The Czech Lands in World War I, 1914-1918

The political leaders of Bohemia, foremost among them TOMAS MASARYK, had early recognized that the furure for the Czech lands lay in seeking independence from Austria; the majority of the Czechs followed him by showing either indifference to the Austrian war effort, or even worse, Czech soldiers in the Austrian army deserting to the Russians, or committing acts of sabotage.
The indifference shown by the Czechs to the war effort was illustrated in JAROSLAV HASEK's novel The adventures of the brave soldier Schwejk.
In the meantime, politicians who have opted for wartime exile, such as Tomas Masaryk, as well as organizations of Czech emigrants propagated the Bohemian/Czech cause in the west. In 1915 Masaryk published his plan for an INDEPENDENT BOHEMIA; later the idea of CZECHOSLOVAKIA was born. The 10th of President Wilson's 14 POINTS (Jan. 1918 stated that the peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity to autonomous development, a statement to be applied for the Czechs and Slovaks. In the PITTSBURGH CONVENTION (May 1918), representatives of the Czech and Slovak communities in the United States favour the establishment of a united CZECHOSLOVAKIA with guaranteed autonomy for Slovakia. Later that year, the CZECOSLOVAK NATIONAL COUNCIL was formed in Paris, headed by Tomas Masaryk and EDVARD BENES as minister of foreign affairs; in October 1918 it received allied recognition.
In October 1918 the Austrian rule collapsed; the Czechs and Slovaks supported the establishment of the Czechoslovaks; moves by the German speaking SUDETEN minority (a majority in the fringe regions of Bohemia, Moravia and 'Austrian' Silesia) to join the rump Austrian republic were blocked by the Entente. Prague's Jewish population, German-speaking and hitherto loyal to the Habsburg monarchy, felt disoriented, a disorientation which shaped the writings of FRANZ KAFKA.

World War I and Czechoslovak Independence, from Radio Prague's History Online
Biography of Tomas Masaryk, from Radio Prague
Biography of Edvard Benes, from National Slovak Society; from Hradschin
DOCUMENTS Tomas G. Masaryk, Independent Bohemia, 1915, posted by Habsburg Net
President W. Wilson's 14 points, Jan. 8th 1918, posted by World War I Document Archive
REFERENCE Jaroslav Hasek, Good Soldier Schweik

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 12th 2004/i>

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