The History of Czechoslovakia: The history behind the self-determined split of the federal state of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia

Late 19th and early 20th centuries

In Bohemia, a vigorous industrial revolution transformed a peasant nation into a differentiated society that included industrial workers, a middle class, and intellectuals. Under the influence of the Enlightenment and romanticism, the Czech national revival led to the establishment of the National Museum in 1818 and the National Theatre in 1881. Moreover, some Czechs were making political demands that included the reconstitution of an autonomous Bohemian Kingdom. The Czech cultural and political achievements were vigorously opposed by Bohemian Germans, who feared losing their privileged position. On the eve of World War I, the Czech leader Tomas Masaryk began propagating the Czechoslovak idea, namely the reunion of Czechs and Slovaks into one political entity.

The Slovaks, on the other hand, had no forum for political expression within Hungary, and their national revival was less marked. Slovakia was not industrialised until the end of the nineteenth century, meaning the Slovaks remained mostly rural people led by a small group of intellectuals. After the creation of the dual Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1867, a strong national revival began in Hungary, severely repressing that of the Slovak people. By the eve of World War I, the Slovaks were struggling to preserve their newly found national identity.

Around the start of the 20th century, the idea of a "Czecho-Slovak" entity began to be advocated by some Czech and Slovak leaders. In the 1890s, contacts between Czech and Slovak intellectuals intensified. The Slovak leader Masaryk was a keen advocate of Czech-Slovak cooperation. Some of his students formed the Czechoslovak Union and in 1898 published the journal Hlas ("The Voice").

In Slovakia, young Slovak intellectuals began to challenge the old Slovak National Party. But although the Czech and Slovak national movements began drawing closer together, their ultimate goals remained unclear. At least until World War I, the Czech and Slovak national movements struggled for autonomy within Austria and Hungary, respectively. Only during the war did the idea of an independent Czechoslovakia emerge.

This page has paths:

This page references: