May Conspiracy

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May Conspiracy (in Czech Májové spiknutí) was an unsuccessful attempt of radical democrats in the Czech lands to overthrow the government of Austrian Empire in May 1849.


In 1844 a group of Czech Radical Democrats which included both Czechs and Czech Germans formed a secret political club called "Repeal". This was named after the mass Irish movement to repeal the Act of Union from 1800. Among the leaders were Josef Václav Frič, Karel Sabina, Karel Sladkovský, Emanuel Arnold and Vilém Gauč. The club attracted radical students and local intelligentsia and remained active after revolutions of 1848 were suppressed.

In March 1849, Mikhail Bakunin, a Russian Pan Slavic revolutionary, visited Prague and suggested to organize an armed uprising in Prague and several German-speaking cities as a response to post-1848 political reaction. The date of the uprising was set on May 12, 1849, but due to amateurish organization police took the organizers into custody on the night of May 9 to May 10 1849.

Prague and a few towns were put under a state of emergency (also called "the siege", stav obležení), press was put under censorship by the military and a military commission was established to investigate the conspiracy. The emergency was only lifted 4 and a half years later, on September 1, 1853. Seventy-nine young radicals were sentenced to prison, and most of them were released in general amnesty on May 8, 1857.

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