Idea of the Czechoslovak State in Slovakia 1918 - 1939. Protagonists, Holders, Opponents Cover Image

Idea československého štátu na Slovensku 1918 - 1939. Protagonisti, nositelia, oponenti
Idea of the Czechoslovak State in Slovakia 1918 - 1939. Protagonists, Holders, Opponents

Author(s): Xénia Šuchová
Contributor(s): Jozef Hupka (Editor)
Subject(s): Political history, Recent History (1900 till today), Pre-WW I & WW I (1900 -1919), Interwar Period (1920 - 1939), History of Communism
Published by: Historický ústav SAV
Keywords: Slovakia; Czechoslovakia; state; idea; identity; 20th century;
Summary/Abstract: In the presented monograph, which is a result of research work for the last fifteen years, the author is presenting its own contribution to the issue of constitutional concept that created the base for the creation and maintenance of the first Czechoslovak Republic in the inter-war period. In the political arena, the idea of a Czechoslovak state stemmed from the conviction of its creators that the unified and common “national” state is the only possibility for the Czechs and Slovaks in order to sustain their own national existence and their own state and to defend them against territorial and other claims of its expansionistic neighbouring countries. For the Czech “component” of the “Czechoslovak nation”, this newly created state unity was aimed to guarantee a distinct majority in relation to the grievously (from the Czech point of view) high number of German national minority; the Slovak “component”, on the other hand, placed its hopes on the Czechoslovak Republic that had to save the Slovaks from the menace of “national death”, which was understood to be the inevitable consequence of Hungarian aspirations to restore the Hungarian Kingdom. Amongst implicit protagonists of the idea of Czechoslovak state in Slovakia were above all politicians like Vavro Šrobár and Ivan Dérer, partially also Milan Hodža, whose objections grew with the passing of time. The advocates of this idea were eager to spread this idea to the Slovak masses, operating in a way which was corresponding to the concept of Tomáš G. Masaryk of “detailed work” – that means by shifting the attention of the social classes to the questions of everyday life in order to prepare them for a “shock of democracy”. The democratic system was succeeding after the “Big War” in a new, joint state of Czechs and Slovaks, being accompanied by economic, political and moral split. The engagement of these protagonists in this crucial period side by side with the trio of state-founding personages – T. G. Masaryk, M. R. Štefánik and E. Beneš – have brought them to leading political positions in the Czechoslovak Republic. There were expected to adapt and implement the “idea of Czechoslovak state of a unitary Czechoslovak nation” in special conditions existing in Slovakia and to impose these ideas in all areas of life of Slovak society by operating with a team of closest collaborators and a broader circle of supporters. The five chapters of first part of the presented book titled “Protagonists” are mainly focused on activities, political concepts and the attempts to implement them in political and social level of the above mentioned Slovak representatives of the so-called centralistic camp referring to the position of Slovakia in Czechoslovak Republic. Their personal ambition and mission of these protagonists was to bring the “Czechoslovak idea” close to the mind and hearths of the Slovak people, to build strong ties between the people and the democratic and republican political order of Czechoslovakia and also to upgrade their Slovak identity, which they interpreted as a partial identity, to the mutual “Czechoslovak identity”. Author’s ambition in the mentioned five chapters of this monograph is to answer the question, which methods and instruments did the “protagonists” use in order to achieve their goals and why they did not succeed. In contrast to the slogan of autonomy according to the Pittsburgh Treaty proclaimed by the Slovak Peoples Party, the “protagonists” announced the concept of “administrative autonomy”, which, asthey have thought, could gradually fulfil the legitimate requirements of Slovaks without affecting the integrity and unity of Czechoslovak state and to put the republic at risk of neighbouring countries having anti-Czechoslovak attitude. There was a significant difference between Šrobár’s and Dérer’s understanding of Czechoslovak “ethnic unity” and Hodža’s aiming to the concept of Czechoslovak “political unity”. The bearers of the idea of a Czechoslovak state were government offices and all parts of public administration. The five chapters of the second part of the book are paying attention to the problems of organisation of public administration and self-administration (district- and municipal administration) and its financing, staff, representation of Slovaks in supreme public offices and the possibility of delegating the Slovaks civil servants to the district- or municipal-offices of public administration in the Czech Lands or Moravia-Silesia. This topic includes also a very significant institution of citizenship; i. a. the searching for a solution in order to find a possibility to don’t let the autochthonous inhabitants of Slovakia feel like a “inferior” population in its own country. Mechanisms had to be found, which should guarantee that not only national minorities. i. e. loyal citizens of Czechoslovakia, but also the Slovaks as a “limb of the ruling nation” wouldn’t feel as second-class citizens in consequence of their treatment by the Czechoslovak public offices. On the other hand, taking into account the efforts undertaken by forces eventually trying to destruct the Czechoslovak state, the possibility had to be excluded to abuse the democratic understanding of citizenship and civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Czechoslovak Republic. Third part of the book titled “Opponents” is dedicated notably to the radical-socialist and communist, or Bolshevik opponents of the idea of Czechoslovak state. This issue belongs to author’s profiling research topics, which get new impetus after 1989. This thematic bloc starts with a historiographic overview of monographs and texts written since the Communist coup d’état in 1948 till the fall of totalitarian regime in 1989. It was inevitable to tackle the older historiographic production without bias or, in other words, „sine ira et studio“. In three following chapters, which are relatively extensive in comparison to the other chapters, the author’s interest is focused on issues closely related to the main topic of this monograph: the nationality-policy and the solutions proposed and considered of the status of Slovakia in Czechoslovakia, both during the first years of the existence of Republic and the period before the fall of First Czechoslovak Republic. The reader may find concrete examples of tactical approach followed by the Communist International (Comintern) that was mostly motivated by the interests of the Leninist/Stalinist geopolitics aiming at Soviet domination in East-Central Europe: starting with the slogan of autonomy within the Hungarian Soviet Republic, event. Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic of 1919-1920, through the denying of the Czechoslovak unity promoted under the phrase of “the right of the nations to self-determination up to the separation and creation of their own national state”, and finally till the slogan of “defending Czechoslovak democracy against the interior and foreign fascism” during the so-called Munich-crisis and even more colourful phrases and slogans, which arose in the autonomous Slovakia (1938-1939) and in Slovak Republic during the primary stage of Second World War. The research of this topic is based on newly accessible archival documents and foreign literature. The author is pointing out that in present Slovakia, there is no scientific or a broader social discussion dealing with problems of radical socialist and Communist movement, which existed in the conditions of the democratic, First Czechoslovak Republic, understood as both “systematic” and “anti-systematic element” of its political system. The attention of the Slovak historiography after 1900 is mainly directed to the era of Communist totalitarian regime (both institutionally and personally) installed after 1948 and the Communist-crimes. Author is presenting its own explicit point of view to this issue in a commented bibliography that is introducing the last topical part of the presented monograph. It is also impossible to understand and interpret the “idea of Czechoslovak Republic constituted by a unitary Czechoslovak nation” properly, by restricting oneself to the conclusion that it failed, or to an aprioristic refusal of this idea by pointing out that it was an “artificial idea”, a “so-called idea” or “fictive idea”. There is no doubt that it was a construct, which was at the beginning adopted only by a small part of protagonists, since certain parts of Slovak society didn’t absolutely agreed with it and had some reservations (partly influenced by the autonomist or communist opponents), but the biggest part refused this idea. The balance of power between the Czechoslovak, or in other words “centralistic”, and the autonomist group changed and it should be underlined that even the most prominent protagonists of Slovak autonomous movement (Andrej Hlinka, the nationalist “Old-ludáks”, or the national wing represented by Emil Stodola and Martin Rázus) were formulating their political program of autonomy in the frames of Czechoslovakia, eventually Czecho-Slovakia. It were first of all international circumstances of foreign policy and not the mistakes (although some of them were serious) of “Czechoslovakism” and “centralism” that resulted in the fall of Czechoslovakia and opened the way for an independent (although only formally) Slovakia existing during Second World War. However, the disapproval with a unitary Czechoslovakia resulted in a swift destruction of democracy and the coming to a power of first totalitarian regime.

  • Print-ISBN-13: 978-80-89396-12-2
  • Page Count: 313
  • Publication Year: 2011
  • Language: Slovak