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The Industrial Revolution, as most revolutions do, started off small at the end of the 18th century, and then really picked up steam - so to speak - in the 19th century. It was to have a monumental impact on the Czech lands.
The first factories in the Austrian Empire were built in the mountainous border regions of the Czech lands, where there was no shortage of water power from rushing streams and rivers to run them. While it did not take long for steam power to be harnessed, the industrial boundaries had been drawn, and these regions remain predominantly industrial to this day.
Railway lines were laid and trams began to carry people around on their errands in and between major towns. The major architectural styles of the time were Classicist and Empire, both of which used classic motifs in a balanced and simple design. Two buildings which are closely associated with Mozart's stay in Prague are excellent examples of these styles: the Estates Theatre, in which Mozart conducted the premier of Don Giovanni, is Classicist and the Bertramka villa, where he stayed with the Dusek family, is one of the purest examples of Empire that exists in the Czech Republic. But we digress.
Industrialization was not the only big change taking place in the Austrian Empire at this time. The Czech nation, like most of the others under Austrian rule, was also going through political and cultural changes, leading to demands for greater autonomy and self- determination for the different nations under Austrian rule.
In this country, the push for autonomy was known as the Czech National Revival movement (Narodni obrozeni). The dominant political leaders of the movement - Frantisek Palacky, Frantisek Ladislav Rieger and Karel Havlicek Borovsky - were "liberals." This meant that they wanted reforms within the Austrian monarchy, but did not want independence for the Czech lands. This brought them into conflict with the "democrats," who were republican and fiercely anti-Monarchy.
The Czech National Revival movement also had a lot to do with culture. Frantisek Palacky and Karel Havlicek Borovsky, who are mentioned above for their political efforts, were both writers, as was Bozena Nemcova, Karel Hynek Macha and Josef Jungmann - who put together the first modern Czech dictionary.
1848 was another busy year. France had its revolution; in the Czech lands, the feudal system was abolished, leading to waves of emigration, much of it to the New World - particularly, to the United States. In June, a Congress of Slavs was convened in Prague to consider the possibility of transforming the Austrian Monarchy into a federative state of equal nations (something like a 'United States of Austria' or 'Austrian Economic Community / Austrian Union' :). Suddenly, the discussions were interrupted by a rebellion led by the radical democrats, complete with barricades in the streets. The rebellion was effortlessly put down by the local Austrian leader, Prince Windischgratz - who declared martial law and, on June 16, 1848 even bombarded Prague. So the revolt and the congress both came to a premature end, leaving the question of the future shape of the Austrian Empire utterly unresolved.
After this rebellion, Austria introduced something akin to martial law in the whole of the Empire to discourage republican efforts at independence. The revolutionary movement throughout the Austrian Empire was generally suppressed. But as revolutionary movements have a tendency of doing, this one did not die down; it just sat around simmering below the ostensibly calm surface of things. Tensions did not decrease.
The Austrian Empire of the time was massive, and contained the territories of many modern-day countries. Most of these nationalities were clamoring for autonomy.
In the 1860s, this pressure led the Habsburgs to transform the Austrian Empire into the dualist Austro-Hungarian constitutional monarchy. This was just hunkey-dorey by the Hungarians, but was not exactly appreciated by most of the other ethnic nations within what was now the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The Czechs were united in their opposition to the new dual system, but they were divided among themselves as to what they wanted to do about it. These divisions grew deeper as the 19th century progressed.
There were a number of rival political factions: the Czech National Party (split into two camps: the conservative Old Czechs and the liberal Young Czechs); the Czech Social Democratic Party (founded in 1878); the progressives (who favored the policies of Tomas Masaryk); the Agrarian party; the Christian Socialists; the National Socialists; and the Radical Progressives. The majority of the Czech political parties supported a program calling for the restoration of the Czech state in its historical borders within the framework of the Empire. Again, each party had a different idea of exactly how this goal should be accomplished.
The turn of the century was characterized by growing economic and political freedom for the Czechs and by outstanding acheivements on the part of Czechs in culture, medicine, and science. Architectural trends at the end of the century were romantic copies of past styles, for instance Neo-Gothic. In many cases - as in the reconstruction of Karlstejn Castle - romantic enthusiasts did more harm than good. It is because of this ill-fated reconstruction that Karlstejn does not qualify for the UNESCO World Heritage list today. The Czech writers and artists Jan Neruda, Alois Jirasek, Mikulas Ales, Bedrich Smetana, Antonin Dvorak Alfons Mucha and Frantisek Bilek all lived and worked at this time. The National Theater, National Museum and Rudolfinum were built at the turn of the century, and the first films in the Czech Republic were made in 1898.
The battle for "universal" suffrage within the Austro-Hungarian state was won in 1907. (All men in the Czech lands, regardless of economic status, could vote -- women in the Czech lands did not get the vote until 1919). But most of the rest of the political advances made by the Czechs came into being in a sort of fuzzy grey area. The constitutional status of the Czech lands within the framework of the Monarchy remained an open and - in Prague, at least - a much-debated question.
Well, while Czech nationalists were busy debating how best to effect the changes they wanted to see implemented in the Austro-Hungarian government, members of other nations within the Empire were also pressing for reforms and for independence. This led a Serbian nationalist by the name of Gavrillo Princip to assassinate the Archduke Francis Ferdinand (the heir to the Austrian throne) on June 28, 1914, precipitating World War I.
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