"Stále více Čechů a Slováků spatřovalo ochranu svých práv a zájmů v samostatném státě a své přesvědčení o lepší budoucnosti vkládali do vzniku nové demokratické a nezávislé republiky," řekl na závěr svého vystoupení 8. října 1998 v Knihovně Kongresu USA (Woodrow Wilson Collection, Room 11) ve Washingtonu prof. Jan Havránek, vědecký pracovník Ústavu dějin UK, český historik a znalec našich moderních dějin, v kruzích evropských a světových historiků známá osobnost.
Před nedávnem jste se vrátil z USA. Jaký byl účel vaší cesty?
Na pozvání amerických historiků a velvyslanectví ČR v USA jsem se zúčastnil semináře věnovaného 80. výročí vzniku samostatného československého státu. Téma semináře mělo název Vznik Československa: Říjen 1918. Seminář byl připraven naším velvyslanectvím ve Washingtonu a Knihovnou Kongresu USA. Konal se v té místnosti Kongresu USA, ve které kde je uložena knihovna Woodrowa Wilsona. Vystoupil jsem s přednáškou o některých aspektech, které umožnily v roce 1918 vznik ČSR a byl jsem též přítomen zajímavé a hodnotné diskusi.
Kdo se semináře zúčastnil?
Vedle čestných hostů, například velvyslance ČR v USA Alexandra Vondry a zástupců State Departementu, to byli především přední znalci tohoto historického období našich dějin ze severoamerického kontinentu. Ze Slovenska přiletěl bratislavský historik Slavomír Michálek, z České republiky pak já.
Kdo na semináři vystoupil a s jakým tématem?
Uvedu jen několik příkladů: Hugh Agnew hovořil o významu českého národního obrození jako o historické události, podmiňující vznik ČSR. O této problematice napsal knihu Origins of the Czech National Renascence, která vyšla v roce 1993 v Pittsburghu. Thomas D. Marzik (Saint Joseph's University) vyzdvihl úlohu Milana Rastislava Štefánika, Sharon L. Wolchiková (George Washington University) se zamyslela nad tím, co vznik Československa znamená pro současnost České republiky. O vztahu T. G. Masaryka k Americe a osobně k W. Wilsonovi hovořil český historik George J. Kovtun (o tomto vztahu napsal také knihu Masarykův triumf - česky vyšla v roce 1991 - a vzbudila velký ohlas jak v Čechách, tak v Americe). G. J.Kovtun ve Spojených státech žije a v Knihovně Kongresu zastává místo vedoucího bibliografického oddělení. Před nedávnem vydal zevrubnou bibliografii prací o českých a slovenských dějinách, jež se v kongresové knihovně nalézají - Czech and Slovak History. An American Bibliography, Library of Congress, Washington 1996. O podílu amerických Čechů a Slováků v boji za národní a státní nezávislosti promluvil Ivan Dubovický, pracovník velvyslanectví ČR ve Washingtonu, o úloze Štefana Osuského v boji za nezávislost Slováků hovořil bratislavský historik Slavomír Michálek a Milada Polišenská sledovala vývoj vztahů USA a ČSR v meziválečném dvacetiletí. Známý kanadský historik a opora českého disentu prof.Gordon H.Skilling (University of Toronto) s přehledem sobě vlastním průběh konference shrnul. Na vysoké úrovni byla diskusní část konference, na níž se podílelo jedenáct profesorů amerických univerzit, kteří se zabývají českými a československými dějinami.
Setkal jste se na semináři s nějakými novými historickými poznatky o tomto období?
Všechny vyjmenované vědce znám z jejich badatelských výsledků.Mnohé z nich osobně, také proto, že ti mladší svého času studovali na Univerzitě Karlově. Podobných vědeckých akcí jsem se v posledních letech zúčastnil několikrát, takže jsem v této oblasti poměrně dobře informován.
Co se nových poznatků týká, pak vedle zmíněného vystoupení prof. Agnewa vyvolaly v auditoriu - a také u mě - značnou pozornost referáty o účasti amerických Slováků a Čechů v boji za samostatnost, které přednesli I. Dubovický, G. J. Kovtun a Sl. Michálek.
Co jste považoval ve svém vystoupení v Knihovně Kongresu USA za nutné zvláště zdůraznit?
V rámci objasnění kořenů vzniku samostatné Československé republiky v období od roku 1848 až 1918 jsem položit důraz hlavně na růst hospodářské moci, společenského vlivu a národního sebevědomí Čechů v posledních předválečných desetiletích a úlohu amerických Čechů a krajanského tisku na vytváření ideje nezávislého, demokratického, svobodomyslného republikánského státu.
K jednomu stolu zasedli v Knihovně Kongresu USA (zprava) Američané W. A. Iggersová a S.B. Winters, Čech prof. J. Havránek a Slovák Sl. Michálek.
The Czechoslovak Republic founded on 28 October 1918 followed the thousand years old historical tradition of the Bohemian kingdom and the lands of the Crown of St. Wenceslas on one side, and the demands of the Czechs and Slovaks for self-government, enunciated for the first time during the1848 revolution, on the other. There existed two ideological concepts on which the existence of the new state was bazed.
The first, the traditional concept was expressed in the program which was demanding the renewal of the Historical State rights of the lands of the Crown of St. Wenceslas. The Czechs were not the only nation which argued in its struggle for national independence in 19th century Europe with the existence of its national state in the past. Most important was the Polish program of the restauration of Rzecz Pospolita as it existed before the partitions. The existence of the mediaeval Balkan kingdoms before their incorporation into the Ottoman Empire was also used as an argument in the struggle of Serbs, Bulgarians and Croats for their independence.
The second, modern concept argued with the Natural Rights of Nations to Self-Determination. It was used as an argument in the programs of all the movements fighting for national independence. For most of them it was the only or at least main argument for their independence, even when nearly all European nations could argue with some antecedents of their modern state in the Middle Ages. Compared with the first concept the important difference was clear - the territories of the lands of the Crown of St. Stefan, St. Wenceslas and others had traditional, more or less fixed borders - the borders of the territories inhabited by the nations like Ukrainians or Slovaks should be fixed in according to the size of the territory inhabited by their conationals. The existence of the leading groups was one of the most important preoconditions of any national movement as it was proved in the works of Miroslav Hroch. These "národní buditelé" (national awakeners) of Czechs and Slovaks were not aristocrats, but intellectuals. They prepared by their litterary and educational activities the soil for the existence of national political movements which in Central Europe for the first time played an important role in the 1848 revolution.
The revolution of 1848 in Central Europe was the democratic revolution, in all countries it was oriented against the absolutistic rule of the state, represented by the bureaucrats. Many revolutionaries demanded also the abolition of the privileges of the aristocracy. The revolutionary year gave to the inhabitants of Bohemian lands, as well as of most countries in their nighbourhood, for the first times the civic right - the freedom of speech, of association, of press and the right to elect their deputies into the representative bodies on local, territorial and state levels.
The subjects of the emperor and king became the citizens - občané in Czech - during few months of the Spring of Nations 1848. The word občan was derived from the word obec. Obec meant a community of men who wish to manage their affairs in mutual understanding. Therefore used the Czech language at that time for the United States of America the expression Spojené obce americké. Karel Havlíček appealed just in 1846 in his Pražské noviny to those burghers of the Bohemian towns who had some vote in local counsels to behave like občané in supporting the education of their children by supporting good teachers in their schools.
During the spring of 1848 the first representative bodies came into existence. In Prague it was the St. Wenceslas - Committee, elected by the citizens of Prague on 12 March 1848 at the St. Wenceslas - Bath as a committee that should give the final wording to the Petition of Prague Citizens to their king accepted at that assembly. Among the first members of this Committee the craftsmen prevailed. To the most typical Czech professions - the millers and brewers - belonged one quarter of its elected members. This Committee was later increased by cooptations and renamed: National Committee. It was respected by the Viennese government as a representative body of the Bohemian Citizens and its proposals for the rules of voting for the Diet of the Kingdom of Bohemia were incorporated into the Emperors decision about the reforms in Bohemia given in his Kabinettsbrief from 8 April 1848. The Diet should consist, together with its traditional aristocratic members, also of the representatives of citizens from towns and villages. These new members should be elected in towns and cities directly and per electors in the countryside, where for each unit of Catholic church administration - for a vicariate - two deputies were elected. Even when only men over 25 years who payed taxes were entitled to vote, were these elections the most general before 1897. The peasants followed the recommendation of Karel Havlíček and sent to Prague Diet mostly one well known national politician and one experienced farmer from the district. This Diet of Bohemia never met - but these spring election was for the Czechs the first experience of being citizens deciding about the composition of the legislative assembly. The elections for the Reichstag that met in Vienna and later in Kroměříž followed few months later. The number of deputies was much smaller and therefore the preference was given to well known representatives of the Czech national movement.
The Czechs could not use their civic rights during the decade that followed after the defeat of the 1848 Revolution and since 1859 they were regaining their rights only step by step, therefore they could not forget their first experience of being real citizens during the Spring of the Nations, the Year of Freedom - 1849-1849.
František Palacký proposed at the Reichstag at Kroměříž the reorganisation of the Habsburg monarchy into a federation of ethnic units, one of them should be established on the territory inhabited by the Czechoslovaks. His proposal was bazed on the concept of natural rights of nations and so it could be important for the Slovaks. His proposal was not accepted and the dissolution of this assembly on 7 March 1848 expressed the defeat of democracy as well as of the struggle of Central European nations for their self-determination.
The neoabsolutistic interlude of the following decade was followed by the liberal reforms from above in February 1860 that were introduced by the decrees of the Emperor and bazed on respecting on the traditional territorial units and the privileges of the aristocracy. The representatives of the citizens were elected to the Diets only by those tax-payers who paid more than 10 gulden in direct taxes. The freedom of press was seriously limited by the existence of the censorship. Neverthless during the sixties the Czech national movement reached important successes especially in the selfgovernments of towns and villages, that became for their Czech members important as the school of democracy.
Czechs controlled since 1861 the city hall of Prague and Czech became the language of most of the municipal offices in Bohemia. The Czech politicians accepted the opportunity for collaboration with the Conservative party representing an important part of the Bohemian aristocracy that enabled them to play an important role in the Bohemian Diet. But their attempts to reach autonomous statute for the Czech lands failed. The Czech positions in Moravia were weak, in Silesia very weak.
Therefore and for many other reasons failed all the attempts to reform the Habsburg empire on federalist principles during the years 1860-1866. After the defeat of the Habsburg army at Sadowa on 3 July 1866 the dualist organisation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was established which meant a decisive defeat for the Czechs. They answered - together with Bohemian conservative aristocrats - with a passive resistence from the Bohemian Diet and Viennese Parliament. Twelve years later, in 1879 the inefficacy of this tactics lead them to a radical change to the activist policy of the Czech representatives.
The economic strength of the Czech peasants and industrial enterpreneurs enabled them to win during the years 1860-1884 strong positions in the professional representations - Chambers of Trade and Industries, Land_s Council of Agriculture in Bohemia.
The control of the city halls and the selfgovernment of Bohemia enabled the Czechs to reach since 1860ies the radical changes in the educational system in Bohemia. The gymnasiums in Czech towns were changed into schools with Czech language of instruction and in 1869 the Prague Polytechnic was divided into a Czech and a German school. The dividing of the Charles-Ferdinand University into Czech one and German one in 1882 was the result of the change in the attitude of the Old Czech-Party to the government of Taaffe. The opposition of the German politicians against this decision was supported by the German nationalists among the state bureaucrats. Their representative, the governor of Bohemia Philipp Weber von Ebenhof warned Vienna before the existence of the Czech university. He saw in it the decicive step to the federalism a weakening of the central power.
The Czech university became a center of the political emancipation of the Czechs. The diminishing knowledge of German among its graduates, as the governor predicted was not the decisive factor. The Czech students of law were up to 1918 obliged to take their 1st State exams in German. Decisive were the activities of the leading professors that secured them the leading role within the political élite of the nation, only few names could be mentioned: Masaryk, Kaizl, Rezek, Bráf. Many details to their role could be found in the new book: Zdeněk Šolle, Století české politiky. Od Palackého k Masarykovi. (1998)
Two ways led, according to the concepts of the Czech politicians, to the Czech selfgovernment, autonomy, independence. Some were still hoping for the support of the Habsburg dynasty. Even when the desillusions caused by the behaviour of Francis Joseph I. were deep, Franz Ferdinand could be different. His morgantic marriage with Sophia Chotek, his contacts with the Bohemian aristocrats supported this hope. If you see in the exhibition in the castle of Artstetten, where Francis Ferdinand and Sophia are buried, the postcard which wrote one of their sons from Miramare to his brother in Chlum near Třeboň in 1913 in good Czech you can understand these hopes - but no documents that could prove some projects or attempts in this direction could be found.
Other politicians, especially professors who were teaching him during his studies in Prague, like Emil Ott, Albín Bráf, Jaroslav Goll, hoped to win the support of Karl Franz Josef for the Czech cause. These attempts are analysed in the book: Jan Galandauer, Karel I., poslední český král. (Praha 1998). Few considerations concerning his coronation in Prague Karl expressed to his closest collaborators in November 1916 in Budapest but later he was not allowed to visit Prague at all. So was the concept of the adress of the Czech politicians that should be presented to him during his Prague visit which prepared Josef Pekař for Antonín Švehla on 18 May 1917 predestined to stay in Švehla_s desk. The adress requested that Karl should be "by the coronation to the king of Bohemia support the solemn guaranty given to the state rights that belong to the Bohemian Crown.("aby korunováním na království české připojil se k slavnostní garanci, která státnímu právu koruny české náleží".) The decision of the centre of power in the Monarchy so helped to Karel Kramář and Edvard Beneš who both, in different positions, were afraid of the eventual declarations of loyalty by Czech politicians to the new monarch.
The second way was the consistent support of all the movements demanding democratic reforms of the Habsburg monarchy.
Since 1890 the workers and their social democratic party demanded the introduction of general suffrage. They were supported by the Czech progressive students who prepared in 1891 the Petition demanding the same.The deputy Jan Slavík proposed 17 March 1893 in the name of the Young Czech Club in Reichsrat the fundamental reform of the electoral laws bazed on the principle of the general, equal and direct voting right. All these projects failed. Also the proposal in the same case submitted by the prime minister Eduard Taaffe on 10 October 1893 that retained the privileged curias but increased the proportion of men with voting right from 15% to 34% of male population, failed. The reforms came late and the general suffrage was introduced only to the Reichsrat in 1906 and in 1907 the first democratic elections for the Viennese Parliament took place.
Democratic reforms in the Western half of the Dual Monarchy could not stay without any influence in Hungary. The demands for self-government of nations had deep roots in the consciousness of Czechs and Slovaks and were supported by the independent press of both nations which was published in the United States. These journals were the real mirror of the public opinion at home, especially in its attitude to the Monarchy and to the catholic church, in its struggle for democracy.
World War I. was accepted by Czechs and Slovaks with the defiance to the Habsburgs war. T.G. Masaryk left the country to organize a struggle for independence of Czechs and Slovaks. He succeeded to gain support of the Czech and Slovak emigrants in many countries and also of the Czech and Slovak POWs who joined the Legions organised in France, Russia and Italy for fighting against the Central powers. In 1918 the authority of Masaryk as a head of Czechoslovak nation was respected by 100000 soldiers of the Czechoslovak Legions at the same moment when the masses in the streets of Prague on 28 October 1918 enabled the National Committee to take the control of the state affairs in its hands a declare the independence of Czechoslovakia. The events of the last month of the war, of October 1918 were reconstructed in a book published in September 1998: Antonín Klimek: Říjen 1918: vznik Československa.
The antecedents of the liberation were extremely important - without Sokol the Legions would miss its leading idea and concept, without economic advance the Czechs would not be so self-confident and experienced in the local government and professional representations, without generally accepted custom to read the Czech press the agitation in the prisoners_camps would be more difficult.
Palacký brought the concept of the tradition of Bohemian kingdom, Jungmann the adoration of the Czech language, Kollár the Slavic concept, Havlíček the realistic nationalism. Decisive were neverheless not the antecedents but the World War I which changed all the life in Europe, destroyed the moral concepts of the past and forced the people to look for Salvation - but the old churches supported the war and therefore they had not much to tell. The Salvation was seen in the democratic state and therefore most of the Czechs and Slovaks trusted to their democratic, independent republic as the guarantee of more secure future.