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Colonizing the Hungarian and German Border Areas during the Czechoslovak Land Reform. 1918-1938

  • Daniel E. Miller
Extract

With the creation of the Czechoslovak First Republic in October 1918, politicians began debating the fate of the great estates the new country had inherited from the Habsburg monarchy, and within six months, the National Assembly enacted a sweeping land reform. With some of the land, the state sponsored colonies—new or expanded agricultural settlements. The announced purpose of the colonization program was to relieve land hunger, which was a genuine concern. Equally important in the minds of many who administered the program and participated in it, however, was altering the ethnic composition of the border areas, where most of the colonies were located.

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1 Statistics on the land distribution in the Czech, Lands and Slovakia are available in a great many sources, but I summarize them in Forging Political Compromise: Antonín Švehla and the Czechoslovak Republican Party, 1918–1933, Pitt Series in Russian and East European Studies (Pittsburgh, 1999), 5152.

2 Výkonný výbor Republikánské strany zeměděiského a malorolnického lidu (Executive Committee of the Republican Party of Agriculturalists and Smallholders), Deset let prdce republikánské strany zemědělského a malorolnického lidu v republice československé (Ten years of the work of the Republican Party of Agriculturalists and Smallholders in the Czechoslovak republic) (Prague, 1928–29), 654–55.

3 Lucy Elizabeth, Textor, Land Reform in Czechoslovakia (LondonM, 1923), 16.

4 “Pozemkové držení die právního d˚vodu” (Legal basis for land tenure), Venkov (Countryside), Aug. 1908. Venkov was the official newspaper of the Republican Party.

5 “Pozemkové obchody Agrární banky” (Land as a commercial enterprise of the Agrarian Bank), Venkov, May 24, 1914; and Jiří, Novotný and Jiří, Šouša, Banka ve znamení zeleného čtyřlístku: Agrární banka 1911–1938 (1948) (Bank under the sign of the green cloverleaf: The Agrarian Bank, 1911–1938 [1948]) (Prague, 1996), 35M, 4041.

6 See, for example, “K prodejům půdy” (Sale of land), Venkov, Sept. 19, 1915. For an article critical of the German sale of Polish estates because of ethnic concerns, that is, the transfer of land from Poles to Germans and the settling of Germans in Polish areas, see Antonín, Bašta, “Boj o půdu” (Struggle for land), Venkov, Sept. 27, 1911. The Central Agricultural and Forestry Library (Ústřední zemědělská a lesnická knihovna) in Prague contains a number of publications from before World War I on colonization from other European countries. One publication in Czech is , H.V.B., Kolonisace Srbska (The colonization of Serbia) (Prague, 1880), which explains how Czechs could acquire land in Serbia. A concise discussion of agricultural issues, including the need for small agriculturalists to obtain land, appears in František, Fiedler, Zemědělská politika (Agricultural politics) (Prague, 1899).

7 I discussed the debate over colonization in the Republican Party in 1918–19 in my chapter, “Kolonizace-Konzervativní alternativa radikální pozemkové reformy v prvních letech Československé republiky” (Colonization as an alternative to land reform in the early years of the Czechoslovak First Republic), in Úloha a význam agrárního hnutí v českých a československých dějinách (The role and significance of the agrarian movement in Czech and Czechoslovak history), ed. Jiří, Šouša, Miller, Daniel E., AND Mary, Hrabik-Samal (Prague, 2001), 279–88.

8 Edvard, Reich, Základy organisace zemědělství Československé republiky (Foundations of the structure of agriculture in the Czechoslovak republic), foreword by Milan, Hodiša (Prague, 1934), 96.

9 Antonín, Pavel, “Československá pozemková reforma” (Czechoslovak land reform), Pozemková reforma (Land reform; hereafter PR) 19 (1938): 34. See also Textor, , Land Reform, 88–91. Pozemková reforma was te official journal of the State Land Office (Státní pozemkový úÚ) and from 1935–38 the Ministry of Agriculture's Section for Land Reforem.

10 An excellent summary of the work of the Kolonisační referát appears in a report written in 1926 by a certain Mr. Křečan, who was employed in the Kolonisační referát. See Prague, , Státní ústřední archiv (State Central Archive; hereafter SÚA), SPÚ, dodatky (Addendum), Kolonisace (Colonization), KR SPÚ pro Slovensko a Podkarpatskou Rus v Bratislavě (KR SPÚ for Slovakia and Sub-Carpatho Ruthenia in Bratislava), “Dosavadní činnost, návrh na jeho stabilisaci a systemisaci úředníků” (Activities to the present—proposal for stablization and personnel management for officials), by Mr. Křečan, Oct. 21, 1926.

11 For summaries of some of the privately established colonies, see Prague, SÚA, Ministerstvo zemědělsrví, IX-odbor (Ministry of Agriculture, Section IX; hereafter MZ-IX), dodatky, Meziministerská komise pro otázky kolonisační (hereafter MKOK), č.j. 40104/28 pres., minutes for meeting of Dec. 17, 1928; Prague, SÚA, SPÚ, Všeobecné spisy (General papers; hereafter VS), carton 142, Presidiální porady (Meetings of the presidium), Jan. 25, 1927; and Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, carton 70, č.j. 226.885/37-IX/2, “Referát subkomise pro soukromá osídleni na Slovensku a Podk. Rusi pro stálou kolonisační komisi” (Report of the Subcommission for Independent Settlement in Slovakia and Sub-Carpatho Ruthenia for the Permanent Colonization Commission), June 22, 1937.

12 Many references explain the potential use of colonization and the land reform in general to ease unemployment among urban workers in the 1930s. On colonization, a sample of official discussions may be found in Prague, SÚA, SPÚ, dodatky, První splátka stavebních úvěrů (First installment of construction loan), Presidium SPÚ, č.j. 15.429/34 pres., minutes of a meeting on Apr. 20, 1934 (see also the appended report “Možnost a potřeba dalši vnitřní kolonisace na Slovensku a Podk. Rusi” (Possibility and need for further internal colonization in Slovakia and Sub-Carpatho Ruthenia), Mar. 22, 1934); č.j. 16.212/34 pres., minutes of a meeting on May 13, 1934; č.j. 16.837/34 pres., minutes of a meeting on May, 24, 1934; and č.j. 16.855/34 pres., minutes of a meeting on May 28, 1934. See also Antonín, Pavel, “Kolonisací proti nezaměstnanosti” (Colonization as a means of countering unemployment), PR 15 (Apr. 1934): 23–26; 15 (Nov. 1934): 92–97; and 15 (Dec. 1934): 123–29.

13 Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, dodatky, “Program provádění pozemkové reformy: Výklad podaný předsedou Státního pozemkového úřadu v ministerské radé 7. dubna 1921,” 11. Reemigration was a major concern in the early 1920s, when 12,096 reemigrants arrived in 1922 and another 8,674 the next year. See Prague, SÚA, SPÚ, dodatky, Kolonisace, č.j. ad17810-D.1926, Župný úrad (District office), Bratislava, to SPÚ, Prague, July [mistakenly dated June] 31, 1926, “Kolonisace na Slovensku” (Colonization in Slovakia), 3.

14 Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, dodatky, Kolonisační výbor (Colonization Committee; hereafter KV), Státá kolonisačni komise (Permanent Colonization Commission; hereafter SKK), č.j. 251.209/DC-A/1–35, minutes of Sept. 19, 1935, “Všeobecné zásady, pojem kolonisace” (General principles, concepts about colonization). See also ibid., č.j. 167.525/IX-A/1–36, minutes of Mar. 25, 1936, “Realisace usnesení posledních schůzí” (Executions of the decisions of the recent meetings).

15 Prague, SÚA, MZ-LX, dodatky, KV, SKK, addendum to č.j. 169.502/IX-A/1–36, Mar. 31, 1936, “Smérnice pro dodatečné přiznání charakteru kolonistů některým přídélcům” (Regulation for further extending the designation of colonists to certain recipients of land). See also ibid., č.j. 223.305/387-IX/2, minutes of 50th meeting, June 14, 1937, “Důsledky odnětí charakteru kolonisty” (Consequences of eliminating the designation of colonist); and ibid., č.j. 280.029/37-IX/2, minutes of 56th meeting, Nov. 19, 1937, “Důsledky odnětí charakteru kolonisty.”

16 Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, dodatky, Pracovní výbor pro otázky kolonisační (Working Committee for Questions about Colonization; hereafter PVOK), minutes of Apr. 19, 1929.

17 Prague, SÚA, SPÚ, dodatky, “První splátka,” č.j. 251.209/IX-A/1–35, minutes of Sept. 19, 1935, addendum titled “Předpoklady vnitřního osídlování” (Qualifications for internal settlement), 2–4.

18 Prague, SÚA, SPÚ, dodatky, Kolonie, “Ku kolonisaci Slovenska od 1.I. 1922-do 1.I. 1926” (Colonization of Slovakia, Jan. 1, 1922 to Jan. 1, 1926). The goal of 25–40 percent Slovaks and Czechs in the Hungarian areas is stated in the opening paragraphs of section III.

19 Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, carton 74, inventory nos. 150–51.

20 Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, dodatky, SKK, č.j. 140.688/IX-A/1–36, minutes of Jan. 21, 1936. See also the similar decision the commission reached for the identical request of the German Section of the Agricultural Council in Prague in ibid., č.j. 152–342/LX-A/1–36, minutes of Feb. 20, 1936. See also Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, carton 70, sig. 142/1.

21 Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, dodatky, KV, SKK, minutes of Mar. 25, 1936, č.j. 167.525/IX-A/1–36, “Nové případy, Všeobecné otázky, Požadavek sionistických organisací v ĆSR-vnitřní kolonisace židovstva” (New cases, general questions, demands of the Zionist organizations in the Czechoslovak republic—internal colonization by Jews).

22 On the general difficulties of colonization from the political standpoint, see Milan, Hodža, “Problémy naší vnitřní kolonisace” (Problems with our internal colonization), PR 16 (10. 1935): 7778.Hodža (1878–1944), then minister of agriculture, first prepared the article as a lecture to specialists at the Czechoslovak Academy of Agriculture on the question of colonization. Other lectures also appeared as articles in the same issue of PR: Antonín, Pavel, “Anketa Československé Akademie Zemédélské o soustavné vnitřní kolonisaci v Československu” (Symposium of the Czechoslovak Academy of Agriculture about the system of internal colonization in Czechoslovakia) (79–82), and Boh., Pour, “Vnitřní kolonisace a pracovní služba” (Internal colonization and providing work) (83–85). Additional basic information on colonies is available in Osidlování a přesidlování (kolonisace) v Československé republice (Settlement and relocation [colonization] in the Czechoslovak republic), ed. Mikuškovic, A.. (Prague, 1935).

23 Although fifteen hectares was a standard allotment, the poor agriculturalists from the mountainous regions only could pay for far less. The strategy of the SPÚ was to provide them with the minimum amount of land they needed and to offer them more land as their economic situation improved. Prague, SÚA, SPÚ, dodatky, Kolonie, “Ku kolonisaci Slovenska,” 8.

24 For the purchase of livestock, for example, see Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, dodatky, PVOK, č.j. 18.786/30 pres., minutes of the meeting of Apr. 16,1930; and ibid., minutes of the 30th session, Jan. 22, 1932, “Zpráva stálého referenta pro zjisťování potřeb kolonisů a vedení pomocné akce” (Report of the permanent official in charge of ascertaining the needs of colonists and for providing asssistance). On wells and septic tanks, for example, see ibid., č.j. 40.386/29 pres., minutes of Oct. 15, 1929. By the late autumn of 1929, colonists had planted about 3,000 fruit trees through an SPÚ special program. See ibid., č.j. 43.759/20 pres., minutes of Nov. 28, 1929.

25 On the establishment of cooperatives, see for example Prague, SÚA, SPÚ, dodatky, Kolonisace, č.j. adl7810-D.1926, Župný úrad, Bratislava, to SÚA, Prague, July [mistakenly dated June] 31, 1926, “Kolonisace na Slovensku,” 5. On fire, police, and taxes, see ibid., “Odôvodnenie návrhu” (Justification of the proposal), 4 and 7. On tax relief, see B.P., “Osvobození kolonistů od pozemkové daně” (Relieving colonists from the land tax), PR 9 (Apr. 1928): 83–84; and Antonín Pavel, “K ot´zce dočasného osvobození kolonistů od daneě pozemkové” (On the issue of temporary relief for colonists from the land tax), PR 13 (Dec. 1932): 182–23.

26 See, for example, the decision in the case of Colony Šrobárovo, Prague, SÚA, Schůze pracovnúho výboru pro otázky kolonisačni (Meeting of the Working Committee for Colonization Questions), č.j. 19052/29-pres., minutes of Mar. 18, 1929.

27 On the libraries, see the information contained in Prague, SÚA, SPÚ, VS, carton 247; and Bratislava, Slovenský národny archív (Slovak National Archive; hereafter SNA), Kolonizačni referent (hereafter KR), carton 26, file 77, Putovná knižnica (Circuit libraries).

28 Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, dodatky, MKOK, č.j. adl7810-D.1926, Župný úrad, Bratislava, to the SPÚ, Prague, “Uprava pomerov v koloniách a na zabranom majetku po stránke administratívnej“ (Improving conditions in the colonies on acquired property from the administrative standpoint), July [mistakenly dated June] 31,1926.

29 Prague, , SÚA, MZ-IX, dodatky, MKOK, second plenary session, minutes, MKOK, June 20,1930.

30 Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, dodatky, MKOK, third plenary session, minutes, June 25, 1932, č.j. 20.154/32 pres., “Zpráva jednatele všeobecného kulturního výboru” (Report of the presiding officer of the General Cultural Committee).

31 Prague, , SÚA, MZ-IX, dodatky, MKOK, Dubovský to Karel Viškovský (1868–1932), president of the SPÚ, Aug. 6, 1928, č.j. 26748/28 pres., “MKOK, žádosti podané při zájezdu” (MKOK, requests submitted during the trip). Many of the colonists' complaints appeared in the press. See, for example, “Vel'ka nespokojnost' kolonistov na južom Slovensku” (Great dissatisfaction of colonists in southern Slovakia), Slovenský Juh (Slovak South), Feb. 14,1931; and “Demonstrace nespokojených kolonistÅ” (Demonstration of dissatisfied colonists), Národní Listy (National newspaper), Jan. 24, 1933.

32 The adjective “state-creating” (státotvorný) appeared frequently in the political culture of the Czechoslovak First Republic. It commonly described, for example, the major Czech parties that supported the creation of the state: the Social Democratic, National Socialist, Republican (Agrarian), and National Democratic parties.

33 Prague, , SÚA, MZ-LX, dodatky, PVOK, minutes of Apr. 19, 1929, petition of colonists from Podbořany, Feb. 28, 1929.

34 Huebner, Todd W.., commenting on an early version of this work at the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies in Washington, D.C., Nov. 16, 2001.

35 There were frequent discussions in all sorts of meetings about recording land transfers. For example, see Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, dodatky, PVOK, minutes of 33rd meeting, Mar. 3, 1933, “Zpráva stálého referenta pro otázky kolonisační” (Report on the permanent official in charge of colonization questions). On the complexities of recording land transfers from the administrative viewpoint, see Prague, SÚA, SPÚ, Kolonisační objekry, “Úkoly státu v pozemkové reformě po zaknihování přídělu” (Goals of the state regarding land reform after registering allotments).

36 Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, dodatky, MKOK, č.j. adl7810-D.1926, Župný úrad, Bratislava, to the SPÚ, Prague, “Úprava pomerov v koloniách,” July [mistakenly dated June] 31,1926, p. 2.

37 Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, dodatky, KV, SKK, č.j., 262/104/38-IX/2, minutes of 67th session, Nov. 14, 1938, “Vypracovárí soustavného programu pro nejbližší kolonisační úkoly” (Completed systematic program for the immediate goals of colonization). Most of the general information on the colonization process is available at SÚA in Prague. A wealth of sources on the individual colonies may be found in SNA in Bratislava, particularly in the Kolonizační referent fund.

38 The administration in the Ministry of Agriculture responsible for colonization never had the opportunity to conclude its work, and the partition of Czechoslovakia in 1938 forced it to contend with resettling colonists who had fled from the areas ceded to Germany and Hungary. Historians have done nothing more than briefly mention the colonization experience. Among the most complete basic discussions of colonization is Malek, J. et al. , “Kolonisace v čsl. pozemkové reformě” (Colonization in the Czechoslovak land reform), PR 16 (Mar. 1935): 7–10; and 16 (Aug. 1935): 53–56.

39 Prague, SÚA, SPÚ, dodatky, unmarked folder, “Výkaz provedených kolonisačnich prací oddělením IV/5, t.j., Celkový seznam a hospodacute;řský stav kolonii vytvořených v řizení př'dělovém v é”’ (Report on the implementation of colonization in Dept. IV/5: complete list and economic condition of colonies created in the process of parcelling land in Bohemia and Moravia).

40 Prague, SÚA, SPÚ, dodatky, unmarked folder, “Zpráva odd. V/2 o kolonisačni akci SP´” (Report of Dept. V/2 about the colonization activities of the SPÚ), Oct. 15,1927, 5–6.

41 For accounts of the successes of some legionnaire colonies, see Antonin, Pavel, “Kolonie a obec Svoboda” (Colony and commune of Svoboda), PR 14 (10. 1933): 120–21; and M., Ing. J., ”Deset let kolonie Bozity” (Ten years of the colony Bozita), PR 17 (08. 1936): 49.

42 Prague, SÚA, SPÚ, dodatky, Kolonisace, č.j. adl7810-D.1926,Župnyú úrad, Bratislava, to SÚA, Prague, July [mistakenly dated June] 31, 1926, “Kolonisace na Slovensku,” ”Kolonii SPÚ na Slovensku zbudovaných a počtu kolonist˚ dle narodnosti a náboženstvi zde usazených” (Colonies of the SPú built in Slovakia and the number of colonists settled there according to nationality and religion); and Ibid., untitled file marked č.j. 30.224/27 pres., untitled report, p. 2.

43 Prague, SÚA, SPÚ, dodatky, “Prvni spl´tka stavebních úvěr˚,” c.j. 251.209/LX-A/1–35, minutes of Sept. 19,1935, “Předpoklady vnitřního osídlování,” 3–4; “Nemecký útok proti českým ‘kolonist˚m’” (German attack against Czech “colonists’), Hraničář (Frontiersman), Nov. 5,1932.

44 Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, dodatky, KV, SKK, č.j., 262/104/38-IX/2, minutes of 67th session, Nov. 14, 1938, “Vypracoví soustavného programu.” Complete sets of statistics on agricultural lands lost to Germany, Hungary, and Poland in 1938 may be found in Bratislava, SNA, Štátrú pozemkovy úrad (State Land Office), cartons 3280,3282, and 3283.

45 Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, carton 73, inventory no. 145–149, file FXVI/6, “Kolonisace: Rekolonisace přfdělc˚ z připojeného uzemi” (Colonization: Recolonization of those who had received allotments in the annexed lands), petition of Volné sdružení Moravanů-rolniku z ůzemi postoupéngho Mad'arsku (Free Association of Moravians and Farmers from the Territory Ceded to Hungary). I have not yet uncovered verification of these allegations of violence.

46 Such requests are contained in Prague, SÚA, Jednota nabyvatel˚ p˚dy byvalých zaměstanců (Union of Former Employees Who Had Aquired Land).

47 Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, dodatky, KV, SKK, č.j., 262/104/38-IX/2, minutes of 67th session, Nov. 14, 1938, “Vypracování soustavného programu.” For the parcelization of Mnichovo Hradiště, see Ibid., č.j. 152.971/39-IX/2, minutes of the 69th session, Jan. 16, 1939. For preference to refugees from the colonies in receiving new lands, see Ibid., č.j. 163.305/39-IX/3, minutes of the 70th session, Mar. 9,1939.

48 On Mnichovo Hradiště, see Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, dodatky, KV, SKK, č.j., 165.020/39-IX/3, minutes of 73rd session, Mar. 30,1939, “Osidleni velkostatku Mnichovo Hradiště” (Settlement of the Mnichovo Hradiště estate). See also various materials in Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, carton 72. On Mšec, see Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, dodatky, KV, SKK, č.j., 167.275/39-IX/3, minutes of 74th session, Mar. 24,1939.

49 Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, dodatky, KV, SKK, č.j., 178.535/39-IX/2, minutes of 76th session, May 13,1939, “Stav přpřípravných osídlovacích praci a nejbližšúkoly v zemi Moravskoslezské” (State of the preparations for the work of settling and for meeting immediate goals in the provence of Moravia-Silesia).

50 Prague, SÚA, MZ-IX, carton 73, inventory no. 145–49, file FXVI/6, “Kolonisace,” petition of Volné sdružeru Moravan˚-rolnikáš Staněk, Odsun Němc˚ z Československa 1945–1947 (Transfer of the Germans from Czechoslovakia, 1945–1947) (Prague, 1991), 237–38 and 365–72.

52 Historians differ widely on the number of people who crossed the Slovak-Hungarian border between 1945 and 1948. Ján, Bobák, in Maďarsk´ ot´zka v Česko-Slovensku (1944–1948) (Hungarian question in Czecho-Slovakia [944–1948]) (Martin, 1996), 99100; and Kertesz, Stephen D., Between Russia and the West: Hungary and the Illusions of Peacemaking, 1945–1947 (Notre Dame, 1984), 157–58, state figures that are lower than appear in Ľubomá, ák, Slovensko v 20. storoči (Slovakia in the twentieth century), introduction by Ivan Kamenec (Bratislava, 1998), 264; and Kirschbaum, Stanislav J., A History of Slovakia: The Struggle for Survival (New York, 1995), 225–26. Statistics on the Hungarian population in Czechoslovakia after the population transfers appear in Federální statisrický úřad (Fe eral Statistical Office), Historická statistická ročenka ČSSR (Historical statistical yearbook of the ČSSR) (Prague, 1985), 62, table 3–4.

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