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The National Revival and the Revolution of 1848

The Czech nation also had to undergo a revival. The situation was difficult not only because of the fact that it was necessary to make up the ground it had lost on other nations, but also because at the close of the 18th century Czech was perceived as merely being the language of the common people. A demanding task faced the national revivalists at the start of the 19th century: to revive the Czech language, which until then was losing out when it came to competing with German. It was necessary to create a scientific nomenclature and an intellectual class to support Czech culture, science, art and industry.

Slavic solidarity, primarily with Russia, was a buttress of support for the revivalists, as was historicism – the commemoration of great moments in Czech history. Gradually, promoting the cultural needs of the Czech nation switched to its political demands. For example, this included things such as making the status of Czech equal to that of German, constitutional recognition and consolidating the unity of the lands of the Bohemian Crown or introducing local autonomy, etc.

The ossified system of the Holy Alliance, which rejected any reforms and ignored demands for the liberalization and democratisation of society ended in 1848 with the outbreak of revolutions all over Europe. In one year, Palermo, Naples, Paris, Milan, Prague, Vienna and all of Hungary revolted. In Germany a provisional parliament convened with a demand for the unification of Germany.  It decided between two concepts of unification – that of a lesser Germany or a greater Germany, which also concerned the interests of the Czech nation.

In 1848, Chancellor Metternich had to resign in Austria. A month later the first Austrian constitution was proclaimed, which was known as the so-called April Constitution. Austria was engulfed by an insurrection – in Vienna, in the Hungarian lands, and in the Austrian parts of Italy. The monarchy was eventually saved by the army and its generals – Radetzky in Italy, Windischgrätz in Prague, and Jelacic in Hungary.

A parliament elected on the basis of an electoral census met in Vienna and then transferred to the Moravian town of Kroměříz (Kremsier) because of the Viennese revolution. Deputies representing the Slavic nations resisted the demands of the German liberals, who called for the incorporation of Austria into Germany within the concept of a Greater Germany.

The Czech deputies František Palacký and František Ladislav Rieger advocated a policy of Austroslavism and of a strong and independent Austria which, in terms of its nations, was equitably organized and federalised.

They feared that in the event of Austria being incorporated into a unified Germany that the Czech nation would dissolve in a “German sea.”