Economic Change and the National Question in Twentieth-Century Europe

By Alice Teichova; Herbert Matis et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWELVE
Economic, social and political aspects of multinational
interwar Czechoslovakia
Jaroslav Pátek

THE BIRTH OF INDEPENDENT CZECHOSLOVAKIA: ITS STATE
AND NATIONALITIES

The idea behind the founding of an independent Czechoslovakia was Thomas Garrigue Masaryk's (1850–1937) liberal-democratic conception of a (putative) Czechoslovak nation consisting of a Czech and a Slovak branch that was to uphold European humanist and democratic traditions. Thus, he believed, Czechoslovakia's existence as a fully fledged nation state would be guaranteed. Intellectually, Masaryk's political programme derived from the philosophy of human existence and history, developed by František Palacký(1798–1876). Masaryk saw the principal tasks and problems of human existence in terms of a concept of humanity rooted in the religious humanism of the Czech Reformation and founded on democracy. These ideals were presented as values implicit in the Czech national historical tradition that had begun with the medieval Hussite revolution and been reborn with the national revival of the nineteenth century. When Masaryk, in 1915, took the final step of linking the humanist tradition of the Czech Reformation to the idea and historical precedent of independent Czech statehood, he promoted the idea of an independent Czechoslovak state of which he became the first president. Among historians, Masaryk's interpretation of Czech history had its supporters (such as Kamil Krofta) and its opponents (such as Josef Pekař). 1

Brought into being on 28 October 1918, the new state was multinational. A kind of new, miniature Austria-Hungary was created on the ruins of the multinational Habsburg Monarchy. 2 The borders of the new Czechoslovakia established by the peace treaties of Versailles, St Germain and Trianon were the results of a combination of three principles: national self-determination, historical development and economic self-sufficiency. Also, strategic considerations played a role markedly displayed in the Paris peacemakers' decision that Ruthenia, a

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