The Hapsburgs and the Czechoslovak Lands
Although the Bohemian Kingdom, the Margravate
of Moravia, and Slovakia were all under Hapsburg rule, they
followed different paths of development. The defeat at Mohacs
in 1526 meant that most of Hungary proper was taken by the
Turks; until Hungary's reconquest by the Hapsburgs in the
second half of the seventeenth century, Slovakia became the
center of Hungarian political, cultural, and economic life.
The Hapsburg kings of Hungary were crowned in Bratislava,
the present-day capital of Slovakia, and the Hungarian estates
met there. Slovakia's importance in Hungarian life proved
of no benefit, however, to the Slovaks. In essence, the Hungarian
political nation consisted of an association of estates (primarily
the nobility). Because Slovaks were primarily serfs, they
were not considered members of a political nation and had
no influence on politics in their own land. The Slovak peasant
had only to perform duties: work for a landlord, pay taxes,
and provide recruits for military service. Even under such
hostile conditions, there were a few positive developments.
The Protestant Reformation brought to Slovakia literature
written in Czech, and Czech replaced Latin as the literary
language of a small, educated Slovak elite. But on the whole,
the Slovaks languished for centuries in a state of political,
economic, and cultural deprivation.
Moravia had accepted the hereditary right
of the Austrian Hapsburgs to rule it and thus escaped the
intense struggle between native estates and the Hapsburg monarchy
that was to characterize Bohemian history. The Moravians had
a poorly developed historical or national consciousness, made
few demands on the Hapsburgs, and were permitted to live in
tranquillity. Late in the eighteenth century, the Margravate
of Moravia was abolished and merged with Austrian Silesia.
In contrast to Moravia, the Bohemian Kingdom
had entrenched estates that were ready to defend what they
considered their rights and liberties. Because the Hapsburgs
pursued a policy of centralization, conflict was inevitable.
The conflict was further complicated by ethnic and religious
issues and was subsequently seen by some as a struggle for
the preservation of Czech institutions and the Czech nation.
THE DUAL MONARCHY,
Formation of the Dual System
After the revolutions of 1848, Francis Joseph
attempted to rule as an absolute monarch, keeping all the
nationalities in check. But the Hapsburgs suffered a series
of defeats. In 1859 they were driven out of Italy, and in
1866 they were defeated by Prussia and expelled from the German
Confederation. To strengthen his position, Francis Joseph
was ready to improve his relations with the Hungarians. At
first it seemed that some concessions would be made to Bohemia,
but in the end the crown effected a compromise with the Hungarian
gentry. The Compromise of 1867 established the Dual Monarchy
of Austria-Hungary (also known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire).
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, Austria and Hungary were virtually independent
states, each having its own parliament, government, administration,
and judicial system.
Despite a series of crises, this dual system
survived until 1918. It made permanent the dominant position
of the Hungarians in Hungary and of the Germans in the Austrian
parts of the monarchy. While Czechs, Poles, and other nationalities
had some influence in government, they were never permitted
to share political power. This inability to come to terms
with its nationalities contributed to the ultimate collapse
of the Dual Monarchy.
As a result of the dual system, the Czechs
and Slovaks continued to go their separate ways. The Slovaks
chafed under the Hungarians, and the Czechs were ruled by
Vienna. The Austrian and Hungarian parts of the empire had
different political systems. Austria had a parliamentary government,
and a gradual enlargement of the franchise culminated in universal
male suffrage in 1907. The Czechs, therefore, were able to
take a greater and greater part in the political life of Austria.
In Hungary the franchise continued to be fairly restricted
and pretty much controlled by the Hungarian aristocracy. Because
of this, very few Slovaks gained positions of importance in