Czech RepublicsipkaHistory CZsipkaThe First Republic (1918 -1939)

1919 - 1938 the first Czechoslovak provisional constitution was adopted on November 13, 1918. It vested all power in a (unicameral) National Assembly. It had 256 deputies 216 of them represented Czech political parties on the basis of their electional results in 1911. Only 40 deputies (later 54) representing Slovakia were chosen in an arbitrary manner by V. Srobar, the only Slovak in the government. Half of them were Protestants, although Protestants constitued only 12% of Slovak population. Seven so-called Slovak deputies were Czechs (including E. Benes) chosen "for their Slovakophile activities". Germans, Hungarians, Ruthenians and Poles were not represented at all. This "revolutionary" National Assembly passed many important laws (before being replaced after the elections in April 1920) as e.g.:
1. the currency separation law
2. the land reform laws
3. the nostrification law
4. the (definitive) Constitution of Czechoslovakia.
Under the currency separation law - the only successful stabilization policy among the Successor States, prepared by the Ministre of Finance A. Rasin - - 50 % of all privately hold banknotes were withdrawn; the bank and savings accounts were blocked and converted into a 1 per cent compulsory loan. The administration of currency and coin monopoly was transferred from the Austro-Hungarian Bank in Vienna to the Banking Office in Prague. The national currency (the Czechoslovak crown - Kc) was introduced in April 1919.
The land reform empowered the government to expropriate (for financial compensation) all large estates exceeding 150 ha of arrable land or 250 ha of land in general. It did away with the huge aristocratic estates of the largely German and Hungarian nobility but the major part of the allotments was too small and economically inexpedient. It allowed the creation of so-called "residual estates" in the hands of the Land Office and throughout it of the Agrarian Party, which used their sale to promote its political interests. The nostrification Law forced joint-stock companies to transfer their head offices to the territory of the new state where they had their factories and plants. This law created favorable conditions for Czech banks, above all the Zivnostenska Bank. It provided a strong financial base for the Agrarian Party, that was the most stable political force of the Czechoslovak State. From 1922 to 1938 Agrarians were the core of all coalition governments, occupying the ministries of interior and agriculture, and holding the office of prime minister.
The constitution adopted in February 1920, defined Czechoslovakia as a "democratic republic headed by an elected president". It entrusted the legislative powers to the National Assembly, elected both on the basis of universal suffrage and by a direct and secret ballot; the executive powers to the president and the cabinet of ministers; and judicial powers to an independent judiciary. Following the Western models, the constitution provided for the protection of fundamental civil and political rights of all citizens on a completely equal basis and for special protection of national and religious minorities. The Language law designed "Czechoslovak" as the country's official language. Since in reality a single Czechoslovak language never existed, the Czech and Slovak enjoyed the status of official languages. However, neither of them has ever been taught in the partner part of the country, which gave rise to increasing dualism. The law assured the national minorities full freedom in the use of their languages in everyday life and in schools, as well as in dealing with authorities in district in which they constitued at least 20 % of the population. By identifying the Slovaks with Czechs under the label "Czechoslovak", the constitution ignored the Slovak national identity. The relative political stability of Czechoslovakia was above all due to the solid administration and the political tradition it inherited from the Habsburg Monarchy. Czechoslovakia inherited about 80 % of the industries of the Habsburg empire, but the partition of the empire deprived them of their natural markets. The Sudeten area had traditionally been the center of Bohemias highly developed consumer industries, especially textiles and glass. The growth of protectionism among the successor states forced a shift in emphasis in Czechoslovak industrial production, from consumer goods to heavy industrial goods, especially machinery and reorientation of Czechoslovak export from Central Europe to Western Europe and overseas. This had the undesirable effect of increasing the social and political discontent of the Sudeten Germans.

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