Date of Award:

5-2010

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Arts (MA)

Department:

History

Advisor/Chair:

C. Robert Cole

Abstract

After World War II, state-sponsored deportations amounting to ethnic cleansing occurred and showed that the roots of the Czech-German cultural competition are important. In Bohemia, Czechs and Germans share a long history of contact, both mutually beneficial and antagonistic. Bohemia became one of the most important constituent realms of the Holy Roman Empire, bringing Czechs into close contact with Germans. During the reign of Václav IV, a theologian at the University of Prague named Jan Hus began to cause controversy. Hus began to preach the doctrines outlined by the Englishman John Wycliffe. At the Council of Constance church officials sought to stamp out Wycliffism and as part of that effort summoned Hus, convicted him of heresy and burned him at the stake on July 6, 1415. Bohemia rose in rebellion, in what became the Hussite Wars. Bohemians elected a Hussite king, George of Poděbrady. Shortly after his death, the Thirty Years War began and resulted in the Austrian Habsburgs gaining the throne of Bohemia. The Habsburg dynasty suppressed Protestantism in the Czech lands and ushering in a brutal Counter-Reformation and forced reconversion to Catholicism. By the nineteenth century, a revival of Czech culture and language brought about Czech nationalism. Spurred by the nobility’s desire to regain lost power from the monarchy, a distinct Czech culture began to coalesce. With noble patronage, Czech nationalists established many of the symbols of the Czech nation such as the Bohemian Museum and the National Theater and initiated Czech language instruction at Charles University in Prague and finally a separate Czech university in Prague. The first generation of nationalist Czech leaders, lead by František Palacký, gave way to a newer generation of nationalists, lead eventually by Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. Masaryk, a professor at the university, successfully lead the efforts during World War I to create an independent Czechoslovakia. Masaryk’s decades-long debate with historian Josef Pekař over the meaning of Czech history illustrates how Czech nationalists distorted historical facts to fit their nationalist ideology. The nationalists succeeded in gaining independence, but faced unsuccessfully forged a new state with a significant, but problematic, German minority.

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