The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 3/Gradual Return to Normal Life

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4340653The Czechoslovak Review, volume 3, no. 9 — Gradual Return to Normal Life1919


Jaroslav F. Smetanka, Editor
Published Monthly by the Bohemian Review Co., 2324 S. Central Park Ave., Chicago, Ill.

Entered as second class matter April 30, 1917 at the Post Office of Chicago, Ill., under act of Congress of March 3, 1879.

Vol. III, No. 9. SEPTEMBER, 1919

15 cents a Copy
$1.50 per Year

Gradual Return to Normal Life

Month by month the Czechoslovak Republic is getting over the after-effects of the war and returning to the normal. The danger of famine has been, thanks to America, definitely overcome. The new crops are in, and on the whole they are satisfactory. It is true, of course, that lack of fertilizers and insufficiency of draft animals will make it difficult for many years to bring up the yield to the high average of pre-war cultivation which in wheat, for instance, was more than double the American yield per acre. But the weather during the season just ended has been on the wholefavorable, with the exception of local floods and hailstorms, and it is estimated that the crops will suffice to feed thirteen million people until the end of spring, 1920. Thus the authorities will have plenty of time to purchase and bring in the balance needed for the feeding of the people during the summer months. Both Jugoslavia and Roumania will have grain for export, and as the Danube is open again it will be much easier and cheaper to bring in the wheat and corn from the Balkans than from America, especially as payment can be made to these agricultural countries in Bohemian manufactures. At the same time the government finds it necessary to keep in operation for an indefinite time food measures imposed during the war. All grain will be taken over by the food ministry at prices determined by the government, and the system of bread cards, meat cards etc. will be continued for the present.

External danger to the new Republic has been greatly reduced with the fall of Bela Kuhn’s regime in Budapest. Its engagements and promises could not be trusted: its twofold nature, as a communistic experiment relying for its success on propagation of communism, and as nationalistic Magyar state, made its very existence a constant menace to the integrity of Czechoslovakia. Even after the Magyar invasion of Slovakia had been thrown back and the bolsheviks promised to respect for the future the boundaries set by the peace conference, no Czechoslovak political leader was willing to trust the Magyars, and it was felt necessary to keep large garrisons on the border. For that reason the fall of the extremist regime was welcomed throughout Bohemia and Slovakia as a fortunate event both for the Magyars and their neighbors. At first there was the utmost good will towards the Roumanians who had undertaken a job which nobody else cared to tackle. But as soon as Archduke Joseph, apparently with the help of the Roumanians, came to power in Budapest, the sentiment changed overnight. Before this the Hapsburgs were referred to in Bohemia with contempt or witticisms, but now there was hatred and back of it fear. Under no circumstances can the Czechoslovaks permit that this accursed family should get an opportunity to come back. If the peace conference had not driven out Joseph Hapsburg, it seems most likely that the Czechoslovaks would have marched on Budapest to put down a Hapsburg restoration in its first stages.

Roumanian toleration of Joseph, to give it a mild name, embittered the friendly relations of Czechoslovaks to Roumanians. Through the addition of autonomous Ruthenia to the Czechoslovak Republic the two nations became neighbors, and it was the hope of Czechoslovak statesmen that they would become allies in view of the common hostility of Magyars and Germans. But the behavior of Roumanians in Hungary made their relations to the Czechoslovaks strained. By robbing the Magyars of all that could be carried away they were also robbing the Czechoslovaks. For there is a well-founded Czechoslovak claim against the Magyars for restitution. When Karolyi had to evacuate Slovakia last winter, he swept it bare of machinery, cattle and above all of railway rolling stock; and in May Bela Kuhn in his invasion of southern half of Slovakia repeated the operation. Now the Roumanians took from the Magyars not only what was really Magyar property, but also what had been stolen from the Slovaks. The Czechoslovak government had relied on the peace conference to settle its clams against the Magyar Republic; the Roumanians spurned the peace conference and helped themselves. It must be confessed that the authority of the statesmen gathered in Paris has sustained a great diminution as a result of the Roumanian adventure.

This will have an effect on the solution of the Teschen dispute between the Czechs and the Poles. Conferences were held in Cracow early in August between commissions of the two nations, but they led to no result. The Poles insisted on plebiscite; the Czechs opposed it. They took their stand on historical grounds; Teschen has been connected with Bohemia for the last six hundred years. Poles claim eastern Galicia on historical grounds, although the majority of the population there is overwhelmingly Ruthenian, but in case of Teschen they ignore Bohemian historical rights and appeal to right of self-determination. The Czechs felt compelled to oppose popular voting in Teschen for this reason also, that the Poles are in wrongful occupation of the majority of the district and have been intimidating the population to make them vote in favor of Polish rule. Since the Czech-Polish conference could not reach an agreement, it is now up to the peace conference to decide the dispute. A few months ago a decision of the Allies, even if unfavorable, would have been accepted as final; now the prestige of the peace conference has suffered a serious blow.

In internal politics the new coalition government of the socialist block and the farmers’ party seems firmly in the saddle. The democrats and the people’s party are in opposition and their criticism is sometimes very inconvenient to the ministry which cannot perform miracles and cure the country of its pains. But the coalition holds and will probably continue in power, until the new elections. It is planned to hold the elections in December on the basis of a new electoral law which is described elsewhere. But the program of the government calls for the adoption of the constitution by the present National Assembly, mainly for the reason that Germans and Magyars who will be represented in the first popularly elected legislature are not trusted to cooperate in the enactment of the fundamental laws of the Republic. There is no intention of oppressing these racial minorities, and the electoral law is framed so as to give them the full representation to which they are entitled. But the constitution will provide for a unitary state with wide local self-government, and not a sort of a dual monarchy, as the Germans would want—a separate German state alongside of the Czechoslovak state in one republic. The Czechoslovaks are willing to concede to the Germans—and to Magyar minorities as well—all rights of citizens, rights to schools, to their own cultural life; but the character of the republic, and especially in its external relations, will be neither German nor neutral. It will be distinctly Czechoslovak.

The National Assembly, after it had turned over to the committee the governmental franchise bill, adjourned for a vacation on July 24. It will meet again early in September. Before adjournment it granted the government authority to borrow 60 million lire in Italy to defray cost of transportation of American food and to buy cotton yarn from Italian mills. Economic questions are still very difficult to solve. The country needs credit to buy raw materials for its factories; without credit foreign commerce is seriously hampered. There is an official foreign exchange bureau in Prague to whom every one is obliged to turn over credits in foreign currencies; this bureau in turn assigns foreign currency to such importers, as can satisfy the ministry of commerce of the necessity of their proposed importation for domestic industry. But there is not enough foreign currency available to provide for the great needs of the country, and French and British and American exporters will not accept payment in Czechoslovak crowns. Some business has been done with Swiss merchants who accepted crowns in pay ment and sold them in America below cost, thus depressing the value of the Czechoslovak crown from a ratio of 15 to the ratio of 22 to the dollar.

The country needs a foreign loan to buy cotton, copper, rubber, oils, steel alloys etc. So far only those industries depending for their material upon agriculture are producing and exporting. The present high price of sugar will help to balance Czechoslovak exports and imports; it is estimated that the Republic will sell one billion crowns worth of refined sugar from its 1919 crop. Give the Czechoslovak Republic the necessary credit, and it will soon be on a sound economic basis, creating new values by the skill and industry of its people.

This work was published before January 1, 1929 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.

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