Why was Boehmen so stable?

The development of the Czech nation from national patriotism to language nationalism

The process of becoming a nation began very early among the Czechs, as they had a certain language awareness. From the 15th to the 17th century, Czech was the dominant administrative language in the Bohemian countries, but it rapidly lost its importance in the course of their increasing integration into the Union of the Habsburg Monarchy. The first pamphlets appeared as early as the Baroque period, insisting on the preservation of the Czech character of the country.

In the course of the Enlightenment one began with the scientific study of historical sources and the Czech language. However, this was not yet a broad popular movement, but a kind of elite program of ecclesiastical scholars and noble patrons. The first regional cultural institution was established in Prague in 1790 Royal Bohemian Society of Sciences founded.

This was not least a reaction to the dissolution of the last remnants of the independence of the Bohemian group of countries under Maria Theresa and Joseph II. The Bohemian nobility, skeptical of Viennese centralism, reflected on the country's historical roots. In Bohemia one could fall back on a strong regional awareness, which initially included both language groups - Germans and Czechs - in the sense of a supranational national patriotism.

But soon the term “Böhme” narrowed, which for a long time meant every inhabitant of the country, regardless of whether they belonged to the German or Czech language group. Towards the end of the 18th century, the "Bohemian" was increasingly defined by speaking Bohemian (= Czech). This goes back to the fact that the Czech language does not recognize the differentiation between “Böhme” (= inhabitant of the country) and “Czech” (= member of the Czech language nation), which was later introduced in German. The Czech term “Čech” combines both meanings, although the Czech side interpreted this to mean that only Czechs could be Bohemians.

As a result, the ethnically indifferent bohemist country patriotism turned into Czech language nationalism. The bilingual advocates of the Bohemian nation soon found themselves in a minority position. That was the saying of Count Josef M. Thun, a liberal-minded member of the Bohemian aristocracy, who in 1845 said he was "neither a Czeche nor a German, just a Bohemian“, Already anachronistic around the middle of the 19th century.


Hoensch, Jörg K .: History of Bohemia. From the Slavic conquest into the 20th century, Munich 1987

Křen, Jan: Dvě století střední Evropy [Two Centuries of Central Europe], Prague 2005

Rumpler, Helmut: A chance for Central Europe. Civil emancipation and state collapse in the Habsburg Monarchy [Austrian history 1804–1914, ed. by Herwig Wolfram], Vienna 2005