The first half of the nineteenth century was a period of
national awakening in Central Europe. German nationalism--sparked
by confrontation with the armies of the French
revolutionaries--and Napoleonic expansionism inspired
corresponding efforts toward national revival among the subject
Slavic peoples. The concept of the "nation," defined as a people
united by linguistic and cultural affinities, produced an
intellectual revival that laid the foundation for a subsequent
struggle for political autonomy.
In Bohemia, where the nobility was largely German or
Germanized, the leaders of the Czech revival were members of the
new intelligentsia, which had its origin in peasant stock. Only a
small part of the nobility lent the revival support.
The earliest phase of the national movement was philological.
Scholars attempted to record and codify native languages. A chair
for Czech language and literature was established at Charles--
Ferdinand University in 1791. The Czech language, however, had
survived only as a peasant patois. The tasks of molding the Czech
language into a literary medium and introducing the study of
Czech in state schools were accomplished by Josef Dobrovsky and
Josef Jungmann. Their efforts were rewarded by an efflorescence
of Czech literature and the growth of a Czech reading public.
Prominent among the original Czech literary elite were poets Jan
Kollar (a Slovak), F.L. Celakovsky, Karel J. Erben, and Karel H.
Macha; dramatists V.K. Klicpera and J.K. Tyl; and journalistpoliticians F.A. Brauner and Karel Havlicek.
The Czech revival acquired an institutional foundation with
the establishment of the Museum of the Bohemian Kingdom (1818) as
a center for Czech scholarship. In 1827 the museum began
publication of a journal that became the first continuous voice
of Czech nationalism. In 1830 the museum absorbed the Matice
Ceska, a society of Czech intellectuals devoted to the
publication of scholarly and popular books. The museum
membership, composed of patriotic scholars and nobles, worked to
establish contacts with other Slavic peoples and to make Prague
the intellectual and scholarly capital of the Slavs.
The major figure of the Czech revival was Frantisek Palacky.
Of Moravian Protestant descent and attracted by the nationalist
spirit of the Hussite tradition, Palacky became the great
historian of the Czech nation. His monumental, five-volume
History of the Czech People focused on the struggle of the
Czech nation for political freedom and became one of the pillars
of modern Czech life and thought. Palacky--who fancied himself
the heir and successor to the great educator and leader of the
Unity of Czech Brethren, Jan Amos Komensky (Comenius)--became the
political leader of the Czech nation during the revolutionary
struggles of 1848. In the tradition of Komensky, Palacky
developed a political platform based on cultural renaissance.
The Slovaks experienced an analogous national revival. The
Kingdom of Hungary, restored to its original territorial
dimensions in 1711, was ruled by a Hungarian aristocracy that was
experiencing its own national awakening. In 1792 Hungarian
replaced Latin as the official state language. In contrast to the
more secular Czech nation, among the subject peoples of Hungary
both the Catholic and the Protestant religions retained a solid
hold. The Slovak clergy constituted the intellectual elite of the
predominantly peasant Slovaks, and the Slovak revival occurred
under its leadership.
The initial attempt to develop a Slovak literary language was
made by a Jesuit priest, Anton Bernolak. The language he
developed in the 1780s was subsequently called bernolacina
and was based primarily on western Slovak dialects. The language
was adopted by the Catholic clergy and disseminated in religious
literature. Bernolak and his followers, however, remained loyal
to the Kingdom of Hungary, and their movement never developed
nationalist political implications.
The Protestant revival was more limited in scope, confined
largely to the Slovak minority settled in urban centers. Slovak
Protestantism was characterized by an attachment to Czech
culture. The artificial and archaic language of the Czech Bible,
known as biblictina, had served as the literary vehicle of
the Protestant clergy since the sixteenth century. In the early
nineteenth century, two German-educated Protestant theologians,
the poet Jan Kollar and Pavel Safarik, endeavored to create a
literary language that would combine Czech with elements of the
central Slovak dialect. They published a reader, Citanka,
in 1825, and beginning in the 1830s they gained a following among
the younger generation of students at Protestant secondary
At this time, the Slovak national awakening split into two
factions. Kollar and Safarik were adherents of pan-Slavic
concepts that stressed the unity of all Slavic peoples. They
continued to view Czechs and Slovaks as members of a single
nation, and they attempted to draw the languages closer together.
Other Slovaks broke with the Czechs and proclaimed the separate
identity of the Slovak nation. L'udovit Stur, a student at the
Bratislava secondary school, developed the sturovcina,
which was based on the central Slovak dialect. In 1843 Stur
advocated that the sturovcina be made the Slovak literary
language, and it spread rapidly in the Protestant community and
beyond. Beginning in the 1840s, Slovak literary development took
a separate path from Czech.
Data as of August 1987