Karel Kramář

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Karel Kramář
Karel Kramář.jpg
1st Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia
In office
14 November 1918 – 8 July 1919
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Vlastimil Tusar
Personal details
Born (1860-12-27)27 December 1860
Vysoké nad Jizerou, Austrian Empire
Died 26 May 1937(1937-05-26) (aged 76)
Prague, Czechoslovakia
Political party Young Czech Party
National Democracy
National Unification
Occupation Politician
Religion Eastern Orthodox

Karel Kramář (27 December 1860 – 26 May 1937) was a Czech (Bohemian) politician. During his time as representative in the Austrian-Hungarian Reichstag (Imperial Council) from 1891 to 1915 he was known as Dr. Karl Kramarsch. He was born in Vysoké nad Jizerou, near the northern border of what is now the Czech Republic, into a well to do family. He was very talented and spoke at least half a dozen languages fluently, that allowed him to make many valuable contacts on an international scale all through Europe and even America. He studied law, obtaining a doctor degree. He married a Russian socialite, Naděžda Abrikosová, establishing many bonds there.

Biography[edit]

Kramář was born in Vysoké to a wealthy family and was educated at the Universities of Prague, Strasbourg, Berlin and the École des Sciences Politiques in Paris.[1] In the 1880s, Kramář played a prominent role in the agitation against the fact that Charles University in Prague only offered instruction in German, demanding that a Czech language Charles University be established so that Czech university students could be educated in their own language.[2]

He became the leader of the Young Czech Party in Austria-Hungary and later of the National Democratic Party in Czechoslovakia. In 1896, Kramář become the Austrian Minister of Finance.[3] Like other Slavic politicians in the Dual Monarchy, Kramář disliked the Compromise of 1867 that he felt had elevated the Magyars to a position of political power that their numbers did not warrant and wanted the Austrian Empire to abandon its alliance with Germany in favor of an alliance with Russia.[4] Kramář believed that with time and democracy in the form of universal suffrage would transform the Austrian Empire into a Slavic state as the Slavic peoples were the most numerous of the various ethnic groups in the empire.[5] Like many other Young Czechs, Kramář was a Russophile, seeing Russia as the world's only Slavic great power that counterbalanced the dominant ethnic Germans of the Habsburg monarchy.[6] Kramář's wife was a Russian socialite, the daughter of a Moscow industrialist and until 1917 they owned a lavish villa in the Crimea.[7] Kramář was fascinated with Russian culture and loved Russian literature.[8] Tomáš Masaryk often criticized Kramář for the contradiction between his push for universal suffrage and democracy in the Austrian Empire and his support of closer ties with the autocracy of Imperial Russia.[9] The October Manifesto of 1905 was hailed by Kramář as a sign that Russia was liberalizing and would soon become a democratic power in the near-future.[10] In 1908 in Prague, in 1909 in St. Petersburg and in 1910 in Sofia, Kramář attended Pan-Slavic congresses.[11] Along similar pan-Slavic lines, Kramář worked for a "Slavic Bloc" in the Reichsrat that would unite all of the parties representing the Slavic peoples into one bloc against the House of Habsburg.[12] Kramář's pro-Russian inclinations caused much tensions with the ethnic Polish and Ukrainian politicians as both the Poles and the Ukrainians preferred to be part of the Austrian Empire rather than the Russian Empire.[13] Kramář pushed the government to provide greater legal expression of the Czech language, for instance allowing court cases in Bohemia to be conducted in Czech rather than German and for bilingual signs in both German and Czech at Army bases in the "Czech lands" of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia.[14] Kramář had little love for the House of Habsburg, which as the British historian R.W. Seton-Watson observed that for more than 500 years had showed nothing but "detestation" of the Czech people, but he was willing to accept that the Czechs remain part of the Austrian Empire, provided that the empire was reorganized to give greater autonomy to the "Czech lands" that consisted of the provinces of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia.[15]

A liberal nationalist with close ties to the political elite in Prague and Vienna, Kramář pursued a policy of cooperation with the Austrian state as the best means of achieving Czech national goals before the First World War, even as he favored closer ties between the Czechs and the Russian Empire. His commitment to this policy of cooperation with the Austrian government ("positive politics" in the parlance of the day) led him to resign his leadership of the Young Czech party in 1914 as the party drifted toward a more nationalist and oppositional stance. n 1914, at the beginning of World War I he resigned his leadership of the Young Czech party supposedly because the party drifted toward a more nationalistic and oppositional stance, more probably to reduce his profile to the authorities. When the First World War began in 1914, Kramář concluded that a victory for Germany and Austria would mark the end of the possibility of reform in the Austrian Empire and to work against the Habsburg monarchy.[16] In the fall of 1914, Kramář advised the other Czech politicians to wait as "the Russians will do it for us alone".[17] Kramář was referring to the Russian victories in Galicia in September 1914 that saw about 50% of the entire Austrian Army killed, wounded or captured, a crippling blow that ended whatever possibility that might had existed for Austria to be an equal partner with Germany and reduced the Austrians down to very much junior partners of the Germans. In May 1915, Kramář told the Agrarian deputy in the Reichsrat Josef Dürich who was about to go abroad to seek Allied support for independence that he should seek a "great Slav empire" under the House of Romanov in which Bohemia would be an autonomous kingdom ruled by some Romanov grand duke.[18] During the First World War the Austrian authorities charged Kramář with treason, tried him and ultimately sentenced him to 15 years of hard labour. His imprisonment acted however to galvanise Czech nationalist opinion against the Austrian state. In March 1917, when waiting on death row in prison, Kramář heard of the February Revolution in Russia, which marked the end of his dream that after the war a Romanov would sit on the throne of a restored Bohemian kingdom.[19] Kramář's cellmate Alois Rašín remarked "We are finished!".[20] The new Austrian Emperor Karl I released Kramář as part of a general political amnesty in 1917. On 13 July 1918 Kramář founded the Czechoslovak National Committee in Prague, in which all the Czech political parties were represented to work for independence from Austria.[21] On 28 October 1918, Kramář had the National Committee issue a declaration in Prague announcing "The independent Czechoslovak state has come into being" and the long centuries of rule by the House of Habsburg over the Czechs had now ended.[22] For the first two days a standoff ensured as the Austrian authorities proclaimed martial law and ordered the arrest of National Committee leaders, but the unwillingness of the troops of the Prague garrison consisting mostly of ethnic Hungarians and Romanians from Transylvania to obey orders ensured the Czechs triumphed peacefully.[23] On October 31, Kramář who had gone to Geneva to met with Edvard Beneš representing the Paris-based National Council concluded that a new Czechoslovak state would be a parliamentary republic with Masaryk as president, Kramář as premier, and Beneš as foreign minister.[24]

Formerly a close associate of Tomáš Masaryk, later the first president of Czechoslovakia, Kramář and Masaryk were barely on speaking terms by 1914. Kramář, as the most prominent politician in Czechoslovakia, was named the country's first prime minister (14 November 1918 – 8 July 1919), much to the displeasure of Masaryk. Kramář, a strong Russophile who was married to a Russian, subsequently represented Czechoslovakia at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919 but later resigned over Foreign Minister Edvard Beneš's failure to support anti-Bolshevik White forces in Russia.

Following the first general election in Czechoslovakia, Kramář's party, now the National Democratic party, became a minor player in the various interwar governments of the new state. Later, Kramář worked together with Jiří Stříbrný and František Mareš in the National Union (Národní sjednocení).

In May 1919, an anarchist named Alois Šťastný made an unsuccessful attempt to kill Kramář.

Foreign policy[edit]

During his time in the National Assembly (1918–1937), Kramář worked in the Committee for Foreign Affairs and made many speeches on foreign policy. Kramář developed a system of dividing countries into popular and unpopular nations. Countries such as Great Britain, France, pre-World War One Poland, were into the popular category. On the other hand, countries that he deemed unpopular were Germany, the Soviet Union, post-war Poland, and Hungary.[25]

Russia[edit]

Kramář was a Russophile and strongly supported the Russian nation, however he developed a strong dislike for Bolshevism. He discouraged Czechoslovakian support of the Soviet Union for several reasons: he was critical of Soviet use of resources for agitation rather than famine relief, and he disapproved of the tactics used by the secret police. Kramář was very disappointed in 1934 when Czechoslovakia established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.[citation needed]

Additionally, Kramář saw Bolshevism as a dangerous German creation and believed the Bolsheviks would remain loyal to the German state. He also consistently rejected the idea of centralized production and the utopian vision of a classless society. Despite these objections, Kramář doubted the long-term viability of Bolshevism because he perceived that it did not have the support of a majority of the population and was a system maintained through police state terror. He sincerely hoped that the Soviet Union would collapse during his lifetime.[26]

Germany[edit]

In addition to blaming the Germans for the rise of Bolshevism, Kramář was critical of Germany for having initiated the First World War and believed that Germany had misused its close relations with Austria-Hungary for its own ends. After the Treaty of Versailles, Kramář warned against allowing the Germans to revise the treaty, and he criticized the its system of reparations, believing that the Germans must pay all the reparations completely due to the damage done to countries such as France. In 1919 Kramář also warned against the developing relations between Germany and the Soviet Union.[citation needed]

Hungary[edit]

Kramář also strongly disliked the Hungarians. His main reason for contempt was their lack of Slavic roots. He also worried that they would try to revise the Treaty of Trianon and that the Habsburgs might try to return to the throne.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Seton-Watson, R.W "Karel Kramer" pages 183-189 from The Slavic and Eastern European Review, Volume 16, No. 46, July 1937 page 183.
  2. ^ Seton-Watson, R.W "Karel Kramer" pages 183-189 from The Slavic and Eastern European Review, Volume 16, No. 46, July 1937 page 183.
  3. ^ Seton-Watson, R.W "Karel Kramer" pages 183-189 from The Slavic and Eastern European Review, Volume 16, No. 46, July 1937 page 183.
  4. ^ Seton-Watson, R.W "Karel Kramer" pages 183-189 from The Slavic and Eastern European Review, Volume 16, No. 46, July 1937 pages 183-184.
  5. ^ Seton-Watson, R.W "Karel Kramer" pages 183-189 from The Slavic and Eastern European Review, Volume 16, No. 46, July 1937 pages 183-184.
  6. ^ Winters, Stanley "The Young Czech Party (1874-1914): An Appraisal" pages 426-444 from Slavic Review, Vol. 28, No. 3. Sept 1969 page 439.
  7. ^ Seton-Watson, R.W "Karel Kramer" pages 183-189 from The Slavic and Eastern European Review, Volume 16, No. 46, July 1937 page 184.
  8. ^ Seton-Watson, R.W "Karel Kramer" pages 183-189 from The Slavic and Eastern European Review, Volume 16, No. 46, July 1937 page 184.
  9. ^ Seton-Watson, R.W "Karel Kramer" pages 183-189 from The Slavic and Eastern European Review, Volume 16, No. 46, July 1937 page 184.
  10. ^ Winters, Stanley "The Young Czech Party (1874-1914): An Appraisal" pages 426-444 from Slavic Review, Vol. 28, No. 3. Sept 1969 page 439.
  11. ^ Seton-Watson, R.W "Karel Kramer" pages 183-189 from The Slavic and Eastern European Review, Volume 16, No. 46, July 1937 page 184.
  12. ^ Winters, Stanley "The Young Czech Party (1874-1914): An Appraisal" pages 426-444 from Slavic Review, Vol. 28, No. 3. Sept 1969 page 439.
  13. ^ Seton-Watson, R.W "Karel Kramer" pages 183-189 from The Slavic and Eastern European Review, Volume 16, No. 46, July 1937 page 184.
  14. ^ Winters, Stanley "The Young Czech Party (1874-1914): An Appraisal" pages 426-444 from Slavic Review, Vol. 28, No. 3. Sept 1969 page 441.
  15. ^ Seton-Watson, R.W "Karel Kramer" pages 183-189 from The Slavic and Eastern European Review, Volume 16, No. 46, July 1937 page 185.
  16. ^ Seton-Watson, R.W "Karel Kramer" pages 183-189 from The Slavic and Eastern European Review, Volume 16, No. 46, July 1937 page 185.
  17. ^ Mamatey, Victor "The Establishment of the Republic" pages 3-38 from A History of the Czechoslovak Republic 1918-1948 edited by Victor Mamatey an Radomír Luža, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 page 11.
  18. ^ Mamatey, Victor "The Establishment of the Republic" pages 3-38 from A History of the Czechoslovak Republic 1918-1948 edited by Victor Mamatey an Radomír Luža, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 page 14.
  19. ^ Mamatey, Victor "The Establishment of the Republic" pages 3-38 from A History of the Czechoslovak Republic 1918-1948 edited by Victor Mamatey an Radomír Luža, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 page 16.
  20. ^ Mamatey, Victor "The Establishment of the Republic" pages 3-38 from A History of the Czechoslovak Republic 1918-1948 edited by Victor Mamatey an Radomír Luža, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 page 17.
  21. ^ Mamatey, Victor "The Establishment of the Republic" pages 3-38 from A History of the Czechoslovak Republic 1918-1948 edited by Victor Mamatey an Radomír Luža, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 page 16.
  22. ^ Mamatey, Victor "The Establishment of the Republic" pages 3-38 from A History of the Czechoslovak Republic 1918-1948 edited by Victor Mamatey an Radomír Luža, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 page 18
  23. ^ Mamatey, Victor "The Establishment of the Republic" pages 3-38 from A History of the Czechoslovak Republic 1918-1948 edited by Victor Mamatey an Radomír Luža, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 page 18
  24. ^ Mamatey, Victor "The Establishment of the Republic" pages 3-38 from A History of the Czechoslovak Republic 1918-1948 edited by Victor Mamatey an Radomír Luža, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 page 18
  25. ^ Georgiev, J., Kysela, J. (ed.): Kapitoly z dějin stavovského a parlamentního zřízení (Chapters from the History of Representative and Parliamentary Institutions), Praha 2004, s. 149 – 169 – vyšlo v roce 2005.
  26. ^ Georgiev, J., Kysela, J. (ed.): Kapitoly z dějin stavovského a parlamentního zřízení (Chapters from the History of Representative and Parliamentary Institutions), Praha 2004, s. 149 – 169 – vyšlo v roce 2005.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Lustigová, Martina (2007). Karel Kramář, první československý premiér. Praha: Vyšehrad. ISBN 978-80-7021-898-3.