Inter-Ethnic Relations In The Interwar Era

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The borders of central Europe were torn asunder in the aftermath of the First World War, as a multitude of new political entities arose from the corpses of the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and German Empires. These emergent countries represented the first establishment in central Europe of the nation-state: a state built, governed, and ruled by a nominally homogenous nation, in opposition to the multi-ethnic, dynastic conglomerates that preceded the war. Yet the “siren-call of national awakening,” was not the only movement shaping east central Europe in the interwar era (Zahra 93). To the contrary, it was countered by a widespread sense of national indifference, in turn sustained by a great deal of ethnic diversity within these ostensibly ‘national’…show more content…
In 1848, František Palacký wrote that he “had devoted [himself] for all time to the service of [the Czech] nation” – and as such could not support a united Germany, precisely because it would destabilize Austria (Palacký, pg. 93). The first major shift in the national paradigm occurred in 1867, when the Dual Monarchy was formed in response to rising Hungarian dissatisfaction and a decline in Austrian power, granting Hungary a co-equal status with Austria. Throughout the late 19th century, nationalistic movements continued to be in vogue. In 1889 the Young Czechs took the majority of Bohemian seats in the Abgeordnetenhaus, reflecting the advent of “a revivalist, national awakening” and a political distaste for German representatives amongst its leaders (Masaryk, pg.…show more content…
Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia were never ‘great states’, let alone ‘great powers.’ While such a situation was tenable during the reign of Weimar Germany, the remilitarization of Nazi Germany following the rise of Hitler shattered the stability of central Europe. Austria and the Sudetenland were annexed in 1938; the rump Czech state and Poland occupied in 1939, the latter sparking the Second World War. This power imbalance was reflected in sharply deteriorating relations between Germans and Slavs. In Hrabal’s novel I Served the King of England, an uptick in anti-German sentiment in Prague occurs in 1937-1938 (the date is unclear): the Sokol movement emerges, waiters at the Hotel Paris refuse to serve Germans, and Ditie is fired for his sympathy towards the German cause (Ditie, pg. 120-125). Likewise, in Hřebejk’s Divided We Fall (2000), the German-speaking Horst was often mocked in the prior to German occupation, on account of his ethnicity. World War II exacerbated this shift: throughout east central Europe, the Jewish population was nearly eradicated in the Holocaust, and the Slavic peoples were subject to mistreatment and the omnipresent threat of death on account of their

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