Version classiqueVersion mobile

Modernism: The Creation of Nation-States

Ahmet Ersoy
Maciej Górny
Vangelis Kechriotis

Chapter I. Making of the modern state in a multi-national context

What should we expect from the Hungarian constitution for our nationality and what do we need most now?

Jan Palárik
Traduction de Derek Paton

Texte intégral

1Title: Čo máme očakávat’ od konštitúcie uhorskej pre našu národnost’ a čo nam teraz predovšetkým treba? (What should we expect from the Hungarian Constitution for our nationality and what do we need most now?)

2Originally published: Priatel’ školy a literatúry, 1860, Vol. II., No. 45

3Language: Slovak

4The excerpts used are from Jan Palárik, Za reč a práva l’udu. Kultúrnopolitické články, ed. by Mikulás Gašparik (Bratislava: Slovenské vydavatel’stvo krásnej literatury, 1956) pp. 29–33.

About the author

5Ján Palárik [1822, Raková (Hun. Trencsénrákό, present-day northwest Slovakia) - 1870, Majcichov (Hun. Majtény, present-day west Slovakia)]: Catholic priest, journalist, playwright and politician. His father was a village teacher. He received his secondary education in Zilina (Hun. Zsolna) and Kecskemét, and later studied theology in Esztergom and Pressburg (Hun. Pozsony, Slo. Prešporok, present-day Bratislava) and Trnava (Ger. Tyrnau, Hun. Nagyszombat). He served as a priest in several places, including the German parish in Pest in the 1850s and in Majcichov near Trnava in the following decade. He belonged to the circle of the young Catholic intelligentsia who welcomed the codification of literary Slovak pursued by a group of Lutheran intellectuals headed by L’udovít Stúr. In his political and social thought Palárik strove to combine Christian and national values with liberal and democratic ideas. In 1850, while serving as chaplain in Banská Štiavnica (Ger. Schemnitz, Hun. Selmecbánya), he founded the review Cyril a Metod (Cyril and Methodius) where he advocated the reform of the Church, the democratization of priest education and institutional structures, and requested the establishment of a specific Slovak diocese. For these ideas, influenced by Enlightenment Catholicism of Bernard Bolzano, Palárik was sentenced by a Church court to one month’s imprisonment in a monastery and was henceforth regarded with suspicion by his superiors. After the fall of Bach’s neo-absolutist regime, he became a prominent figure in the Slovak national movement in the 1860s through his political essays published in the journal Priatel’ školy a literatúry (The friend of school and literature). He challenged the idea that the Viennese court was the main protector of the Slovak national cause. Instead, he argued, Slovak needs would be best dealt with within a reformed Hungary. Palárik was also one of the most important and productive Slovak playwrights of his time. His comedies, critical of petty bourgeois values as well as the social and political weaknesses of Slovak national life and cultural Magyarization were at the same time full of optimism and joy. In this way, he tried to popularize his concept of Slovak nationhood conceived within the framework of Hungarian patriotism. Palárik became a point of reference for liberal and leftist Slovak intellectuals and political activists. He was also referred to positively in the post- Second World War national communist historical literature which stressed his democratic credentials and social empathy.

6Main works: Ohlas pravdy v záležitosti spisovné reči slovenské [The echo of truth concerning the literary Slovak language] (1852); Incognito (1858); Drotár [Tinkerer] (1860); Dôležitost’ dramatickej národnej literatúry [The significance of the national art of drama] (1860); Zmierenie alebo dobrodružstvo pri obžinkoch [Reconciliation or adventure during harvest-time] (1863); O slovanskej vzájomnosti [On Slavic reciprocity] (1864); Dimitrij Samozvanec [False Dmitry] (1871).


7The article was written shortly after the fall of Bach’s neo-absolutist regime and the announcement of the October Diploma of 1860 by which the Emperor Francis Joseph I renewed basic constitutional freedoms in the Habsburg Monarchy. In an effort to solve the crisis of the state, after the Austrian defeat in the Second War of Italian Independence in 1859, the court turned back to a sort of federalist concept based on the principles of historical right. However, this solution did not satisfy any of the Empire’s nationalities. The Viennese policy aroused numerous protests, quarrels and political discussions regarding the institutional structure and political arrangements of the monarchy as well as the status of nationalities. The latter were especially concerned about the Hungarian policy of continuing constitutional negotiations with the Viennese court on various levels until the Compromise of 1867 (see Ferenc Deák, The Easter article). The national question concerned all non-Magyar nationalities in Hungary, above all the Slovaks and the Romanians, to whom the October Diploma renewed the hope for a more favorable policy on language and education and some degree of autonomy.

8In Slovak politics of the 1860s, as was the case in other national contexts, various approaches to the renewed constitutional order gradually bifurcated into two main ideological trends. They both welcomed the restoration of the constitution, advocated the principle of natural rights and national equality as well as professing Hungarian state patriotism. They differed, however, in terms of tactical moves and broader conceptual assumptions and principles in Slovak national politics. The first trend became known as the Old Slovak School (Stará škola), whose political program was enunciated by the ‘Memorandum of the Slovak Nation’ in 1861 proclaimed in Turčiansky Svätý Martin (Hun. Turócszentmárton). The main demand of the Memorandum was the establishment of a Slovak national territory in Upper Hungary (Okolie) that would lead to an autonomous administration securing Slovak sovereignty within the constitutional framework of the Hungarian kingdom. The representatives of this view such as Jan Fransisci, Štefan M. Daxner, Jozef Miloslav Hurban, Viliam Pauliny-Tόth represent a cultural and personal continuity with the romantic ideals of the national emancipation movement of the previous decades. Dissatisfied with Hungarian politics, they relied on the Emperor and government in Vienna, hoping that they would use their influence to resolve the nationality question in Hungary.

9The second trend, the so called New Slovak School (Nova škola) was formed as a reaction to the former under the leadership of Jan Bobula and was composed mainly of liberally minded entrepreneurs and intellectuals. This view considered Viennese centralism to be a common enemy for both the Slovaks and the Magyars. Therefore, they advocated cooperation with Magyar democratic and liberal representatives and they did not reject the possible federalization of the Empire. Nevertheless, they proposed to abandon the idea of a Slovak Okolie in exchange for guarantees for language and cultural rights within a unitary Hungarian state. Democrat and liberal Jan Palárik, one of the main champions of this view, tried to capitalize on the conciliatory approach of members of the Hungarian liberal opposition (Fer-enc Deák, Jόzsef Eötvös) concerning non-Magyar nations, and elaborate his concept of Slovak national rights within a Hungarian political nation. The text below represents an early formulation of Palárik’s political stance, in which he tries to draw lessons from the 1848–1849 failures of Slovak politics (see Requests of the Slovak nation).

10The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, along with the persistence of the Hungarian Diet to deny the corporate rights of non-Magyar nationalities, produced great disillusionment in both Slovak political camps and led to heated debates between them. Under the new circumstances, with Magyari-zation on the rise, the ‘Old Slovak School’ transformed itself into the Slovak National Party with Viliam Pauliny-Tόth as its first chairman. Loose as it was from an organizational point of view, the Party remained the main representative of Slovak national interests until the First World War. On the other hand, for the liberal adherents of cooperation with Magyar politicians, the defeat proved to be fatal. Jan Palárik withdrew from public and political life and the group, facing serious internal crises, disintegrated in the mid 1870s. Its liberal democratic and modernizing legacy, nevertheless, remained an important point of reference as an alternative tradition for the later generations of Slovak intellectuals both within as well as outside the Slovak National Party.


What should we expect from the Hungarian Constitution for our nationality and what do we need most now?

12The great unfinished drama of the latest political changes in Western Europe, in which the principle of nationality plays the leading role, has strongly shaken the lives of nations, and has also had an effect on the great power Austria. The greatest concessions to the peoples of Austria, and particularly to us Hungarians, made since 20 October of this year, are evidence of this. The laboriously built edifice of the state, founded by Dr Bach on absolutist and centralist theories, which threatened to destroy all historical and political individuality of the Austrian peoples, has in one fell swoop collapsed like a house of cards, and the Austrian Monarchy must rebuild itself on constitutional foundations. The supreme October ‘Diploma’ grants our Hungarian land with certain modifications in the form of our ancient constitution. The Hungarian Chancellery, the royal court, and self-government for the country are being established. The main administrators (župani) of the counties have been appointed, and his eminence, the Cardinal, Prince-Primate, has been entrusted with leading preliminary meetings on the establishment of the means of electing deputies to the Hungarian Diet, which is soon to be convened.

13These highly important events did not, to be sure, surprise us very much in Pest. They were predictable from all that happened, and there was no power that could have prevented them. Many of our nationalists must have been surprised, however, by the unexpectedness of these great changes, and the sudden dashing of all hopes based on the previous state system must have completely stunned them and driven them to their knees.

14But it is a good thing that it happened, my dear compatriots! You have nothing to regret, nor have you cause to fall into despondency. Together with the constitutional life of our Hungarian country a better life is coming for our Slovak nation. Though we do not find expressly in the highest concessions made to the country the principle of national equality for which we Slovaks have till now fought and which has so often been promised and confirmed by the loftiest words to us; the Hungarian language is even clearly declared official throughout the land of Hungary. This declaration about the Hungarian language does not, however, constitute the rights of our Slovak nationality, nor can it even limit them, particularly since it does not decree that the municipalities, towns and counties, as well as individuals, should be left completely free to use their mother tongue in town meetings and negotiations, and that no violence or wrongs should be suffered in this respect. But we are fully justified in hoping that even our brothers, the Magyars, will be more considerate towards us than before 1848. They have learnt a lot since then, and we have too, and, God willing, after so many bitter experiences, we shall continue to work in sincere harmony for the development of the material and spiritual well-being of the country and its fraternal peoples. We are justified in this hope by voices in our favor from public bodies of the liberal Hungarian party, which, though it does not admit that we are entitled to equality, at least admits that “free competition in the field of nationality”; and even this means a great deal in a constitutional state, at least definitely more than the equality amongst nations which was sacredly promised in an absolutist system. The constitution grants freedom of speech, the freedom to disseminate one’s own convictions, the right to petition and freedom of assembly, and provided we Slovaks use all of this wisely and legally, we surely shall not perish. And all the more so, for in this noble endeavor or ours we shall not be alone; by our side our kinsmen are the Ruthenians and the valiant Serbs and Croats, whose steadfast endeavors, as we note with joy in periodicals, are aimed at restoring the link with the Hungarian crown and abiding by the Constitution, and at restoring the equality and free development of all nations living under the Hungarian crown. This hope of ours is also bolstered by the fact that the liberal Hungarian party wants all the rights and benefits of the Constitution to be extended as broadly as possible to all classes of the people, and in that we must sincerely join it, because we see in it, apart from material advantages for our nation, also the surest guarantee of our nationality.

  • 1 Palárik means the Great Moravian Empire (833–906) that the Slovak patriotic historians since the s (...)
  • 2 In the original Palárik omitted the word “tertius.” More common is Duobus liti-gantibus, tertius g (...)

15Stand up, then, Slovaks! We have no reason to fear the Hungarian Constitution. After all, it is our ancient sacred birthright, which Saint Stephan, the first king, adopted from the venerable ruins of the great kingdom of the Slovaks1 and with the Christian faith into his new state edifice, as the very names király = král’ [king], nádor = nádvorník [palatine], ispán = župan [count], komornik [chamberlain] [sic], megye = medja [shire], határ = chotár [line of demarcation], sztrázsa [sentry], and the dividing up of the land into medje led by the župan clearly demonstrate, the fraternal nations—the Hungarians, Slovaks, Croats, and Serbs—worked together under its aegis for its perfection, our shared Hungarian land experienced days of glory and greatness, it grew, triumphed, and was an impenetrable bastion against the barbarian onslaught of the Crescent. We have no reason to fear the Hungarian Constitution. After all, it is our common mother, who brought us up, and without it we Slovaks and Hungarians, Croats and Serbs, would die like wretched orphans. Concerning the disputes over nationality and language, which have recently emerged between us, we shall, I believe, reach an agreement like mature citizens of a single country, like good brothers on the constitutional road, and we have to reach agreement without one nation doing wrong to the other, if we do not want some third judge interfering in our patriotic dispute, et inter duos litigantes [tertius] gaudet.2 We must abide by one irreversible principle: ‘what is dear to one, the other shall also be entitled to’ [Čo jed-nému draho, i druhémupravo]

16Stand up, Slovaks! Let us embrace our mother-constitution, and let us, as her faithful children, be prepared for new sacrifices, for new work!

17Our beloved Hungarian country is now on the road to political revival. He who does not wish to forfeit his rights must claim them at this decisive time and then take action. It now holds true that he who wants to live must move. And indeed the whole country is moving towards a new life. Against the old conservatives who have come to lead the government in Hungary, some of whom who have already placed their hands on the new constitution and sworn loyalty to His Royal Highness, a strong opposition is now raising its head. This opposition comprises old liberals who want decisions to be made in the Hungarian Diet, concerning which law, if any, should be subordinate to the Reichsrat in Vienna for the sake of unity with Austria. And those liberals are divided into two camps. One part apparently seems to want to pursue a policy that is strictly Magyar nationalist and the other, more moderate, more mature, to grant the right to public life and free competition also to other nations living in Hungary. And so which of these parties are we Slovaks who are concerned with the welfare of the country but also with the life and spiritual well-being of our Slovak nation supposed to join? That is clear from the very names of the parties. But in any case we must stand on the side of Hungary, and demonstrate that we have a right to exist here, and that we insist on it undaunted. Clearly, to that end we mainly need an independent Slovak political periodical in which we can, at this decisive moment, stand up for the interests of Slovak regions in harmony with the interests of the whole country of Hungary, to defend the rights of our nationality, to shape public opinion and address the public, and to instruct and lead our nation in the coming establishment of our communal and county municipalities, in the election of officials and deputies to the Hungarian Diet, and so forth. However, for the establishment of such a national periodical, which would come out two or three times a week, a deposit of 5,000 silver guilders is required, which some compatriots living in Pest-Buda are already seeing to, and with the help of God they hope to obtain it by the end of this month. It would be good if at least in the second or third month of next year, if not earlier, the first number of the nascent periodical of the Slovaks could gladden their hearts.


1 Palárik means the Great Moravian Empire (833–906) that the Slovak patriotic historians since the second half of the eighteenth century portrayed as the ancient foundation of modern Slovak historic statehood.

2 In the original Palárik omitted the word “tertius.” More common is Duobus liti-gantibus, tertius gaudet. While two men argue, the third one rejoices.


Derek Paton (Traducteur)

© Central European University Press, 2010

Conditions d’utilisation :


Volume papier
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search