1902 Encyclopedia > Bohemia


BOHEMIA (German BÖHMEN or BÖHMEIM), a kingdom of the Austrian empire, situated between 48° 33' and 51° 4' N. lat., and 12° 5' and 16° 25' W. long., and bounded on the N. by Saxony and Prussian Silesia, E. by Moravia, S. by Upper and Lower Austria, and W. by Bavaria. Its area is estimated at 19,983 square miles. It belongs almost entirely to the basin of the Elbe, which rises within the territory, and is joined by the Adler, the Iser, the Moldau, and the Eger before it passes the frontier. The boundaries are pretty clearly marked by mountain ranges on all sides, - the Bohmerwald dividing the country from Bavaria, the Erzgebirge and Riesengebirge from Saxony and Silesia,iand the Moravian Hills from the basin of the Danube. The climate is healthy, but varies considerably in different districts; the soil in many parts is highly fertile, and grain of various kinds, potatoes, hops, flax, hemp, vines, and fruits are extensively cultivated. In 1870 there were 6,205,161 acres of ploughed land, 2656 in vineyards, 1,560,321 in gardens and meadows, 995,340 in pasture, and 3,749,411 in woodland. At the same date the number of horses in the country was 189,337, cattle 1,602,015, sheep 1,106,290, goats 194,273, swine 228,180, and bee-hives 140,892. The mineral productions comprise gold, silver, lead, tin, copper, iron, cobalt, bismuth, arsenic, sulphur, coal, alum, vitriol, and different sorts of stone. In 1870 there were obtained 156 cwt. of gold-ore, 1215 of silver-ore, 225,536 tons of iron, 999 tons of lead, 2274 of tin, 61 tons of antimony, and 111 of arsenic-ore. The quantity of coal and lignite amounted to 4,099,909 tons. The mineral springs of Bohemia - Carlsbad, Teplitz, Marienbad, and Franzensbrunn, &c. - are justly famous. The industry of the kingdom is highly developed in various directions. Most important of all is the manufacture of woollen goods, principally carried on at Reichenberg and in the neighbourhood. The cotton manufacture is also extensively prosecuted in the same district ; and at Rumburg and other places linen stuffs are largely produced. Bohemian glass has been celebrated for centuries, and is still exported to all parts of Europe Porcelain and earthenware of different sorts, iron and steel wares, copper, tin, and pewter articles, wooden wares, chemical stuffs, and paper are all the objects of a considerable industry. Beetroot sugar is pretty largely manufactured, the refineries numbering 126 in 1870. At the same date there were 968 breweries in the country, and 324 brandy distilleries. The chief commercial city is the capital, Prague ; but Reichenberg, Pilsen, Haida, Rumburg, Leitmeritz, and Budweis are all important centres. Bohemia is divided into twelve circles - Prague, Budweis, Pisek, Pilsen, Eger, Saaz, Leitmeritz, Bunzlau, Jiczin, Königgrätz, Chrudim, Czaslau, and Tabor, and these are subdivided into 91 departments. In 1869 there were 372 towns, 226 smaller market-towns, and 12,551 villages. The number of inhabited houses in the whole country amounted to 632,404 ; and the total population was 5,106,069, of whom 2,433,629 were males, and 2,672,440 females. The census of 1869 took no count of nationality, but according to Picker in his Die Völkerstämme der Oesterreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie, there are 20 of German race for 32 of Slavonic. By far the greater part of the population (4,940,898) belongs to the Roman Catholic Church ; while only 3438 are members of the Greek Church, 106,115 Protestants, and 89,933 Jews. The country constitutes an archbishopric, and is divided into three bishoprics. In 1870 there were 140 ecclesiastical foundations, with endowments amounting to £65,726. At the head of the educational establishments is the University of Prague, with four faculties, and attended in 1871 by 1516 students. There are upwards of 4000 ordinary schools in rather more than the half of which Czech is spoken, 26 gymnasiums, 4 theological seminaries, and several institutions for special departments of the arts and sciences.

History. Bohemia derives its name from the Boii, a Celtic race expelled from the country by the Marcomanni, who, after establishing a considerable kingdom under Marbod and being converted to Christianity, were in their turn supplanted by the Slavonic race, which is still predominant. The new corners were in danger of expulsion or conquest by the Avars, but were defended and established, according to their own possibly mythical account, by the heroic Samo ; and somewhat later, as the story goes, his place was filled by the good knight Krok, whose daughter Libussa, marrying Premysl, became the founder of a regular dynasty. Bohemia was for a time absorbed in the great Carlovingian monarchy, but soon reasserted its independence. In the course of the 9th century Christianity was introduced. Under Boleslas I. the bounds of Bohemia were extended and its unity secured ; but after a vigorous defence he had to recognize the overlordship of Otto I. of Germany. Under his grandchildren his kingdom fell to pieces ; a Polish conquest followed, and the restoration of the native dynasty was only effected by the help of Henry II. of Germany. In 1086 Wratislas II. received the title of king from the emperor for himself ; and Premysl Ottocar I. (1197-1230) became the founder of a hereditary series of kings. He was a bold defender of his independence, and at the same time gave great encouragement to German immigration. By the introduction of the right of primogeniture in the succession to the throne, he put an end to the disputes and contests which so often followed the death of a king. In 1241 his son and successor was the successful defender of Europe against a Mongolian invasion ; but he was eclipsed by Ottocar II. (1253-1278), who added greatly by conquest to the extent of his dominions, and made himself a formidable rival to the emperor himself. The Premysl dynasty was at last extinguished in 1306; and after a few years of uncertainty and dissatisfaction the Bohemian crown was bestowed on John of Luxembourg (son of the Emperor Henry VII.), who thus became the founder of a dynasty which lasted till 1437. This warlike and prosperous monarch was succeeded by his son Charles I., who obtained the imperial dignity as Charles IV., and left Bohemia in a flourishing and influential position at his death in 1378. Under his successors, who fell far below the character of their ancestor, the country was thrown into confusion by the Hussite reformation, which resulted in a protracted war (1419-1434). The success of the reforming party led to an elective monarchy, and after various vicissitudes, George of Podiebrad mounted the throne in 1458; and in spite of Papal bull and Hungarian arms maintained his position till his death in 1471. His successor, the Polish prince Ladislas, ultimately obtained also the crown of Hungary ; but under him and his son Louis (1517-1526) the nobility made themselves more and more independent of the king, and the common people were crushed deeper into serfdom. On the death of Louis, in a battle against the Turks at Mohacz, Bohemia passed into the hands of Ferdinand of Austria, who treated the kingdom in the most despotic manner, and in 1547 declared it a hereditary possession. Ile was followed in succession by his son Maximilian II. and his grandson Rudolph II., who left the country as distracted as they found it. The son of Matthias, the next king, was rejected by the Protestant party, which chose in his stead Frederick V. of the Palatinate ; but the victory at the White Mountain in 1620 left Bohemia at the mercy of the emperor, who inflicted a terrible vengeance on his enemies, and in 1627 declared the country a purely Catholic and hereditary kingdom of the empire. Owing to this no fewer than 30,000 families are said to have gone into exile and the population of the country was reduced to 800,000. On the death of Charles VI. Charles Albert of Bavaria laid claim to the crown, which continued to be an object of dispute though the Silesian campaigns and the Seven Years' War, but was successfully defended by Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II. The country was greatly benefited in many ways by the government of that monarch ; but lie destroyed the independence of the royal towns, and treated the whole land as a mere province of the empire. Its religious condition was considerably improved, however, by an edict of toleration published in 1781. Under the succeeding reigns the circumstances of Bohemia underwent but little alteration, and it was hardly affected by the first French Revolution. In 184S, however, a determined "national" movement agitated the country. The demands of the Liberal party gradually increased, and nothing short of a full share in the constitutional government of their country would suffice. The movement was not confined to Bohemia, but spread through the whole Austrian empire, to the article on which (p. 137 of the present volume) the reader is referred. (See Freher, Rerum Bohemicarum Antiqui Scriptores, 1602 ; Dobner, Monumenta Historica, 1764-68; Pelzel, Geschichte der Böhmen, 1817; Palacky, Geschichte der Böhmen, 1839; Jordan, Geschichte des böhm. Volks und Landes, 1845-47.)

Literature. The Bohemians or Czechs speak a Slavonic language, which has been subjected to literary culture from about (if not before) the 9th century. A few fragments of a pre-Christian literature have been preserved in a manu-script discovered by Hanka in 1817 in the church-steeple of Königinhof; but the first productions of any extent are due to the activity of the early German Christians, and are composed for the most part in the Latin language. Against this powerful exotic speech the vernacular had a long and dubious struggle, especially in the ecclesiasti-cal domain, and it was still striving against its encroach-ments when the political circumstances of the nation exposed it to the more dangerous, because more popular and less artificial, rivalry of German. From the court and the capital outward over the nobility and the country there spread a Germanizing energy that at first seemed likely to destroy everything that was distinctively Bohemian; but here and there the national language and customs were fostered and preserved by a few patriotic spirits, among whom the monks of the Slavonic monastery of Sazawa were especially conspicuous. At length the native language obtained the imperial patronage (under Charles IV.) Dalimil wrote his Rhyming Chronicle of Bohemia (1314); and translations began to be made from Latin and other languages. Among these were Mandeville's Travels ; and about the end of the 14th century a complete version of the Scriptures, the manuscript of which is preserved at Nikolsburg in Moravia. Thomas Stitny the domestic moralist, Duba the jurist, and Flaska the didactic poet, deserve to be mentioned as original writers. The next generation saw the attempts at once at religious and at linguistic reform that came to so sad an end in the burn-ing of John Huss and the persecutions that followed. The Bohemian language was, indeed, brought into general use and served the disputants of both sides; but little was consigned to its keeping except the ephemeral pro-ductions of ecclesiastical and political strife. A large collection of these works, saved from destruction by the invading Swedes, is still preserved in the library of Stockholm. Of more permanent interest may be mentioned Paul Zidek's History of the World, written for George of Podiebrad ; the interesting travels of Leo of Rosmital and his companions through various countries of Europe; and those of Kabatnik in Egypt and Asia Minor, and of John of Lobkowitz in Palestine. The 16th century saw a remarkable development of Bohemian prose in various departments of literature. Weleslawin, Paprocky, and Hayck of Liboczun wrote popular histories; Wratislas of Mitrovic and Prefat of Wlkanow gave accounts of their travels; and Nicolas Konec, Dobrensky, and Lomnicky produced didactic works of different kinds. A valuable translation of the Bible was published at Kralitz in Moravia by eight learned Bohemian Brethren at the instigation of John of Zerotin; and various versions of the classics appeared from time to time. A long period of literary decadence followed the battle of the White Mountain in 1620. The best blood of the nation went into exile, and what Bohemian literature was produced appeared for the most part in foreign cities. In 1774 a severe blow was struck at the native language by Maria Theresa's imperial decree which enforced the use of German in the higher and middle schools of the country. Before long, however, the defence of the mother tongue was taken up by Count Kinsky, Hanka of Hankenstein, the historian Pelzel, and the Jesuit Balbin,—by the last mentioned in a Dissertatio apologetica pro lingua Bohemica. The language became the object of the scientific investigations of Dobrowsky, and the remains of the early periods were edited by Dobner, Prochazka, and other philologists. A chair of the Bohemian language was founded in the University of Prague, and in 1818 a Bohemian museum was established in connection with a society that devoted itself to the study of national antiquities, and published a valuable journal. Puchmayer (1795-1820) gave an impulse to national poetry, and has been succeeded by Langer, Roko, Wocel, Schneider, Czelakowsky, and Kollar, and a great number of other writers. In the department of science Presl, Sadek. Amerling, Smetana, Petcina, Sloboda, and Opiz have attained distinction. Grammars of the Czech language have been produced by Burian, Hanka, Maly, Sembera, and Tomicek; Sumawsky published a great German-Bohemian dictionary; Spatny, a Bohemian-German and German-Bohemian technological dictionary; and Jungmann a large Bohemian-German lexicon. The names of even the prominent writers in philosophy, theology, and politics are too numerous to be mentioned. (See Schafarik's Slavisch Alterthümer, 1842, and Geschichte der Slav. Sprache, 1826; Jungmann's Geschichte der Böhm. Sprache und Literatur, 1825.)

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