The Founding of the First Republic of Czechoslovakia (Part 2)

former czechoslovakia The days the republic was founded were marked with great political cultural activity. There were political speeches, mass demonstrations and strikes, the general strike if January 22 for example. The 50th anniversary of the founding of the National Theatre turned into a celebration of Czech independence struggle. Leading political figures used the event to transform it into a political one and there seems to have been no problem with that: the atmosphere must have been very ecstatic and hopeful. The bloody, exhausting was ending, the Austrian- Hungarian Empire was in ruins and the hopes for an independent state had a strong basis, since Masaryk had negotiated with the world’s major powers that they would accept the independent Czechoslovak state. On the other hand, it was very turbulent a time and harsh in many respects. What we tend to forget is the disastrous Spanish flu epidemic, which was devastating Europe those days. And, of course, the economy was weakened and the question of war reparations was hanging in the air.

What followed was an escalation of pressure: manifestations and strikes, independent assemblies. Emperor Karl I tried to settle tensions down by offering a federation, but its shape was unacceptable- Czechs would lose the border regions and Slovakia would remain a part of Hungary. However, until October 27 the regime still proved strong enough to contain all-out political demonstrations.

On the mentioned day the foreign affairs minister of Austria- Hungary sent a letter to President Wilson, asking for peace talks. Although it was not a capitulation yet, it was interpreted as such by the public and, at the news center on Wenceslas square, in front of the exposed printed news, a demonstration was formed. Also, because the minister mentioned self- determination of Slavic states, it was seen as an approval of Czech and Slovak independence. Tens of thousands marched through Příkopy, crossed the Old Town Square and then returned to the Wenceslas Square. The numbers grew considerably and the new beginning was taken for granted.

Apart from Masaryk one ought to remember the role of, among others, Karel Kramár, Vladimír Svehla or Alois Rasín, who unfortunately became victim of assassination five years later.
The new state was declared under the St Wenceslas monument on Wenceslas square at 11 am, 28 October. Other cities were to follow, but there were certain communication problems due to lack of time and period technology, the result being that the declaration was mostly a Prague event.
The Slovaks formally joined the Czech declaration several days later.

Continue to The Founding of the Republic (Part 1)

Dec 28, 12:19 (Filed under: Chapters from history )

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