Paris Peace Conf. 184.01102/162

Professor R. J. Kerner to Professor A. C. Coolidge55

Subject: Political conditions in Slovakia. Report II.

It is the purpose of the writer here to describe political conditions as he saw them during his recent trip through Slovakia. Each of the nations living there is analyzed so far as possible.

I. General Considerations.

The writer found no movement for the complete independence of Slovakia, either among the Slovaks or the Magyars. The Eastern Slovakia movement which had been headed by Dwortsak with its center at Kassa and which had been supported by the Magyar government collapsed because it had found no support among the Slovaks. Here the “American” Slovaks, i. e. Slovaks who had returned from America resolutely defied and wrecked the movement.

II. The Slovaks.

(a) The Clericals.

There is a certain fear among those Slovaks who were either almost Magyarized or were known as Magyarones (Magyarophils) that Slovakia will be “Czechicized”. And this has led to the coalescing of a party among such Slovaks for the preservation of a considerable [Page 346] amount of autonomy for the Slovaks in the Czecho-Slovak state, but not in the Magyar state. Strange to say this party consists for the most part of those who most strenuously desired to be Magyars and who most disregarded the Slovak language and cause before and during the war.

This party is coming to be known as the Clerical Party, for the leadership of which Fathers Hlinka and Juriga are rivals. The membership of this party, as it is now forming, seems to include the Magyarone priests, ultra-Catholics, and Catholic Slovak landowners and officials. Their main concern besides that of the groundless “Czechicization” fear is that the church and state will be separated to the great detriment of the former. They fear these things in spite of the fact that the Czechs have turned over the entire administration to the Slovaks (there being not one Czech in the whole political administration) and in spite of the fact that the law on the separation of the church and state does not apply to Slovakia.

(b) The Social Democrats.

The Social Democratic Party among the Slovaks is rapidly forming among the Slovak industrial and agrarian workmen. This is staunch in its loyalty to the Czecho-Slovak state and stands only for a few moderate planks on “semi-autonomy”. It is, however, very small in numbers because of the undeveloped character of Slovak industry. It is significant that Bolshevism has not taken root among them and their desire to work, while the Magyar and German workmen, who were permeated with Bolshevism, called a series of strikes against the new government, is a significant comment on their point of view.

(c) The Agrarians.

The Slovaks are also slowly forming an Agrarian party which will include the free-thinking and protestant landed class and intellectuals. These stand on the basis of compact national solidarity with the Czecho-Slovaks and will tend to state centralization as against the autonomist clericals. This party bids fair to be strong in Western Slovakia, while the Clericals may easily count on being stronger in Eastern Slovakia.

(d) Conclusion.

It may therefore be concluded that there is no organized political movement among the Slovaks either for independence or for autonomy under the Magyars for all of Slovakia or a part of it. There are individuals whose economic interests will be injured by severance from the Magyar state, but these are few and far between. Some fear to express themselves openly for the Czecho-Slovak state because they fear the future terror should the Magyars come back. In some cases a few communes were forced to sign declarations of loyalty to the Magyar [Page 347] state by the retreating Magyar forces. But taken as a whole the one impression which the Slovak people now make upon the observer is that they are happy in their new freedom. They do not as a whole fear the Czechs and are delighted to know that such exemplary soldiers as the Legionaries are really their brothers and “actually speak their own language”. In a recent tour which Czecho-Slovak officials made of Slovakia the uneducated Slovaks were spoken to first by a Slovak and then by a Czech. The Czech got the greater applause because to their great atonishment they understood perfectly and could hardly believe their ears after the propaganda which the Magyars had scattered broad-cast to the effect that the Czechs spoke another language. The writer can vouch for the fact that Czech and Slovak are two dialects of the same language and the difference is too slight to notice. With Czech one can travel to Ungvar as though he were always in the environs of Prague.

III. The Magyars.

It is natural that the Magyars should resist will [with] all means possible the establishment of the Czecho-Slovak state. But even they are divided into:

Pure Magyars, who make up the bulk of the official class (especially in public offices and transportation) and the lowest classes of workmen.
Jews who have enjoyed the exclusive privilege of liquor licenses, special concessions in business, credit, etc.
Magyarized Slovaks and Germans who through political or economic advancement have almost lost their previous national identity.

The Pure Magyars are divided into two political schools: those who favor the present administration at Budapest and those who wish to overthrow it. Some of the latter, the higher capitalists among them, have even made advances to the Czecho-Slovaks, but it may be said with certainty that the Magyars as a mass will not compromise with the Czecho-Slovaks as long as there is a chance of their getting back into Hungary. Those who favor the present Magyar administration are doing their best to scatter Bolshevism and to call political and railroad strikes to paralyze the Czecho-Slovaks. Aeroplanes without national designation even scatter over Pressburg and other places masses of Bolshevist and Magyar propaganda. See the appended copies of such literature.56 The Italian officers in command have refused to fire on such aeroplanes on grounds that they do not know their nationality. In the appendix57 will also be found a letter every third word of which tells the story of Bolshevist preparations to wreck the Czecho-Slovak government in Slovakia. This propaganda [Page 348] is supported partly by the Magyar government at Budapest (especially by payment of salaries to strikers) and partly by Bolshevists in Budapest whose connection with the government there and with Vienna and Moscow has not yet been explained.

The Jews stand most to lose in Slovakia. In the Czecho-Slovak state they cannot long maintain their liquor and concession privileges and their financial control of the peasantry. In the long run—after the final boundaries are fixed—the Jews will become Slovaks or Czechs as the case may be or move out. Most of them speak Slovak perfectly. They are not insignificant in numbers and range from 10 to 20 even to 30% of the total number of Magyars, among whom they are reckoned by official statistics.

The Magyarized Slovaks are in a peculiar position. When finally the fear of the return of the Magyars will be gone, the situation will clear itself, and they will in large percentage become Slovaks among whom they still have relatives who do not speak a word of Magyar.

It is in this way that large portions of those who are now recorded as Magyars will disappear to form a part of the future consolidated nation of the Czecho-Slovaks.

IV. The Germans.

The Germans of Slovakia are the least national of the three nations. As simple farmers who live to themselves isolated from the rest of the German world or as business men in Pressburg or Kassa they realize that they cannot carry on a national policy. This they have concretely expressed by refusal of the Pressburg Germans to come into Deutsch-Österreich. They prefer the Czecho-Slovaks to the Magyars who oppressed them almost as badly as they did the Slovaks. Above all they look forward to business relations in the rich Czechoslovak state. If they had their way they should like to govern themselves as in the middle ages as free towns, but they realize that this might have bad economic results especially at Pressburg.*

V. The Ruthenes.

Undeveloped nationally as they are, they prefer the Czecho-Slovaks to the Magyars. In fact it is difficult to distinguish them from the Slovaks because the languages blend gradually into each other on the northeast.

VI. Conclusions.

To sum up then we may say

That the Slovaks as a whole and as organized parties are for the Czecho-Slovak state.
That there are some elements, especially the clericals who favor autonomy under the Czecho-Slovaks.
That the Magyars naturally favor the re-establishment of the old Hungary but are divided among themselves, some wishing to wreck the present Magyar administration, others to spread its Bolshevism and disorder in Slovakia by means of political strikes and propaganda literature.
That the Germans prefer the Czecho-Slovaks from economic and political motives.
That the Ruthenes are as a whole in favor of inclusion with the Slovaks.

  1. Transmitted to the Commission by Professor Coolidge under covering letter No. 115, March 2.
  2. None printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. See the Report on Pressburg by R. J. Kerner. [Footnote in the original. This report (No. IV) is not printed.]