Karel Havlíček Borovský

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Karel Havlíček Borovský
Karel Havlíček Borovský
Born Karel Havlíček
(1821-10-31)31 October 1821
Borová, Bohemia, Austrian Empire
Died 29 July 1856(1856-07-29) (aged 34)
Prague, Bohemia, Austrian Empire
Occupation Writer, journalist
Nationality Czech
Alma mater Gymnasium in Německý Brod
Genre Literary realism
Notable works Obrazy z Rus
Duch Národních novin
Epištoly kutnohorské
Tyrolské elegie
Král Lávra (poem)
Křest svatého Vladimíra

Karel Havlíček Borovský (Czech pronunciation: [ˈkarɛl ˈɦavliːtʃɛk ˈborofskiː]; Borová, today Havlíčkova Borová; 31 October 1821 - 29 July 1856) was a Czech writer, poet, critic, politician, journalist, and publisher.

He lived and studied at the Gymnasium in Německý Brod (today Havlíčkův Brod), and his house on the main square is today the Havlíček Museum. In 1838 he moved to Prague to study philosophy at Charles University and, influenced by the revolutionary atmosphere before the Revolutions of 1848, decided on the objective of becoming a patriotic writer. He devoted himself to studying Czech and literature. After graduating he began studying theology because he thought the best way to serve the nation would be as a priest. He was expelled, however, after one year for "showing too little indication for spiritual ministry".

After failing to find a teacher's job in Bohemia, he left for Moscow becoming a tutor in a Russian teacher's family: he was recommended by Pavel Josef Šafařík. He became a Russophile and a Pan-Slav, but after recognizing the true reality of the Russian society he took the pessimistic view that "Pan-Slavism is a great, attractive but feckless idea". His memories on the Russian stay were published first in magazines and then as a book Obrazy z Rus (Pictures from Russia).

After he returned to Bohemia in 1844, he used his writing skill to criticize the public habit of embracing everything written in the recently reborn Czech language. His attack was aimed specifically at a novel by Josef Kajetán Tyl. František Palacký helped Havlíček get a job as Editor of the Pražské noviny newspaper in 1846.

In April 1848 he changed the name of the newspaper to Národní noviny (National News). This paper became one of the first newspapers of the Revolutionary-era Czech liberals. He was concerned with the preparations of the Congress of the Slavs in Prague. In July he was elected a member of Austrian Empire Constituent Assembly in Vienna and later in Kroměříž. He finally gave up the seat to focus on his journalism. Národní noviny became popular especially for his sharp-tongued epigrams and his wit.

Havlíček was, politically, a "liberal nationalist." However, he refused to allow a "party line" to inform his opinions. Often, he would criticize those that agreed with him as much as those that disagreed. He exoriated revolutionaries for their radicalism, but also advocated ideas like universal suffrage-a concept altogether too radical for most of his fellow liberals. He was a pragmatist, and had little patience for those that spent their time romanticizing the Czech nationality without helping it achieve political or cultural independence. He used much of the space in his newspapers to educate the people on important issues-stressing areas like economics, which were sorely neglected by other nationalist writers.

House in Brixen where Havlíček was interned (1851-1855)

The Revolution in the Austro-Bohemian portion of the Habsburg monarchy was defeated in March 1849 with dissolution of the Kroměříž assembly, but Havlíček continued to criticize the new regime. He was brought to court for his criticism (there was no freedom of the press in the Habsburg's territory) but he was found not guilty by a sympathetic jury. Národní noviny had to cease publication in January 1850, but Havlíček did not end his activities. In May 1850 he began publishing the magazine Slovan in Kutná Hora. The magazine was a target of censorship from its start. It had to stop publication in August 1851, and Havlíček stood again at the court to answer on charges of dissent. Again, he was found not guilty by a sympathetic jury of Czech commoners.

Havlíček translated and introduced some satirical and critical authors into the Czech language culture including Nikolai Gogol (1842) and Voltaire (1851).[1]

Against the law he was arrested by the police on the night of December 16, 1851, and forced into exile in Brixen, Austria (present-day Italy). He was depressed from the exile, but continued writing. While in exile, he wrote some of his best work: Tyrolské elegie (Tirol Laments), Křest svatého Vladimíra (Baptism of St.Vladimir) and Král Lávra (King Lavra). When he returned from Brixen in 1855, he learned that his wife had died a few days earlier. Most of his former friends, afraid of the Bach system, stood aloof from him. Only a few publicly declared support for him. He died from tuberculosis, aged 35. Božena Němcová put a crown of thorns on his head in the coffin. His funeral was attended by a procession of about 5,000 Czechs.


Bronze statue of Karel Havlíček Borovský, signed "V. Mašek Praha 1910" on Solidarity Drive, Museum Campus, Chicago IL

A monument was raised to Havlicek in Chicago by Czech residents of the city in Douglas Park. The bronze statue by Joseph Strachovsky was cast by V. Mašek in Prague and shows Havlicek in a revolutionary pose, dressed in a full military uniform and a draped cape with his outstretched arm motioning the viewer to join him. The statue was moved to Solidarity Drive on today's Museum Campus in the vicinity of the Adler Planetarium in 1981.[2] In 1925 a biographical film was released.


Czech Bronze Medal Havel Borovský 150th Anniversary
  1. ^ Otakar Zachar, introduction to Listy Amabedovy, 1908.
  2. ^ John Graf Chicago's Parks, Arcadia Publishing, 2000, p14., ISBN 0-7385-0716-4.

Reinfeld, Barbara. "Karel Havlíček (1821 - 1856): A National Liberation Leader of the Czech Renascence." New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.

  • Masaryk T.G.: Karel Havlíček, Praha 1896
  • Chalupný E.: Havlíček - prostředí, osobnost, dílo, Praha 1929
  • Procházka V.: Karel Havlíček Borovský, Praha 1961
  • Nejtek V. M.: Karel Havlíček Borovský, Praha 1979

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