All the Bohemian colonies abroad, especially those in Russia, England, France, Switzerland and the United States of America, not being under the pressure of Austria, have repeatedly manifested the true feeling of the nation, proclaiming the necessity of restoring the political independence of Bohemia. The official organ of political Bohemia abroad is La Nation Tcheque, appearing in Paris under the direction of Mr Ernest Denis, professor at the Sorbonne, the well-known historian of Bohemia.
To attain independence is the alleged aim of all Bohemia and of all political parties; there are only some few individual adherents of Austria. No politician of any repute is among them.
The Bohemian State would be composed of the so-called Bohemian countries, namely of Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia; to these would be added the Slovak districts of North Hungary, from Ungvar through Kaschau along the ethnographical boundaries down the river Ipoly (Eipel) to the Danube, including Pressburg and the whole Slovak north to the frontier line of Hungary. The Slovaks are Bohemians, in spite of their using their dialect as their literary language. The Slovaks strive also for independence and accept the programme of union with Bohemia.
The Bohemian State would have a population of over 12 millions. The extent of the new state would be about 50,000 English square miles (Belgium has 11,373).
Against the reconstruction of an independent Bohemia some objections will be made, perhaps not only by its adversaries. The principal objections may therefore be formulated and discussed.
1. At the root, perhaps, of all objections is the fear of new political formations in general. This fear is commonly expressed in the saying, 'It is difficult'.
Yes, it is difficult. Every new political creation is difficult--difficult will be the restriction of German militarism and the political consequences of such restriction, if logically carried out. In politics habits, and not only good ones, but bad ones just as well, rule humanity.
2. Very often the saying is repeated, that a small State is impossible, small nations cannot protect and support themselves.
The far-reaching problem of small nations has often been discussed. Here it must be emphasised that independent Bohemia would not be so very small. Regarding her population, she would hold in Europe the eighth place, only seven States being greater: fourteen would be smaller.*
Greater than Bohemia
Smaller than Bohemia
Bohemia has no sea (unfortunately, only in one of Shakespeare's plays), and that is a great drawback, no doubt (compare small Denmark and the rest of the sea-bordered countries).
In that respect Bohemia is not alone (Serbia, the Magyars, Switzerland), but the example of Switzerland shows that not only can political independence be preserved, but that modern means of communication enable even a landlocked country to have a flourishing industry.
If, therefore, it is urged that Austria is necessary for her nations,
*Austria and Hungary bring the number from twelve to fourteen.
that Austria, if it did not exist, would have to be created, one must say with Palacky that Bohemia was before Austria, and that she will be after Austria.
Austria was created as a confederation of smaller States in the Middle Ages, against the fierce Turks and Huns, and against the oppressive spirit of the age in general. Since the military spirit and oppressive propensities of nations have grown relatively weaker, and as there is some good hope that the war will bring about a longer time of peace (1870 was followed by a 45 years= peace), Bohemia can, during that time, relatively easily be consolidated.
The necessary protection against hostile neighbours free Bohemia can get from alliances with equally threatened neighbours or with friendly neighbours. Bohemia will be contiguous with Poland and Russia, and perhaps with Serbia.
3. Economically and financially Bohemia is acknowledged to be the 'pearl of Austria'--she will be as rich as she is now; she will be richer, because she will not have to support the economically 'passive' provinces of Austria.
Be it noted that the part of Austria which really pays its way consists of Bohemia (with Moravia, Silesia), Lower Austria with Vienna, North Styria, part of West Galicia (this latter only in recent years).
Bohemia, of course, would take a part of the Austrian public debt, and as the war will augment this debt very greatly, Independent Bohemia would have to begin her own administration with a considerable burden: the leading political men of Bohemia are aware of this serious task, and of the necessity for a solid, thoroughly balanced financial administration.
4. In this outline it is impossible to discuss all problems of Bohemia.
But it is of general interest to point to the peculiar position of the Bohemian landed proprietors (aristocracy). These proprietors, for the most part, are Austrian in sentiment, and perhaps they would form a dangerous element. In their case Bohemia could follow the English example in Ireland (land purchase).
5. As it is not in our intention to hide the difficulties of Free Bohemia, we must mention the question of national minorities.
First, though we advocate the principle of nationality, we wish to retain our German minority. It seems to be a paradox, but it is on the principle of nationality that we retain the German minority. Bohemia is a quite unique example of a mixed country; in no country are two nationalities so intermixed and interwoven, so to say, as in Bohemia. Between the Germans and Italians, for instance, the ethnographical frontier is simple, sharply cut; it is not so in Bohemia--in a great many places, and in almost all the cities, we have Bohemian (or German) minorities. The Germans object that the Bohemian minorities in North Bohemia, etc. are 'only' working men, people who live on German bread; this anti-social argument is obviously false; it misrepresents the process of industrialization of Bohemia, which of course needs factory 'hands'.
In Bohemian Silesia the majority is Polish and German, in the Slovak districts there would be a Magyar minority.
6. In a more detailed programme the Bohemian minority of Vienna (about half a million!) would have to be discussed.
Here it must suffice to hint at the possibility of repatriating a great part of the Bohemian emigrants in a free, and therefore richer, Bohemia.
The difficulties of reconstructing Independent Bohemia will be smaller if we take the problem in its connection with the other difficulties, i.e. with the construction and reconstruction of Poland and Serbo-Croatia, and of course with the liberation of the French and Danes in Germany, with the solution of the Balkan and Turkish question, and with all questions agitating the world in this war. The attempt to solve these questions is the very aim of regenerating Europe. All these questions together form the European problem.
The maximum of Bohemian and Serbo-Croatian wishes would be the connection of Bohemia and Serbo-Croatia.
This can be effected by giving the strip of land at the Hungarian frontier in the west either to Serbia or the half of it (north) to Bohemia, the other (south) to Serbia.
This corridor would be formed of parts of the counties of Pozsony (Pressburg), Sopron (Oedenburg), Moson (Wieselburg), and Vas (Eisenburg).
The population is German, containing considerable Croatian minorities; the south is Slovene.
As there are considerable Slovak and Serbo-Croatian minorities, which may be left to Hungary, it is not unjust to claim this district, the more so as the Magyars treated, and now treat, the Serbs and Croats in a way worthy of the Huns of the Middle Ages. Whole districts are depopulated, the inhabitants of Bosnia driven away to Montenegro, while those of Syrmia have been sent to Hungary, where they, not being cared for, die in masses. And the Slovaks were for centuries the victims of the most brutal Magyarisation.
The Serbo-Bohemian corridor would facilitate the economic interchange of both countries--industrial Bohemia and agricultural Serbo-Croatia--and it would lead from Bohemia to the Serbo-Croatian ports. The corridor would, of course, have a great military significance.
It must be added that many Serbo-Croatian politicians accept this plan of a corridor, just as the Bohemian politicians.
By forming this Serbo-Bohemian corridor the Allies would prevent Germany from colonising the Balkans and Asia Minor, and they would prevent the Magyars from being the obedient advanced guard of Berlin.
England as well as France once protected Turkey; that was unconsciously an anti-German policy, though it was directed against Russia, who protected the Balkan Slavs and nations. Now England and France have accepted the policy of Russia, while Germany has taken up the abandoned policy of the two Allies.
By protecting the Balkan Slavs and nations the Allies attain as much, and even more, than they attained by protecting Turkey, and they serve the cause of liberty and civilisation.
Logically the expulsion of Germany from Asia involves taking East Africa from her also. That is the direct consequence of the fall of Kiau-chau.
Only a few words must in this connection be said about Italy, and her exaggerated claims to Serbo-Croatian territory.
Italy overrates the possession of the Croatian coast (Fiume) and of Dalmatia. The command of the Adriatic will be secured by a numerous and good fleet, not by a poor and bare coast. Italy wishes the liberation of the Italians from the Austrian yoke, but at the same time she accepts the repudiated Austrian policy of national repression. Italy has to answer this question: Either she wishes to see in the Adriatic a strong Austrian and Turkish fleet and a German naval base at Trieste, Pola, or some place further
south, or she must be at peace with Serbia, who until now has not had a single ship. Trieste, as an Italian porto franco, Pola, Valona, the islands in the Aegean, are more than sufficient for Italy's aspirations in Asia and Africa.
Of course Italy must consent to Russia having Constantinople and the Straits--if England and France have come to terms with Russia. Why should Italy pursue a Mediterranean policy based on a false idea regarding the Dalmatian coast?
This Adriatic policy is quite false, viewed from the present significance of the Mediterranean. This sea is now something different from what it was to the old Greeks and Romans: the free intercommunication of the countries bordering on this sea is not disputed, but to-day the Mediterranean leads these countries to Asia, Africa, Australia, America. England is a strong Mediterranean power, though only possessing two or three small places and one short coast line (Egypt). Does Italy, who has a very long coast of her own, and a number of islands (one of them is large), need the long coast of Dalmatia as well, if she gets Trieste, Pola and Valona?
Italy should remember that the old German Empire occupied Italian territory; the new German Empire will not hesitate to do the same, having already acquired a good deal of the industry in Northern Italy. The way to Bagdad goes from Berlin not only through Constantinople, but through Trieste and Venetia.
Italy is the natural ally of the Southern and Northern Slavs against the 'Drang nach Osten'.
Bohemia must wish that the Serbo-Croatian nation should be united and that Serbia should come to a satisfactory agreement with Bulgaria.
The Bohemian politicians hope that the final reconstruction of the Balkans will be solved in accordance with Russia and her
Allies. For Bohemia and the Balkan Slavs the friendship and help of Russia is essential.
The Bohemian politicians think that Constantinople, and therefore the Straits, can only belong to Russia. This is a long-cherished plan of the whole Russian nation; this plan has the religious sanction (Hagia Sofia!) of the Russian people, and it is the natural solution of the political and economic endeavour of Russia to secure the Black Sea and the free way to the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
The Bohemian politicians rejoiced in the fact that Russia and England found each other and that the Persian question--(Persian Gulf!)--was solved. Russia, having Constantinople and the Straits, has no vital interest in the Persian Gulf and will be able to devote herself to the final incorporation of Constantinople.
Constantinople and the Straits mean a heavy administrative and financial burden, which only a Great Power will be able to support; Greece, Bulgaria, even in joining their efforts, would not be able to stand the task. It is to be hoped that both these nations will acknowledge this fact and accept its bearing on the final distribution of Asia Minor.
The Bohemian politicians hope and wish that Turkey will be wiped off the map. England is a greater Mohammedan power than Turkey. Russia nearly so: their agreement guarantees the future solution of the religious and political problems of the Mohammedan world. The Slavs are interested in this solution, for there are a good many Serbian and Bulgarian Mohammedans.
The Bohemian politicians set great value on the agreement of Russia and England, as they must fear that Bismarck's old policy of conciliating Russia will be revived by the war. It is not difficult to detect in many utterances of prominent German publicists and statesmen (among others of Hindenburg himself) a hidden appeal to Russia. The German designs in Asia at once suggest the immense significance of Russia as an Asiatic Continental Power. If the Germans also appeal to English Parliamentarism and Liberalism, the Bohemian politicians know that the Germans are blind
adherents of the Prussian constitutional theory, which Treitschke formulated in the abstract, Bismarck practically, and to which the Kaiser lent sacrilegious expression, proclaiming the tool of Bismarck, his grandfather, as God's newest revelation.
Bohemia is projected as a monarchical State; a Bohemian Republic is only advocated by a few Radical politicians.
The dynasty could be established in one of two ways. Either the Allies could give one of their princes, or there could be a personal union between Serbia and Bohemia, if the Serbo-Bohemian corridor could be formed.
The Bohemian people, that must be emphasised once more, are thoroughly Russophile. A Russian dynasty, in whatever form, would be most popular. At any rate, the Bohemian politicians wish the establishment of the kingdom of Bohemia in full accordance with Russia. Russia's wishes and plans will be of determinating influence.
The Bohemian politicians, knowing the difficult task of reconstituting Bohemia, do not shrink from the responsibility of the work to be done. If they wish complete independence, it is because they wish to use all the political forces of the nation to build a strong State. Not only Russia, but her Allies also, will be best served by strong Slav states and nations, and this aim will best be attained if these nations will bear the full responsibility of their policy.
Bohemia will, of course, be constitutional and democratic--as befits the nation of Hus, Chelcicky and Comenius, the nation which was the first to break the mediaeval theocracy, and which by its reformation and fight for spiritual liberty prepared the modern development of Europe. It is this great service Bohemia has rendered to Europe and to mankind which gives her the
right to claim her independence, and to have her seat and vote in the areopagus of free nations. The regeneration of Europe will be attained not only by foreign policy, it must be chiefly attained by the active furtherance of liberty and progress in the inner life of the European nations. For this task the Allies can fully rely on the Bohemian nation.
The presupposition of the Bohemian programme is the restriction of Germany and her defeat in this war. This defeat must be twofold. First, it is the direct victory of the Allies over Germany; second, the lasting defeat of Germany will be the defeat of Austria-Hungary and the dismemberment of this artificial State. Every weakening of Austria is a weakening of Germany; Bismarck's plan of squeezing the Austrian lemon will be at an end.
To-day Germany disposes of the 50 millions of Austria's population; but after the non-German and non-Magyar nations have been freed, only 10 millions of these will be left--always assuming that German Austria remained on good terms with Germany, or even became incorporated.
Liberated Bohemia certainly will act in accordance with the Entente, and will always be a loyal ally to them; now Bohemia wishes and hopes that her Russian brethren will soon succeed in occupying the Bohemian and Slovak districts. This would be the best solution not merely of the Bohemian, but also of the Austrian, German, and other questions at issue.