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Last Best Chance or Last Gasp? The Compromise of 1905 and Czech Politics in Moravia

  • T. Mills Kelly


On November 27, 1905, leading members of the Czech and German communities in Moravia agreed to a political compromise that divided power in the provincial diet between Czechs, Germans, and members of the landowning and ecclesiastical aristocracy. Over the next few years, the Moravian agreement was used as a model for political compromises in Bukovina (1910) and Galicia (1914).1 For decades historians hailed the Moravian compromise and its successors as evidence that the feuding nations of the late Habsburg monarchy could indeed find sufficient common ground to live together in peace. Although in the past decade scholars generally have taken a more cautious approach to the results of these compromises, much of this work betrays a sense of disappointment over a missed opportunity. Somehow, the Czech-German compromise in Moravia might have become a model for ethnic cooperation, proof that the monarchy's contentious national communities could work out their differences and live together, or at least a sign



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1 On the compromise in Bukovina, see John, Leslie, “Der Ausgleich in der Bukovina von 1910: Zur österreichischen Nationalitätenpolitik vor dem Ersten Weltkrieg,” in Geschichte zwischen Freiheit und Ordnung. Gerald Stourzh zum 60. Geburtstag, ed. Emil, Brix, Thomas, Fröschl, AND Josef, Leidenfrost (Graz, 1991), 113–44; and Alon, Rachamimov, “Diaspora Nationalism's Pyrrhic Victory: The Controversy Regarding the Electoral Reform of 1909 in Bukovina,” in State and Nation Building in East Central Europe: Contemporary Perspectives, ed. John, Micgiel (New York, 1996), 116. On Galicia, see John Paul, Himka, “Nationality Problems in the Habsburg Monarchy and the Soviet Union: The Perspective of History,” in Nationalism and Empire: The Habsburg Monarchy and the Soviet Union, ed. Rudolph, Richard L. and Good, David F. (New York, 1992), 7993;and Iaroslav, Isaievych, “Galicia and the Problem of National Identity,” in The Habsburg Legacy: National Identity in Historical Perspective, ed. Ritchie, Robertson andEdward, Timms, Austrian Studies, 5 (Edinburgh, 1994), 4243.

2 Recent scholarship on the Moravian agreement includes Gerald, Stourzh, Die Gleichberechtigung der Nationalitäten in der Verfassung und Verwaltung Österreichs 1848–1918 (Vienna, 1985), especially 213–28;Idem., “Die Gleichberechtigung der Volkstämme als Verfassungsprinzip 1848- 1918,” in Die Habsburgermonarchie 1848–1918, ed. Adam, Wandruszka and Peter, Urbanitsch, vol.3, bk. 2 (Vienna, 1980), 1171–86;Luft, Robert R., “Die Mittelpartei des mährischen Grossgrund besitzes 1879–1918,” in Die Chance der Verständigung. Absichten und Ansätze zu übemationaler Zusammenarbeit in den böhmischen Ländern 1848–1918, ed. Ferdinand, Seibt (Munich, 1977), 215–21; and Jiří, Malř, “Der Mährische Ausgleich als Vorbild für die Lösung der Nationalitätenfragen?” in Kontakte und Konflikte. Böhmen, Mähren und Österreich: Aspekte ernes Jahrtausends gemainsamer Geschichte, ed. Thomas, Winkelbauer (Horn-Waidhofen an der Thaya, 1993), 337–46. Older views of the compromise include Horst, Glassl, Der mährische Ausgleich (Munich, 1967);Alfred Freiherrn, von Skene, Der nationale Ausgleich in Mähren 1905 (Vienna, 1910); and Willhelm, Kosch, Die Deutschen in Österreich und ihr Ausgleich mil den Tschechen (Leipzig, 1909).

3 International Crisis Group, Changing the Logic of Bosnian Politics, Mar. 10,1998. A more selfserving interpretation of the significance of the Moravian compromise for future such arrangements is offered by Otto von Habsburg in a contribution to the report of the Marshall, George C.European Center for Security Studies conference, “The Significance of Centrifugal and Centripetal Geopolitical Forces for the Emerging European Security Systems,” 05 79,1998, ed. Denison, Andrew B. (Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, 1998)

4 Cohen, Gary B., “Neither Absolutism nor Anarchy: New Narratives on Society and Government in Late Imperial Austria,” Austrian History Yearbook 29, Part 1 (1998), 3761.

5 Ibid.,61.

6 Inevitably when writing about the Habsburg monarchy in its last century, one must choose a naming strategy for provinces, cities, and towns. Because the prevailing naming system in Moravia during the events described in this essay used the German names, I have chosen to adhere to that system.

7 For example, in the first diet election after 1905, representatives of the new mass parties (Clerical, Social Democratic, National Socialist, Progressive, and Agrarian) received only 51 percent of the vote in the curiae based on restricted franchise (urban, rural), as compared to 86 percent in the small universal manhood suffrage curia. Almanach moravského sněmu zemského (Almanac of the Moravian Provincial Diet) (Brno, 1906), 139–51.

8 See Wingfield, Nancy M., “The Moravians' Compromise? Class and National Contestations in Brünn during Autumn 1905,” unpublished essay.

9 See, for instance, a letter from Baron Heinrich d'Elvert to Baron Johan Chlumecky (both framers of the compromise), written on Sept. 6,1905, during the final negotiations over the compromise. Moravský zemský archiv (hereafter MZA), Chlumecky collection, folder “Moravský Pakt.”

10 Mansfield, Edward D. and Jack, Snyder, “Democratization and War,” Foreign Affairs 74, no.2(1995):7997.

11 As Ghia Nodia argues in his essay, “Nationalism and Democracy,” inNationalism, Ethnic Conflict and Democracy, ed. Larry, Diamond and Plattner, Marc F. (Baltimore, 1994),322, “the idea of nationalism is impossible—indeed unthinkable—without the idea of democracy” (4).

12 Jeremy, “The Nationalization of East Central Europe: Ethnicism, Ethnicity, and Beyond,” in Staging the Past: The Politics of Commemoration in Habsburg Central Europe, 1848 to the Present, ed. Maria, Bucur and Wingfield, Nancy M. (West Lafayette, 2001), 112–51. On the conflicts in the German/Slovene Crownlands, see Vasilij, Melik, Wahlen im alten Österreich. Am Beispiel der Kronländer mil slowenischsprachiger Bevölkerung (Vienna, 1997).

13 On the use and validity of the language of everyday use as a proxy for nationality, see the commentary by the director of the Imperial Statistical Central Commission, .DrKarl Theodorvon, Inama-Sternegg, “Die nächste Volkszählung,” Statistische Monatsschrift 26, no. 5 (Vienna, 1900): 455–93; and Gerald, Stourzh, “Ethnic Attribution in Late Imperial Austria: Good Intentions, Evil Consequences,” in The Habsburg Legacy, ed. Robertson, and Timms, , 67–83.

14 Hannelore, Burger, Sprachenrecht und Sprachgerechtigkeit im Österreichischen Unterrichtswesen, 1867–1918 (Vienna, 1995), 149. On the various linguistic struggles of the 1880s and 1890s, see Pieter, Judson, Exclusive Revolutionaries: Liberal Politics, Social Experience, and National Identity in the Austrian Empire, 1848–1918 (Ann Arbor, 1999), 196–98;William, Jenks, Austria Under the Iron Ring, 1879–1893 (Charlottesville, 1965), 5865 and 239–74;Berthold, Sutter, Die Badenischen Sprachenverordnungen von 1897, reprint ed. (Graz, 1966); the contemporary pamphlets in Alfred, Fischel, ed., Materialien zur Sprachenfrage in Österreich (Brno, 1902); and Idem., Nationale Curíen (Vienna, 1898); and a series of letters sent to the Czech National Socialist member of parliament (and former Moravian progressive) Václav Choc in 1909 from Czech-speaking attorneys in Reichenberg, ANM, Choc collection, box 11, folder Jazykové a menšnové věci(Language and minority matters).

15 On the “great achievement,” see Taylor, A. J. P., The Habsburg Monarchy, 1809–1918(Chicago, 1976), 200; and Kann, Robert A., The Multinational Empire, vol.1 (New York, 1950), 208–9.

16 Almanach, 10–13;Macartney, C. A., The Habsburg Empire, 1790–1918 (London, 1969), 7.

17 On the elasticity (or lack thereof) of national identity in the late nineteenth century, see King, “Nationalization of East Central Europe.” Works specific to the Czech case include Cohen, Gary B., The Politics of Ethnic Survival: Germans in Prague, 1861–1914 (Princeton, 1981);Jan, Křen, Konfliktní společenství (Conflictual community) (Toronto, 1989);Miroslav, Hroch, Na prahu národní existence (On the threshold of national existence) (Prague, 1999);Jeremy, King,Budweisers into Czechs and Germans: A Local History of Bohemian Politics, 1848–1948(Princeton, 2002); and Karl, Bahm,“Beyond the Bourgeoisie: Rethinking Nation, Culture, and Modernity in Nineteenth-Century Central Europe,” Austrian History Yearbook 29, PartI(1998): 1936.

18 The development of communal government in Austria is discussed in detail in Adam, Wandruszka and Peter, Urbanitsch, eds. Die Habsburgermonarchie 1848–1918, vol.2 (Vienna, 1978). For a detailed example of these same matters at the local level in Moravia, see Richard, Fischer, Pokrokovd Morava, 1893–1918 (Progressive Moravia), 2 vols. (Prague, 1937). On the communal authorities, see Karel, Schelle, Vývoj správy na MoravĚ a ve Slezsko (The evolution of administration in Moravia and in Silesia) (Brno, 1991), 3150; and Idem., Historický místopis Moravy a Slezska v letech 1848–1960(Historical topography of Moravia and Silesia in the years 1848–1860), 14 vols. (Olomouc, 1966), 1:3951.

19 The history of local self-government in the Bohemian lands remains to be written. The brief description offered here is derived from Otakar, Klapka, ed., Šedesát let československé samosprávy (Sixty years of Czechoslovak self-government) (Prague, 1925), especially 2224;Albín, Bráf “Samospráva,” in Česká Politika, ed.Zdeněk, Tobolka, vol. 2, bk. 2 (Prague, 1907), 256351; and Bruce, Garver, The Young Czech Party, 1874–1901 (New Haven, 1978), 9091.

20 Schelle, , Víkvoj sprá na Moravě, 36. On Moravia, see Garver, , The Young Czech Party, 93; on Prague, see Giustino, Cathleen M., “Parteien, Politik, Demokratie und der Prager Kompromiβ von 1896,” in Wien-Prag-Budapest. Urbanisierung, Kommunalpolitik, gesellschaftliche Konflikte (1867–1918), ed. Melinz, Gerhard and Susan, Zimmerman (Vienna, 1996), 123–39.

21 William, Jenks, The Austrian Electoral Reform of 1907 (New York, 1974), 1517. For a comprehensive analysis of the reform, see Statistische Monatschrift, Neue Folge 12, no. 6 (Brno, 1907).

22 On the campaign for universal manhood suffrage, see Peter, Schöffer, Der Wahlrechtskampf der österreichischen Sozialdemokratie 1888/89–1897 (Stuttgart, 1986); and Jan, Havránek, “Boj za všeobecné, přímé a rovné hlasovací právo roku 1893” (The struggle for universal, direct, and equal voting rights in 1893), Rozpravy ČSAV (Transactions of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences), Řada společ. věd 74, no. 2,1964. The intersection of competing franchise systems and the degree to which the existence of conflicting voting rights distorted local politics is discussed in some detail in Maren, Seliger and Karl, Ucakar, Wahlrecht und Wählerverhalten in Wien 1848–1932(Vienna, 1984); and Havránek, , “Praž šti voliči roku 1907, jejích třídní složení a politické smýšlení” (The voters of Prague in 1907, their class composition and political convictions), Pražký Sborník Historický (Prague historical proceedings) 12 (1980): 170209. On the composition of the diet, see Jiří, Kořalka, Tschechen in Habsburgerreich und Europa 1815–1914 (Munich, 1991), 105–6. The degree to which the Czech representatives in the diet were drawn from the elite of Czech society is demonstrated by election of 1902. Of the thirty-six Czech delegates elected from the urban and rural constituencies, there were thirteen lawyers, two pharmacists, two priests, two factory owners, two managers, thirteen independent farmers, one estate manager, and one great landowner

23 Garver, , The Young Czech Party, 90.

24 Václav, “Z počátků národně” sociálníiho hnuti na Moravě” (The beginnings of the National Socialist movement in Moravia), inVáclav Klofáč, 1897–1912 K patnáctiletému jubileu trvání strany národně sociálni(For the fifteen year jubilee of the existence of the National Socialist Party), ed. Jiří, Pichl and Josef, Sajdl (Prague, 1912), 4851.

25 Jiří, Malíř, Od spolků k moderním politickým stranám. Víjvoj politických stran na Moravě v letech 1848–1914 (From clubs to modern political parties: The development of political parties in Moravia in the years 1848–1914) (Brno, 1996), 245–84. Discussions of the early years of various mass Czech parties in Moravia includeJaroslav, Marek, “Přerov: Morava a Čechy” (Přerov: Moravia and Bohemia), in Pamětní list československé sociálně demokratické strany dělnické, 1872–1922 (Commemorative album of the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Workers Party) (Prague, 1922); and Šafr, “Z počátků,”4849.

26 Luft, Robert R., “Die Mittlepartei des Mährischen Grossgrundbesitzes 1879–1918,” in Die Chance der Verständigung. Absichten und Ansätze zu übernationaler Zusammenarbeit in den Bömischen Ländern, 1848–1918, ed. Ferdinand, Seibt (Munich, 1987), 187236.

27 On the lag between Moravia and Bohemia, a typical example is from Garver, The Young Czech Party, in which the author describes Moravia as lagging approximately twenty years behind Bohemia (16).

28 Relatively recent, albeit brief, overviews of industrial development in Moravia includeFrantišek Spurný, “Die Anfänge der nordmährischen und schlesischen Industrie und Österreich” in Kontakte und Konflikte, ed.Winkelbauer, 285–90; and in the same volume, Bohumír Smutný,“Die Entwicklung der Industrie in Südwestmähren bis 1914 (unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Beziehungen mit den österreichischen Ländern),” 291–96. See also Otto, Urban, “Czech Society 1848–1918,” in Bohemia in History, ed. Mikulaš, Teich (Cambridge, 1998), 198203.

29 Judson, , Exclusive Revolutionaries, 262.

30 On the clericals, seeMalíř, , Od spolků k moderním, 254–59; on the National Socialists, see Program strany národního dělnictva českoslav (Program of the Czechoslovak National Workers Party), Apr. 12,1897, MZA B-26, 2205B and Hlas (The voice), March 4,1898.

31 See, for example, a speech in the electoral reform committee of the Moravian Diet by Václav Perek, a member of the liberal (Czech) People's Party from Prossnitz, in which he warns that unless a compromise can be reached on electoral reform, those supporting universal manhood suffrage will eventually win the day. MZA A-ll, 1861–1914,454/11, Oct. 19,1904. On the origins of the struggle for universal manhood suffrage in the Bohemian lands, see Havránek, “Boj zavšeobecné”; and Jiří, Malíř, Vývoj liber´lního proudu české politiky na Moravě (The development of the liberal current in Czech politics in Moravia) (Brno, 1985), 103–5.

32 See, for example, František, Soukup, Revoluce Práce. Dějiný vývoj socialismu a Československé sociálně demokratické strany dělnické (Revolutionary work: The history of the development of socialism and the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Workers Party), vol. 1 (Prague, 1938), 649–53.

33 České Dˇinické Listy (Czech workers paper), Sept. 10,1897, and Nov. 15,1897.

34 Českoslovanské Děnické Rozhledy (Czechoslav workers outlook), Oct. 30,1898.

35 Duch národního socialismu (The spirit of national socialism) (Brno, 1902), 89.

36 On the early years of the Czech Agrarian Party and its leaders' attitudes about democratization, see Miller, Daniel E., Forging Political Compromise: Antonin Švehla and the Czechoslovak Republican Party, 1918–1933 (Pittsburgh, 1999), 1744.

37 See, for example, Brünner Wochenblatt, Apr. 26,1911.

38 The petitions are in MZA A-ll, Sném 1861–1914, 454/11 Reform.

39 Wingfield, “The Moravians' Compromise?”

40 Malíř, , “Der Mahrische Ausgleich,” 341.

41 The debates over the education reform are discussed in detail in Glassl, Der mährische Ausgleich,217–26.

42 let práce strany národně-socialné; (Fifteen years of work of the Czech National Socialist Party) (Prague, 1912), 48–50.

43 Momvská Orlice (Moravian eagle), Sept. 30,1905, p. 2. See also, František, Klátil, Republika nad stranami: o vzniku a vývoji Ceskoslovenské strany národně socialistické, 1897–1948 (Republic above parties: On the origins and evolution of the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party) (Prague, 1992),3334;Jiří, Pernes, “Nacionální bouře v Brně v roce 1905” (Nationl storms in Brno in 1905), in Národnostní problémy v historii mést (Nationality problems in the history of cities) (Prostejov, 1993) 103–12; and Jaroslav, Drímal and Václav, Peša, Dějiny mesta Brna(History of the city of Brno), vol.2(Brno, 1973), 6170. On the protests in Olmütz, see Fischer, , Pokroková Morava, 1:184–88.

44 Wingfield, , “The Moravians' Compromise?”

45 Neue Freie Presse, Nov. 16,1905. The full text of the agreement is reprinted in Almanack, 17–82.

46 Speech cited in Alfred Freiherrn, von Skene, Der Nationale Ausgleich in Mahren 1905 (Vienna, 1910), 80.

47 Ibid.,81.

48 Ibid.;82.

50 See, for example, a pamphlet produced by the Czech National Council (Národní rada Česká), K nastávajídmu sčítáni lidu (On the impending census) (Prague, 1910) urging all Czechs and Czech-speakers to declare Czech as their language of everyday use in the impending census. MZA B-26 2205A.

51 These matters are discussed in detail in Stourzh, “Ethnic Attribution in Late Imperial Austria.” The questions asked in the Moravian questionnaire appear on page 75.

52 Ibid.,75.

53 Almanach, 83–85.

54 Ibid.,98–116.

55 Ibid.,116,120.

56 Elsewhere in Austria, many electoral districts were de facto uninational, and in most districts the national voters of the local minority represented an even smaller minority in the voting district.

57 See, for example,Volební úvaha pro česke voličstvo na Moravě; (Electoral considerations for Czech voters in Moravia) (Brno, 1907), MZA B-26, 2292.

58 See, for example, a series of postcards produced for the campaign in MZA B-26, 2292.

59 See, for example, the discussions of the university at the congress of the German Radical Party, Brünner Wochenblatt, April 5,1911. On the larger issue of educational reform in Austria at this time, see Cohen, , Education and Middle-Class Society in Imperial Austria, 1848–1918 (West Lafayette, 1996), 113, 240–43.

60 On the struggles over this issue, seeVáclav, Šlesinger, Zápas půl století. Boj o českou Moravu 1848–1918 (A half century of struggle: The struggle for Czech Moravia) (Brno, 1946), 97107.

61 According to the Kalendář národních socialistů (Calendar of National Socialism) (Prague, 1910), National Socialist Party membership increased by 20 percent between 1908 and 1910. Official party programs notwithstanding, anti-Semitism as a principal organizing strategy had been part of the National Socialist Party's arsenal in Moravia since the party's founding. See, for example, České dénické listy, Nov. 15,1897 and MZA B-26, 2205A, Nr. 5538, k.k. Polizei-Direktionin Prag, Apr. 7,1897.

62 See, for example, Snahy lidu (Aspirations of the people), Dec. 24, 1908, which attacked the parry's Czech opponents for supporting the “red and white banner on the fortress of black and red internationalism” (that is, the Austrian flag on the clerical /socialist fortress).

63 Milada, Paulová, Dějiný Maffie odboj Cechů a Jihoslovanů za svetové války 1914–1918 (History of the mafia resistance of Czechs and Yugoslavs in the World War) (Prague, 1937), 27;Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia v epokhu imperializma (International relations in the epoch of imperialism), 3rd series, vol. 2,381–84; and Zeman, Z. A. B., Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (New York, 1971), 1819.

64 let práce československé strany socialistické; (Twenty-five years of work of the Czechoslovak Socialist Party) (Prague, 1922), 142–43.

65 King, Budweisers into Czechs, 143.1 thank Jeremy King for providing me with a draft copy of his book as I was preparing this essay.

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Last Best Chance or Last Gasp? The Compromise of 1905 and Czech Politics in Moravia

  • T. Mills Kelly


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