HAPSBURG RULE, 1526-1867
The Hapsburgs and the Czechoslovak Lands
Although the Bohemian Kingdom, the Margravate of Moravia, and
Slovakia were all under Hapsburg rule, they followed different
paths of development. The defeat at Mohacs in 1526 meant that
most of Hungary proper was taken by the Turks; until Hungary's
reconquest by the Hapsburgs in the second half of the seventeenth
century, Slovakia became the center of Hungarian political,
cultural, and economic life. The Hapsburg kings of Hungary were
crowned in Bratislava, the present-day capital of Slovakia, and
the Hungarian estates met there. Slovakia's importance in
Hungarian life proved of no benefit, however, to the Slovaks. In
essence, the Hungarian political nation consisted of an
association of estates (primarily the nobility). Because Slovaks
were primarily serfs, they were not considered members of a
political nation and had no influence on politics in their own
land. The Slovak peasant had only to perform duties: work for a
landlord, pay taxes, and provide recruits for military service.
Even under such hostile conditions, there were a few positive
developments. The Protestant Reformation brought to Slovakia
literature written in Czech, and Czech replaced Latin as the
literary language of a small, educated Slovak elite. But on the
whole, the Slovaks languished for centuries in a state of
political, economic, and cultural deprivation.
Moravia had accepted the hereditary right of the Austrian
Hapsburgs to rule it and thus escaped the intense struggle
between native estates and the Hapsburg monarchy that was to
characterize Bohemian history. The Moravians had a poorly
developed historical or national consciousness, made few demands
on the Hapsburgs, and were permitted to live in tranquillity.
Late in the eighteenth century, the Margravate of Moravia was
abolished and merged with Austrian Silesia.
In contrast to Moravia, the Bohemian Kingdom had entrenched
estates that were ready to defend what they considered their
rights and liberties. Because the Hapsburgs pursued a policy of
centralization, conflict was inevitable. The conflict was further
complicated by ethnic and religious issues and was subsequently
seen by some as a struggle for the preservation of Czech
institutions and the Czech nation.
Data as of August 1987