Bohemia

Image - Prague: city center. Image - Podebrady castle (aerial view).

Bohemia (Czech: Čechý). The historic land of Bohemia in western Czech Republic is bounded by Austria in the southeast, Moravia in the east, Poland in the north, and Germany in the west and northwest. Along with Moravia and Czech Silesia it is settled by the Czechs. Today these territories form the Czech Republic which has an area of 78,860 sq km, and its population in 2014 was 10,538,275. Historically, Bohemia was the principal territory of the Czech monarchy.

Bohemia was inhabited by Slavic tribes as early as the 5th century AD. The first west Slavic state existed there under Prince Samo in 623–58. In the 9th–10th century Bohemia belonged to the great Moravian empire and then became an independent principality. In 845 the Czechs adopted Western Christianity. The Byzantine missionaries Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius arrived in Moravia in 863 and laid the foundations of the Slavic divine liturgy and the Church Slavonic language. Slavic-Byzantine Christianity did not take root among the Czechs, but it did leave a strong tradition of self-reliance and ties with the Slavic East. In the 9th–10th century the Přemyslid dynasty of the Prague principality consolidated its rule over the Czechs. Under Prince Boleslav I Bohemia became part of the Holy Roman Empire in 950 but retained internal autonomy. In 1198 Bohemia became a kingdom under Ottocar I, and in 1230 a hereditary monarchy. In the 13th century it expanded into German and Polish territories in areas from the Adriatic to the Baltic. In 1306 the Přemyslid dynasty died out, and the crown passed to the Luxemburgs until 1437. Eventually the Jagiellon dynasty (1471) and the Habsburg dynasty (1526) occupied the throne of Bohemia. In the 15th century the Hussites manifested the desire of the Czechs for independence from German domination during the Hussite Wars. After the Czech Protestants lost the battle of Bílá Hora in 1620, Bohemia was demoted from a constituent kingdom to a Habsburg crown land for 300 years.

In the 17th and 18th century the Czech aristocracy was denationalized, and Czech culture was persecuted. Under the influence of the French Revolution a national renaissance began among the Czechs at the end of the 18th century. As a result of the work of J. Dobrovský, J. Jungmann, Pavel Šafařík, F. Palacký, Karel Havlíček-Borovský, and others, this movement assumed a modern cultural and political character, which manifested itself clearly in Austro-Slavism (the struggle for the political autonomy of the Slavs within Austria-Hungary) and in pan-Slavism. After developing culturally, politically, and economically in the relatively liberal circumstances of Austria in the latter half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the Czech people won their independence at the end of the First World War and, together with the Slovaks, formed the Czechoslovak Republic (see Czechoslovakia).

Bohemia and Ukraine until the end of the 18th century. Although Bohemia did not share a border with Kyivan Rus’, the two states had some dynastic, economic, and cultural ties. The great Moravian state maintained trade relations with Kyivan Rus’ and the Black Sea. In 992 Prince Oldřich sent his legates to Kyiv. Two wives of Volodymyr the Great were Czech, and they gave him three sons—Vysheslav Volodymyrovych, Sviatoslav Volodymyrovych, and Mstyslav Volodymyrovych. King Danylo Romanovych of Galicia-Volhynia conducted a campaign against the Czechs. His son Lev Danylovych signed a peace treaty with the Bohemian king, Václav II. The trade route between the East and Western Europe ran through Rus’ and facilitated contacts with Bohemia. This is proved by the Czech coins discovered in Ukraine.

The influence of Cyrillo-Methodian Christianity (see Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius) reached Ukraine even before Kyiv officially adopted the Christian faith (see Christianization of Ukraine), and eventually literary-religious ties with Bohemia were established; for example, the lives of Saints Wenceslaus and Ludmila were known in Rus’. In the 14th–15th century Ukrainian and Belarusian students from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania had their separate group at Prague University. The Hussite movement had an impact on Ukraine: among J. Žižka's forces there were supposed to be Ukrainians, and after their defeat some Hussites settled in Ukraine. The religious brotherhoods of the 16th–17th century were reminiscent of the social ideals of the Bohemian Brethren. J. Comenius's pedagogical teachings had a noticeable influence on the brotherhood schools in Ukraine, and Comenius himself was familiar with the charters of these schools. The Slavonic Bible, which was translated by the Belarusian Frantsisk Skoryna (Skaryna) and published in Prague in 1517–19, preserved the Czechisms that were adopted from one of his sources (the Czech Bible of 1506). The first publication of a piece of Ukrainian folklore—the text of the ‘Song about Stefan the Voivode’—is found in the Czech grammar of J. Blahoslav of 1571. The official language of the Lithuanian period contained many Czechisms in its legal terminology, and the Czech influence is conspicuous in Pamva Berynda’s Leksykon slavenorosskyi al'bo imen tolkovanyie (Slavonic-Ruthenian Lexicon and Explanation of Proper Names, 1627). Works of Czech origin, such as the tales about Taudal and Sibylla and the Lucidarius, were known in Ukraine. In the 16th century individual Cossacks or Cossack units of the Polish army came to Bohemia. Other Cossacks served the Habsburg dynasty as mercenaries. In 1594–5, during the reign of Rudolf II, a legate of the Zaporozhian Sich, S. Khlopytsky, visited Prague. At the beginning of the 17th century several Moravian cities and individual noblemen hired Cossacks to protect them from the incursions of the Transylvanian prince S. Bocskay. There is evidence that Ukrainians took part in the so-called Wallachian colonization of eastern Moravia and the southern Těšín region in the 16th–17th century.

There were continuous economic relations between Ukraine and Bohemia, although, because of the distance and transportation problems, they were not very intense. Cattle (mostly from Podilia), wax, hides, and some grain were exported to Bohemia, whole cloth and spices from the East were imported via Ukraine to Bohemia. The main imports from Bohemia were textiles, glass articles, metals, and, most important of all, arms. This trade was directed mostly to and from the northern Czech regions. Lviv was the main transit center in this trade.

At the end of the 18th century the Czech scholar V.F. Durych corresponded with the bishop of Mukachevo, Andrii Bachynsky. Ivan Prach collected melodies of Ukrainian folk songs in the Dnieper River region, which were published in collections in Saint Petersburg in 1790 and 1815. This was the first publication of the music of Ukrainian folk songs. There is evidence that Hryhorii Skovoroda visited Prague briefly during his travels in Central Europe.

Czech-Ukrainian relations in the 19th–20th century. Since the Czech and Ukrainian peoples lived under similar conditions of subjugation and were undergoing a national renaissance, their relations in this period were primarily cultural. Czech democrats and progressives, in contrast to the pro-Russian conservatives, sympathized with Ukrainian aspirations under the Austrian and Russian regimes. Generally, the Czech renaissance of the mid-19th century acted as a stimulus for the cultural-political movement among the Ukrainians. There were some personal contacts among the leading cultural figures on both sides: Pavel Šafařík corresponded with Ivan Mohylnytsky, Ivan Vahylevych, and Yakiv Holovatsky and informed the Czechs about Ukrainian culture and affairs. Markiian Shashkevych was inspired by the works of J. Kollár, J. Jungmann, and V. Hanka. Osyp Bodiansky and Izmail Sreznevsky visited Bohemia and corresponded with Czech leaders, acquainting them with Ukrainian folklore and literature. At the same time they popularized Czech and Slovak literature in Ukraine and Russia. Amvrosii Metlynsky published the first translations of Czech literature (the poetry of František Čelakovský). Karel Vladislav Zap, J. Koubek, F. Jachim, and K. Pichler, some of whom lived for an extended period in Ukraine, made important contributions to the strengthening of Ukrainian-Czech relations. Karel Havlíček-Borovský, who as early as 1846 regarded the Ukrainian question as a question of a separate nation between Russia and Poland, did much to inform the Czech public about Ukraine. Even before then, in 1830, F. Palacký defended the identity of the Ukrainian people in Časopis Českého muzea. Common circumstances of life within the boundaries of the same state and within the sphere of influence of the same cultural and scholarly center (Vienna), as well as personal contacts with individual Ukrainians, account for the very positive effect that Czech leaders had on the national movement in Western Ukraine.

Czech leaders took a friendly attitude regarding the demands of the delegates from Galicia and Transcarpathia to the Slavic Congress in Prague, 1848. The influence of Czech thinkers (J. Kollár, Pavel Šafařík, and V. Hanka) on the ideology of the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood is evident. Taras Shevchenko dedicated to Šafařík his poem ‘Jan Hus,’ accompanied by a personal ‘Poslaniie slavnomu Shafarykovi’ (Epistle to the Famous Šafařík). The first complete, uncensored edition of Shevchenko's Kobzar was published in Prague in 1876. At the same time translations of Shevchenko and of Nikolai Gogol’s novels were published for the Czech reader. In 1865 Josef Václav Frič wrote the play Ivan Mazepa. Růžena Jesenská, J. Hudec, and E. Jelínek (the author of stories on Ukrainian themes) translated the works of Shevchenko, Panteleimon Kulish, Marko Vovchok, Yurii Fedkovych, and Ivan Franko, as well as Ukrainian folk songs and folk tales.

Ukrainian folklore was studied by Ludvik Kuba, J. Hanuš, and František Řehoř. Řehoř lived in Galicia for over 10 years and became a prominent popularizer of Ukrainian culture in Bohemia. Aloiz Jedlička investigated folk melodies and wrote compositions on Ukrainian motifs (for example, the music for Ivan Kotliarevsky’s Natalka Poltavka).

In the 1860s–1870s Oleksander Potebnia, Mykola Kostomarov, and Panteleimon Kulish visited Bohemia. Prague and Lviv exchanged publications. By the end of the 19th century Ukrainian- Czech collaboration in the fields of literature and scholarship became more systematic. A number of Czech scholars were elected full members of the Shevchenko Scientific Society, among them J. Bidlo, Lubor Niederle, Jiří Polívka, Zdeněk Nejedlý, and K. Chodounsky. The Czech Academy of Sciences elected Mykhailo Hrushevsky as a corresponding member. Volodymyr Hnatiuk became a member of the Czechoslovakian Ethnographic Society. Ivan Puliui and Ivan Ya. Horbachevsky taught at higher educational institutions in Prague. The decision of the Czech Academy of Sciences that the language and people of Transcarpathia in 1919 had a Ukrainian character had a great cultural impact on this region. Mutual understanding between the two peoples was promoted by the Ukrainian delegation to the Czech industrial exhibition in Prague in 1891 (which included the Boian Choir) and by the ethnographic exhibit in Prague in 1896. At the beginning of the 20th century, when Ukrainian students quit Lviv University, several hundred of them enrolled in Prague’s university and colleges. The Czech organization Sokol served as a model for the Ukrainian Sokil and Sich societies. The co-operative movement in Galicia learned a great deal from the Czech experience; Czechs also worked as instructors in the Galician agricultural societies.

At the end of the 19th century the greatest practical contribution to Ukrainian-Czech relations was made by Ivan Franko. He published articles on Czech subjects in the Ukrainian press and translated the works of Czech writers. At the same time his articles on Ukrainian problems appeared in Czech publications, including Ottův slovník naučný. Franko's works were translated into Czech by František Hlaváček, J. Rozvoda, and Růžena Jesenská, and his play Ukradene schchastia (Stolen Happiness) was produced as an opera in Prague. The works of other Ukrainian writers—Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky, Lesia Ukrainka, Vasyl Stefanyk, Olha Kobylianska, and Bohdan Lepky—were translated into Czech. Pavlo Hrabovsky translated Czech poetry into Ukrainian. Mykola Sadovsky’s production of B. Smetana’s opera Prodaná nevěsta (The Bartered Bride) in Kyiv in 1907 was a great success. In the summer of 1919 the Ukrainian Republican Kapelle, conducted by Oleksander Koshyts, presented concerts in over 20 Czech cities and received flattering reviews and public applause.

In the interwar period Ukrainian-Czech relations intensified. In Prague many Ukrainian émigré cultural institutions were established. In Lviv Ukrainian leftist circles popularized progressive Czech literature. In Kharkiv an international congress of revolutionary writers, including pro-Communist Czech writers, took place in 1930, and a number of translations from Czech were published in the Ukrainian SSR. The works of Pavlo Tychyna and Yurii Yanovsky were translated into Czech. The plays of Oleksander Korniichuk appeared on the Czech stage. M. Marčanová was active in the field of Ukrainian translation. The writers and artists of Soviet Ukraine visited Czechoslovakia in the 1920s. Transcarpathia, which was then part of Czechoslovakia, received much attention from the Czechs. A Transcarpathian research section was set up in the Slavic Institute in Prague, and a number of Czech researchers worked in the region. Three wooden churches from Transcarpathia were moved to Bohemia and conserved. Transcarpathian themes appeared in Ivan Olbracht’s Nikola Šuhaj, loupežník (Nikola Šuhaj, the Robber) and his travel accounts Hory a staletí (Mountains and Centuries) and Golet v údolí (Exile in the Valley); in V. Káňa's Zakarpatsko (Transcarpathia); in the novels of J. Vrba (Duše na horách [Soul of the Mountains]), V. Vančura (Poslední soud [The Last Judgment]), and Karel Čapek (the trilogy Hordubal); and in S. Neumann’s cycle of poems ‘Karpatské melodie’ (Carpathian Melodies) in Bezedný rok (The Abysmal Year).

After 1945 translations increased. New translations from Ukrainian literature included works of Taras Shevchenko, the Ukrainian realists of the 19th–20th century, and Soviet writers such as Yurii Yanovsky, Andrii Holovko, Natan Rybak, Mykhailo Stelmakh, and Oles Honchar, whose trilogy Praporonostsi (The Standard-bearers) includes a part entitled Zlata Praha (Golden Prague). Translations of the poetry and prose of representative Ukrainian writers of the 1960s appeared. At the same time many translations from Czech literature appeared in Soviet Ukraine. Czech studies in Ukraine were conducted at the Slavic chairs of Kyiv University, Lviv University, and Uzhhorod University, and at the National Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR. Ukrainian studies in Czechoslovakia were pursued at Charles University in Prague by Ivan Zilynsky, Ivan Pankevych, M. Zatovkaniuk, Kyrylo Genik, and V. Židlický, and at the Ukrainian section of the Slavic Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences by J. Dolanský (director of the section), Orest Zilynsky, V. Hostička, and A. Kurymsky. Cultural and academic institutions in Prešov also promoted Czech-Ukrainian cultural ties. In 1956 a conference on Czechoslovak-Ukrainian relations was held in Prešov, followed in 1967 by a large international symposium on the theme of ‘October and Ukrainian Culture.’ The Ukrainian writers of the Prešov region have translated numerous Czech literary works.

Ukrainians in Bohemia. Before the 20th century Ukrainians did not emigrate to Bohemia in large numbers. In the 19th century some Ukrainian students, soldiers of the Austrian army, civil servants, and seasonal workers lived in Bohemia. The first Ukrainian organization there was the Ukrainian Hromada in Czechoslovakia, formed by the students in Prague in 1902. At the beginning of the First World War some refugees from Galicia settled with their families in Bohemia. In 1914 a Ukrainian elementary school was set up in Nusle, near Prague. The largest concentration of these refugees was the Svatobořce camp, which numbered 1,200 refugees by 1917–18. A gymnasium and other cultural and educational institutions operated there.

In May 1919 the soldiers of the Ukrainian Galician Army began to cross the Czechoslovak frontier and were interned, mostly in Bohemia, particularly in the camps at Deutsch-Gabel (over 5,000), Liberec (over 1,000), and later (until 1926), Josefov (4,000). For a time these soldiers formed the Twelfth Ukrainian Mountain Brigade of the Ukrainian Galician Army and hoped to fight on behalf of the government of the Western Ukrainian National Republic against the Poles. They were led by General Antin Kravs. Intensive cultural work was conducted at the internment camps: secondary and trade schools were set up, and Ukrainian newspapers were published (Ukraïns'kyi strilets' and Ukraïns'kyi skytalets'). In the spring of 1920 the Czechoslovak government began to disband the camps. Some of the internees volunteered to join the auxiliary defense units that were stationed in various cities of Bohemia—Pardubice, České Budějovice, Plzeň, Prague, Hradec Králové, Litoměřice, Lipník, Terezín, Olomouc, and Opava—and also in Slovakia and Transcarpathia. The other internees joined the Ukrainian émigrés who had left Galicia and eastern Ukraine for economic and political reasons.

Czechoslovakia offered the most favorable conditions for the émigrés: it was a Slavic country with a democratic system, and many of its citizens and government officials were sympathetic toward the Ukrainians. Ukrainian schools and scholarly institutes were established in Bohemia, mostly in Prague: the Ukrainian Free University (moved from Vienna in 1921), the Ukrainian Higher Pedagogical Institute (1923), the Ukrainian Studio of Plastic Arts (1923), the Ukrainian Institute of Sociology (1924), the Ukrainian Historical-Philological Society (1923), the Museum of Ukraine's Struggle for Independence (1925), and the Ukrainian Gymnasium in Czechoslovakia (1925). In 1922 the Ukrainian Husbandry Academy was established in Poděbrady. The students in these schools were émigrés, but they were eventually joined by students from Galicia and Transcarpathia. Ukrainian academic institutions and students received financial assistance from the Czechoslovak government until the beginning of the 1930s. The Czechoslovak-Ukrainian Committee for Assistance to Ukrainian and Belorussian Students distributed the scholarships. With time the student numbers diminished: some émigrés returned to Galicia or to Soviet Ukraine; others emigrated to Western Europe or the Americas. Yet Bohemia remained the most active Ukrainian émigré center until 1945.

At the beginning of the 1920s there were up to 20,000 Ukrainian émigrés in Bohemia. Most of them were educated and of a mature age. They differed sharply in their political views, occupations, and regional origins. Some of them quickly integrated into the new country and even became Czechoslovak citizens. At first the Ukrainian socialists dominated émigré life; they set up the Ukrainian Civic Committee in Czechoslovakia (1921–5), which was subsidized by the government. Eventually its work was assumed by the Ukrainian Committee in Czechoslovakia, which was no longer government-supported. In the 1930s the Union of Ukrainian Emigrant Organizations in the Czechoslovak Republic co-ordinated the work of the various Ukrainian organizations.

The Ukrainian émigré community in Czechoslovakia was small but quite diverse and dynamic, though splintered into many groups. The students were the best organized group. In 1925 up to 2,000 students received government financial assistance. Besides the general student societies that represented the students in Prague (Ukrainian Academic Hromada, est 1919), Brno, Poděbrady, Příbram, and Mělník, there were also clubs attached to the Ukrainian institutions of higher learning and faculty-based clubs of medicine, engineering, law, commerce, science, agronomy, and apiculture students. There were also women's sports clubs, art groups, and politically oriented societies such as the Drahomanov Hromada of Socialist Youth and the Free Hromada; the nationalist students’ organizations, the Group of Ukrainian National Youth in Prague and the League of Ukrainian Nationalists in Poděbrady; and the Sovietophile students’ organization, the Working Alliance of Progressive Students. In 1922 the Central Union of Ukrainian Students was founded to represent most of the student organizations abroad and in Western Ukraine; its central office was in Prague until 1935.

Several professional associations were established by Ukrainian émigrés: the Ukrainian Physicians' Association in Czechoslovakia, the organization Ukrainian Law Society in Bohemia, the Ukrainian Pedagogical Society in Prague, and the Society of Ukrainian Engineers in Prague, which, with a number of other technical and agricultural associations, formed the Union of Ukrainian Engineers' Organizations Abroad in 1930 (head office in Poděbrady). The following scholarly institutions were established in Prague: the Ukrainian Academic Committee, the Ukrainian Scholarly Association, and the Ukrainian Society of Bibliophiles in Prague. Two Ukrainian scholarly congresses were held in Czechoslovakia in 1926 and 1932; they attracted scholars from outside the country.

Among the women's organizations, the most representative was the Ukrainian Women's Union, which was founded in 1923. Among the youth organizations, the Ukrainian Sich Union, a sports association founded in Prague in 1927, had several branches. Several dens of the physical-education society Sokil formed for a brief time the Union of Ukrainian Sokil Associations Abroad and maintained friendly relations with the Czech Sokol. In 1921 the Plast Ukrainian Youth Association began to organize groups in Czechoslovakia, but did not grow significantly. In 1930 the Union of Ukrainian Plast Émigrés was founded in Prague. Bohemia was also an important center of publishing, with such publishers as the Ukrainian Civic Publishing Fund, the publishing house Siiach, Kolos (owned by H. Omelchenko), and Yurii Tyshchenko's publishing firm.

Ukrainian religious life was poorly organized in Bohemia. There were no Ukrainian Orthodox parishes and only one Greek Catholic parish in Prague, at Saint Clement's Church. This parish was established in 1930 under the care of Rev Vasyl Hopko and served mostly the Transcarpathian Ukrainians in Bohemia. Ukrainian theology students from Galicia and Transcarpathia studied in Olomouc, Moravia.

In the 1930s the number of Transcarpathian Ukrainians in Bohemia began to increase. These were mostly students, soldiers, and civil servants, but an increasing number of workers began to arrive. The Transcarpathian students had their own organizations—the Union of Subcarpathian Ukrainian Students and the Russophile Vozrozhdenie. After March 1939 political émigrés from Transcarpathia, among them members of the government of Carpatho-Ukraine, headed by Rev Avhustyn Voloshyn, came to Bohemia and joined Ukrainian organized life there.

During the German protectorate over Bohemia and Moravia in 1939–45, organized Ukrainian life there declined considerably. Most of the Ukrainian institutions were dissolved, while others barely managed to exist. The Ukrainian newspaper Ukraïns'kyi tyzhden' (1933–8) ceased publication. Only the Ukrainian National Alliance and the Ukrainian Hromada in Czechoslovakia received official recognition. The journal Proboiem continued to appear, and the newspaper Nastup began publication. Both periodicals were nationalist and were closed down by the Germans in 1943. The gymnasium in Modřany (see Ukrainian Gymnasium in Czechoslovakia) and the Ukrainian Free University continued to operate throughout this period.When the Soviet Army arrived in May 1945, organized Ukrainian life in Bohemia came to an end. Most of the émigrés fled to Germany and then to other countries of Europe or the Americas. The Transcarpathian Ukrainians who served in General L. Svoboda’s Czechoslovak Brigade and were demobilized came to Bohemia to avoid returning to the USSR. They were joined by Ukrainians from the Prešov region who came to work or study among the Czechs. Most of them settled in Prague or in the towns and villages along the border from which the Germans were resettled. Some stayed in the Czechoslovakian army, and a few were promoted to a higher rank, including that of general. After the Second World War there were 5,000 Ukrainians in Prague and over 25,000 in the Czech territories, including about 500 students. Workers from the Prešov region continued to arrive, settling mostly in the larger cities and assimilating quickly. In 1947–8 about 500 Ukrainians from two villages in the Banat region of Romania settled in compact groups in the districts of Tachov and Znojmo and in the city of Chomutov.

At first the Russophile students’ union Vozrozhdenie, with its journal Koster, continued to operate in Prague. All Ukrainian institutions were dissolved under the pretext that they were ‘bourgeois nationalist.’ The Museum of Ukraine's Struggle for Independence was the last to be closed (1948). Many Ukrainian activists were arrested, and some were deported to the USSR.

In 1950 the Orthodox church of Czechoslovakia took charge of the Greek Catholic parish in Prague. Today this church has a complete organizational structure with a metropolitan, a bishop, and over 10 priests in Bohemia and Moravia. Although most of its members are Ukrainian, judging from its publications and liturgical language, this church has a Czech and Russian character. In 1968 a Greek Catholic parish was restored in Prague; it has several priests and serves the whole of Bohemia.

Efforts to establish a separate Ukrainian cultural organization in Bohemia similar to the Cultural Association of Ukrainian Workers in the Prešov region did not succeed. Only Ukrainian amateur art circles were permitted to exist at the buildings of culture in Prague and Karlovy Vary. In the 1960s and 1970s O. Prykhodko and Platonida Shchurovska conducted a fine Ukrainian mixed choir in Prague, which presented Taras Shevchenko concerts. Occasionally Ukrainian ensembles from Soviet Ukraine or the Prešov region visited Bohemia.

After a peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia on 1 January 1993 and its division into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the Ukrainian community in Bohemia entered a new stage of its existence and needed to reorganize in order to adapt to its new life within the Czech Republic.

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Vasyl Markus

[This article was updated in 2015.]




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