Transitional Economic Systems: The Polish-Czech Example

By Dorothy W. Douglas | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV INDUSTRIALIZED CZECHOSLOVAKIA

L ike Poland, Czechoslovakia during the period between the two world wars went through the experience of being re-created as a nation, carved out of the pre-war imperial structure of central Europe. It differed from its northern neighbour, however, in almost all other important respects.

The country was small, with a population of about 15,000,000, landlocked, and for the most part highly industrialized. Its two western provinces, Bohemia and Moravia, had served as the workshop of the old Austro-Hungarian empire, sending out their wares to a domestic market of 67,000,000 population. Besides the majority Czech nationality here there was the sizeable German minority amounting to nearly 25 per cent of the whole. The small eastern section of the new country, Slovakia, had, as its name indicates, a different Slav majority nationality. The Slovaks had been kept far more retarded than the Czechs, both economically and culturally, under the harsh rule of the Hungarian Magyars, who constituted a very small part of the population. In contrast to the Czech lands, Slovakia had furnished part of the agricultural hinterland of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

When the first World War was over and the empire was finally broken up, the new nation was thus faced with a double difficulty. One was that of reconstituting its economic life in the face of heavy trade barriers and the beginnings of rival industrialization in the other parts of the former empire. The other was that of assimilating Slovakia into really effective economic and political partnership: a retarded section of the country that for excellent reasons had strong separatist tendencies. There was also Carpatho-Ruthenia, a province still more retarded than Slovakia but lost to Czechoslovakia after World War II.

The methods of amalgamation pursued by the new republic after the first World War were those of an advanced liberal régime.

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