The acknowledgement of the Czechoslovakian Republic according to international law took place through the Paris Suburb Contracts of 1919/20. Czechoslovakia covered around 20% of the area of the former Monarchy and was thus the largest of the successor states.
The newly established state was divided into four provinces: Bohemia (Čechy) with its capital Prague (Praha), Moravia and Silesia (Morava a Slezsko) with the capital of Brno (Brünn), Slovakia (Slovensko) with its capital Bratislava (Pressburg) and finally the Carpathian Ukraine (Karpatská Ukrajina/Карпатська Україна) with its capital of Uzhhorod (Užhorod/Ужгород). The national territory covered a huge stretch from east to west of 928 km.
Out of the territory of the Austrian half of the Imperial Habsburg Monarchy Czechoslovakia was assigned the historical lands of Bohemia and Moravia, also a major part of former Austrian Silesia – this sparked off territorial conflicts with Poland over the region of Teschen (Czech: Těšín, Polish: Cieszyn). Furthermore Prague prevailed in gaining smaller regions of Lower Austria – several municipalities around Feldsberg (Czech Valticko) and a zone west of Gmünd (Czech: Vitorazsko) – also of Germany (Hlucin Region, Czech: Hlučínsko). From the territory of the Hungarian half of the empire the Czechoslovakian Government claimed Slovakia and the Carpathian Ukraine. Not all the new borders were drawn according to ethnic principles. The pre-eminent considerations were for creating economically viable territories. The borders were drawn to the disadvantage of the Germans and Magyars, whose demands for national self-determination were ignored.
The new Czechoslovakian state was founded on excellent economic premises; prior to 1918, 70% of Austria-Hungary’s industrial production was based alone on the territories of the Bohemian lands (without Slovakia and Carpathian Ukraine). Like the other successor states, the country had to struggle against the effects of post-war depression. The traditional market was lost at first, because the former Monarchy was now separated by new customs borders, and the economic protectionism of the successor states complicated matters further. Moreover, Czechoslovakia had to contend with the extreme imbalance between the industrially highly developed Bohemian lands and comparatively underdeveloped Slovakia and Carpathian Ukraine. Yet the conditions for a start-up were relatively good.
A further legacy left by the bankruptcy estate of the Imperial-Royal Monarchy was the ethnic diversity: Czechoslovakia, too, turned out to be a multi-ethnic nation. Besides the national people of Czechs and Slovaks totalling 8.8 millions (= 64% of the total populations), there were strong minorities. Largest was that of the Germans, with 3.1 millions, totalling a notable 23% of the population. Further ethnic minorities were formed by the Magyars (0.75 millions, 5.5%), Ruthenians (0.42 millions, 3.4%) and Poles (0.1 millions, 0.8%). Jews (0.18 millions, 1.3%) were for the first time assigned the status of a nation of their own.
“Czechoslovakism”, the movement among Czechs and Slovaks for a common nation, formed the ideological foundation of the newly established state. The resulting numerical strength of the Czechoslovakian national population forced the remaining ethnic groups – here primarily the Germans and Magyars – into a minority role. Despite national differences, parliamentary and democratic order was rapidly established, which helped to mitigate national antagonisms. From 1926 on, minority representatives from various parties of the German-speaking parts of the population who were prepared to be cooperative with the Czechoslovakian state authorities – called “activists” – were permanently represented as ministers in the Government.
Sudeten German separatism first throve again in the nineteen-thirties. In 1933, the Sudetendeutsche Heimatfront (Home Front), (later the Sudetendeutsche Partei), was founded under Konrad Henlein with the chief claim of annexing the German-speaking areas to Germany. Against the background of the Nazis’ seizure of power in Berlin, Henlein – whose party bagged 68% of the German votes in the 1935 elections – Increased the pressure of the Prague Government. The subsequent tragic events finally led to the end of Czech-German life together in the Bohemian lands.
Translation: Abigail Prohaska
Hoensch, Jörg K.: Geschichte Böhmens. Von der slavischen Landnahme bis ins 20. Jahrhundert, München 1987
Křen, Jan: Dvě století střední Evropy [Zwei Jahrhunderte Mitteleuropas], Praha 2005
- Delenda Austria – Austria must be destroyed!
- The aim of state independence: from Utopia to a programme for the masses
- Preparing for the Coup
- The Day of the Coup: 28 October 1918
- The Founding of Czechoslovakia
- The Czechoslovakian Republic as Successor State to Austria-Hungary
- The Czechoslovakian Legions
- The Fall of the Symbols of Habsburg Rule