. . . just something I am reading about.

“If Czech nationalists considered the Germans in Bohemia partly as renegade Czechs, for the rest they viewed them increasingly as guests who had usurped the position of their erstwhile hosts. Puchmajer, in his ode “To the Czech language,” celebrating decrees in 1816 that promised to introduce Czech as a subject in the gymnasia in Bohemia, harked back to images from a pamphlet of 1618 by Pavel Stránský. In the poem, Puchmajer described how that “cruel foreigner, the German” lorded it over Bohemia, behaving like a hedgehog who wrangled his way into the hare’s hole only to drive the owner away with his spines. Just so the German had driven the Czech out of “offices, schools, councils, the theater,” everywhere the “Swabian smothered and pursued you.” In 1845 Jakub Malý asked ironically when exactly the Germans had made their contribution to Czech civilization and culture:

Perhaps at the time that your half-savage ancestors invited Slavic settlers to till their fields while they were lying about on bearskins. . . Or at the time when the German masters who had emigrated from Prague arranged at the Council of Constance for the burning of Master Jan Hus out of personal spite? Possibly in the seventeenth century, when the dragoons returned our people to the Catholic faith and the Jesuits burned the treasures of our literature on pyres? Or possibly even later, when our nation was left without schools, given up entirely to ignorance, so that it would become obedient subjects?
Malý’s selection of historical events demonstrates clearly how the past could be used to overcome the feelings of Czech social and cultural inferiority embedded in the “Bohemian” identity.

This process of historical reinterpretation illustrates a paradox of Czech cultural development during the first generation of the nineteenth century that has been explored by Vladimir Macura, among others. Macura points out that as Czech culture attempted to liberate itself from German tutelage, it nevertheless did so in ways that were still dependent on German culture. We have already seen the attitudes that Macura terms “analogous relationship,” in the calls by Czech patriots to imitate and equal the Germans in developing their language and culture. This tendency expressed itself in efforts to make Czech versions of everything of which the Germans could boast, by translating or creating the equivalent in Czech. The other way in which , more paradoxically, Czech culture depended on Germany, Macura calls “negative relationship.” In its very effort to become free of German influence, Czech culture attempted not to develop simply different from German, but specifically in the opposite direction. Thus its non-German qualities still derived, as in a mirror reflection, from the German model.

Czech patriots’ uses of historical arguments to separate themselves from the Germans in Bohemia and revalue their own self-image reflected elements of these analogous and especially negative relationships to German culture. Czech patriots sought to counter the traditional stereotypes about the Slavs in general and the Czechs in particular, drawn from foreign, especially German, sources. Many elements of these arguments had already appeared in the works of historians of the Enlightenment or sympathetic foreigners like Herder, such as the Czech role in creating the state traditions and rights of Bohemia or the image of peace-loving Slavs. We have already seen how Pelcl in his history of the Germans articulated elements of the nineteenth century’s dominant myth of the meaning of Czech history. His other works, such as the multiple editions of his Kurzegefasste Geschichte der Böhmen or the Czech language Nová kronkya Èeská (New Czech chronicle), also added to them. One very significant source of such historical materials, however, was not a work of professional history at all, but a literacy monument. In fact, it was not a genuine literary monument; it was the famous forged manuscripts of old Czech poetry known as the Královédvorský/Königinhof and Zelenohorksý/Grünberg manuscripts.

The manuscripts made a tremendous impact when their “discovery” was announced because they offered evidence for a very different picture of the early Slavs and Czechs than that given by German opponents of the renascence. Besides apparently predating the famous Niebelungenlied, they reflected a society quite different from the one depicted in German sources. If the Germans accused the Slavs of hereditary submissiveness (deriving the name Slav from sclavus, slave), the manuscripts (and many other works) celebrating their peace-loving qualities. If the Niebelungenlied depicted betrayal and lust, the manuscripts reflected a society that valued loyalty and fraternity and punished theft and betrayal. If the Germans claimed military prowess, the manuscripts showed them fighting for plunder and booty, while the Slavs defended their customs and moral values. If the Germans accused the Slavs of lacking the maturity necessary for political organization, the manuscripts celebrated their love of equality and set it off against the German feudal system and its principle of subjection. In the manuscripts the Germans are presented as aggressive but cowardly invaders (“Beneš Heømanov” in the Královédvorský manuscript.) The cultural level of the early Czechs, reflected, for instance, in “Libuše’s Judgement” in the Zelenohorský manuscript, was so high that they had no need of German civilization.

By the time of Palacky’s Dějiny národu českého discussed the ancient Czechs’ civilization, it sounded remarkably like nineteenth-century liberalism:

Not without feelings of pride will a descendant understand that his Slavic ancestors preserved and defended among themselves for ages those things for which even the greatest and most cultivated nations of our age strive and aspire, not always successfully: general liberty of all in the land, equality before the law and justice, the government both hereditary, and elected and responsible to the assembly, free elections of local offices and representatives of the nation, and other such institutions, even including that praiseworthy shield of all general liberties, trial by jury.
Palacky’s vision of Czech history, especially as his popularizes and imitators fixed it in Czech historical imagination, provided the Czech nationalists with a past that contributed something positive to all humanity. When they looked specifically at such episodes as the Hussite era, they could feel (with Meissner and Hartmann) that the Czechs then were struggling for more than territory or booty, but for positive values. What Czech intellectuals drew from the past, in particular the Hussite imagery, was evidence of their right to exist as a separate and equal nation among the other European nations. “

Hugh LeCaine Agnew, Czechs, Germans, Bohemians? Images of Self and Other in Bohemia to 1848’, in Nancy M. Wingfield, ed., Creating the Other: Ethnic Conflict and Nationalism in Habsburg Central Europe (Oxford: Bergham Books, 2003), pp.67-69