Začleňovanie Slovenska do nového štátu a vznik Československa

Peter Švorc


In Czechoslovakia 28 October 1918 was regarded as the date when the state of the Czechs and Slovaks was created. The National Assembly (Národné zhromaždenie) decided that the day would be a national holiday and then it slowly passed into the consciousness of all generations as the day when the Czechoslovak Republic was established. The situation was, however, much more complex. The act of the inauguration of the new state did not mean, in fact, that at this point a new state was established. Much more effort was still needed to do so. By right one can say that Czechoslovakia was established between 28 and 30 October 1918, but in fact this happened at the end of 1918. On the part of Greater Hungary the words by right were clearly of a relative nature, and in the case of Slovakia the term was not at all acceptable. Its aim was to make this act of state-building unrealized. It was also the aim of the actions of Magyar (Hungarian) politics and diplomacy – albeit attempted without success. On the other hand, this way of thinking was also visible in the dynamic state-forming process within the emerging state of Czechoslovakia. It was visible in the way how individual nations and nationalities living in Slovakia understood the dissolution of the monarchy, mainly of Great Hungary, as well as the emergence of Czechoslovakia. Slovaks became the decisive factor in this new situation, as they were the force without which Czechoslovakia would not come into existence. The key issue was how Slovaks would accept the new reality and whether they would identify themselves with the newly established state. It was more than certain that Slovak residents would support the disintegration of Greater Hungary and the emergence of Czechoslovakia – the events which would fundamentally change their position. From a nation condemned to the status of an ethnic group, who, in the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century was denied basic national rights, they were going to become a fully-fl edged and state-creating nation. Hundreds of Slovaks in exile had been working to achieve this goal. They were actively involved in the national movement since the beginning of the First World War, Začleňovanie Slovenska do nového štátu a vznik Československa 79 preparing to fi ght and engage in politics in the Czech and Slovak environment. In the country the entire process would be more complex because of the persecution that appeared in the decisive moments of the end of 1918. The Slovak political elite set up a representative political body of the Slovak National Council (Slovenská národná rada) only in October 1918 and in the Martinska Declaration (Martinská deklaracia) of 30 October 1918, they voted in favour of the Czech-Slovak state. Some Slovak citizens established councils and national committees in villages and towns, but most people waited passively for the development of the situation. The Lower Protestant clergy and Catholic priests accepted the pro-Czechoslovakian direction, and at the end of 1918 they opposed their church hierarchy in this respect. The hierarchs had a pro-Hungary orientation and called upon both the clergy and believers to oppose the disappearance of the former Hungarian state. Catholics were threatened with Czech Hussite and anti-Catholic tradition, while Evangelicals were intimidated with the disappearance of Hungarian general ecclesiastical authority, which would mean that Evangelicals in Slovakia would be in the minority. Slovakian offi cials, state employees, teachers, some clergy, lawyers and entrepreneurs all supported Greater Hungary, as they feared that in the new state they would lose their social position. They used the neutrality of the inhabitants, particularly of eastern Slovakia, in order to spread pro-Hungarian propaganda. Eastern Slovakia was one of districts where Slovaks were consciously denationalized, disoriented and intimidated by propaganda for the longest time. At the beginning of November 1918, the East-Slovakian National Council (Východoslovenská národná rada) was established in Prešov and acted as a counterweight to the Martinska Slovak National Council. It worked closely with the Prešov Magyar National Council and was in favour of retaining the whole of Greater Hungary. It organized campaigns supporting old Hungary in Prešov and its surroundings. It also tried to include Slovaks from other parts of Slovakia in its activities, but only those under the aegis of an independent Slovakia, without the Czechs. The activities of the Eastern Slovakia National Council intensifi ed after 11 November 1918, when Slovak pro-Magyar People’s Republic (Slovenská ľudová republika) was proclaimed in Kosice and asked Budapest for help and protection. The actions of the government of the Slovak People’s Republic were closely followed by Budapest, which at the same time hoped that the Slovak National Council in Martin and the Ambassador of the Czechoslovak Government Milan Hodža will opt for a compromise that would satisfy Budapest, for example by reducing the size of the forming territory of Czechoslovakia in the Upper Hungary-Slovakia region or leaving it within its current state. Budapest did not openly support Slovak People’s Republic, not seeing mass support for its representatives. The Slovak Peoples’ Republic, whose capital was to be Prešov, disappeared with the arrival of the Czechoslovak army at the end of December 1918.
Ruthenians living on this territory were Slavs and they were perceived in Czechoslovakia by defi nition as members of the state-forming group. Before the proclamation of the Czechoslovak Republic Ruthenian residents, apart from a few people from the intelligentsia who in November 1918 founded the Old Lubovna and Presov Ruthenian National Council (Ruska národná rada), did not engage in any state-forming activities. Ruthenian Greek Catholic clergy, which formed the core of national intelligence, were of a mostly pro-Hungarian orientation and encouraged their parishioners to be the same. If one looks at Ruthenians only on Slovak territory, one can see that they quickly embraced the idea of the disintegration of Greater Hungary and although most often passively, identifi ed either with the views of their national representatives concerning creating their own Ruthenian state (Uhrorusínia or Karpatská Rus), or becoming a part of the Slavic Czechoslovakia. Magyars (Hungarians) were in a completely different situation. For them, the creation of Czechoslovakia assumed the proportions of a disaster and this is how they understood it. In Czechoslovakia they would cease to be members of the ruling nation and would fall into the position of an ethnic minority. This concerned about 640,000 Hungarians (according to statistics from 1921, or – 896,271 Hungarians according to Hungarian statistics from 1910) who wanted Greater Hungary 80 PETER ŠVORC to survive and rejected the idea of creating Czechoslovakia. They wanted to use newly established local councils as political tools. Such councils gathered all residents supporting the integration of Greater Hungary and relied on Budapest and Hungarian politicians of that time. They intimidated Slovaks, Jews and Russians on ethnically mixed areas, whom they wanted to pull away from activities against Greater Hungary. Also Hungarian Germans who clearly supported Hungary fi rmly rejected the idea of a new state. Magyarization changed their beliefs successfully, and they did not seem to object to that fact. They perceived Slovaks as a nation of servants and coachmen or people of a lower category, and they did not want to be on the same social level or identify with Slovaks. They rejected the idea of being citizens of a Slavic state in which Slavs (that is, also Slovaks) would be a state-forming nation and Germans, who used to have a higher social status would only be a national minority. Everyone, including about 140.000 people of German nationality (according to Hungarian statistics from 1910 a population of 196,958 Germans and according to Czechoslovakian ones from 1921, a population of 139,900) rejected the notion of a new state.
This became visible at the end of 1918, when the independent Republic of Spiš (Spišská republika) was proclaimed on 9 December in Kežmarok. Representative Germans in Slovakia became its members, inspired by the presidium of the German Upper-Hungarian Council (Hornouhorská nemecká rada). Spiš republic was supposed to be an Upper-Hungarian Switzerland, which would, however, be protected by Budapest. In connection with the approaching Czechoslovak army, Germans of Spiš gave up the idea of creating the Spiš republic, and it soon disappeared. The new state was also rejected by Jews. Jewish residents did not have the same social status as the rest of the citizens of Great Hungary. They were viewed with disdain but, given their economic power, they were not indoctrinated and in comparison with Slovaks they could advance higher in the social hierarchy. In Hungary, Jews found conditions for a tolerable and even successful existence and the country whose structure they knew well turned out to be a better haven in diffi cult moments than the newly proclaimed Czechoslovakia. In this sense, Jews also belonged to those rejecting the Czechoslovak statehood. This was true for 136,000 inhabitants of Slovakia. If we consider only the nationality of the inhabitants of Slovakia as a basis to reject the new state, it appears that out of 2,926,824 inhabitants (data from 1910) between October and December 1918, 1,138,311, or 38.81% of the population were against Czechoslovakia. This data, however, is incomplete, as the number of people who in the fi rst weeks after the end of World War I did not identify with the new state also included the Slovaks and Russians. These were mostly people who were connected to Great Hungary and its state power and joined their further existence with this state. The size of this category is very diffi cult to determine, as it never was statistically captured. František Votruba may help to approximate this number, as in his words during the coup there were only about 1,200 members of nationally oriented Slovak intelligentsia in Slovakia who proclaimed their allegiance to their own nation. If to those 54 per cent of people rejecting Czechoslovakia one adds any other number, it will turn out that in fact up to 50% of Slovakia’s inhabitants were against the disintegration of Greater Hungary and incorporating Slovakia into the Czechoslovak state. This was an argument that could actually weigh on the forthcoming peace conference in Paris. Slovak national activists and Czech politicians were aware of this fact and therefore tried to level internal relations as soon as possible as well as to eliminate external infl uences that could destabilize the new state. That is why on 5 November 1918, politically active Slovaks established the Provisional Government of Slovakia (Dočasné vláda pre Slovensko). On its behalf they offi cially asked for military assistance of Prague in incorporating Slovakia to the new state. This aid was granted to them very quickly. By the end of 1918 Slovakia became a real part of Czechoslovakia, but at least until the signing of the Trianon Treaty of Peace in June 1920, it was a territory with many destabilizing Začleňovanie Slovenska do nového štátu a vznik Československa 81 factors that caused the rejection of the Pittsburgh Agreement (Pittsburská dohoda) of 30 May 1918. The Pittsburgh Agreement, signed by American Czechs and Slovaks and also the future president T.G. Masaryk, validated the autonomous position of Slovakia in the joint Czech-Slovak State.

Słowa kluczowe: Czechoslovakia, Slovakia, Eastern Slovakia in the Slovak History, Slovak National Council, the Martin Declaration, East Slovak National Council, Slovak People Republik 1918, the Slovak Nation, Kingdom of Hungary, Roman Catholic Church, Evangelical Church, Greek Catholic Church.