Lands of the Bohemian Crown
Země Koruny české
Component of Greater Austria
1918–1947
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem
Kde domov můj
"Where my home is"
Location within Greater Austria
Capital Prague
Languages Czech
Government Constitutional monarchy
King
 •  1918–1922 Charles III
 •  1922–1941 Otto I
Prime Minister
 •  1918–1920 Vlastimil Tusar
 •  1938–1941 Rudolf Beran
Legislature National Assembly
 •  Upper house Chamber of Peers
 •  Lower house Chamber of Deputies
History
 •  Proclaimed 28 October 1918
 •  Constitution adopted 29 February 1920
 •  Dissolution of Habsburg Empire 10 April 1941
 •  Treaty of St Germain 10 February 1947
Currency Krone (1918–1925)
Schilling (1925–1941)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Bohemia
Margraviate of Moravia
First Czechoslovak Republic

The Lands of the Bohemian Crown (Czech: Země Koruny české) were the Czech territories of Greater Austria that existed from 1918 to 1947. The state was commonly called Bohemia (Čechy). It was composed of Central Bohemia and Moravia. Many Czechs were openly agitated against the territorial loss of the northern, southern, and western areas of Bohemia and north-east Silesia. Nevertheless, the new state saw the passage of a number of progressive reforms in areas such as housing, social security, and workers’ rights. The operation of the Bohemian government was distinguished by its political stability. Largely responsible for this were the well-organized political parties that emerged as the real centers of power. After 1934, Bohemia was the most resistant to Austrofascism.

History[edit | edit source]

The two parts of the empire were united by a common ruler, by a joint foreign policy, and, to some extent, by shared finances. Otherwise, Cisleithania (Austria) and Transleithania (Hungary) were virtually independent states, each having its own parliament, government, administration, and judicial system. In Bohemia, a vigorous industrial revolution transformed a peasant nation into a differentiated society that included industrial workers, a middle class, and intellectuals. Under the influence of the Enlightenment and romanticism, the Czech national revival led to the establishment of the National Museum in 1818 and the National Theatre in 1881. Moreover, some Czechs were making political demands that included the reconstitution of an autonomous Bohemian Kingdom. The Czech cultural and political achievements were vigorously opposed by Bohemian Germans, who feared losing their privileged position.

In Cisleithania, German liberals held political power in parliament from 1867 to 1879. They were determined to maintain German dominance in the Austrian part of the empire. The Czech leaders, subsequently labeled Old Czechs, favored alliance with the conservative and largely Germanized Bohemian nobility and advocated the restoration of traditional Bohemian autonomy. In essence, they wanted a reconstituted Bohemian Kingdom (including Moravia and Silesia) with a constitutional arrangement similar to Hungary's. In 1871 the Old Czechs seemed successful, because the government agreed to the Fundamental Articles, which would have reinstated the historic rights of the Bohemian Kingdom. Violent protest from both German and Hungarian liberals ensued, however, and the articles were never adopted.

Objecting to an increase of Slavs in the empire, the German liberals opposed the 1878 Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The emperor, stung by the rejection of his foreign policy, dismissed the liberal government and turned to Count Eduard Taaffe's conservative "Iron Ring" cabinet (1879–83). The Taaffe government took the Slavic element into greater account than the liberals had and, in turn, was supported by the Old Czechs. Czech cooperation with Taaffe led to several important gains. A language decree promulgated in 1880 put Czech on an equal footing with German in the Bohemian "inner service" (the language government officials spoke to one another) and law. In 1882 Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague was divided into two separate institutions: one Czech and the other German. These concessions, however, seemed insufficient to a newly developing Czech commercial and industrial bourgeoisie. Intense conflict ensued as Czechs and Germans attempted to control local administration and education. When some of the Old Czechs attempted to work out a compromise with the Bohemian Germans in 1890, they were denounced by a younger and more radical intelligentsia. The next year the Old Czechs were soundly defeated by the Young Czechs, ending a period of attempted compromises.

While relations between Czechs and Germans worsened in Bohemia, they remained relatively tranquil in Moravia. Although the separate administrative status of Moravia had been abolished in the eighteenth century, the area was reconstituted as a separate crown land in 1849. In Moravia, unlike in Bohemia, a compromise was reached by Karel Emanuel v. Zierotin, in 1905, between the Czech majority and the German minority. Although the German language retained a slight predominance, the preservation of Czech language and culture was legally guaranteed. The compromise seemed to work reasonably well. During the decade leading up to the war, obstructionism by both Czechs and Germans rendered parliamentary politics ineffectual, and governments rose and fell with great frequency. The importance of the Young Czech Party waned as Czech politics changed orientation. Political parties advocating democracy and socialism emerged. In 1900 Tomáš Masaryk, a university professor and former Young Czech deputy, founded the Czech Progressive Party. Basing its struggle for national autonomy on the principle of popular sovereignty, the Czech Progressive Party supported parliamentary politics, advocated universal suffrage, and rejected radicalism.

At the turn of the century, the idea of a "Czechoslovak" entity began to be advocated by some Czech and Slovak leaders.

At the outbreak of the World War, the Czechs showed little enthusiasm for fighting for their perceived respective enemies, the Germans, against fellow Slavs, the Russians and the Serbs. Large numbers of Czechs defected on the Russian front and formed the Czechoslovak Legion, organised by Milan Rastislav Štefánik (a Slovak astronomer and general of the French army). Masaryk went to western Europe and began propagating the idea that the Austro-Hungarian Empire should be dismembered and that Czechoslovakia should be an independent state. In 1916, together with Edvard Beneš and Milan Rastislav Štefánik, Masaryk created the Czechoslovak National Council. Masaryk in the United States, Štefánik in France, and Beneš in France and Britain then worked to gain Entente recognition. When secret talks between the Entente and Austrian emperor Charles I collapsed, the Entente recognized the Czechoslovak National Council in the summer of 1918 as the supreme organ of a future Czechoslovak government.

Internally, the cause of Czech self-government was greatly advanced by the World War, during which, in 1917, the Manifesto of Czech writers, signed by over two hundred leading Czechs, was published. This favoured the concept of Czech autonomy. After fighting on the Western Front ceased, emperor Charles I issued an Imperial Manifesto to reform Cisleithania. a national council that would negotiate the future of the empire with Vienna. This manifesto was accepted by Czech leaders in Prague who declared the formation of the Czech National Council on 28 October 1918. Two days later, Moravian leaders approved their inclusion in the new Czech state. The National Council chose a provisional government headed by Vlastimil Tusar, and drafted a provisional constitution.

The Constitutional Assembly in Vienna convened in March 1920, the Czech members of the assembly were led by Tusar. The assembly approved the establishment of the Kingdom of Bohemia, however, without its ethnic German areas border regions. After submitting a formal note of protest to the assembly, Tusar voted in favour of the Imperial Constitution in October 1920.

The establishment of the Royal Constitution of 1920 installed a parliamentary system and representative democracy with relatively few constituents for each representative. This allowed a great variety of political parties to emerge, with no clear front runner or leading political entity. A coalition of five Czech parties, which became known as the "Pětka" (The Five), constituted the backbone of the government and maintained stability. Prime Minister Antonin Svehla led the Pětka for most of the 1920s and designed a pattern of coalition politics that survived until the end of the monarchy.

The leaders of Bohemia hoped to find solutions for the loss of territory. Although assemblies were provided for the nationalities within the Habsburg realm, their jurisdiction was limited to adjusting laws and regulations of the imperial government to local needs. National groups were assured special protection; in areas where they constituted 20% of the population, members of minority groups were granted full freedom to use their language in everyday life, in schools, and in matters dealing with authorities.

Politics[edit | edit source]

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