Slovaks, 230,000 Poles in Silesia, 3,000,000 Germans, and 150,000 Magyars in Slovakia.
Though we advocate the principle of nationality we wish to retain our minorities. That seems a paradox, but it is on the very principle of nationality that we wish to retain them. Bohemia is a unique example of a nationally mixed country. Between the Italians and Germans, the ethnographical frontier is simple and sharply defined. Not so in Bohemia; in a great many places, and in all the cities, there are considerable German or Czech minorities. The Germans object that the Czech minorities in North Bohemia, etc., are “only” working men—people who live on German bread; but this antisocial argument is obviously false, and it is inconsistent with the process of the industrialisation of Bohemia, which, of course, needs factory “hands”; moreover, it was the Germans themselves who invited the Czechs to immigrate.
The question of national minorities is of capital significance not only in Bohemia, but in almost all countries, almost all States being nationally mixed. Even if the new Europe cannot be remodelled on a strictly nationalist basis, the national rights of the minorities must be assured. This will be done in Bohemia. The Bohemians have always claimed equal, not superior, nights. Owing to her central position it will be to Bohemia’s interest to grant full rights to the Germans and the two smaller minorities. Commonsense will demand it. Nor would it be contrary to the spirit of the proposal that the rights of national minorities should be granted and secured by an International Court.
So far as the German minority is concerned, I should not be opposed to a rectification of the political frontier; parts of Bohemia and Moravia, where there are only a few Czechs might be ceded to German Austria. In that way the German minority could perhaps be reduced by one million. But it must be remembered that there are large Czech minorities in Lower Austria and Vienna (4 million), and there are also Czechs in Prussian Silesia, in the territories of Glatz and Ratibor and a large Sorb minority in Lusatia. Pangermans cannot, therefore, justly complain of the fate of the minority in Bohemia. The just rule for national redistribution in Europe consists in the fair application of the principle of the majority. Which is the more just—that nine million Czechs should be under German rule or that three million Germans should be under Czech rule?
If the Germans insist on the argument that their culture invests them with the right of ruling the less cultured nations, the fact must be emphasised that the Czechs are not less cultured than the Germans. Even Austrian statistics show a smaller number of illiterates in Bohemia than in German Austria.
There is one means, of a more financial nature, which might help to rearrange national minorities. The German and Austrian politicians, especially the Pangermans, have very often proposed that the various States should undertake a systematic intermigration of national minorities. I see that in England Mr. Buxton recommends this means for the Balkans. It may be doubted whether this expedient would be very effective, if equal national rights were granted. The Magyars tried some years ago to repatriate the small Magyar minority of the Bukovina; the undertaking was a complete failure, for the repatriated colonists soon left Hungary and went back. But after the war, many countries will need men—farmers, artisans and members of the professional classes, and, therefore, a systematic transplanting of minorities might be attempted.
6. The International Position of Bohemia in regenerated Europe.—The re-establishment of independent Bohemia is only one part of the Allied programme of reconstruction. In close connection with the Bohemian are the Polish and Southern Slav questions. The Poles, Czech-Slovaks, and Southern Slavs, form a natural barrier against the Germans, Magyars and Turks, and their Pangerman plans in the East. The liberation and reunion of Poland and Bohemia aim directly at Prussia: to crush Prussian militarism means, in effect, to liberate the two nations which are its primary object. The reunion of the Poles means, of course, the liberation of Posnania and Prussian Silesia from Prussian rule, and the liberation of Galicia and Bukovina from Austrian rule. This Slav barrier is not to be understood in the sense of the so-called Buffer-States. A buffer-State presupposes continuous antagonism between two neighbours; whereas the Allies’ programme aims at the reconstruction and regeneration of the whole of Europe.
The liberation of the Roumanians and Italians, as demanded by the Allies, requires a further dismemberment of Austria-Hungary, with which indeed the programme of the Allies is synonymous. “Lasting Peace!” means the break-up of this a-national, mediæval State.
The Magyars will also have their own State, being, of course, reduced to the bounds of their own nationality, and German Austria will remain under the Habsburgs.
The plan of the Allies implies the creation of only one or at most two new States—Bohemia and Poland; the other changes will either extend or reduce States already existing. Austria and Hungary will be reduced; Roumania, Serbia, Italy will be enlarged. Nations will be liberated; the oppressive dynasty—the Habsburgs—and the oppressive nations—the Germans and Magyars—will be forced to rely on their own forces.
Mr. Balfour is right when he emphasises the fact that the programme of the Allies will weaken the German lust of domination, and secure freedom and independence for the oppressed races; for Austria in its present form is not less German than Prussia.
Its geographical position in the centre of Europe, and its historical antagonism to oppressive Germanism and Pangermanism secures to Bohemia that great political significance expressed in the Allies’ Note to President Wilson, which demanded the liberation of the Czecho-Slovaks. And it is in the interest of the Allies to liberate Bohemia, if Prussian militarism and German lust of dominion are to be crushed, and the Pangerman plan of Berlin-Cairo and Berlin-Bagdad frustrated. The Allies’ plan, like that of the enemy, is a far-reaching programme of creative politics. The war and its consequences is the greatest event in human history. The Napoleonic wars, the Thirty Years’ War, the Crusades—all these were child’s play compared with this war. Realist politicians and statesmen must grasp the inner meaning of German and European history: they must comprehend the direction in which history is pointing, and what Europe’s aims and objects can and must be.
I do not maintain that the liberation of Bohemia is the most vital question of the war; but I can say without exaggeration that the aims proclaimed by the Allies cannot be attained without the liberation of Bohemia. Her future fate will be the touchstone of the Allies’ strength, earnestness and statesmanship.
- The New Europe, No. 15.
- An expert in this question, having regard to strategical necessities, proposed the following frontier: from Ungvar through Kosice (Kaschau), along the ethnographical boundaries down the river Ipoly (Eipel) to the Danube, including Pressburg; the frontier towards West and North is also given.
- There are Czech minorities in Lower Austria neighbouring on Bohemia, and in Prussian Silesia; both could easily be added to Bohemia in return for German territory. Some Bohemian politicians demand also Slav Lusatia, which once belonged to Bohemia.
- To give but a single instance: the politicians and lawyers are not agreed whether “Austria-Hungary” designates two States (Austria and Hungary), or whether there are three States involved—Austria, Hungary, and, as the third State, the Empire comprising the two States. The common army was “Imperial-Royal” (K.K.), but some years ago the Magyars succeeded in having this changed to “Imperial and Royal” (K. und K.), the word “and” having an important legal and political meaning.
- It should be noted that the finances of Austria rest upon Bohemia-Moravia-Silesia, Lower Austria with Vienna, Northern Styria, and in recent years part of Western Galicia.
- The three Bohemian lands constitute 26·4 % of Austria, and provide 351 % of the whole population. In these lands there are 128 people to one square kilometre, as opposed to 83 in the rest of Austria.
- The bank had only 1,300,000,000 gold crowns, but it nevertheless continues to issue new coin and new paper money; since the beginning of 1917 its gold account has not been published.
- Bohemia would introduce the franc currency, which combines the Latin and the Russian currency; 20 francs=71 roubles (40=15).