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Prague Slav Congress 1848
Manifesto : Austro-Slavism

Prague Slav Congress 1848
Manifesto to the peoples of Europe

The Slavic Congress in Prague is something unheard of, in Europe as well as among the Slavs themselves. For the first time since our appearance in history, we, the scattered members of a great race, have gathered in great numbers from distant lands in order to become reacquainted as brothers and to deliberate our affairs peacefully. We have understood one another not only through our beautiful language, spoken by eighty millions, but also through the consonance of our hearts and the similarity of our spiritual qualities. The truth and sincerity that have guided all our deliberations have persuaded us to make our demands known before God and the world.

The Latin and Germanic peoples, formerly famous in Europe as powerful conquerors, have for millennia guaranteed their independence by their swords and have satisfied their lust for power in many ways. Their statecraft, based mainly upon the right of greater strength, gave freedom to the upper classes alone, who ruled with the help of privilege while only imposing duties upon the people. Only recently, owing to the strong influence of public opinion, which like the spirit of God has suddenly spread throughout all lands, has it been possible to break the fetters of feudalism and to return to the individual, everywhere, the eternal and inalienable rights of man.

The Slavs, on the other hand, who in the past loved freedom most fervently when it was least attended by a lust for power and a thirst for conquest, and in whom the longing for independence always hindered the creation of a higher central authority, fell one after another to domination. As a result of a policy that the world had for a long time judged to be appropriate, our noble brothers, the heroic race of the Poles, were also robbed of their state; it appeared that the whole, great Slavic world had fallen forever into slavery and that its compliant subjects did not hesitate to surrender even their capacity for freedom. …

We Slavs therefore reject and abhor every domination by mere force that tramples upon these claims; we condemn all privileges and special rights, as well as all political class distinctions; we demand, without exception, equality before the law and equal rights and responsibilities for everyone. Wherever one person among millions is born into oppression, there true freedom is still unknown. Yes, liberty, equality, and fraternity for all who live in the state is our watchword today, as it was a thousand years ago.

It is not only in behalf of the individual within the state that we raise our voices and make known our demands. The nation, with all its intellectual merit, is as sacred to us as are the rights of an individual under natural law. Even if history allows men to develop more fully in some nations than in others, it always shows that the capability of development of those other nations is in no way limited. Nature, which knows neither noble nor ignoble nations, has not called upon any of them to dominate another, nor has it appointed any nation to serve another in attaining its particular goals. The same rights of all to attain the optimum development is a law of God, which no nation may transgress without punishment. It is a sin, however, when such a law is neither recognized nor, as would seem proper, observed by the most advanced nations of our times.

That which they have already willingly renounced, namely authority and guardianship vis-à-vis individual persons, they still claim vis-à-vis individual nations: They indiscriminately claim the right to dominate in the name of freedom. Thus, the Briton refuses to recognize the Irishman as being of equal birth; thus, the German threatens the Slavic nations with force if they should refuse to contribute to the political might of Germany; thus, the Magyar claims for himself the exclusive right to nationality in Hungary. We Slavs condemn absolutely all such claims and refuse them the more emphatically, the more unjustifiably the freedoms are disguised. We remain faithful to our nature; we do not wish revenge for past injustices, and we extend our hand to all neighboring peoples who are prepared with us to recognize and to protect the complete equality of all nationalities, without regard to their political power or their size. …

In the belief that the powerful spiritual stream of today demands new political forms and that the state must be reestablished upon altered principles, if not within new boundaries, we have suggested to the Austrian Emperor, under whose constitutional government we, the majority, live, that he transform his imperial state into a union of equal nations, which would accommodate these demands no less fully than would a unitary monarchy.

We see in such a union not only salvation for ourselves but also freedom, culture, and humanity for all, and we are confident that the nations of Europe will assist in the realization of this union. In any case, we resolve, by all available means, to win for our nationality the complete recognition of the same political rights that the German and Hungarian peoples already enjoy in Austria. The enemies of our nationality have succeeded in frightening Europe with the specter of political Pan-Slavism … but we now know the magic word that alone can exorcise this specter and promote freedom, culture and humanity … The word is justice! Justice for the Slavic peoples in general and for its oppressed peoples in particular.

The German boasts that he is superior to the other races and that he is qualified to judge the particular characteristics of other nations fairly. We hope that he won't be caught in a lie when talking about the Slavs. We raise our voices vigorously in behalf of our brothers, the Poles, who were robbed of their national identity by insidious force. We call upon the governments to rectify this curse and these old onerous and hereditary sins in their administrative policy, and we trust in the compassion of all Europe. We further protest against the arbitrary division of a country, especially as this applies today in Poznania. We expect the Prussian and Saxon governments to desist from pursuing their systematic denationalization of the Slavs in Lusatia, Poznania, and East and West Prussia. We demand that the Hungarian Ministry abolish without delay the use of inhuman and coercive means toward the Slavic races in Hungary, namely, the Serbs, Croats, Slovaks, and Ruthenians, and that they promptly be completely assured of their national rights. Finally, we hope that the inconsiderate policies of the Porte will no longer hinder our Slavic brothers in Turkey from strongly claiming their nationality and developing it in a natural way. …

As the youngest, but in no way the weakest, we enter again into the political arena of Europe and suggest that we summon a peoples' congress of all European nations for the purpose of advising on international questions. We are convinced that free peoples can agree more easily than paid diplomats. May this suggestion be considered, lest the reactionary policy of individual courts again provoke the anger and hatred of nations to the point where they will destroy one another.

In the name of the liberty, equality, and fraternity of all people!

A fuller version of this Manifesto to the peoples of Europe may be available in PDF / Adobe Acrobat format here

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The European Revolutions of 1848 begin
A broad outline of the background to the onset of the turmoils and a consideration of some of the early events in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Budapest and Prague.

The French Revolution of 1848
A particular focus on France - as the influential Austrian minister Prince Metternich, who sought to encourage the re-establishment of "Order" in the wake of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic turmoil of 1789-1815, said:-"When France sneezes Europe catches a cold".

The "Italian" Revolution of 1848
A "liberal" Papacy after 1846 helps allow the embers of an "Italian" national aspiration to rekindle across the Italian Peninsula.

The Revolution of 1848 in the German Lands and central Europe
"Germany" (prior to 1848 having been a confederation of thirty-nine individually sovereign Empires, Kingdoms, Electorates, Grand Duchies, Duchies, Principalities and Free Cities), had a movement for a single parliament in 1848 and many central European would-be "nations" attempted to promote a distinct existence for their "nationality".

Widespread social chaos allows the re-assertion of Dynastic / Governmental Authority
Some instances of social and political extremism allow previously pro-reform liberal elements to join conservative elements in supporting the return of traditional authority. Such nationalities living within the Habsburg Empire as the Czechs, Croats, Slovaks, Serbs and Romanians, find it more credible to look to the Emperor, rather than to the democratised assemblies recently established in Vienna and in Budapest as a result of populist agitation, for the future protection of their nationality.
The Austrian Emperor and many Kings and Dukes regain political powers. Louis Napoleon, (who later became the Emperor Napoleon III), elected as President in France offering social stability at home but ultimately follows policies productive of dramatic change in the wider European structure of states and their sovereignty.

Other Popular European History pages
at Age-of-the-Sage

The preparation of these pages was influenced to some degree by a particular "Philosophy of History" as suggested by this quote from the famous Essay "History" by Ralph Waldo Emerson:-
There is one mind common to all individual men...
Of the works of this mind history is the record. Its genius is illustrated by the entire series of days. Man is explicable by nothing less than all his history. Without hurry, without rest, the human spirit goes forth from the beginning to embody every faculty, every thought, every emotion, which belongs to it in appropriate events. But the thought is always prior to the fact; all the facts of history pre-exist in the mind as laws. Each law in turn is made by circumstances predominant, and the limits of nature give power to but one at a time. A man is the whole encyclopaedia of facts. The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn, and Egypt, Greece, Rome, Gaul, Britain, America, lie folded already in the first man. Epoch after epoch, camp, kingdom, empire, republic, democracy, are merely the application of his manifold spirit to the manifold world.