ⓘ Ethnic minorities in Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia was founded as a country in the aftermath of World War I with its borders set out in the Treaty of Trianon a ..


ⓘ Ethnic minorities in Czechoslovakia

Czechoslovakia was founded as a country in the aftermath of World War I with its borders set out in the Treaty of Trianon and Treaty of Versailles, though the new borders were de facto established about a year prior. One of the main objects of these treaties was to secure independence for minorities previously living within the Kingdom of Hungary or to reunify them with an existent nation-state.

However some territorial claims were based on economic grounds instead of ethnic ones, for instance the Czechoslovak borders with Poland to include coal fields and a railway connection between Bohemia and Slovakia and Hungary on economic and strategic grounds, which resulted in successor states with percentages of minorities almost as high as in Austria-Hungary before. Czechoslovakia had the highest proportion of minorities, who constituted 32.4% of the population.

After WWII the Jewish and Romani minorities had been exterminated by the Nazis, and most Germans and many Hungarians were expelled under the Benes decrees. Other minority groups migrated to Czechoslovakia, Roma from Hungary and Romania, Bulgarians fleeing the Soviet troops, Greeks and Macedonians fleeing the Greek Civil War, then migrant workers and students came from other Communist bloc countries, Vietnamese and Koreans.


1. Linguistic rights in the First Republic

According to article 128 §3 of the 1920 Constitution "Citizens of the Czechoslovak Republic may, within the limits of the common law, freely use any language they chose in private and business intercourse, in all matters pertaining to religion, in the press and in all publications whatsoever, or in public assemblies."

These rights were also provided for in article 57 of the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1919: "The Czecho-Slovak State accepts and agrees to embody in a Treaty with the Principal Allied and Associated Powers such provision as may be deemed necessary by these Powers to protect the interests of inhabitants of that State who differ from the majority of the population in race, language or religion."

"In addition, the Language act granted minorities the right to address courts, offices and state organs in their own language, but only in communities where that national minority comprised more than 20 percent of the population."

The proceedings in the parliament were held either in the official languages of Czechoslovakia, Czech and Slovak, or in one of the recognized minority languages. Practically, everyone spoke his own language.


2. Recognized minorities in the Socialist Republic

A Government Council for Nationalities was established in 1968 in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic according to Article 5 of the Constitutional Law No. 144/1968.


3. Conflicts Between Czechs and Slovaks

After the World War I, the Czechs outnumbered Slovaks two to one in the new Czechoslovak state. The Slovaks lived in the shadow of the more internationally recognized Czech leadership and the great capital of Prague. The relationship between the Czechs and Slovaks was asymmetrical: Slovakia was considered an agrarian appendage to the highly industrial Czech nation, and the Czechs viewed Slovak culture as lacking in maturity and refinement. The languages of the two nations are closely related and mutually intelligible, many Czechs viewed Slovak as a caricature of Czech. In his 1934 memoirs, the President of Czechoslovakia, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, writes he said in a 1924 interview to a French journalist of Le Petit Parisien: "There is no Slovak nation, it has been invented by Hungarian propaganda. The Czechs and Slovaks are brothers. They understand each other perfectly. All that separates them is the cultural level – the Czechs are more developed than the Slovaks, because the Magyars kept them in the dark. In one generation there will be no difference between the two branches of our national family." However the interview is nowhere to be found in the scanned full archives of Le Petit Parisien.


4. Germans in Czechoslovakia

There were two German minorities in the interwar Czechoslovakian Republic, the Sudeten Germans in Bohemia and Moravia present-day Czech republic and the Carpathian Germans in Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia present-day Ukraine.

In addition, there was a sizeable German-speaking urban Jewish minority, and several Jewish politicians were elected as members of German minority parties like the German Social Democratic Workers Party in the Czechoslovak Republic or the German Democratic Liberal Party.


5. Poles in Czechoslovakia

The Polish minority in Czechoslovakia today the Polish minority in the Czech Republic Polish: Polska mniejszosc narodowa w Republice Czeskiej, Czech: Polska narodnostni mensina v Česke republice and Slovakia Polish: Polska mniejszosc na Slowacji, Slovak: Polska mensina na Slovensku is the Polish national minority living mainly in the Zaolzie region of western Cieszyn Silesia. The Polish community is the only national or ethnic minority in the Czech Republic that is linked to a native specific geographical area. Zaolzie is located in the north-eastern part of the country. It comprises Karvina District and the eastern part of Frydek-Mistek District. Many Poles living in other regions of the Czech Republic have roots in Zaolzie as well.

Poles formed the largest ethnic group in Cieszyn Silesia in the 19th century, but at the beginning of the 20th century the Czech population grew. The Czechs and Poles collaborated on resisting Germanization movements, but this collaboration ceased after World War I. In 1920 the region of Zaolzie was incorporated into Czechoslovakia after the Polish–Czechoslovak War. Since then the Polish population demographically decreased. In 1938 it was annexed by Poland in the context of the Munich Agreement and in 1939 by Nazi Germany. The region was then given back to Czechoslovakia after World War II. Polish organizations were re-created, but were banned by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. After the Velvet Revolution Polish organizations were re-created again and Zaolzie had adopted bilingual signs.


6. Hungarians in Czechoslovakia

Hungarians and other minorities e.g. Germans and Rusyns were excluded from the constituent assembly, barring them from having any influence on the new Czechoslovak constitution. Later on, all the minorities gained the right to use their languages in municipalities where they constituted at least 20% of the population even in communication with government offices and courts. However due to gerrymandering and disproportionate distribution of population between Bohemia and Slovakia the Hungarians had little if any representation in the National Assembly and thus their influence on the politics of Czechoslovakia remained limited. The same considerations have limited the Slovak intelligentsias political power as well.


7. Jews in Czechoslovakia

During communism there were no signs of organized Jewish life and the situation was similar to others communities of Central and Eastern Europe controlled directly by state. Most of the Jewish left the country for Israel or the United States who wanted to follow Jewish lives and freedom. For many years there has been no religious leadership.


8. Roma in Czechoslovakia

After the World War I, the Roma people formed an ethnic community, living on the social periphery of the mainstream population. The state always focused on the Roma population not as a distinct ethnic minority, but rather perceived it as a particularly anti-social and criminal group. This attitude was reflected in the policy of collecting special police evidence - fingerprint collections of members of Romany groups 1925, a law about wandering Roma 1927. Racism was not an unknown phenomenon under communism. Roma people were forced to resettle in small groups around the country left them isolated. This policy of the state was oriented toward one of assimilation of the Roma people, forcibly limited the movement of that part of the Roma perhaps 5%–10% who still traveled on a regular basis. In the same year, the highest organ of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia passed a resolution, the aim of which was to be "the final assimilation of the Gypsy population". The "Gypsy question" was decreased to a "problem of a socially-backward section of the population". During this period, the governments actively supported sterilisation and abortion for Roma women and the policy was not repealed until 1991. The popular perception of Romani even before 1989 was of lazy, dirty criminals who abused social services and posed a significant threat to majority values.


9. Rusyns Ruthenians/Ukrainians in Czechoslovakia

After the World War II, the Rusyn nationality was declared to be Ukrainian in Czechoslovakia. The Rusyns refused Ukrainian identity, instead declaring their nationality as Slovak. Rusyn cultural institutions were changed to Ukrainian, and the usage of the Rusyn language in official communications ceased. Most settlement had only a Slovak-language school and a Slovak identity and orientation were adopted by most of the Rusyn populace, and they were, in effect, de-nationalized.


10. Maps

Maps showing the ethnic, linguistic or religious diversity are to be considered with much precaution as they may reflect the national or ideological beliefs of their authors, or simply include errors. The same can be said about ethnic, linguistic or religious censuses, as the governments that organize them are not necessarily neutral.

  • Races in Austria-Hungary, The Historical Atlas, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 1911
  • Tchecoslovaquie. Ethnographie in: Louis Eisenmann, La Tcheco-Slovaquie, F. Paillar, 1921, p. 31
  • Map of the Czechoslovak Republic 1918–1945. Map of nationalities, Atlas sveta, Vojensky zemepisny ustav v Praze Military geographical institute in Prague, 1931
  • up the dominant ethnicity to Czechoslovakia In consideration of the strategic and economic interests of their new ally Czechoslovakia however, the victorious
  • details on ethnic groups see also: History of Czechoslovakia 1918 1938 History of Czechoslovakia 1948 1989 Religious affiliations in 1930: Roman
  • Slovakia. National minorities were not represented. Hungarians remained loyal to Hungary. On November 12, 1918, ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia declared the
  • were linguistic enclaves elsewhere in Czechoslovakia and among the German - speaking urban dwellers there were ethnic Germans and or Austrians as well
  • governments of Czechoslovakia and other eastern European nations deported ethnic Germans to the West, reducing the presence of minorities in the nation.
  • table 1. Jewish population by religion in Czechoslovakia Table 2. Declared Nationality of Jews in Czechoslovakia For the Czechs of the Protectorate Bohemia
  • German occupation of Czechoslovakia the Czech resistance groups demanded the deportation of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia The decision to deport
  • ethnic groups in Czechoslovakia and acknowledged the full political and cultural rights of legally recognized minorities Minorities were granted the
  • other ethnic minorities in the country Polish People s Party, Polish party in interwar Czechoslovakia Polish Socialist Workers Party, Polish party in interwar
  • that applied to about 244, 000 ethnic Germans who were allowed to remain in Czechoslovakia The following groups of ethnic Germans were not deported: anti - fascists