Wednesday, March 6, 2013
A World Without the Hapsburgs, Part I
What is perhaps most ridiculous about this is that it was so clearly recognizable at the time and of course the minority that would prove most problematic would be the German minority, right next door to an increasingly racialist nation-state after the Nazis came to power in Germany. This was obviously going to be a problem as can be seen in the case of Italy for example. When the Allies, rather than taking away from the spoils promised to Serbia, handed Italy the Trentino-Alto Adige many Italian leaders, civil and military, were less than overjoyed, specifically because they feared that a concentrated German-speaking population would mean nothing but trouble in the future (and all the while there were Italian-populated areas that went to the new Yugoslavia). So no one can claim that, in the aftermath of the Great War, no one could foresee such difficulties might arise as certainly did arise for Czechoslovakia regarding the Sudeten Germans. The only hope Czechoslovakia had for her survival was in collective security, trusting to foreign alliances to keep them from being taken apart bit by bit at the expense of their neighbors. Allied leaders may, perhaps, have had a problem explaining why this was superior to the collective security that had previously been provided by the union of Czechs, Slovaks, Germans, Magyars, Slovenes, and Croats etc under the banner of Austria-Hungary. Czechoslovakia was, essentially, simply a smaller and weaker version of Austria-Hungary which lacked the strengthening forces of shared history and the Hapsburg monarchy.
So, in the end, Czechoslovakia fell apart. The Czech half fell under the domination of Hitler as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Hungary and Poland took a slice and Slovakia only remained independent, essentially as a German protectorate, because Hitler, in so many words, told them that if they did not cooperate with him, he would let the Hungarians have at them. After World War II, Czechoslovakia was reestablished by Allied agreement, though with the Soviet Union taking a slice of territory in the east and they brought decades of oppression, murder and an ever higher rate of poverty to a country that had previously been fairly prosperous. They also, contrary to the very Catholic Hapsburg monarchy, imposed a campaign of atheism on the country that proved horribly effective. Particularly in the Czech Republic, religious belief has declined rapidly to the point that the republic is, today, one of the least religious countries in the world. It is bad. If things continue at the rate they are going, one of these days they will be putting the Infant of Prague up for adoption. And, of course, as mentioned earlier, on the first day of 1993 the Czech and Slovak peoples divorced and have since joined the European Union -another multi-national collection of countries with little to nothing in common. The more things change right?
Continued in Part II