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

Karel Kramář (27 December 1860 – 26 May 1937) was a Czech politician. He was a representative of the major Czech political party, the Young Czechs, in the Austrian Imperial Council from 1891 to 1915 (where he was also known as Karl Kramarsch), becoming the party leader in 1897.

During the First World War, Kramář was imprisoned for treason against Austria-Hungary but later released under an amnesty. In 1918, he headed the Czechoslovak National Committee in Prague, which declared independence on 28 October. Kramář became the first Prime Minister of the new state but resigned over policy differences less than a year later. Although he remained a member of the National Assembly until his death in 1937, his conservative nationalism was out of tune with the main political establishment, represented by the figures of T.G. Masaryk and Edvard Beneš.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Vysoké nad Jizerou (Hochstadt an der Iser), near the northern border of what is now the Czech Republic, in a rich family.

Kramář was educated at the Universities of Prague, Strasbourg and Berlin and the Paris École des Sciences Politiques; he obtained a doctorate in law.[1] In the 1880s, Kramář played a prominent role in the agitation against the fact that Charles University in Prague offered instruction in only German; demands were for a Czech-language Charles University so that Czech university students could be educated in their own language.[2]

Early career[edit]

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 Austria-Hungary, Kramář disliked the Compromise of 1867, which he felt gave the Magyars more political power that their numbers warranted, and they wanted the empire to replace its alliance with the German Empire with one with the Russian Empire.[4]

Kramář believed that with time and democracy in the form of universal suffrage, the empire would transform into a Slavic state as Slavs were the largest ethic group in the empire.[5]

Like many other Young Czechs, Kramář was a Russophile, as Russia was the world's only Slavic great power and could counterbalance 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] However, Masaryk often criticised Kramář for the contradiction between for pushing for universal suffrage and democracy in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and supporting closer ties with the autocracy the Russian Empire.[9]

However, Kramář considered the 1905 October Manifesto as a sign that Russia was liberalising and would soon become a democratic power.[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" to unite all parties that represented the Slavs against the Habsburgs.[12]

Kramář's pro-Russian views caused many tensions with the ethnic Polish and Ukrainians, as both considered Austria-Hungary a lesser evil to Russia.[13]

Kramář pushed the government to provide greater legal expression of Czech, such as by 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 Habsburgs, which British historian R.W. Seton-Watson claimed had showed, for more than 500 years, nothing but "detestation" of the Czech people. However, Kramář was willing to accept the Czechs remaining part of the empire if it was gave greater autonomy to Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia.[15]

A liberal nationalist with close ties to the political elite in Prague and Vienna, Kramář pursued a policy of co-operation with the empire as the best means of achieving Czech national goals before the First World War, even as he wanted closer ties between the Czechs and the Russians. His commitment to "positive politics" led him to resign his leadership of the Young Czech Party in 1914 when it drifted to a more nationalist and oppositional stance and probably to reduce his profile by the authorities.

World War I[edit]

When the war started, 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 his country's army killed, wounded or captured, a crippling blow that ended whatever possibility for Austria to be still an equal partner with Germany. In May 1915, Kramář told Agrarian deputy 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 war, the Austrian authorities charged Kramář with treason, tried him. His sentence was death penalty, which was reduced by the emperor to 15 years of hard labour. His imprisonment, however, galvanised Czech nationalist opinion against the empire. In March 1917, in prison while he was still on death row, Kramář heard of the February Revolution in Russia, which marked the end of his dream of a Romanov sitting on the throne of a restored Bohemian kingdom after the war.[19] Kramář's cellmate Alois Rašín remarked, "We are finished!"[20]

The new 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.[21]

On 28 October 1918, Kramář had the National Committee issue a declaration in Prague announcing, "The independent Czechoslovak state has come into being". 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 authorities proclaimed martial law and ordered the arrest of National Committee's leaders, but the unwillingness of the troops of the Prague garrison, with mostly ethnic Hungarians and Romanians from Transylvania, to obey orders ensured that the Czechs triumphed peacefully.[23]

Independence[edit]

On October 31, Kramář, who had gone to Geneva to meet with 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 Masaryk, later the first president of Czechoslovakia, the two had been 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, represented Czechoslovakia at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919 but resigned over Foreign Minister Beneš's failure to support anticommunst 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, Alois Šťastný, made an unsuccessful attempt to kill Kramář.

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 the United Kingdom, France and the Russian Empire were in the popular category. On the other hand, Germany, the Soviet Union and Hungary were in the unpopular category.[25]

Russian Empire and Soviet Union[edit]

Kramář was a Russophile and strongly supported the Russian Empire but hated Bolshevism. He discouraged Czechoslovak support of the Soviet Union for several reasons: he was critical of Soviet use of resources for agitation rather than famine relief, and he opposed the tactics used by its 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 Germany. He also consistently rejected the idea of centralised production and the utopian vision of a classless society. Still, Kramář doubted the long-term viability of Bolshevism, which he thought was unpopular and maintained only through 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 war. He 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 believed that the Germans must pay all the reparations completely because of the damage done to countries like France. In 1919, Kramář also warned of the developing relations between Germany and the Soviet Union.[citation needed]

Hungary[edit]

Kramář also had strong contempt for Hungarians, mainly for their lack of Slavic roots. He also worried that they would try to revise the Treaty of Trianon and of the attempts by the Habsburgs 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 p. 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 and 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 and 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 and 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 and 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 and 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 and 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 and 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 and 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.