The Global Zeitenwende
How to Avoid a New Cold War in a Multipolar Era
THE 13,611,349 inhabitants of Czechoslovakia were divided by the census of February 15, 1921, into 8,760,937 Czechoslovaks, 3,123,568 Germans, 745,431 Magyars, 461,466 Ruthenians, and 75,852 Poles. In this official census the Czechs and Slovaks were counted as "Czechoslovaks" -- one nation and one race, as in fact they are. The Slovaks are not a minority. Czechoslovakia is their national state as it is that of the Czechs, a fact that even the autonomous Slovak party of Father Hlinka recognizes.
The case of the Bohemian Germans is different. The national states of the German race are Germany and Austria. In Czechoslovakia the Germans are a minority. Their voice in the direction of the affairs of the Republic is no doubt a very important one, yet it can hardly ever become decisive. For good or ill their fate is bound up with the will of the ruling Czechoslovak majority.
The makers of the New Europe could not leave large minorities like the Germans of Bohemia and the Magyars of Slovakia without some measure of protection. This was done in the treaty concluded between the Allied Powers and Czechoslovakia on September 10, 1919. The treaty consists of 14 articles, of which the most important are 7, 8 and 9. The first of these guarantees to all Czechoslovak citizens, without regard to race, language and religion, full equality before the law, full civil and political rights, free use of any language in private, commercial, religious and public life, and the right to use their own tongue before the courts. Article 8 guarantees to linguistic minorities the right to found their own philanthropic, religious and social institutions and schools, using their own languages. Article 9 points out the duty of the government to establish minority schools in towns and districts containing a large number of inhabitants using a tongue other than the Czech.
How far have these provisions been observed? In one form or another they had to be incorporated in the constitution, and this has been done in the following terms:
1. All citizens of the Czechoslovak Republic shall be in all respects equal before the law and shall enjoy equal political and civic rights, whatever be their race, language or religion.
2. Difference in religion, belief, confession or language shall, within the limits of the common law, constitute no obstacle to any citizen of the Czechoslovak Republic, particularly as regards entry into the public services and offices, attainment of any promotion or dignity, or the exercise of any trade or calling.
3. Citizens of the Czechoslovak Republic may, within the limits of the common law, freely use any language they choose in private and business intercourse, in all matters pertaining to religion, in the press and in all publications whatsoever, or in public assemblies.
4. In so far as citizens of the Czechoslovak Republic are entitled by the common law to establish, manage and administer at their own cost philanthropic, religious or social institutions, they are all equal, no matter what their nationality, language, religion or race, and in such institutions they may make use of their own language and worship according to their own religious ceremonies.
5. In towns and districts where there is a considerable fraction of Czechoslovak citizens speaking a language other than Czechoslovak, the children of such Czechoslovak citizens shall, in public instruction and within the bounds of general regulations relating thereto, be guaranteed a due opportunity to receive instruction in their own tongue. The Czechoslovak language at the same time may be prescribed as a compulsory subject of instruction.
6. In towns and districts where there is a considerable fraction belonging to some minority, whether in respect of religion, or nationality, or language, and where specific sums of money from public funds are assigned in the state budget or in the budget of local or other public authorities to be devoted to education, religion or philanthropy, a due share in the use and enjoyment of such sums shall be secured to such minorities within the limits of the general regulations for public administration.
7. Every manner whatsoever of forcible denationalization is prohibited. Non-observance of this principle may be proclaimed by law to be a punishable act.
So much for the constitution. We now have to ascertain how far the constitution has been upheld in practice. In this respect the minority schools offer the best test. In the beginning of the school year 1925-1926 there were in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia 7,628 Czech schools with 22,439 classes for 848,348 Czech children (an average number of 38 children in a class), and 3,493 German schools for 341,124 German children (an average number of 38.6 children in a class). These figures refer to Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia only. The Government has, however, established German schools in Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia where under the Magyar régime there used to be none at all. In all, the Czechoslovak Government has established in Slovakia 112 German schools with 250 classes and 12,798 pupils, and in Carpathian Ruthenia 10 German schools with 11 classes and 555 children.
Let us consider parliamentary representation. 3,123,568 Germans have 72 deputies, 745,431 Magyars have 14 deputies, and 8,760,937 Czechoslovaks have 210 deputies. It will be observed that here again the racial minorities do not come off short, for in this respect the Czechoslovak Government actually has made more generous concessions than those stipulated by the 1919 treaty. In accordance with the country's proportional representation electoral system not a single minority vote is lost. There are 23 electoral districts, each of them comprising approximately 287,000 votes and 13 deputies. If a minority group secures 22,000 votes out of the 287,000 it has a right to a deputy. But this is not all. Assume that this minority represents a total of 27,000 votes in one of the electoral districts: then the 5,000 votes remaining after the 22,000 have been deducted are added to the votes secured throughout the Republic by the minority in question. The total of these scattered surplus votes entitles the minority to a seat in Parliament at the rate of one for every 22,000 votes. The result is that the Germans and Magyars who comprise 28.6 percent of the total population today have a parliamentary representation of 29.1 percent.
It may be asked how far these concessions and pledges of just treatment have reconciled the minorities of Czechoslovakia with their fate. The reconciliation is not yet complete, but beyond any doubt great progress has been made. The pre-war régime and the war itself left, as President Masaryk stated some time ago, "a heritage of great mistrust between Czechs and Germans." This mistrust, however, is now being gradually overcome and a closer coöperation between the two races is coming into being. On October 12, 1926, two German representatives, Dr. Spina and Dr. Mayr-Harting, joined the Czechoslovak Government. On May 27, 1927, four German parties voted for President Masaryk. In Czech circles it is frequently suggested that the Czech-German problem ought to be solved on the Swiss model, but President Masaryk has pointed out that it would be better to speak of the Belgian model, since Belgium is a uniform State, while from early times Switzerland has consisted of several independent little states. "The Czech territories," he said, "have been uniform in their historical development and must remain so. There cannot and will not be any question of territorial autonomy nor does the unfavorable grouping of the racial minorities admit of such a course. Our German fellow-countrymen are entitled to a share in the administration and the government. In a democratic state this is a matter of course. But such coöperation on their part presupposes their loyal recognition of the state, and a recognition without any ambiguity."
The task of the Czechoslovak Government is to make the minorities feel themselves at home in Czechoslovakia. They must not think of themselves as minorities. Czechoslovakia must become their state, as it is the state of the Czechs and of the Slovaks. The term "Czechoslovaks" must denote not only the Czechs and Slovaks, but all the inhabitants of the Republic. There is only one way to achieve this end: the way of tolerance and of coöperation.