Flag Wars and Stone Saints: How the Bohemian Lands Became Czech

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Flag Wars and Stone Saints: How the Bohemian Lands Became Czech

By Nancy M. Wingfield
Harvard University Press, 2007
374 pp. $49.95
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The Czech Republic's modern national form did not come about easily or gently. Between 1880 and 1948, the span Wingfield covers, Bohemia and Moravia went through three incarnations -- first as provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the fading decades of the Hapsburg monarchy, then as part of the interwar First Czechoslovak Republic, and finally as part of a momentarily liberated state. Through all three periods, dueling Czech and German nationalisms carved borders around language, historical heroes, and cultural myths, with one, the German, holding the upper hand at the outset, only to lose it after 1918 -- and then, at World War II's conclusion, to be swept from the country altogether. Wingfield's approach is that of cultural history, and she uses the clashing images of Emperor Joseph II, the mobilization of competing historical figures, the battle over language laws, the decimation of opposing symbols, and the way World War II's dead were memorialized to frame afresh otherwise familiar political history.