Trip Details…• Leaving: March 9 at 3:40 pm from IAH Houston on KLM Flight 662 to Amsterdam. Arrive 7:45 am March 10. Depart Amsterdam 12:00 pm, arrive Prague Vaclav Havel Airport1:30 pm.• Two mandatory lectures and field trips: European Czech parliament tour and lecture and visit to Terezin Jewish ghetto/concentration camp. Dates and times TBA, hopefully by the end of next week. Terezin trip will be via bus and is on your own dime.• Departing: March 15, 6:50 am, flying to Amsterdam. Arrival 8:30 am. Depart Amsterdam10:10 am, KLM flight 661. Arrive IAH 2:35 pm.
Pre History• Early modern humans had settled in the region around Brno around 25000 to 27000 years ago. They left this lovely parting gift – the Venus of Dolní Věstonice, the oldest known ceramic figure in the world.• A Celtic tribe called the Boii settled the region circa 100 AD, hence the term Bohemia for the region.
In the Beginning…• The first Slavic people (Czech tribes in Bohemia and Moravians in Moravia) arrived in the 6th century.• Eventually the area is overrun by many different groups in the next 500 years, including Magyars, Germans, and everyone’s favorite invaders, the Huns.• Eventually, what is now the Czech Republic and Slovakia coalesces under the Premyslid Dynasty, whose most famous ruler is Wenceslaus I, seen here, who may rise again from the Blanik…
The Tale of the Premyslids…• Libuse in Czech legend founds Prague after dreaming of its spires. She marries a humble plowman, Premysyl, and thus founds the dynasty that bears his name – how’s that for sexism?• The story of Premysl and Libuse….
Ottakar I• The first real Premyslid ruler known to history is Ottakar (1155- 1230).• Ottakar is a master at political intrigue, and plays the European power game well. He ends up being recognized as King of Bohemia by Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV, a hereditary title, in The Golden Bull of Sicily.• By 1300 AD, the Premyslid Dynasty controls all of the Czech and Slovak lands as well as parts of Hungary, Germany and Poland – about six times as large as the Czech Republic today.• What will become Czechoslovakia/the Czech Republic is now officially part of the Holy Roman Empire and will remain so in various forms until 1918…• The Premyslids, however, do not have the same staying power…
The Golden Age of Czech History• By 1306, the Premyslid line dies out; leading to several short dynastic wars that result in the House of Luxembourg gaining control over Bohemia.• Charles IV, King of Bohemia and later Holy Roman Emperor, is still today considered the greatest Czech monarch. During his reign the Czech lands experience their greatest power and prestige.• A patron of the arts, Charles also oversaw much of the construction of the Hrad as well as St. Vitus cathedral.• Charles is also a realist: He focuses on building a Holy Roman dynastic line rather than trying to build the HRE up as an empire for all Christendom.
Charles, Continued…• Among Charles (Karel) IV’s accomplishments is the founding of Charles University, the first University (1347) in the HRE and among the oldest in Europe.• Charles gets the Golden Bull of 1356 out of the Pope, which lays down the ground rules for ascension to HRE until the HRE is dissolved by Napoleon in 1805.• Charles dies in 1378, succeeded by his son Wenceslaus. Never again will the Czech lands hold such power and prestige.• Charles dies just in time, as the Plague decimates Bohemia starting in 1380…
Religious Upheaval and the Rise of the Hapsburg Empire• The Hussite rebellion, inspired by Jan Hus (1369 – 1415), rector of Charles University, is both a religious and political movement and a forerunner of the reformation.• Hus did not approve of the rampant corruption in the Roman Catholic church and urged a return to chastity and poverty among clergy and church leadership.• Hus is arrested, tried, and burned at the stake in 1415. His last recorded words were: "in a hundred years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform can not be suppressed." Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses of Contention to a church door in Wittenberg 102 years later.• Just like in The Mummy, “death is only the beginning…”
The Hussite Wars• War erupts (1420-1432) over Hus’ teachings and his execution.• The First Defenestration of Prague occurs in 1419 when the mayor and several other officials are thrown from the upper stories of the New Town Hall: Shortly thereafter, King Vaclav IV dies, and the region descends into chaos.• Ultraquists (moderates) vs. Taborites (hard core Hussites).• Communion “in both kinds” (in Latin: Ultraquist) vs. literal biblical law and infallibility (Taborites).
Ultraquists in Power• Pope Martin V declares a Crusade against the Hussites in Bohemia, something Vaclav’s brother and successor, Sigismund, King of Hungary is only too happy to embark on.• Unfortunately for Sigismund, his forces are routed by the Hussites and all of Bohemia falls under their control by November 1420.• Bohemia then descends into periods of civil war between the Ultraquists and the Taborites, with the Taborites under Jan Zizka eventually winning out in 1424, just in time for another foreign crusade.• In 1434, the Ultraquists have their revenge and defeat the Taborites, eventually reaching an accommodation with Rome – communion in both kinds is now allowed – to this day!• The last Ultraquist king of Bohemia dies childless in battle with the Ottoman Turks in 1526. His death leads to the acquisition of Bohemia and Moravia by the Austrian Hapsburg Empire, where it will remain until 1918…
Unter den Doppeladler…• While Moravia quickly adapted to Hapsburg rule, Bohemia did not, as the Austrians sought to impose strict Catholicism and German control over the region, which had gone Protestant after the Reformation.• Ultraquist Czech nobility were stripped of their land and titles by the Hapsburgs and HRE Charles V and discriminated against.
Bohemia and the Hapsburgs• The Czech lands, particularly Moravia, are not happy with Hapsburg Catholicism.• With the Ultraquist nobility and the lower Protestanty classes being discriminated against and taxed heavily, the possibility of revolt grows.• The spark for revolt comes in 1617. Emperor Matthias wanted his dynastic heir Ferdinand II appointed to the royal throne of Bohemia and Hungary. Ferdinand was duly elected by the Bohemian estates to become the Crown Prince, and automatically upon the death of Matthias, the next King of Bohemia.• This leads to…
The Start of the Thirty Years’ War• Protestant Czech nobles clash once again with the Hapsburgs when Bohemia passes to a hereditary Hapsburg possession.• HRE Rudolf II gave the Czechs a good deal of autonomy in daily religious life, recognizing the Czech Reform Church and allowing Charles University to be run by the Ultraquist nobility.• Rudolf’s successor, Emperor Matthias, is a hard-core Catholic and sets about rolling back many of Rudolf II’s reforms. He also introduces the Jesuits into Prague.• At Prague Castle on May 23, 1618, an assembly of Protestants, led by Count Thun, tried two Imperial governors for violating Rudolf II’s Letter of Majesty (Right of Freedom of Religion), found them guilty, and threw them, together with their scribe Philip Fabricius, out of the windows of the Bohemian Chancellery. They fell roughly sixty feet and landed on a large pile of manure in a dry moat and survived. Philip Fabricius was later ennobled by the emperor and granted the title von Hohenfall ("of the High fall").• This is the beginning salvo of the next war(s) of religion, the Thirty Year’s War.• The Bohemian phase of the 30 Year’s War ends with…
The Battle of White Mountain• Matthias is not seen as nearly hard core enough and is supplanted by Ferdinand II, who sets out to crush the Protestants in Bohemia and Moravia.• The Bohemian region sees early fighting in the war, with the Protestants being finally and decisively defeated by the Hapsburgs, under Count Tilly, in the Battle of White Mountain in November 1620.• Emperor Ferdinand then orders the Protestant nobles to leave his lands or convert to Catholicism.• White Mountain solidifies Hapsburg control of Bohemia for the next 300 years.• Prague and Bohemia suffer in the later stages of the 30 Years’ War under both Swedish and Saxon occupation.
Payback• Many Czech commoners, with no stake in Ultraquist theology, are happy to see a return to Catholicism.• With the Protestant “Winter King”, Frederick V, having fled Prague, Tilly exacts his revenge, executing 27 Ultraquist nobles in Prague’s Old Town Square (Stare Mesto).• Five out of every six Czech nobles flee the country, and Bohemia and Moravia are now firmly in the grasp of the Catholic Hapsburgs.
The Curtis Family Civil War…• Bohemia suffers a great deal of damage during the 30 Years’ War, particularly after being invaded by Sweden, under Gustavus Adolphus.• Ironic, as the Czechs at this time were predominantly Protestant-leaning, although their Hapsburg overloads were Catholic…• Gustavus dies in battle in 1632, but the last Swedish push carries them to the gates of Prague in 1648…
• The Swedes take Hradcany Castle but are repulsed from entering the “Old Town” (Stary Mesto) on the Charles Bridge.• The Swedes have to content themselves with pillaging the Castle and removing many of the priceless relics back to Sweden.• This marks the end of the Thirty Years’ War, so it both begins and ends in Bohemia, and in Prague.
A History of the Hapsburgs• Charlemagne founds the “First Reich” in 800 – crowned by the Pope.• Holy Roman Empire includes modern France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, part of northern Spain, northern Italy, and much of Germany and Austria, as well as Bohemia and Moravia.• His “empire” was not hereditary, which will cause problems later…
The First Reich – The Holy Roman Empire• Charlemagne’s empire is split among his grandsons after the death of his son, Louis.• The “Eastern Kingdom”, under the influence of the Franks, develops a Germanic language, while the Western Kingdom develops into Old French.• Eventually, the Eastern Kingdom is weakened by the growth of strong, independent duchies and kingdoms.
The Hapsburgs• By 1400, HRE’s now came from the three most powerful royal houses:• Luxembourg (Bohemia), Wittelsbach (Bavaria), and Hapsburg (Austria)• Rudolf I begins Hapsburg control of Austria in 1278. By 1453, the Hapsburgs have a monopoly on the Holy Roman Empire.• Hapsburgs have control from mid-fifteenth century until 1806 and are the dominant Germanic country – the Hapsburg, and later the Austro-Hungarian, Empire.• One lasting contribution of the HRE is the rise of a competent class of professional officials and administrators in many German kingdoms.• Defense of Vienna against the Ottoman Turks in 1529 and 1683 gives Austrians longstanding pride as “defenders of the faith.”• Gelassen anderen Kriege, aber Sie, glückliches Österreich,
The Hapsburgs as a Bulwark Against Islam• Ottoman Turks had advanced against the West in 1682 for a second time (the first was in 1529) and laid siege to Vienna in July 1683. At this time the Turks controlled nearly all of Hungary and Transylvania, which they had taken from the Austrian empire.• The Austrians under Leopold I and the Poles under Jan III Sobieski routed the Ottoman forces on September 12, raising the siege of Vienna and starting a 16 year process by which the Ottomans were slowly driven out of Hungary and Transylvania, and the Austrian Empire gained firm control over these regions.• Austrian success in lifting the siege gave the Austrian Empire hegemony over central Europe for the next one hundred and eighty years.• To this day the Austrian are quite proud at having been the defenders of the Christian faith against the forces of Islam.
The Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 – The First Fissure in the Empire• Charles VI of Austria will die with no male heirs and declares that his daughters will now be able to succeed him, which they were not supposed to be able to do – only male heirs.• The Habsburg line in Spain had died out in 1705 and there had been a war over the succession to the throne, which the Hapsburgs lost to the French and Louis XIV.• Charles gets the other great European powers to agree to accept his sanction.• Maria Theresa accordingly ascends to the throne in 1740 ushering in a fairly golden age for Prague and the Empire.
Sixteen Kids??? Seriously???• MT is, ahem, prolific, in producing offspring.• She gives birth to HRE’s Joseph II and Leopold II, two queens, and a duchess.• Her most famous offspring?• Although a loving mother, MT uses her children in that most Austrian of hobbies, expanding the Hapsburg Empire…• It is good that she does, because everybody repudiates the pragmatic Sanction as soon as Charles VI is dead.• She is a survivor, however, and rules for 40 years.
The War of the Austrian Succession• No sooner is Maria Theresa crowned Empress than Frederick II (“The Great”) attacks Austria in 1740 and pries Silesia away from the Austrian Empire in the War of the Austrian Succession.• The WOTAS set the table for Prussian, and later German, rivalry with Austria for the next century and a half.• As MT is female, and there are only Holy Roman Emperors, the Hapsburgs temporarily lose control of the HRE as the Bavarian Elector, Charles VII, takes control in 1742.• M-T’s husband, Francis of Lorraine, is elected Holy Roman Emperor Francis I upon Charles VII’s death in 1745, restoring that title to the new House of Hapsburg-Lorraine, but MT still calls the shots.• The first half of the 18th century sees Austrian power begin to diminish and parts of the empire being broken off or bartered away, all to keep the Hapsburgs on the throne.
Enlightened Absolutism• M-T’s son, Joseph II, ascends to the Hapsburg throne in 1780 and rules as an enlightened despot.• He refuses to take the coronation oath as King of Hungary so he is not bound by its antiquated constitution.• Much more liberal than M-T, Joseph II enacts legislation that promotes religious tolerance, albeit at the cost of everyone having to learn German (previously, the official language of the Empire was Latin) to promote greater unity in his polyglot empire. Jewish areas of Budapest and Prague still today carry the name Josefov in his honor.• Joseph also encouraged Jews under Hapsburg rule to assimilate more fully into society, further encouraging Germanization in language, culture and clothing.
One Empire Ends, Another Begins…• Joseph is succeeded by Franz II, who rules the HRE from 1792 until 1806, and is the only Doppelkaiser in history, ruling as Franz I, Emperor of Austria, from 1804- 1835.• Suspicious by nature, Franz expands Austria’s secret police (founded by his grandfather Joseph II) to spy on radical groups and act to censor “seditious” publications, art and plays. This secret police will be the forerunner of all western and central European secret services.• A realist, Franz realizes that the HRE is on its last legs and moves to dissolve it to prevent Napoleon being crowned Holy Roman Emperor. (Napoleon will simply reorganize most of it as the “Confederation of the Rhine”, a French puppet state). Franz attacks Napoleon four different times, and is defeated in his first three attempts.• The most galling defeat for Francis is having to marry off his daughter, Marie- Louise, to Napoleon in 1811, which essentially makes Franz a vassal of the French emperor and forces Austrian troops to serve in the disastrous Invasion of Russia.• Ironically, after Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo, it is Franz who leads the Confederation of the Rhine, now renamed the German Confederation.• Austria, and the Hapsburgs, come out of the Napoleonic wars weakened a bit
Klemens von Metternich• Metternich will oversee the Austrian Empire’s fortunes, for good or ill, from 1809 until 1848.• Metternich was instrumental in marrying the Austrian princess Marie-Louise, Emperor Franz’ eldest daughter, to Napoleon in 1811.• A stalwart defender of the old European order, Metternich carefully tries to balance power in post-Napoleonic Europe through the Congress of Vienna.• He is a symbol of the old regimes of Europe, and as such, will be a target for the 1848 Revolutionaries.• A staunch supporter of the Germanic aspects of the Empire. “At times I ruled over Europe, but never over Austria.”
The Times, They Are A Changin’• Attempting to reclaim lost glory, the Hapsburgs redouble efforts to keep their polyglot empire together.• Metternich is universally despised by non- German members of the Empire.• Revolts spread throughout Europe in 1848 calling for liberal reform and most dangerously for the dynastic houses, representational government.• Metternich is forced to resign by the Emperor and flees to London.
The Revolutions of 1848• After Napoleon was defeated, Austria allows the Hungarian parliament to meet in 1820 for the first time in decades. A reform movement comes out of this, leading to Hungarian attempts to industrialize, against the wishes of the Hapsburgs. Hungarian is also promulgated as the official language of the country, as opposed to German or Latin.• Events continue to simmer until the spring of 1848, when revolution wracks many European countries, including France and Austria.• In Hungary, a democratic government is proclaimed, and people take to the streets of Prague and man barricades against Imperial troops.• Austria, with troubles of its own and with an incapacitated Emperor in Ferdinand I (this is why you don’t marry your double-first cousin), acquiesces to the new Hungarian government and focuses on rolling back the revolt in Austria.• In the meantime, Ferdinand appoints liberal ministers and dismisses longtime Austrian Chancellor Klemens von Metternich to appease the crowds.• Ja, dürfens denn des? and Ich bin der Kaiser und ich will Knödel!
Did I Mention to NOT Marry Your Double First Cousin?• What is this, Arkansas?• Ferdinand, after his abdication, moves into the Hrad in Prague, where he is often referred to by Praguers as “Ferdinand die Gütige” (Ferdinand the Good) as he had always had a high regard for Bohemia.• Less kind individuals call him “Gütinand die Fertige”, meaning, essentially, “Ferdinand the Finished”• He lives to be 82 years old, dying in the Hrad in 1875.
Radetzky’s March• After the revolt lead Ferdinand to dismiss Metternich and other conservatives, it did not take long for the forces of counterrevolution to arrive on the scene, embodied by Count Felix zu Swarzenberg.• The Czechs hold a Pan-Slavic conference in Prague in June 1848 and call for autonomy within the constructs of the Empire. Neither the liberal Slavs or Liberal Germans in the Czech and Slovak lands want independence from the empire, only greater autonomy.• The revolt is eventually put down by two Austrian generals, Joseph Radetzky and Alfred, Fürst zu Windisch-Grätz, who defeat the rebels in Vienna and in Prague, respectively.• Ferdinand is convinced (by Schwarzenberg) to abdicate in favor of his nephew Franz-Josef (it probably wasn’t that hard to do).• The “liberal” appointments that were forced on Ferdinand flee and reactionary ministers are appointed in a return to the status quo antebellum.• What had started in the “June Days” in Paris had by October fizzled out, and reaction ruled.
Felix and Franz• When FJ took over as Emperor following the abdication of Ferdinand I, he had a competent Prime Minister (Chancellor) in Felix zu Schwarzenberg, who helped FJ to maintain Hapsburg control, bringing in the Russians to crush the Hungarian revolt and allowing FJ to renege on many of the reforms instituted in the midst of the 1848 revolutions.• Schwarzenberg creates the opportunity for the Hapsburgs to rule as absolute monarchs once again, and actually manages to push back Prussian attempts to surpass Austria as the dominant power in central Europe by getting the Prussians to agree to Austria maintaining control over the German Confederation.• Schwarzenberg is a chancellor in the Machiavellian mold, and is not well-liked or well-trusted by the rest of Europe – “(Austria) will shock the world by the depth of its ingratitude”, but he does what is best for the Hapsburgs.• Things seem set up for Franz Joseph to have a relatively peaceful and productive reign, but Schwarzenberg dies of a stroke in 1852, and there is no one of his stature or abilities to advise FJ, who essentially takes over the duties of prime minister himself…• We have, however, not seen the last of the House of Schwarzenberg…
So What’s In a Name?• His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty,• Franz Josef the First,• By the Grace of God, Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, of this name the Fourth, King of Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, and Galicia, Lodomeria, and Illyria; King of Jerusalem, Archduke of Austria; Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow, Duke of Lorraine and of Salzburg, of Styria, of Carinthia, of Carniola and of the Bukovina; Grand Prince of Transylvania; Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Upper and Lower Silesia, of Modena, Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla, of Auschwitz and Zator, of Teschen, Friuli, Ragusa and Zara; Princely Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg, Gorizia and Gradisca; Prince of Trent and Brixen; Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and in Istria; Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenberg; Lord of Trieste, of Cattaro, and in the Windic March; Grand Voivode (Grand Duke) of the Voivodship (Duchy) of Serbia.
The Road to the Dual Monarchy• Franz Joseph rules as an absolute emperor over Hungary for the next three decades.• The first crack in Franz Josephs neo-absolutist rule developed in 1859, when the forces of Sardinia-Piedmont and France defeated Austria at the Battle of Solferino. The defeat convinced Franz Joseph that national and social opposition to his government was too strong to be managed by decree from Vienna.• It also leads to the beginning of the unification of Italy, a growing trend in mid-1800’s Europe.• What else is Solferino known for producing?• Franz Joseph will have greater troubles soon, however…
Prussia Ascendant• Austria’s decline, and the Czech’s eventual opportunity, is accelerated by the disastrous Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the Bruderkrieg.• The Prussian Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, drives Austria into a corner and into declaring war in 1866 over Schleswig-Holstein.• In a matter of six weeks the Austrians are forced to sue for peace. A peace treaty is concluded at Prague on August 23, 1866, signaling Austria’s permanent eclipse by Prussia in the leadership of the Germanic nations.• Bismarck offers benign terms, but the balance of power has now shifted decisively to Prussia, and results in…
So Just How Fragmented WAS Germany? • “Germany” in 1866
The Rise of “Kakania”• There is great discontent in the Austrian Empire after the disastrous 1866 Austro- Prussian War, particularly among the Hungarians.• There is great concern among the Hapsburgs that the multi-ethnic empire may well tear itself apart. They come up with a compromise with the most active and troublesome ethnic minority (and also the most politically powerful) – the Hungarians.• The compromise granted the Hungarian government in Budapest equal legal status to the Austrian government in Vienna, while the common monarch retained responsibility for the army, navy, foreign policy, and customs union.• Under the dual arrangement, Vienna and Budapest each ruled half of a twin country united only at the top through the Emperor-King and the common Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of War. Each half of the country had its own Prime Minister and parliament.• The Empire’s bureaucracy is now known as “Imperial and Royal” (Kaiserlich und Königlich - K u. K) – hence the pejorative term “Kakania” to describe the bureaucratic muddles it often created.• The Czechs, being less noisy ands less numerous than the Hungarians, see little change n their status.
The Czech National Revival• With the fabric of the Austrian Empire starting to shred in the 19th Century, a national identity began to emerge in Bohemia, which for the past two hundred years had been subject to forced Germanization under the Hapsburgs.• Primarily, the revival was language-based; with the publication of Czech-German dictionaries and Czech- language textbooks. Czech reemerged as the dominant language in the region.• Also significant was the building of the Czech National Museum on Wenceslaus Square and the National Theater in the late 19th Century, both expressions of an as-yet undefined national identity.
The Rebirth of a Language• Josef Dobrovsky creates a Czech language grammar book, the first of its kind, in 1809.• Josef Jungmann published the five-volume Czech- German dictionary in 1834–1839. Jungmann borrowed words not present in Czech from other Slavic languages or invented others. He also inspired development of Czech scientific terminology, thus, making it possible for original Czech scientific research to develop.• It now became fashionable for “nationalist” Czechs to speak the language and dress in traditional Czech outfits, as opposed to wearing styles more common to Vienna.
The Czech Ideal…• The rise of a Czech national sentiment, which had lain mostly dormant since the 17th Century, combined with the fissures in the Hapsburg Empire, creates the possibility of greater autonomy for the Czech people – notice I did not say “Czechoslovak”.• The rudimentary concept of a “Czech nation” begins to take hold among many of the thinkers in Bohemia.• Frantisek Palacky writes a five volume History of the Czech Nation, published in 1867. Palacky, more than any other Czech in this era, sows the seeds of a Czech identity, and is considered one of the three “Fathers of The Country” along with Charles IV and TGM.
“Young” vs. “Old” Czechs• The great debate among Czechs interested in reform was whether to work with the powers that be (Bohemian aristocracy, large land owners) or to jump whole-heartedly into the political process (the “Young” Czechs) and take a more interventionist, activist role in government.• Eventually the Young Czechs supplant Palacky and the Old Czechs, only to be swallowed up by the rise of mass political parties in the early 20th century such as the Christian Socials and the Social Democrats.
Franz und Sisi• Every emperor needs an empress, and Franz Joseph marries Elizabeth of Bavaria, a move somewhat encouraged by his mother to strengthen ties with the Bavarian royal house, the Wittelsbachs, in 1854.• “Sisi” becomes a fashion icon and inveterate traveler, the princess Diana of her day. A historical case for Anorexia.• Sisi was s a patron of the Hungarians and is beloved by the Magyars, who have no use for her husband. She, conversely, has little use for the Czechs.• Although F-J is madly in love with her, Sisi never reciprocates, and after the birth of Rudolph, a male heir, she avoids the Viennese court and travels even more.• Their first-born, Archduchess Sophie, dies at two years of age. Rudolph, who is mentally unstable, will commit suicide at the age of 31 (The Mayerling Affair/The Illusionist), further driving a wedge between Sisi and Franz Joseph.• Sisi is assassinated by an Italian anarchist in Geneva on September 10, 1898.• She is today perhaps THE most popular Hapsburg.
Enter Franz Ferdinand (Not the Band)• The murder-suicide of the liberal-minded Kronprinz Rudolph means that the Hapsburg ascendancy will pass from Franz-Josef’s line to that of his brother, Karl Ludwig, who renounces his claim to the throne on behalf of his son, Franz Ferdinand.• Franz Ferdinand, unusual in European nobility that he married his wife Sophie for love and not dynastic impulses, is much more conservative than Rudolph and is not well loved by the Hungarians, as he favors the Czechs and Slovaks. Ironically enough, he was an advocate of treating the Serbs benignly.• Due to his morganatic marriage to Sophie, FF has a very difficult relationship with his uncle the Kaiser, who disapproves of him marrying someone below his social station.• Still, as the heir apparent, Franz is expected to exercise the duties of a Kronprinz, which will result in his fateful inspection journey to Sarajevo in July 1914.
The Start of World War I• Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 by Serbian Nationalists.• Austria-Hungary and Germany see this as a chance to blunt Serbia’s rise.• Wilhelm II allows a “blank check” to be given to Austria-Hungary.• Serbia originally gives in to most Austrian demands, but assurances by Russia that she will assist the Serbs result in the Serbs taking a harder, but still conciliatory, line.• Austrian demands so harsh that war is a certainty and Europe begins to mobilize.• The Central Powers (Germany, Ottoman Empire and Austria) square off against the Entente Powers (Great Britain, France and Russia).• Austria declares war on Serbia on August 1, 1914. Her war is mostly in the Balkans, Russia, and later Italy, and generally does not go well for her… She suffers humiliating defeats against the Serbs in 1914 sand the Germans will eventually have to rescue their Austrian allies.• Many Czech soldiers facing the Serbs and Russians defect to their Slavic kinsmen rather than fight them. This will have consequences for the coming Czech state.
Czech Nationalism• As the Austro-Hungarian Empire slowly trundled toward the 20th Century under the aging Franz Josef, Czech nationalism continued to flourish, in large part due to the efforts of Tomas Masaryk, an educator who would become the father of modern Czechoslovakia.• Masaryk founds Athenaeum, a Czech-language journal that covers all aspects of Czech culture and science, in 1883.• Masaryk originally wanted to reform the Hapsburg empire into a federalist state, but turns more and more to Czech independence.• Masaryk serves in the Austro-Hungarian parliament until 1914, when he has to flee the empire when the first World War breaks out or face charges of treason.• He escapes to London, and begins to work for Czech independence.• Masaryk travels to Paris and Washington pleading the case of Czech independence and the need to break up the A-H empire.• Masaryk’s big break, however, comes in 1917 with the overthrow of the Russian Tsar and the later Bolshevik seizure of power…
The Ceska Druzhina• Masaryk finds a bargaining chip with the Allies in the form of the 60,000-plus Czech deserters who are in Russian internment camps.• When the Russian Tsar is overthrown in 1917, a small Czech unit numbering about 1000 men is expanded into the Czechoslovak Legion (Ceska Druzhina) to fight the Germans and Austrians.• Masaryk uses the Legion’s exploits to popularize his call for an independent Czech state.• The Legion’s military prowess is his best calling card, as Czechs fight on both the Western front in small numbers and the Eastern front in large numbers.• Trouble arises for the Druzhina, however, when the Bolsheviks overthrow the government of Alexander Kerensky.• When the Bolsheviks sue for peace, the Legion is (supposedly) disarmed and will be sent to Vladivostok to be repatriated to fight in France. It never gets there…
The Legion Moves East• With the conclusion of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which ends fighting between Germany and Austria and now-Bolshevik Russia, the Czechs are shipped on the Trans-Siberian Railroad toward Vladivostok.• A confrontation with Hungarian POW’s who view the Czechs as traitors to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, leads to the Czechs seizing their trains and rearming themselves. Soon, open combat with the Bolsheviks ensues as the Czechs slowly make their way toward Vladivostok.• In the beginning, the various parts of the Legion were strung out and separated on the railway. A complicated series of battles took place with the primary objective of re-connecting the various groups and getting to Vladivostok - for their exit to the Western front. As it became clear that this was the only organized fighting force in Russia (the Red Army under Trotsky was still small and disorganized), the Allied governments largely agreed that the Czechs might be useful re-opening an Eastern Front.• Some, including Winston Churchill, wanted to use the Legion to overthrow the Bolsheviks as well.
• The Czechs eventually control a wide swath of Russian territory all the way to Vladivostok, using armored trains, like the Orlik here - but are persuaded by the Allies to turn around and head west once more – the idea of a new Eastern Front.• Their approach to near Ekaterinburg is thought to be one of the main reasons the Bolsheviks murdered the Tsar and his family – to prevent their liberation by the Czechs.• Masaryk and other Czecho-Slovak leaders sign the Pittsburg Agreement which is the founding document of the Czechoslovakian state, in October 1918.• The Agreement paves the way for recognition of the Czechoslovak state and by extension, the Legion. Supplies flow in, and Allied troops are sent to Siberia to extricate the legion, including over 70000 Japanese, 1000 British and French and 3800 American servicemen. Rather than pulling the Legion out, they become embroiled in the Russian Civil War, and do not leave Russia until 1920.
Rudolf Gajda, My Favorite Legionnaire…• Along with Jan Syrovy, one of the two most famous commanders in the Czech Legion.• Rose from private in the Austro-Hungarian Army to Lieutenant General in the White Russian forces of Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, who hires him on after Gajda leads Czech and Russian forces in the capture of the Siberian city of Perm. He is 28 years old, and his ruthless leadership eventually helps to unite all the scattered Czech forces on the Trans Siberian Railway.• Gajda eventually plots against Kolchak and his revolt is put down by the Allied troops, particularly the British and Japanese, in Vladivostok.• He flees Siberia for Prague. We will see him again, however…
The Glück Stops Here: Karl’s Letter• On November 11, 1918, the same day the Armistice goes into effect, Karl writes a letter to his subjects “withdrawing” from active participation in Austro-Hungarian politics.• Nowhere does it say that he will abdicate his throne, which is a calculated decision that will cause problems in a few years both for him and for Hungary.• Karl initially retreats to his country estate outside of Vienna and waits for his people to call upon him to return to lead the country.• In the interim, Austria-Hungary falls apart. The age-old Hapsburg nightmare becomes reality.• Karl will try twice to regain his throne, but will fail both times. Hungary then repudiates the Pragmatic Sanction, which invalidates Hapsburg rule.• Karl dies in exile on Madeira in April, 1922, survived by his wife Zita and their eight children, including the Crown prince, Otto, who will shall meet later…
Austria’s Versailles – The Treaty of St. Germaine• The Austro-Hungarian Empire is fragmented in November 1918 – Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia will emerge from the wreckage.• Austria loses 75% of its imperial territory and 80% of its population. Vienna is an imperial capital without an empire.• Austrian union with Germany (Anschluss) , which the Austrians wanted, is forbidden both in the Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty of St. Germaine. It will be a major source of contention over the next nineteen years.• Hungary, seen as the successor state of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, signs the separate Trianon Treaty, which will then create Czechoslovakia as well as give Hungarian territory to Romania and Yugoslavia.• “Ce qui est laissé, est lAutriche. ’’ – Marechal Ferdinand Foch• The new state of Czechoslovakia now has nearly 3.2 million Germans within its borders, as well as Hungarians and Poles. So much for Wilson’s 14 points and the principle of national self-determination.
TGM• Masaryk was a progressive for his day – the son of a Slovak father and Moravian/German mother, he had an affinity for both cultures and regions.• Masaryk married an American, Charlotte Garrigue, and in a very unusual step for the time, adopted her last name as his middle name.• Had any other man worked to form a Czech state, it is doubtful that the Slovaks would have been included as readily as they were under TGM.• The Slovak lands were not something that Masaryk really sought for his new state – they were more or less appended to the Czech lands at Versailles as most diplomats did not think the backwards Slovak regions would be politically viable. Masaryk, eager to see his new country unfold, did not object to the inclusion of Slovakia.
• TGM’s popularity allows him to rule relatively unchallenged from 1920 to December 1935, when ill health forces him to resign. He dies of natural causes in 1937.• Constitutionally, the office of Czech President was (and still is) ceremonial. Strong figures, however, could go outside the lines to establish greater authority and control.• Masaryk was able to run the country in large part through an unofficial political machine called the Hrad (as in the castle), with representation from like-thinking political parties but most importantly the military, entrepreneurs, journalists and former members of the Czech Legions, who carried immense authority in the country.• “As long as Masaryk is alive, Hitler wont start war.”
The First Republic• With the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire and the abdication of Emperor Karl (Franz Josef’s succesor), Masaryk returns from exile and is elected the first Czechoslovak president while his close colleague Edvard Benes was chosen as Foreign Minister.• The Treaty of Versailles legitimizes the Czechoslovak Republic, which states that there are no Czechs or Slovaks anymore, only Czechoslovaks. It is illegal to spell the country’s name with a hyphen. Many in defeated Germany and the former Hapsburg lands are unhappy with this little republic, which they see as a fraudulent creation of the victorious Allies, especially a recently discharged Austrian corporal named Adolf Hitler.• Czechoslovakia was divided into four regions, Bohemia, Moravia/Silesia (roughly the Czech Republic today), Slovakia, and Ruthenia.• Relations with Hungary are not good, and the Czechs enter into the “Little Entente” with Yugoslavia and Romania to protect them against Hungarian revanchist tendencies and any possible chance of a Hapsburg restoration.• Under Masaryk, the “President Liberator”, the Czechoslovak Republic flourishes, but troubles are only a few years away.
A Rival in Central Europe• Miklos Horthy rose to become the commanding admiral of the Austro-Hungarian navy in 1918; one of the few true Austro-Hungarian war heroes to emerge from WWI.• The “Hero of Otranto” has a long history of service to the KuK Monarchy, including Franz Josef and Karl I, despite being Hungarian and a Protestant.• He is seen by the Allies as an acceptable counterbalance communist influence in Central Europe and those who wish to restore Karl I to the throne, especially Karl.• Horthy is elected Regent of Hungary in 1920 by the Hungarian Parliament, interesting because Hungary now had no heir to the throne…
The Remains of the Austrian Throne• Horthy had tearfully promised Karl in 1918 when he took his leave from him as CiC of the KuK navy that he would do all in his power to see him restored to the throne. Things look slightly different to him in 1921 as Regent, however…• Karl tries twice to have Horthy restore him to the throne, but Horthy, fearing civil war, Allied and “Little Entente” reaction, and probably really liking being Regent, demurs – the second time, minor battles erupt as Karl tries to enter Budapest via armored trains. The “March on Budapest” quickly peters out as many of Karl’s supporters, who had been told they could expect no opposition, get cold feet when fighting erupts.• Interestingly, since there is no King of Bohemia in the Dual Monarchy, there is no effort made to move Karl’s power base to Prague.• Karl is forced to go into permanent exile, and dies the following year in Madeira. Horthy probably breathed a sigh of relief.
“What is Left…” Hungary and Horthy• Miklos Horthy de Nagybanya, who was seen by many as a temporary solution to Hungary’s leadership vacuum, will remain as Regent until 1944. For the next 24 years, Hungary would be a kingdom without a king, ruled by an admiral without a fleet, in a country without a coastline.• A conservative nationalist, Horthy establishes a regime based on the Hapsburg empire, even moving into a small part of the Royal Palace in Budapest.• Europe’s first 20th-century anti-Semitic laws are passed under his rule in 1920, the Numerus Clausus, even though they do not mention Jews by name. Horthy is considered Europe’s leading anti-Semite long before anyone outside of Bavaria had ever heard of Adolf Hitler.• Horthy and his first Prime Minister, Istvan Bethlen, work to stabilize Hungary. Horthy’s primary goal throughout his career will be to seek redress for what he considers the injustices of the Treaty of Trianon (Hungary’s Versailles) – in other words, he wants to regain all the territory that Hungary had lost as a result of the First World War – including that lost to Czechoslovakia.• Nem, Nem, Soha!
The Czech New State• Czechoslovakia as it is created encompasses all the former lands of the Kingdom of Bohemia, including Moravia-Silesia and Slovakia, with Subcarpathian Ruthenia, taken form Hungary and added to Czechoslovakia to give the state a common border with Romania, thought by the Allies to be important in protecting those two countries against Hungary. Horthy is not amused.• The Czechs are not completely satisfied and take over a small part of Poland by force in 1920, which does not endear the Czechs to the Poles.• Some regions of the new republic had only 25% Czechs, which will lead in short order to problems with these “minority” groups.
Politics in the First Republic• The Constitution of 1920 sets the guidelines for representative government, Czech-style.• The government is ruled by a coalition of five political parties for most of the 20 years of the First Republic (“the Petka”): The Republican Party of Farmers and Peasants (“The Agrarian Party”), Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party, Czechoslovak National Socialist Party (not to be confused with the Nazis), the Czechoslovak Popular Party and the Czechoslovak National Democratic Party.• Parties outside the governing coalitions that would prove problematic were the Sudeten German Party (SDP), and the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPC).
Czechoslovak Cultural Icons• Gregor Mendel – father of modern Genetics• Jaroslav Hasek – Author of The Good Soldier Svejk (and a Legionnaire)• Franz Kafka – Author of Metamorphosis and Amerika (both he and Hasek died young of Tuberculosis)• Antonin Dvorak – The Slavonic Dances and New World Symphony• Bedrich Smetana – The Bartered Bride. Smetana’s music became synonymous with the Czech national movement and independence: Ma Vlast (“My Country”) was an unofficial national anthem.• Lida Baarova, a Czech actress who emigrated to Germany, became Joseph Goebbels’ mistress in 1936, nearly ending his career.• Milan Kunderla writes The Unbearable Lightness of Being in 1982, but it is not published in his homeland until 2006, having been published by Czech exile publishing houses prior to that.
The Hollywood of the East• Czech theatrical movies are considered to have been amongst the best produced and critically acclaimed since the dawn of motion pictures.• Silent films such as The Golem series from 1914 to 1920 are considered silent-era masterpieces world-wide.• Barrandov Studios is one of the largest film studios in the world, and has survived since 1921 in various forms, recently seeing the production of movies such as Amadeus, Mission Impossible, XXX, Blade II, Casino Royale, and The Chronicles of Narnia.• A darker side of the studio was its use in the 1940’s for Nazi propaganda films, including Jud Süss in 1940.
To 1938…• Masaryk is reelected twice to the Presidency, finally resigning in 1935 due to ill health. He dies in September 1937. Edvard Benes, his longtime Foreign Minister, succeeds him.• The centralized political system in Czechoslovakia has many of the same problems with nationalism that the Hapsburgs faced, and Sudeten Germans and Slovaks are unhappy with Czech control, even though they are granted considerable autonomy.• The Sudeten German Party, headed by Konrad Henlein, begins to agitate for complete autonomy, de facto independence, supported by the Nazi German government of Adolf Hitler. To grant this would mean the end of Czechoslovakia as a viable entity. WHY?• Rudolf Gajda, the former Czech Legionnaire, founds a Czech fascist party based on the Italian model and is elected to Parliament. He is stripped of his military rank and pension after a failed right-wing coup in 1938, arguing for war with Nazi Germany over the Sudetenland.• As the SDP ramps up its demands on Prague, supported by the Nazis, it appears that there is a very real chance for war in Central Europe as Czechoslovakia has mutual defense treaties with both the French and the Russians.
Großdeutschland• After foreign policy successes with regard to rearmament, creation of the Luftwaffe, and the remilitarization of the Rhineland, Hitler turns to the age-old concept of a “Greater Germany” – Großdeutschland.• Austria, with a large and active Nazi party, is annexed (die Anschluss) in March 1938. Once again, this had been prohibited by the Versailles treaty. Hitler is greeted by the vast majority fo Austrians as a savior and native son done good.• The Germans next sign a non-aggression treaty with Poland, no friend of the Czechoslovaks, which further isolates the Czech state.• Czechoslovakia, sees itself become the last democratic state in Central Europe, as Hungary, Poland, Germany and Austria all have authoritarian regimes in place. Left wing, Jewish and democratic refugees find refuge in Prague as they flee from Germany and Austria.
The Sudeten Crisis, 1938• Home to roughly 3.2 million ethnic Germans, the Sudetenland had asked to remain with Austria after the First World War but the Allies instead assigned the region to Czechoslovakia in order to give the new nation an industrial capability – roughly 70% of all Czech industry was located in the region. 90% of the region, however, was German.• Worse for the Czechoslovaks state, the mountainous Sudeten region was also the backbone of any possible defense against German aggression, with the majority of Czech defensive works in the region.• In Mein Kampf, Hitler characterized Czechoslovakia as a “bastard state” and a “construct of the Versailles diktat”.• As he moved from bloodless triumph to bloodless triumph, reclaiming the Saarland in 1935, remilitarizing the Rhineland in 1936 and then taking over Austria in the 1938 Anschluss, Hitler eventually sets his sites on the Sudeten Germans and Czechoslovakia as a precursor to taking on Poland.• Benes, realizing the danger that the Czechs were in, turned to Britain, France and Soviet Russia for guarantees of assistance in case of German aggression. A defensive pact had been signed with the French in 1925 that called for the French to intervene if Czechoslovakia was attacked by a third party. The Czechs also had a treaty with the Soviet Union from 1935, but…
The Road to Munich• 1938 is a fateful year for Europe. As Nazi-orchestrated violence increases in the Sudentenland, Benes cracks down with martial law, sending in Czech army units, which plays into Hitler’s hands. Konrad Henlein now calls for outright autonomy for the Sudetens. Hitler, however, is using Henlein in an effort to take over the entire country.• Fall Grün is prepared in Berlin for the military occupation of all of Czechoslovakia.• The French, with a very weak caretaker government in place, have no stomach for another war with Germany and begin to get cold feet about honoring their commitment to the Czechoslovaks. They appeal to Britain to come in on their side if the Germans attack.• Unfortunately for the Czechoslovaks, the British, lead by Neville Chamberlain, are practicing appeasement (before it was a dirty word) toward the fascist governments in Italy and Germany, and Chamberlain urges the Czechs to give in to German demands.
Dénouement in Munich• Concerned about German troop movements toward the Czechoslovak border, Benes orders a partial mobilization of Czechoslovakia’s military in May 1938 – it ends up being based on faulty Czech intelligence.• Britain and France are furious with Benes – his actions give them a convenient excuse not to intervene militarily.• Hitler, furious, steps up the propaganda campaign against Benes and the Czechoslovaks at the Nuremburg Party Rally in September 1938.• Benes, under pressure from both the British and the French, eventually agrees to cede the Sudetenland to Germany (with the details to be worked out by a multinational commission) on September 21. Any similarities with the Hapsburgs?• Britain and France essentially issue an ultimatum to the Czechoslovak government, that unless they gave in to German demands, the French, and by extension the British, would not honor their treaty obligation to Czechoslovakia.
Neville Chamberlain “How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas masks here because of a quarrel in a far- away country between people of whom we know nothing.”-Neville Chamberlain, September 27, 1938
The Peacemaker (?)• Benes, realizing that he is without friends, finally agrees to cession of the Sudetenland to Germany in exchange for British and French territorial guarantees of the remainder of his country.• Chamberlain immediately calls for an international conference to settle the issue for good, and Benito Mussolini agrees to chair it. The Czechoslovaks are not invited as the European Great Powers dissect their country.• The parties meet in Munich, Hitler’s home turf, on September 28, and finalize the agreement on September 29. Germany will begin to occupy the Sudeten region on October 7 – three days before Hitler had decided he would invade Czechoslovakia if he didn’t get his way.• Benes, realizing that Czechoslovakia is not a viable entity any longer, resigns on October 5 rather than oversee his country’s dismemberment and goes into exile in Chicago.• Chamberlain, the would-be peacemaker, is not Time magazine’s man of the year in 1938 – Adolf Hitler is.
“Peace in Our Time”• Chamberlain’s ulterior motive in meeting with Hitler in Munich was to secure from him a promise to work with Britain to secure a general European peace – sacrificing the Czechs was fine by him if it brought him to that end.• Hitler signs a handwritten note for Chamberlain which he triumphantly carries back to England, claiming it represents “peace in our time.” He will be forced to declare war on Germany only eleven months later.• Paul Reynaud, the French Premier, expects to be booed when he and his entourage return to Paris form Munich. When instead they are cheered, he comments to an aide: “Those fools – don’t they realize what we have done?”• Munich, far from settling Europe on the road to peace and stability, only emboldens Hitler. Just prior to his invasion of Poland, he tells his generals to not worry about the reaction of the British and French: “Our enemies are small worms – I saw them at Munich.”
The Czechoslovaks: Only Victims?• The Czechs caused added stress to their country by being very Czech-centric and Prague-centric, ignoring or outright oppressing many of the other minorities – Germans, Poles, Ruthenians, Hungarians and Slovaks, as well as Slovak Catholics, Jews and other religious groups.• This abuse left the predominantly Czech government and those allied with it internally with few friends and allies within Czechoslovakia when German agitated for the Sudetenland, and gave Hitler a ready-made – and relatively accurate – causus belli.• Internationally, Bene’s foreign policy during the 1920’s and 1930’s proves to have disastrous consequences for the Czech state – Czechoslovakia is essentially alone when Hitler comes calling.• This not so savory aspect of the Czechoslovak Republic is often ignored today, and has in fact led to many of the problems that will result in Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Divorce” in 1993.
Partition, the Second Republic, and Occupation• Immediately after the Germans march into the Sudetenland, the Czech government’s chickens come home to roost as the First Vienna Award further fragments the rump Czech state by ceding areas of southern Slovakia – about 35%, to Hungary (Horthy is pleased, but wanted more) and the small region conquered by the Czechs in 1920 is returned to Poland.• The rest of Slovakia and Ruthenia is granted virtual autonomy (remember the Hapsburgs?), and Czecho-Slovakia is now hyphenated – a crime under the First Republic. Joseph Tiso, a Catholic priest, is chosen to be Slovak premier, while Emil Hacha replaces Benes as Czecho-Slovak president.• The Sudetenland is the most Nazi of all regions taken over by the Germans – almost 18 percent of Sudeten Germans join the Nazi party, compared to less than eight percent in Germany itself.• Hitler now sets his sights on Poland, but first, he needs to finish off the Czech state once and for all.
The Slovak Republic• Monsignor Jozef Tiso, a Catholic priest, rises to become a leader in the right-wing Slovak People’s Party in the 1930’s.• After Munich, Tiso becomes premier of the autonomous Slovak region with German backing.• Tiso is forced to flee when Czech troops occupy Slovakia on March 9, 1939, and Hitler gives him an ultimatum: Either declare Slovak independence or Hitler will feed what is left of Slovakia to Hungary and Poland.• Tiso acquiesces and becomes president of the Slovak puppet regime.• Under Tiso’s regime, 75% of Slovak Jews are deported, mostly to Auschwitz and their deaths.• Tiso’s fate is tied to that of Adolf Hitler ever more closely as the war progresses, and after German occupation of Slovakia in October 1944 after the Slovak National Uprising, he is simply a ceremonial figurehead.
The Beginning of the Protectorate – March, 1939• Once Hitler gets Tiso to declare complete Slovak independence on March 14, 1939, Hungary eventually gobbles up the rest of Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia from March 15-23.• Hitler calls Hacha to Berlin, where he browbeats him into a physical collapse – he has to be revived by injections from Hitlers personal physician. Hacha then agrees to turn the remainder of the Czech state over to Germany as a “protectorate” – essentially a central European colony of the Third Reich. German troops march into Prague (to a less rapturous reception than they got in the Sudetenland) on March 15. The Reichsprotektorate Böhmen und Mähren is officially declared on March 16.• Former German Foreign Minister Constantin von Neurath is selected by Hitler as Reichsprotektor, partly to get him out of Berlin.• Germany thus began to utilize the massive Czech armaments industry for its own forces. Poland, France and the Low Countries were overrun with Czech tanks making up the majority of tanks in many German Panzer divisions, and Barbarossa began with thousands of Czech tanks in the front rows of Panzer units driving into Russia.
Dobry den, Czesky!• The Nazi occupation of the rest of Bohemia and Moravia gives Benes an opening to return to Czechoslovak politics with Allied support.• After the fall of France, Benes claims that the Munich Agreement is null and void, and is supported in this by the new British PM, Winston Churchill.• Benes gains Allied recognition of his government in exile as the legitimate Czechoslovak government in December, 1943 as a continuation of the First Republic.
Jan Opletal• Opletal, a Charles University medical student, is shot during a student protest on October 28, 1939 marking Czech Independence Day. He dies on November 11 and is buried on the 15th.• His funeral procession results in massive protests against the Protectorate regime and the Gerans on the 15th of November.• In response, Von Neurath closes all Czech Universities for the duration of the war and has 1200 Czech students sent to concentration camps for “reeducation” after the incident. Nine students are executed on November 17, which has since been observed as International Students Day.• Opletal’s sacrifice will play a large role later in Czech history…• Even though von Neurath reacts harshly, Hitler and Himmler consider him to be too soft for the job.
Collaboration and Resistance• Hitler is not impressed with Neurath, considering him too soft on the Czechs, and replaces him in September 1941 with Reinhard Heydrich (left), Himmler’s deputy in the SS and architect of the “Final Solution” regarding the Jews. Karl Hermann Frank (right), a Sudeten German and virulent anti- Czech, serves as his assistant. It was Frank who had worked to have von Neurath removed, as he wanted to become Reichsprotektor.• Heydrich immediately raises salaries and rations for Czech workers while at the same time ruthlessly executing thousands of resistance members and black marketeers as “enemies of the state”. The Protectorate’s Prime Minister, Elois Elias, is executed for ties to Benes.• Industrial and military output in Bohemia and Moravia jumps considerably, embarrassing Benes, who has established a “government in exile” in Britain. The Czechs seem to be pretty accommodating to their German masters.• Heydrich refers to his subjects as “My Czechs.” Hitler is so pleased with Heydrich’s progress that he next considers moving him to Paris as military governor.
Operation Anthropoid• Fate has another rending in store for Heydrich, however. Benes and the Czech exiles, embarrassed by Czech passivity in the Protectorate and desperate to show the Allies that they deserve to be taken seriously, organize Operation Anthropoid along with the British SOE.• Heydrich, who was fond of riding in an open convertible to show how safe he was among the Czechs, was attacked by two British trained Czechoslovak agents, Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik, a Czech and a Slovak, respectively, on May 27, 1942. The two men toss a bomb at Heydrich in his car. Heydrich, “The Hangman of Prague”, dies seven days later from infection (no Penicillin).• Hitler orders a state funeral for Heydrich, and wants revenge.
Vergeltungen• Hitler had originally wanted the SS to “wade in blood” and wanted 10,000 Czechoslovaks killed. Frank managed to appeal to reason, and only 1,300 were murdered in cold blood, ten times that number being arrested and in some cases tortured.• SS revenge, in Operation Reinhard, involves destroying the Czech village of Lidice, murdering all its men and sending its women and children to concentration camps. Lidice is completely razed to the ground.• The call is put out to destroy any village that had harbored the assassins and to kill or imprison anyone who lived there. The Gestapo and SS take this as a warrant to terrorize and eliminate potential opposition as well…
Lidice• The village of Lidice is chosen for destruction not because it harbored the assassins but because the Gestapo thought it to be a resistance hotbed and its citizens had shown opposition to the regime.• Himmler’s orders to avenge Heydrich’s assassination as transmitted by Karl Hermann Frank:• Execute all adult men.• Transport all women to a concentration camp• Gather the children suitable for Germanization, then place them in SS families in the Reich (only seven are chosen as “Aryan” enough) and bring the rest of the children up in other ways – eventually they are gassed on orders from Adolf Eichmann.• Burn down the village and level it entirely.• Altogether, 340 people in the village are murdered.• German propaganda plays up the destruction of the town and the execution of the residents as a means of cowing their subject populations.
Anti-German Backlash• Because the Germans used Lidice’s fate as a propaganda instrument, the city became one of the first symbols of Nazi atrocities, long before the concentration camps were exposed.• Cities, streets, roads and avenues throughout the world began to bear the name Lidice.• The original site is preserved as a memorial, with the new town of Lidice having been built a quarter of a mile away.
Death in a Church…• Kubis and Gabcik, with several other agents, are finally cornered in the crypt of the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Prague. They are betrayed by another member of their group for the one million Reichsmark bounty on their heads.• The SS, after a two hour gun battle in which Kubis is killed, use fire hoses to try to fill the crypt and drown the surviving men. Running low on ammunition, the surviving members of Anthropoid, including Gabcik, commit suicide.• Both men are considered heroes today in the Czech and Slovak lands.
Reichsprotektor: Not A Safe Job…• Karl Hermann Frank, always the bridesmaid, is passed over as Reichsprotektor yet again for Kurt Daluege, an SS and Police official with close ties to Hitler and Himmler. Frank was the person who ordered the destruction of Lidice.• Daluege suffers a massive heart attack in 1943 and retires from active duty. Frank is passed over again for Reichsprotektor, this time for Wilhelm Frick.• As consolation, Frank is named Reichs Minister for Bohemia and Moravia by Hitler in 1943 as well as police chief of Prague. He is arrested by the Americans in 1945 and hung by the Czechs in May 1946 for war crimes committed while he was Reichsminister. Daluege will join him on the gallows that October. Frick is executed as part of the Nuremburg trial of the major war criminals.
1943-1945• After Anthropoid and the German defeat at Stalingrad, the Czechs suffer through another two and a half years of German occupation.• Although the Protectorate remains relatively quiet, the Final Solution to the “Jewish Question” is in full swing.• Nominally independent Slovakia persecuted and rounded up its Jewish citizens quite readily, while the Czechs were at best indifferent to the plight of “their” Jews in Bohemia and Moravia.• Jews had been, since 1938, in an extralegal status in both the Protectorate and in Slovakia. Bereft of basic rights, they were easy prey for those who sought to eliminate them. Many will pass thorugh…
Theresienstadt• The fortress, built during Maria Theresia’s reign, is converted to a prison in the latter half of the 19th century and actually houses Gavrilo Princip.• Therisenstadt (Terezin) is taken over by the SS in 1940 as a ghetto for “privileged” Jews (ie, Jews who would be noticed if they simply disappeared).• Theresienstadt becomes a “showcase” concentration camp in that the SS uses it to exhibit their “humane” treatment of the Jews, sprucing it up and even digging a swimming pool and building a library and gardens for the inmates.• The camp is shown to the International Red Cross, who grade it favorably, and is also the setting for a propaganda film: Terezin: A Documentary Film of the Jewish Resettlement. It is better known as The Führer Gives a Village to the Jews.• The reality, however, is quite different… Terezin is simply a transit camp, holding Jews until they can be sent by rail to Auschwitz in the Generalgouvernment of Poland.
Myth and Reality• Terezin was an anomaly among the camps as there was actually a decent cross-section of “regular” life, if you didn’t mind the rats, cramped conditions, starvation-level diet and SS guards.• A symphony performed concerts, there were chamber and choral groups and jazz ensembles, book clubs and professional-level lectures. The camp’s children were afforded as much an education as possible on the side, as education was expressly forbidden by the authorities.• Czech boys between the ages of 12 and 15 publish Vedem, a magazine full of art, literary reviews and poetry. The various copies of the magazine were created by hand and distributed n the Ghetto. Of the 100 boys who worked on Vedem, only 15 survived deportation to Auschwitz.• About 700 pages of text and Art survived the war. One drawing by the prolific Vedem editor Petr Ginz was tragically lost 10 years ago, almost to the day… Ilan Ramon, anyone?
Die Endlössung• A pre-war population of 6,000 grew to over 50,000 Jews in the walled-off ghetto.• 144,000 Jews found their way to the ghetto, 85,000 were Czech.• 33,000 actually died in this “model” camp (many from a typhoid fever epidemic in 1945 shortly before the camp was liberated), while another 88,000 died at their final destination: Auschwitz-Birkenau. Fewer than 18,000 survived the war.• Sigmund Freud’s sister dies in Theresienstadt, as do many prominent Jewish artists and musicians form Czechoslovakia, Germany, and Austria.• In addition to Jews, the Roma (Gypsies) were rounded up and assigned to camps in the Protectorate. Extermination of Czech Gypsies was so thorough between the “local” camps at Lety and Hodonin and their eventual transit to Auschwitz that the Czech Gypsy (Roma) dialect became extinct, and any Gypsies in the Czech Republic today are actually migrants from other regions of central Europe who settled in the CR post-war.
The White Busses• Although many concentration camps provided a source of goods and free labor to the Nazi regime, Terezin was the centerpiece of Himmler’s efforts to rehabilitate his image at the end of the war.• Himmler enters into negotiations in late 1944 with several humanitarian groups, including the Swedish Red Cross, to first ransom and then to outright release concentration camp prisoners from several camps, including Theresienstadt.• Denmark had actually agitated for the Red Cross to inspect camps where Danish citizens were interned.• At first the Swedes, and later the Danes, were only interested in Scandinavian prisoners, but eventually would take on Poles, Czechs and others. Danish Jews had been sent to Terezin in 1943 and were evacuated in April 1945. 423 Scandinavian Jews were rescued from Theresienstadt on April 15, 1945.
Strange Bedfellows…• As the Red Army moves into Czechoslovakia form the East and Pattons Third Army enters from the West, Prague’s resistance groups rise up on May 5, 1945.• They are surprisingly aided by a division of the Russian Liberation Army, Soviet deserters and former POW’s who fought against the Reds on the side of the Germans.• The POA joins forces with the Czech insurgents and holds off SS attempts to recapture the city, keeping a good deal of Prague from being destroyed – one of the few European capitals to escape that fate in World War II.• As the POA are considered traitors to the Soviet Union, the units must leave Prague on May 6 as there is considerable Communist influence in the Czech underground movement. They move West to try to surrender to Patton and the Americans, but most are turned back to the Russian zone, and are later executed by the Soviets.
War’s End• The Slovak Army rebels against the Tiso regime in August 1944, but the Slovak National Uprising is brutally crushed by the Germans and comes to naught.• With Patton’s Third Army approaching from the west and the Red Army coming from the east, Prague’s citizens rise up against the Germans on May 5, 1945, barricading the streets and fighting with the roughly 50,000 Germans still in the city.• The Germans counterattack desperately, not to retake Prague, but to keep the rail lines open toward the west so that they can surrender to Patton and not the Red Army.• A cease-fire is agreed upon that restores the railways to German control on May 8, VE Day.• The Red Army enters the city on May 9.
Revenge• Benes returns to Prague and is confirmed as the once and future President of the Republic.• Due to his feelings of mistrust toward the British and French, Benes seeks close, but not suffocating ties to the Soviet Union to ensure Czechoslovakia’s viability. Klement Gottwald, a Czech communist with close ties to Moscow, becomes his Prime Minister.• The Benes Decrees pave the way for the expulsion of over three million Germans, Poles and Hungarians from the Sudetenland and the rest of Czechoslovakia. They are deported only with what they can carry with them and their property is expropriated by the state, their citizenship revoked.• The trains still run out from Prague, but instead of Jews they now carry dispossessed Germans, Poles and Hungarians.• Benes’ actions give the reunited state a much more homogeneous population, but the underlying issues between Czechs and Slovaks remain.• Wearing his clerical outfit, Msgr. Jozef Tiso was hanged in Bratislava for State treason on 18 April 1947 after Benes refused to grant him clemency.
• Over the next two and a half years, nearly anyone who settled in Czechoslovakia from 1938 on was liable to forced deportation.• Rudolf Gajda is imprisoned and tortured by the Soviet NKVD in 1945 and charged with propagating Nazism and Fascism.• He is tried in 1947 but released, blind and penniless, that same year. He dies a few months later, aged 53.• Benes is acclaimed as President of Czechoslovakia once again, and oversees a decidedly more Eastern-looking foreign policy under Masaryks son, Jan.• Benes will not have long to savor his triumph, however.
The 1948 Coup• The Communist Party in reconstituted Czechoslovakia (less Sub-Carpathian Ukraine, which went to the USSR) is very popular after the war due to Communist resistance during the war and propaganda after it.• With urging from Stalin, the CPCz adopts a hard line posture in the Czech government, and when the democratic members of Benes’ government resign in an attempt to cause new elections, the Communists are able to appoint othe CPCz members to fill those empty seats as proposed by Gottwald. This proves to be perhaps Benes’ greatest mistake in a political career littered with them.• Benes remains aloof from the Czech Communist party’s slow takeover of the government until it is too late. His last Foreign Minister, Jan Masaryk, son of the President-Liberator and the only non-Communist in Benes’ last government, is found dead outside the window of his bathroom at the Foreign Ministry. It was ruled a suicide by the authorities, but many to this day refer to it as the “Third Defenestration of Prague”.• Benes, already in ill health, realizes that his position is no longer tenable. He is forced to resign in May, 1948. The Communist Party Leader, Klement Gottwald, replaces him and declares Czechoslovakia a “people’s republic”.• For the next forty one years, the Communist Party will rule Czechoslovakia and the country will , except for the Prague Spring, remain in the Soviet Bloc.
Stalinization and the Cold War• After the Communist coup, Czechoslovakia began to follow the Stalinist model of economic and social development with crash programs to build up their industrial infrastructure and defense industries.• Heavy industry is emphasized throughout the country with no attention paid to the affect on the environment or the Czech people. Farms are collectivized, and the cult of the leader is brought into being just as in Russia.• By the early 1960’s, the Czech state is in trouble. Excessive spending and financial stagnation lead to unrest. Even Moscow, under Nikita Khrushchev, orders the Czechs to be less hard line and Stalinist.• The reform movement within the Czech Communist party leads to younger members attaining positions of authority and older, hard-line Stalinists who date back to the twenties and thirties being put out to pasture.
How Did It Happen?• The National Assembly passed a new constitution on 9 May 1948. Because a special committee prepared it in the 1945–48 period, it contained many liberal and democratic provisions. It reflected, however, the reality of Communist power through an addition that discussed the dictatorship of the proletariat and the leadership role of the Communist party. Benes refused to sign the Ninth-of-May Constitution, as it was called, and resigned from the presidency.• Any commercial or industrial business with more than 50 employees were nationalized.• Private ownership of lands of over 100 acres was forbidden, and 16% of all agricultural land was directly owned by the Czech state.• Massive production quotas in both agriculture and industry were demanded by the CPCz, but the goals were never met. Production and agriculture failed to rise to pre-war levels despite massive “voluntary” drafts of students and white collar workers to help meet quotas.
De-Stalinization• After Stalin dies, Nikita Khruschev gives his “Secret Speech” denouncing Stalin in 1956. Stalins policies, at least those that could be tied directly to him, are done away with, as are many of the symbols or his rule.• Bad news for Czech sculptor Otakar Svec, who had created the world’s largest statue of Stalin only a year before on the Letna Plain overlooking Prague.• Svec, getting a steady stream of hate mail form Czechs and under pressure at the time by the CPC and secret police to complete the statue, kills himself three weeks before the statue is unveiled.• A source of acute embarrassment to the CPC, the statue is destroyed with nearly a ton of TNT in 1962.
Say it Ain’t So, Joe…• The base of the statue is still visible across the Vltava on the Letna Plain today and once held Prague’s first rock club.• It is still the site of various summer concerts and festivals.
The “Prague Spring”• One of the young members of the Communist party who is elevated to a higher position is the Slovak Alexander Dubcek, who clashes with the Stalinist old guard in the winter of 1967-68, eventually rising to become First Secretary of the Czech Communist Party, de facto leader of Czechoslovakia in January 1968.• Dubcek, who was a committed communist, realized that the country’s current path would lead to ruin and sought to liberalize the Czech economy and loosen the draconian restrictions on the public and press put in place by the Stalinist old guard.• Dubcek’s reforms are watched carefully by the West, and very nervously by the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union.• The “Prague Spring” is the most liberal political experiment in the Soviet bloc until the Solidarity movement in Poland in 1980.• Media censorship is lifted and the media used to disseminate pro0reform propaganda.
• Dubcek and his supporters create the Action Programme which defines Czech socialism as being different than that of the USSR and other communist nations.• A call is put forth that “Socialism With a Human Face” was to include freedom of speech, a more liberal market economy, and a truly federalized state with respect to Slovakia, which still had weak sister status in the People’s Republic.• Soviet and Warsaw Pact opinion was split between those who wanted to take a wait and see attitude and those who pushed for direct military intervention to roll back reform.
August 1968• Five nations of the Warsaw Pact, spearheaded by the Soviet Union, invade Czechoslovakia on August 20, 1968. 200,000 troops, 800 aircraft and 2,000 tanks overrun the country in less than two days while the Czech military was confined to its barracks. This is the military expression of the Brezhnev Doctrine.• The East Germans, mindful of their recent history with the Czech nation, stop their combat troops at the border.• 72 Czechs are killed resisting the invasion and several hundred are wounded and then refused medical treatment as punishment. Swastikas are painted on Soviet, Polish and Bulgarian tanks.• Dubcek is deposed, and hard-line Communists return to power, beginning the process of “normalization” – in other words, a return to strict control of the media and economy.• Dubcek is eventually relegated to a job with the Czech forestry service and disappears from the political scene – until 1989, that is…
Jan Palach• Palach, a 21 year old Czech university student, signs a suicide pact with several other students to protest the Soviet invasion.• Palach sets himself on fire in front of the National Museum in Wenceslaus Square on January 16, 1969. He dies in agony three days later.• His deathbed pleas for his fellow students to not go through with their plans to kill themselves result in only one other student, Jan Zajic, doing so, in February 1969.• The Czech secret police, realizing that Palach is becoming a martyr to the regime’s opponents, disinter Palach’s body from his Prague resting place in 1973, cremate it and send the urn to his mother. Not until 1990 are his remains returned to his original gravesite.• Palach’s sacrifice becomes yet another rallying point for those opposed to the regime, and marks the beginning of the “Grey Times”.
• Czechoslovakia enters into the drab stasis of all Eastern Bloc countries after the Prague Spring is crushed. As the 1970’s move into the 1980’s the dissident movement begins to pick up steam, particularly after the Solidarity movement in Poland forces concessions from the Polish communist party, showing that reform is possible.• One positive aspect of this time is that the Slovak part of the country was at long last given equal standing with the Czech half, which redressed many decades-old grievances.• Underground literature, music and plays are distributed in Samizdat form.• One of the primary movers and shakers in the Czech dissident movement is Vaclav Havel, a Prague playwright.
Vaclav Havel• Due to his wealthy family background, Havel was denied formal education in communist Czechoslovakia, instead interning for a chemical company.• His true talent was in writing plays, for which he gained a good deal of international acclaim n the mid 1960’s.• Havel was a commentator and government critic on Radio Free Czechoslovakia in 1968, but after the Prague Spring was crushed, Havel was prevented from working in theater by the Czech authorities.• Forced to work in a brewery, Havel continues to write plays in Samizdat form, many of which make their way to the West.
Charter 77 – All This Over a Rock Band?• Havel and several other dissidents distribute the Charter in January 1977 in part as a response to the arrest of a Czechoslovak psychedelic rock band, the Plastic People of the Universe.• The Charter is a critique of the Czech government for failing to observe basic human rights as defined by the 1975 Helsinki Accords.• An advocate of peaceful resistance, Havel adopts the motto "Truth and love will prevail over lies and hate.“• Havel serves several jail sentences, the longest being nearly four years.• Charter 77 and its proponents will play a large role n the upheavals in the Soviet Bloc in the late 1980’s.• Apparently repressing rock bands is still in vogue in Eastern Europe these days – has anyone heard of the band Pussy Riot?
Glasnost Comes to Czechoslovakia• As the Eastern Bloc countries lag further and further behind the West in terms of economic and social development, the crushing national debts brought on by command economies, excessive defense spending and lack of marketable exports put the Eastern Bloc on the verge of collapse (sound familiar?). Only the repressive police and military presence prevents outright revolt.• The Soviet Union sees three leaders die within a period of less than four years from 1982-1985 – the Stalinist era old guard is dying off rapidly. Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko all succumb to the ravages of old age and/or cancer, and a new General Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev, is elected to head the USSR. A moderate, Gorbachev hopes to preserve the Soviet Union by liberalizing it’s policies and its hold on its Eastern European satellites.• The results will be revolutionary.
• Gorbachev begins to loosen Russia’s command economy and also to lower tensions with the West, particularly the United States, who under Ronald Reagan had initiated a massive arms build-up in an effort to bankrupt the USSR – it worked.• Gorbachev’s reforms are planned to only liberalize one- party (ie, communist) rule – he approves multi- candidate elections, but they are all communists. Once the genie is out of the bottle, however, events take their own course, starting in Eastern Europe.• Poland is the first domino to fall…
Hope and Change and Socialism…• The Soviets have each of their Eastern Bloc neighbors embark on crash industrialization programs after the Second World War in order to try to catch up with the West, which is getting a massive infusion of Marshall Plan $$$.• Socialist progress, Soviet style, will result in reallocation of wealth on a grand scale, lowering the aggregate standard of living for Czechs by 30% by 1968 compared to pre-1938 figures. This is what leads in many respects to the Prague Spring reforms of Alexander Dubcek.• Industrialization, particularly in Slovakia, results in incredible damage to the environment. Northern Slovakia is part of the “Triangle of Death” encompassing that region, southern Poland and Southeastern East Germany, where environmental damage has still not been reversed.• Much of the Czech Republic and Slovakia’s revenues since 1993 have been devoted to trying to clean up the environmental, political and infrastructure programs that are the legacy of over forty years of Communist rule.• A great deal of the resentment that would boil over in 1989 was related to economic issues that directly resulted from socialist and communist policies.
• The underground Solidarity trade union in Poland eventually forces the Polish government’s hand in 1988, when they agree to a popularly elected Senate.• Gorbachev abandons the Brezhnev Doctrine for the “Sinatra Doctrine” – Eastern Europe could now do things “Their Way”.• China is next, but the Tiananmen Square protests are crushed by Chinese tanks in June, 1989. The protests serve as a catalyst to further unrest in Eastern Europe, however.• Solidarity is legalized in Poland as a political party and sweeps democratic elections. The USSR stands aside and does not intervene.
• Czecho-Slovakia’s neighbor and former Hapsburg bedmate Hungary is the next to liberalize, and its May 1989 removal of a 150 mile long border fence with Austria is seen as the most important step in the liberalization process in the Eastern Bloc until the fall of the Berlin Wall.• Hard-line governments in East Germany and Romania resist change and insist that they are still building a worker’s paradise via old-school communism, but events soon overtake them.
Winds of Change• As other Warsaw Pact nations begin to experiment with greater freedoms, only Romania and the GDR hold back.• Hungary allows East Germans “vacationing” in Hungary to traverse the formerly sealed Austrian border on their way to West Germany.• Thousands of Ossis seek shelter in West German embassies in Prague, Warsaw, and Budapest.• The GDR, in an effort to rid themselves of the most troublesome of these refugees, allows them to be shipped in sealed railway cars to the West.• Erich Honecker is levered out of power by the Central Committee of the SED and replaced by Egon Krenz on October 18 in an effort to pacify the protestors.• On November 7, the entire GDR government resigned, followed by the entire Politburo on the 8th. On the 9th, following a spectacular blunder by the propaganda minister, the borders are opened and the wall symbolically came down.
The Last Hapsburg• Otto Hapsburg, son of Emperor Karl and the last Crown Prince of Austria, had more of an impact on Austria as a private citizen than his father did as emperor.• Exiled with his family in 1919, Otto was a staunch anti-Nazi and early proponent of pan-European union. In 1941, Hitler personally revokes Hapsburg citizenship, and Otto is stateless, eventually moving to Paris in time for the Germans to invade in May 1940…• The Hapsburgs flee to the United States from 1940-1944, and Otto is seen by the Austrian people as a protector, keeping Allied aircraft from bombing Austria (not true).• After the war, Otto renounces his claim to the throne and his citizenship is restored. He becomes involved in European politics and the EU, working to integrate former Eastern Bloc countries into the EU. Maybe not such a bright idea…
The Velvet Revolution• The Czech CPCz government hangs on desperately after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but its time is coming.• On November 17, 1989, Czech riot police suppressed a peaceful student demonstration in Prague. The protesters are observing the 50th anniversary of Jan Opletal’s burial: The police use force.• One person lay down in the street after the riot dispersed, pretending to be dead. The most commonly accepted explanation is that it was in fact a Czech secret police agent, Ludvík Zifčák, but the motive is unknown to this day. The rumor, of course, was that it was in fact a student that had been killed by the authorities – one Martin Smid. That event sparked a series of popular demonstrations from November 19 lasting into late December.• The number of protesters would swell to nearly half a million in Prague’s Wenceslaus Square on November 20.• A nationwide strike on November 27 brings the country to a complete standstill for two hours.
The Revolution Rolls On…• Czech universities to include many faculty go on strike, as do many Czech theaters, who only open their doors to host public forums.• Protestors rattle their keys in the streets as a symbol of their desire to be freed from one-party authoritarian rule.• Vaclav Havel and others form the Civic Forum, which is intended to be the organ of mass peaceful protest for the Czechoslovak people and unites most Czech dissident groups under it’s umbrella.• The Forum demands the resignation of Communist leaders who authorized violence against the protesters and the removal of the CPCz from singular control of the country.• By the end of November, both television and newspapers were publishing reports at odds with the official party line put forth by the CPCz, but the party’s hardliners struggled to stay in control.• Czechoslovakia was one of the last Eastern Bloc countries to abolish one-party rule.
The End of the CPCz• On November 28, 1989, the last Communist Czech government, led by Gustav Husak, announces it will dismantle the one-party state.• Vaclav Havel and Alexander Dubcek, the heroes/victims of the 1968 Prague Spring, appear together on a balcony overlooking Wenceslaus Square to address a crowd of over half a million Czechoslovaks.• On December 10, Husak appoints the first non-Communist government since 1948, and promptly resigns.• Dubcek is elected Speaker of the Czechoslovak federal parliament on December 28, and Havel is elected President on the 29th.• Democracy returns to Czechoslovakia after forty years, but would it last?
So What’s In a Name? 1989-1993• After the initial euphoria dies off, the problems that had plagued the First Republic come to the fore.• Czech GDP is roughly 20% higher than Slovak, and power once again resides in Prague, with the Czechs, as opposed to being shared equally. Subsidy payments from Prague to Slovakia, de rigueur during Communism, stop in 1991.• A majority of neither Czechs nor Slovaks want a dissolution, but Slovaks want a looser confederation and more autonomy.• For a time in 1992, there are two names for the country: Czechoslovakia in the Czech lands and the hyphenated and the formerly forbidden Czecho-Slovakia in Slovakia.
The Rise of Political Parties• With the demise of the CPC, at least in name, Czechoslovakia sees a proliferation of political parties, to include the “Friends of Beer Party” that worked to promote Czechoslovakia’s national drink, Pivo, and to reduce it’s cost for the common man (don’t sweat it – a liter of Pilsener Urquell is still around one dollar).• The down side of this explosion of democracy is that Czech parties have no membership in Slovakia and vice versa, so it becomes more polarizing politically.• Eventually the “5% Rule” has to be adopted with regard to representation in parliament.
The Velvet Divorce• Vaclav Klaus, a Czech and proponent of strong centralized control of the country from Prague, is selected as Prime Minister in 1992.• Conflict between Prague and Slovakia continues, and the Slovak premier, Vladimir Meciar, will not buy into Klaus’ limited federation concept.• Without a referendum in either region, Klaus and Meciar decide essentially between themselves to divide the two countries, even though the majority of both Czechs and Slovaks are essentially content with the country the way it was.
Are Two Countries Better Than One?• At midnight on December 31, 2002, The Republic of Slovakia is born. The world yawns.• It is a defining moment for the Slovaks, however, who since their independence have outstripped their slower neighbor to the west in terms of integration into the European Union and increased per capita income and GDP.• Relations between the Czech and Slovak Republics are probably better now than at any time in their long history, as they are each other’s most important trading partners
The Czech Republic Today - Government• Vaclav Klaus ascends to the Czech Presidency in 2003 after Havel retires.• The Czech President is the head of state while the Prime Minister is the head of the government – as both are roughly equal in power and influence, there is always potential conflict, as there was between Klaus and Havel.• Peter Necas is the current PM, replacing Jan Fischer, who replaced Mirek Topolánek, who resigned in March 2009 after several ill-advised gaffes that evoked memories of the Nazi protectorate.• So what’s new in Czechia?