By Harry Rowe | Staff Writer
Eva Hruska, a professor who teaches Russian at Baylor discussed her Slovakian heritage as well as the often overlooked relationship between the Czechs and Slovakians during their fight for independence. The event was one of multiple events held by Baylor in honor of Czech independence, including hosting the Czech ambassador to speak.
Hruska, who wanted to make sure she didn’t come off as a “token disgruntled Slovak,” does think that it’s important to realize the relationship the two have had throughout history. She expressed her concern that there was no mention of Slovaks in any of the promotional pamphlets and posters, even if it was done so unintentionally.
“The Slovaks didn’t want to be subjugated to yet another empire as they were for 1,000 years under the Hungarian empire, but they wanted to be sovereign on their own,” Hruska said. “They did eventually come to an agreement of Czechoslovakia, agreeing to them being an independent nation as well.”
Hruska talked about how Czechoslovakia gained its independence, and how a select group of people played a very large role in breaking them from centuries of oppression and rule. One of those figures was the first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. Masaryk was a professor at Charles University in Prague and also frequently visited the United States, where he would talk and build relationships.
He was stationed on many fronts during World War I, according to Hruska. Another major component to Czech and Slovak freedom were people who identified as Czech or Slovak but did not live in the land anymore returned to fight for the cause. Hruska said the Austrian-Hungarian empire was also quickly losing members to the other side.
“What helped this massive desertion is that there was a large propaganda in France, in Italy, in the United States and within the Czech and Slovak lands, calling upon the brothers — the Slav brothers — to come and fight for the oppressed nation.” Hruska said.
Hruska said one of the most interesting things she discovered during her research is that the Slavic and Czech citizens already identified as Czechoslovakian before the formation of the country. She showed several propaganda posters proving this brotherly sort of camaraderie. The posters read “Brother Stand by Brother.” One propaganda poster encouraged those who “feel Czechoslovak” to come fight for the cause and stand by them.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re Czech or Slovak or if you feel patriotism towards one another because they’re also calling people who come from different oppressed Slavic nations,” Hruska said.
The event honoring Czech independence was created by the Keston Center for Religion, Politics, and Society in coordination with the modern languages and cultures department. At the end of the talk, Michael Long, a professor of Russian at Baylor and member of the Keston advisory board apologized for the mistake in not including Slovak independence in the pamphlets and posters leading up to the event. He told the room that he had mentioned both the Slovak and Czech part of the historical event.
“Information came back again that [said] ‘Well, how can we change this on the poster when we’ve invited the Czech ambassador?’ My response was that the Czech ambassador is an educated man, and he very well knows that Czech independence is tied with Slovak independence,” Long said. “They did not occur separately.”
Long did mention that even though it was not in the posters or promotions, the relationship between the two was talked about many times throughout the multiple events celebrating Czech and Slovak independence.