The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 1/Czernin and Clam-Martinic
Czernin and Clam-Martinic.
The murder of Count Stuergh, prime minister of Austria, hastened the death of Prince Thun, former premier and twice governor of the Kingdom of Bohemia. The death notices spoke of Thun as the last Austrian, and the term really was not much of an exaggeration. For Thun himself had been fully aware that men of his type, devoted to the Austrian monarchy, as embodied in the Hapsburg dynasty, were almost extinct. A year ago the story was current of a conversation which is said to have taken place between Prince Thun and Count Coudenhove upon the occasion of the assumption by the latter man of the governorship of Bohemia. Coudenhove inquired of the retiring governor “Tell me, how much is there in this talk of the revolutionary sentiments of the Czechs?” Thun answered, “Yes, it is true that the Czechs want to get away from Austria, but then the Germans aim to attach themselves to Berlin.” “Does then no one remain faithful to Vienna,” asked the count. “Only you and I”, replied sadly the faithful old servant of Francis Joseph.
If it be not literally true that Prince Thun was the last Austrian, he was at least the last Austrian statesman of ability and experience. He had courage to fight for Austrian, that is Hapsburg interests, when every one else in Vienna took orders from Berlin. He came forward as a witness in behalf of the Czech leader, Dr. Karel Kramar, to testify that documents seized among Kramar’s effects and produced by the government as evidence of seditious designs had their original wording altered. Thun was opposed to the reckless, wholesale death sentences pronounced daily by the military courts sitting in Bohemia, and advocated a policy of conciliation toward the Czech people; but the only result of his sincere endeavors to save Austria was his own removal from office in 1915. He died a few weeks before his sovereign and personal friend, Francis Joseph.
The new emperor, after casting around for a while for suitable servants, finally selected for the head of his Austrian ministry, and for the Austro-Hungarian minister of foreign affairs two members of the high Bohemian nobility. Count Henry Czernin of Chudenic, former minister at Bucharest, was entrusted with the conduct of such diplomatic business, as Germany would permit its weaker partner to handle, while Count Richard Clam-Martinic was given the difficult task of governing the Austrian half of the dual monarchy. These appointments aroused many speculations as to the intentions of Emperor Charles, and the fact that the new ministers had Bohemian names was taken as a sign that the policy of oppression, applied to the Czechs under the old monarch, would be reversed under Charles. But the deduction was far fetched; Czernin and Martinic are Bohemian in name only and have neither desire nor orders to make concessions to Bohemia.
The two names, to be sure, are well known in Bohemian history. The Czernins occupied chief offices of the Bohemian state in the old days, but after the unsuccessful rebellion of 1618 were rewarded for their faithfulness to the dynasty by grants of confiscated estates and mixed their pure Bohemian blood with the upstart nobility of military adventurers settled in Bohemia by Ferdinand II. They remained Bohemian noblemen in that their large landed estates were located in Bohemia and they could trace their descent to Czech ancestors, but for generations they thought and acted as Germans. The Martinic family is even better known in the records of the Bohemian Kingdom. One of the forbears of this ancient family had a leading role in the so-called defenestration of Prague; Jaroslav Borita of Martinic and William Slavata, two of the emperor’s lieutenants for Bohemia, with a clerk were thrown out of the high window of the castle of Prague by the in furiated members of the estates of Bohemia, and the act is held to be the starting point of the thirty years’ war, as well as the opening of the Bohemian rebellion, which was suppressed two years later at the battle of White Mountain. There is another Martinic of recent days who played a much more patriotic role from the Bohemian point of view, Count Henry Martinic, an associate of F. L. Rieger, the great Czech leader of the sixties and seventies; he backed the commoner with all the prestige and influence of a powerful noble family, leading a number of other Bohemian aristocrats in the fight for the recognition of the historical rights of the Bohemian Kingdom and the achievement of such self-government for Bohemia as was granted to Hungary.
The new minister, whose first name is also Henry, has nothing in common with his uncle, the Bohemian patriot, except the name and the enjoyment of the entailed Martinic family possessions. Count Martinic put himself in line for the premiership by his attempt to get a condemnation of Czech national ambitions from the so-called conservative nobility of Bohemia. At a meeting of the political committee of this body, held in fall of 1916, he proposed a resolution in which it was said: “With deep sorrow we had to take notice of the fact that in this war in which our common fatherland (namely Austria) has to fight for its very existence, the long continued, underground work aimed against the state and carried on by damnable elements had its effect in cooling the holy sentiments of civic duty and military honor in the hearts of the Czech race. Every one knows of it, all speak of it, and enemies of the Czech people strongly emphasize the fact that army formations recruited in Czech districts, contrary to the glorious traditions of the old, glory bedecked Bohemian regiments, failed in the field. And in foreign countries also criminal agitation bore fruit, for certain Bohemian publications, especially in the first months of the war, did not come up to the standard which a patriot has the right to expect from those who interpret the public opinion at home.” The resolution went on to say that a certain improvement had taken place since. But the conservative Bohemian nobility declared the resolution unnecessary and rejected it.
In addition to the two “Bohemian” ministers one ought to mention a third figure with great influence upon the young emperor, Count Berchtold. He is the man who was foreign minister in 1914 and signed the declaration of war upon Serbia. He has just been named master of ceremonies of the Imperial Court and as such is the’s closest confidant. Berchtold also might be called a Bohemian nobleman, for his landed estates are located in Moravia in the midst of Czech population.
The three counts, Czernin, Clam-Martinic and Berchtold, will try to carry out the political plans of the assassinated Francis Ferdinand. They had been his personal friends, and that alone defines their designs. These will be apparently aimed against the domination of the Magyars in the Hapsburg realm, but in reality will be addressed principally against the Slavs. It has been announced by cablegrams from Vienna that Clam-Martinic will now take up the question of redistricting Bohemia. What that really means is the fulfillment of an old demand of the Germans that districts in Bohemia in which the census found the majority of the people using the German language—and the Austrian census is very partial to Germans—should be cut off from the rest of Bohemia and treated as a purely German province. The result would be the abandonment of the Czech minorities in the north and northwest of Bohemia to forcible germanization. The second part of the program of the new Austrian premier, as briefly announced in America, is the introduction of German as the language of the state. This can only mean that Bohemian and other Slav languages, with the exception of Polish, will be eliminated altogether from the sphere of public affairs, and that Austrian subjects of every race will be compelled to learn the German language as the only medium of communication with public authorities and all public service. That also has been for years the principal demand of the Germans of Austria and it means the absolute defeat of all the struggles of the Czech political leaders since the days of 1848.
But the policy of Germanization will not save Austria. The outcome of the war may still be in the distance, but this much is certain that Germans will not be allowed to swallow the Slavs of Austria. Over there in the old home all the Bohemian political parties into which the parliamentary delegation had formerly been broken up have formed one solid body of 108 deputies and preserve an attitude of cold aloofness to threats and blandishments on the part of Vienna. Beyond the line of German trenches Czech soldiers fight on the side of the Allies and Czech leaders appeal to the world for justice. A Bohemian, familiar with this history of his native country, is reminded again and again of the year 1618 by the spectacle of a Martinic, tool of the Hapsburg emperor for the oppression of Bohemia. When Martinic was last at the head of affairs in Bohemia, the country lost its freedom. Now Martinic is again in the seat of power and the cycle of three hundred years is coming to a close. With it the days of subjection of the Czech race will pass away.