Czechoslovak Stories/Appendix B

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APPENDIX B

THE SLAVS

So many people are under the impression that the Slavic tongues are wholly alien to the other languages of Europe that a brief statement of what groups constitute the Indo-European family of languages will not be amiss. This family includes eight main branches each of which has several sub-divisions. The first or Aryan includes the Indian and the Iranian and those in turn have sub-divisions which are represented by the Sanskrit, the Zend and the old and modern Persian. The second is the Armenian branch. The third is the Hellenic, which includes all the ancient Greek dialects as well as modern Greek. The fourth is the Albanian branch spoken in ancient Illyria and in modern Albania. The fifth is the Italic branch represented by the Latin and other dead dialects and by the modern Romance languages, as French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. The sixth is the Celtic branch with sub-divisions of the Gallic, Brittanic and Gaelic and those in their turn represented by the Cornish, Irish, Scotch-Gaelic and Manx. The seventh branch of the Indo-European family is the Teutonic which embraces three main groups, the Gothic, now extinct; the Norse, including the Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and the Icelandic; the West Germanic, which is represented by the German, the Saxon, Flemish, Dutch, Low Franconian, Frisian and English. The eighth branch is the Slavonic, sometimes called Balto-Slavic. The languages developed around the Baltic sea were the old Prussian, the Lithuanian and the Lettic.

A rough division of the Slavs is territorial comprising (I.) Eastern Slavs or Russians, consisting of Great Russians, White Russians and Little Russians, the last named being variously called Ukrainians, Rusins, Ruthenians and Carpatho-Russians. (II.) The Western Slavs, embracing the Czechs (Čechs), Slovaks, Poles, Lusatian Serbs. (III.) The Southern or Jugo-Slavs, including the Slovenes, Serbo-Croats and Bulgarians.

The best authentic division of the Slavs today according to Dr. Lubor Niederle, professor of Archæology and Ethnology at the Czech University at Prague, the capital of Bohemia and also of the new Republic of Czechoslovakia, is as follows:

1. The Russian stem; recently a strong tendency is manifested, toward the recognition within this stem of two nationalities, the Great-Russians and the SmallRussians.

2. The Polish stem; united, with the exception of the small group of the Kašub Slavs, about whom it is as yet uncertain whether they form a part of the Poles or a remnant of the former Baltic Slavs.

3. The Lužice-Serbian stem; dividing into an upper and a lower branch.

4. The Bohemian or Čech and Slovak stem; inseparable in Bohemia and in Moravia, but with a tendency toward individualization among the Slovaks living in what was formerly a part of Hungary.

5. The Slovenian stem.

6. The Srbo-Chorvat (Serbian-Croatian) stem; in which political and cultural, but especially religious, conditions have produced a separation into two nationalities, the Serbian and the Croatian.

7. The Bulgarian stem. Only in Macedonia is it still undecided whether to consider the indigenous Slavs as Bulgarians or Serbians, or perhaps as an independent branch.

The common origin of the Indo-European languages is determined mainly by two tests which the philologists apply. These proofs of kinship are a similar structure or inflectional system and a common root system.

Practically all the common words in use in any of the languages belonging to the Indo-European family are fair illustrations of the strong relationship existing among the eight branches, and are proofs of an original or parent tongue known to nearly all of the now widely dispersed nations of Europe. For instance, the word “mother” in the modern languages has these forms: In the French, it is “{{lang|fr|mère,” abbreviated from the older Italic tongue, Latin, where it was “mater,” in the Spanish “madre”; in the German it is “Mutter”; in the Scotch the word becomes “mither”; in the Bohemian or Czech it is “mateř” or “matka”; and in the Russian it is “mat” or “mater.”

The English verb, “to be,” conjugated in the present tense is:

I am we are
you are you are
he is they are
It is “esse” in the Latin and has, in the present tense, these forms:
sum sumus
es estes
est sunt
In the Czech, the present indicative of “býti” (to be) with the pronouns is:
já jsem my jsme
ty jsi vy jste
on jest oni jsou
The German is:
ich bin wir sind
du bist ihr seid
er ist sie sind

The natural similarity of words in the Slavic languages is obviously even greater and more pronounced than the resemblance of words in the various Indo-European tongues.

Thus, the word “mother” in the principal Slavic tongues has three forms: Russian, mati; Czech, mati, matka or mateř; Serbian, mati; Polish, matka; Bulgarian, majka or mama. The word for “water” is “voda” in all of the above languages except in Polish where it is “woda.” The verb “to sit” is, in Russian, sidět, in Czech, seděti; Serbian, sediti; Polish, siedziec; Bulgarian, sědja. One could trace this similarity of roots and suffixes in all the words common in the experience of our ancestors. The examples given are but two of hundreds or even thousands, which conclusively show that the Slavic tongues are philologically related to the other Indo-European tongues.

The etymology of the word “Slav” was not clear for some time. Some philologists connected it with the word “sláva” which means “glory” or “the glorious race.” Others, and the numbers of such linguistic students or scholars exceed the former school, have accepted the theory of Joseph Dobrovsky, the Bohemian philologist, who asserted that the term comes from “slovo” which signifies “word” or “those who know words.” The term in the original Slavic is “Slovan” which is more closely allied in appearance and sound to the word from which it is derived. Dobrovsky claimed that the earliest ancestors of the present Slavs called themselves “Slované” or “men who knew words or languages” in contradistinction to the Germans who did not know their words or language and hence were called “Němci” from “Němý” meaning “dumb.” The Slavic name for Germans, oddly enough, has remained “Němci” or “the dumb ones” to this day. This dubbing of a neighbor nation which is dissimilar in language and customs recalls the practice of the ancient Greeks who named all other nations who were not Greeks “barbarians.”

The name “Czech” or “Čech” as it is correctly written, should by all rights be the only title applied to the group of Slavic people occupying the 22,000 square miles in what was Northern Austria. It is a word originally designating the leader of the small band of Slavs who, in the fifth century, emigrating from Western Russia, settled in the valley of the Vltava (Moldau) in the heart of Europe and there have remained as the sturdy vanguard of the Slav people. General Fadejév well said in 1869 “Without Bohemia the Slav cause is forever lost; it is the head, the advance guard, of all Slavs.” From the word “Čech” is derived the poetic name “Čechia” for Bohemia, this term corresponding to our symbolic “Columbia” for America.

The names “Bohemia” and “Bohemians” as applied to the country and to this group of Slavs respectively, are derived from the word “Boji,” or “Boii,” a Celtic tribe, occupying the basin of the Vltava and the Elbe before the permanent settlement there of the Czechs. Julius Cæsar in his “Commentaries on the Gallic Wars” speaks frequently of the “Boji” and “Marcomanni.” The word “Boii” was in the Latinized form, “Bojohemum,” applied to the country of those early Celts who had occupied the country and eventually the name “Bojohemum” was changed to “Bohemia.” In the later days, the Slav inhabitants became known as “Bohemians” to the outside races unfamiliar with the correct term “Čech” which to facilitate pronunciation by non-Slavs is written “Czech.” The “Cz” is pronounced like “Ch” in “child,” the “e” like in “net,” and the final “ch” is pronounced like “h” sounded gutturally.

When the Magyars or Hungarians, a Mongolian tribe, invaded Hungary, they spelled disaster to Slavic unity for, linguistically and racially, they were so different from the Czechs and Slovaks that they have ever been a scourge and a menace to those two Slavic peoples.

The Slovaks, most nearly allied in language and customs to the Czechs, occupy the fields and Carpathian mountains of northern Hungary. A splendid and ancient history is theirs though in latter centuries it has become one continuous record of bitter oppression suffered first at the hands of the Tatar invaders and then from the cruel Magyars of Hungary and of the always privileged Germans of the Hapsburg domain. Slovakia suffered the misfortune of being incorporated with Hungary in the tenth century and Magyarization has gone on relentlessly as a result. The Slovak language has been wonderfully developed since the time of Anton Bernolák but every means, every fiendish device has been used by the Magyars to utterly exterminate the race speaking it and to crush out completely all memory of the tongue hated so desperately by the Hungarians. It must not be forgotten that the Hungarian Count Tisza now of tainted fame and unmourned memory, on December 15, 1875, said on the floor of the Hungarian Parliament, “There is no Slovak nation.” He had done his best to annihilate it but it has lived just as the spirit of France has lived in Alsace-Lorraine despite the superhuman efforts of Hungary’s ally to Germanize the “Lost Provinces.” Over 2,000,000 Slovaks live in Hungary and nearly a million have emigrated to this country as much to avoid the persecutions of the Magyars as to earn the advantages of America.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1927.


The author died in 1948, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.