Old Czech Party

Last updated
National Party

Národní strana
Historical leaders František Palacký,
František Ladislav Rieger,
Josef Kaizl,
František August Brauner
Succeeded by National Democracy
Headquarters Prague, Kingdom of Bohemia
Newspaper The National Newspaper
Ideology National conservatism
National liberalism
Political position Right-wing
Colours     Blue
Frantisek Palacky, (lithograph by Adolf Dauthage, 1855) PalackyLitho.jpg
František Palacký, (lithograph by Adolf Dauthage, 1855)

The Old Czech Party (Czech : Staročeši, officially National Party, Národní strana) was formed in the Kingdom of Bohemia and Bohemian Crown Lands of Austrian Empire in Revolution Year of 1848. They initiated Czech national program, forming of modern national through Czech National Revival and better position of Bohemia within the Habsburg Monarchy. [1]

Czech language West Slavic language spoken in the Czech Republic

Czech, historically also Bohemian, is a West Slavic language of the Czech–Slovak group. Spoken by over 10 million people, it serves as the official language of the Czech Republic. Czech is closely related to Slovak, to the point of mutual intelligibility to a very high degree. Like other Slavic languages, Czech is a fusional language with a rich system of morphology and relatively flexible word order. Its vocabulary has been extensively influenced by Latin and German.

Kingdom of Bohemia Monarchy in Central Europe, predecessor of modern Czech Republic

The Kingdom of Bohemia, sometimes later in English literature referred to as the Czech Kingdom, was a medieval and early modern monarchy in Central Europe, the predecessor of the modern Czech Republic. It was an Imperial State in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Bohemian king was a prince-elector of the empire. The kings of Bohemia, besides Bohemia, also ruled the Lands of the Bohemian Crown, which at various times included Moravia, Silesia, Lusatia, and parts of Saxony, Brandenburg, and Bavaria.

Lands of the Bohemian Crown Monarchy in Central Europe, predecessor of modern Czech Republic

The Lands of the Bohemian Crown, sometimes called Czech lands in modern times, were a number of incorporated states in Central Europe during the medieval and early modern periods connected by feudal relations under the Bohemian kings. The crown lands primarily consisted of the Kingdom of Bohemia, an electorate of the Holy Roman Empire according to the Golden Bull of 1356, the Margraviate of Moravia, the Duchies of Silesia, and the two Lusatias, known as the Margraviate of Upper Lusatia and the Margraviate of Lower Lusatia, as well as other territories throughout its history.


An important event in the history of the party were split of Young Czech wing of the party, in 1874 formed Young Czech Party led by Karel Sladkovský. [2]

Young Czech Party political party in Austria-Hungary

The Young Czech Party was formed in the Bohemian crown land of Austria-Hungary in 1874. It initiated the democratization of Czech political parties and led to the establishment of the political base of Czechoslovakia.


The 1848 Revolutions, starting in Sicily before spreading to the rest of Europe, led to the formation of the first Czech political parties in the Austrian Empire. Upon the resignation of State Chancellor Klemens von Metternich, the new Austrian government under Prime Minister Franz Anton von Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky finally ceded to the provisional Bohemian "national assembly" (Svatováclavský výbor roku 1848) the right to hold elections for a Landtag parliament in the Lands of the Bohemian Crown. Though initially backed by the Austrian governor Count Leopold von Thun und Hohenstein, the attempt failed due to disagreement with Moravian and Austrian Silesian representatives as well as the resistance of the German-speaking minority.

Austrian Empire monarchy in Central Europe between 1804 and 1867

The Austrian Empire was a Central European multinational great power from 1804 to 1867, created by proclamation out of the realms of the Habsburgs. During its existence, it was the third most populous empire after the Russian Empire and the United Kingdom in Europe. Along with Prussia, it was one of the two major powers of the German Confederation. Geographically, it was the third largest empire in Europe after the Russian Empire and the First French Empire. Proclaimed in response to the First French Empire, it partially overlapped with the Holy Roman Empire until the latter's dissolution in 1806.

Klemens von Metternich Austrian diplomat

Klemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar, Prince of Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein, was an Austrian diplomat who was at the center of European affairs for four decades as the Austrian Empire's foreign minister from 1809 and Chancellor from 1821 until the liberal Revolutions of 1848 forced his resignation.

Franz Anton von Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky Czech nobleman

Count Franz Anton von Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky was Bohemian noble and Austrian statesman from the House of Kolowrat. As a moderate liberal politician, he was one of the major opponents of State Chancellor Prince Klemens von Metternich during the Vormärz era. In the March Revolution of 1848, Kolowrat became the first constitutional Minister-President of Austria, however, he resigned after one month in office.

In June 1848 the Prague Slavic Congress, led by the historian František Palacký, who had rejected his mandate to the Frankfurt Parliament, demanded a federation of the Austrian states and the withdrawal from the German Confederation. The succeeding "Whitsun Riot" from 12 to 17 June 1848 aimed at the independence of the "Czech lands" of Bohemia, Moravia and Austrian Silesia, similar to the Hungarian Revolution; it was crushed by Austrian troops under Field Marshal Prince Alfred I of Windisch-Grätz. The Czech people were given a taste of freedom of assembly and government only to experience defeat, which was completed with the failed Vienna Uprising and the dissolution of the Kremsier Parliament in 1849. Despite this defeat and its implications, the 1848 experience boosted ethnic nationalism in the Habsburg lands, and activists looked upon the Czech National Revival with pride.

The Prague Slavic Congress of 1848 took place in Prague between 2 June and 12 June 1848. It was the first occasion on which voices from all Slav populations of Europe were heard in one place.

František Palacký Czech philosopher, historian, publicist and writer

František Palacký was a Czech historian and politician, the most influential person of the Czech National Revival, called "Father of the Nation".

Frankfurt Parliament first parliament for all of Germany (1849-1849)

The Frankfurt Parliament was the first freely elected parliament for all of Germany, elected on 1 May 1848.

Languages in northern Austria-Hungary according to 1910 census
Romanian Czech and Slovak peoples in Austro-Hungarian Empire.gif
Languages in northern Austria-Hungary according to 1910 census

As a result of the failed revolution, in 1851 the decreed March Constitution was abolished and a non-constitutional system was put in place under Interior Minister Baron Alexander von Bach, deemed "Bachist neo-absolutism". [3] :88 Yet by 1860, due to the lost Second Italian War of Independence, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria was forced to revoke absolutist policies with the October Diploma in an attempt to pacify internal dissent, including the implementation of an Imperial Council parliament. Immediately, a Czech National Party (Národní strana, "Old Czech" party) was formed under the guidance of František Palacký and his son-in-law, František Ladislav Rieger. The National Party sought to achieve a large measure of political and cultural autonomy for the Czech people within a federated Austria.

Baron Alexander von Bach Austrian politician

Baron Alexander von Bach was an Austrian politician. His most notable achievement was instituting a system of centralized control at the beginning of the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria.

Second Italian War of Independence war of national liberation, Italy 1859

The Second Italian War of Independence, also called the Franco-Austrian War, Austro-Sardinian War or Italian War of 1859, was fought by the French Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia against the Austrian Empire in 1859 and played a crucial part in the process of Italian unification.

Franz Joseph I of Austria Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary

Franz Joseph I or Francis Joseph I was Emperor of Austria along with his wife: Empress Elizabeth of Austria, Queen of Hungary. He was also King of Hungary, and monarch of many other states of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, from 2 December 1848 to his death. From 1 May 1850 to 24 August 1866 he was also President of the German Confederation. He was the longest-reigning Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, as well as the third-longest-reigning monarch of any country in European history, after Louis XIV of France and Johann II of Liechtenstein.

Yet, with the February Patent of 1861 by Interior Minister Anton von Schmerling, an abrupt reversion to centralized ideas spread once again throughout the Czech lands. Imperial recognition of an autonomous Bohemian kingdom did not come to pass despite continued efforts by the National Party to receive formal recognition of their autonomy. Nationalities assigned to second class status by the constitutional arrangements of the monarchy in the 1860s could do no more than work for reform within the oppressive and bureaucratic framework of the dual monarchy. [2] :58 Action was dependent on the occurrence of another international crisis which would compel the Habsburgs to initiate real reform and liberalize the constitution. This state of inaction proved to be a long struggle by the Czechs against the authoritarian Habsburg Empire.

Anton von Schmerling Austrian politician

Anton Ritter von Schmerling, Austrian statesman, was born at Vienna, where his father held a high position on the judicial side of the civil service.


By 1863, two clearly defined factions within the Czech National Party had emerged: the Old Czechs and the Young Czechs. Their major areas of contention were: the extent to which the party should cooperate with the conservative landowners, how best to define and advance Bohemian state rights, whether or not to passively resist centralization of the monarchy, and their difference of opinion with the Polish insurrection in Russian Poland. The conflict within the National Party that led most directly to the creation of an independent Young Czech Party in 1874 was the issue of passive resistance. The Old Czech faction, under the leadership of Palacký and Rieger, sought to act conservatively against the monarchy through working with the great landowners to achieve greater political influence and by refusing to attend the imperial council (Reichsrat) meetings. The Young Czechs, on the other hand, felt that Czech national interests would be best served by participating actively in all forms of government.

Two events in particular display the effects of the Old Czechs' policy of passive resistance and cooperation with the nobility. The war in 1866 between the monarchy and Prussia displayed how the Old Czechs' policy of loyalty and cooperation backfired. With the war, the monarchy sought the financial aid of its lands and Hungary, also seeking imperial recognition of its autonomy, refused to provide assistance as long as their demands for self-government were not fulfilled. Meanwhile, the Czechs remained loyal to the monarchy but due to fear of further disobedience, the monarchy complied with Hungarian demands and created the December Constitution of 1867 which enacted a dual monarchy. [3] :89 Rieger reacted by advocating a boycott of participation in the Reichsrat until the Emperor suspended the February Patent. Further passive action was taken in withdrawing from the Bohemian Diet with the Declaration of 1868 that called for a tripartite monarchy. The Young Czechs reluctantly upheld the party’s boycott of the Reichsrat but seven young delegates defied the party’s policy by returning to the Bohemian Diet in September, 1874. This defiance, led by Alois Pravoslav Trojan and Edvard Grégr, heralded the decision to form an independent Young Czech party in December of the same year. The Národní Listy (National Paper) saluted the “seven Maccabees who unsheathed the sword of political activism to defend their homeland” while the loyal Old Czech newspapers decried “the seven Krauts who carried the national cross to Golgotha." [2] :73

After eight years (1871–79) of boycotting the Reichsrat in protest against the collapse of a negotiated agreement with Emperor Franz Joseph, the Young Czech chose to compromise. Their reentry into legislative politics marked the end of German Reichsrat majority. The Young Czechs held 85 to 87 of the 425 seats in the Reichsrat by 1900. [4]

In 1891, the end of the Old Czech predominance in Czech politics helped to disrupt the conservative “iron ring” parliamentary coalition with whose help Count Taaffe had governed since 1879, and marks the beginning of the modern era of Czech political parties.

In February 1918, the party formally merged with a new coalition, the Czech State Right Democratic Party, which later, under the Republic, became the party of Czechoslovak National Democracy headed by former Young Czech leader Karel Kramář.

See also

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  1. Rick Fawn; Jiří Hochman (2009). "Introduction". Historical Dictionary of the Czech State. Scarecrow Press. p. LVII. ISBN   978-0-8108-5648-6.
  2. 1 2 3 Garver, Bruce M.: "The Young Czech Party 1874-1901 and the emergence of a multi-party system.", Yale University Press., 1978
  3. 1 2 Frantisek Kavka, An Outline of Czechoslovak History (Prague: Orbis, 1960)
  4. Leff, Carol Skalnik.: "National Conflict in Czechoslovakia.", p 24. Princeton University Press., 1988