The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 2/Progress of Rebellion in Bohemia

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The Bohemian Review, volume 2, no. 6  (1918) 
Progress of Rebellion in Bohemia

Progress of Rebellion in Bohemia

The situation in Bohemia has reached a stage where it may be best described as open rebellion against Austria. Martial law rules in Prague, conflicts between citizens and soldiers are frequent, and war has been declared by the Vienna government upon the Czech deputies and upon the entire Czechoslovak nation.

For a long time the astute Czernin, himself a descendant of an ancient Bohemian family, but a German renegade in sentiment, had hoped to divide the people from their leaders. His last attempt was made only a few days before his fall. Speaking before the City Council of Vienna he sought to blame the failure of his peace maneuvers on the attitude of the Czech deputies; according to Czernin, Masaryk in foreign lands and men of his stamp within Austria encouraged the Entente to keep up the struggle under the belief that Austria-Hungary would break down of internal difficulties. But, added Czernin, the Czech deputies do not represent the real sentiments of their people.

An answer was given to Czernin by the Czech nation on April 13. A wonderful gathering was held in the “Representation House” of the City of Prague, composed not only of the deputies, but of delegations from the Bohemian cities and of representatives of every profession, class and interest. In all the addresses rang the lofty tone of firm determination to fight for freedom till death, and the culmination of the meeting was the swearing of a solemn oath to persevere to the end. The meeting afforded an opportunity for a remarkable manifestation of the solidarity of the Czechoslovaks and Jugoslavs. Not only the deputies of Austrian Jugoslavs, but a delegation from the diet of Croatia, representing the Jugoslavs of Hungary, pledged their firm alliance to the Czechoslovaks in the common fight for liberation from the Austrian yoke. For days and weeks after this meeting resolutions were showered upon the deputies from the city councils of Bohemia and Moravia, from county boards, from societies and corporations of all kinds, assuring them that they had the people back of them and urging them to go on with the fight. These resolutions ranged from that voted by the City Council of Prague to one adopted by the Bohemian colony in Berlin.

The fall of Czernin and these manifestations of absolute unanimity in Bohemia coincided in point of time with the German successes in Picardy and Flanders. They no doubt coincided also with the exertion of pressure from Berlin on Vienna. At any rate, since the middle of April, even

Bohemian National Theatre at Prague, Where the Wealth and Blood of Bohemia Were Pledged to Fight for Liberty.

prior to the meeting of the emperors, Austrian policy has been governed absolutely by German wishes. The decision was taken that the Slav rebellion must be put down by force. The new foreign minister, Baron Burian, is a member of the Magyar oligarchy; he has no sympathy with the half hearted way in which the Austrian Germans keep down their Slavs. With his coming to the Ball-Platz some of the Magyar thoroughness was injected into the Austrian police administration. Premier Seydler, importuned by the Germans of Austria and having his backbone strengthened by influences proceeding from the foreign ministry and from Berlin, granted one of the German demands which the Czechs had been fighting furiously and successfully for three decades. By a ministerial decree the old Kingdom of Bohemia, a historical as well as a geographical unit, was split up into districts. The population of Bohemia is two-thirds Czech and one-third German. The German scheme of splitting the country into districts means that in a district with a German majority the Czech language will no longer have any rights, Czech schools will be closed and the Czech minority will be more easily Germanized; but in the districts where the Czechs are in the majority or where they form the whole of the population, the Germans will still have all the rights of the Czechs in addition to the privileges of the race that has a decisive influence in the affairs of the state and whose language is the language of the state administration.

It is noteworthy and illustrative of the lawless condition of Austria that this important measure, for more than a generation hotly contested in parliament, has been put into effect by a simple ministerial decree. Of course that is strictly illegal, even with the help of the famous paragraph 14 of the Austrian constitution, and it makes it certain that the Vienna parliament which is to meet in the middle of the present month will have to be sent home and a regime of absolutism, no longer masquerading under parliamentary forms, will be inaugurated in Austria. The Czechs are sure to have the support of the Jugoslav, Polish, Italian and Roumanian deputies in their attack upon the goverment, and with the majority of the people's representatives against him Seydler will be compelled to govern without the Reichsrat.

For the effect of all this on the Bohemian population we have to rely so far on on brief cable reports. But they announce enough to make it clear that the Czechs have gone on from declarations to deeds. There is, of course, no regularly organized arrmed rebellion. The Czech leaders are determined, but cool-headed men who do not want to lead their people into a massacre. As long as the Germans reap considerable successes in the West, as long as the Austro-German armies can spare a couple of Landsturm divisions with machine guns and poison gas shells, an uprising of unarmed elderly men would be the act of madmen. But short of that everything is done to manifest the Czech solidarity with the Allies and to hamper the prosecution of war by Austria. We hear that in the Prague suburb of Smichov, a city of some 80,000 people, 150 women were arrested for smashing windows and making a demonstration against the government. But that possibly might have been due to hunger. The events in Prague were of a more political character. In the middle of May a celebration was held in Prague in commeration of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the National Theatre of the Kingdom of Bohemia. The Jugoslavs again came to Prague to prove their union with the brother Slavs, and we are told that there were delegations in Prague of Roumanians, Austrian Russians, Poles and Italians. Detailed reports are still lacking of the scenes of emotion that must have taken place in that beautiful building upon the banks of the Vltava, as Smetana’s great opera “Libuše” was sung foretelling the greatness of free Bohemia and as speeches were made denouncing the Austrian tyranny. The cable dispatches tell that several deputies addressed the gathering urging resistance to the end and the sacrifice of wealth and blood for Bohemia. Crowds parading through the streets wore national colors of the entente states and cheered Wilson, Clemenceau and Lloyd George, and above all their own leader Masaryk who from the Austrian point of view is a condemned traitor.

The government took severe measures. Crowds were dispersed by calling out the Magyar garrison; martial law was proclaimed throughout Bohemia which means that even slight infractions of the law are punishable by death in a summary trial. The Jugoslav deputies were driven out of Prague, and the great Czech daily, the chief mouthpiece of the deputies, “Národní Listy”, has been suppressed. The state of war exists in Bohemia between the Czech nation and the Austrian government.

While the Slavs are attacking Austria’s integrity from one side, the Germans of Austria work for the same end from another direction and with very different motives. We read of meetings in Silesia, Styria and even in that pre-eminently Hapsburg province, the Tyrol, voting resolutions in favor of closer union with Germany. The tendency among the Germans of the Alp provinces, and of the Bohemian lands as well, is ever stronger for the incorporation of Austria into the German empire as one of the federal states, with certain special privileges, such as are reserved to Bavaria. And a long step toward the realization of these ambitions has been taken at the recent meeting of the two emperors. A treaty has been agreed upon providing in effect that for the next twenty five years the Austrian army, shall be under the control of Germany. Can any sensible man still believe in the possibility of separating the Hapsburgs from the Hohenzollerns or setting up a strong Austria as a counterpoise to Germany? Whether the continued postponement of the Austrian offensive against Italy is due principally to the really desperate food situation of the empire, or to the fear of disaffection among the Slav and Latin troops, it is difficult to decide. It seems likely in any event that the Austrian command will not commit itself to a general offensive, until its own divisions are strengthened by reliable German troops. In the meantime not only the Czechoslovak and Italian conscripts, but Roumanians and Jugoslavs as well go over to the Italian side, whenever there is opportunity. The Czechoslovaks especially by their splendid soldierly qualities and by their matchless bravery and patriotism have won much praise from their Italian and other Allied friends.

On May 25 there took place at Rome the dedication of the flag of the Czechoslovak army. The flag has the Bohemian colors, white and red; on one side are the figures 1620 (the year of Bohemian downfall) and 1918 (the year of Bohemian rebirth), on the other side are the shields of Bohemia. Moravia, Silesia and Slovakia. The presentation of the flag to general Graziani, commander of the Czechoslovak army in Italy, was an imposing military ceremony. Speeches praising the Czechs were made by the mayor of Rome and by premier Orlando on behalf of Italy, and by Col. Štefanik on behalf of the Czechoslovak revolutionary government. It is an indication of the attitude of the American government that Ambassador Page took part in the proceedings and ended his speech by saying: “God of freedom and justice grant you victory.” Another great honor was conferred upon the Czechoslovak soldiers at the celebration of the third anniversary of Italy’s entry into the war. A regiment of this army was brought to Rome to serve as the guard of honor to the King of Italy and the Prince of Wales.

When the offensive does come, whether it is started by the Austrians or by the Italians, the Czechoslovaks will give a good account of themselves, and so will other corps of former Austrian soldiers that are now being formed on the Italian front. The oppressed races of Austria-Hungary, fighting against tyranny from within and from without, are destined to give the decrepit old empire its deathblow and thus shatter the Pan-German dreams of Central Europe as the stepping stone to a world empire.

This work was published before January 1, 1928 and is anonymous or pseudonymous due to unknown authorship. It is in the public domain in the United States as well as countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 95 years or less since publication.