22 JUNE 1867, Page 14



SIR, —I concluded my last letter with the statement that the centre of gravity of the whole question of Panslavism (in so far as it is of any real importance) was to be found, not at St. Petersburg or Moscow, but at Prague and at Belgrad. And such, indeed, is the case. Panslavism, reduced to its simplest expression, is a tendency towards a more or less close union of all Slavian nations under the common Protectorate of Russia, as the only strong and independent Slavian power, against the encroachments of the Germans and the oppression of the Turks. Now, being thus placed in the position of the rich bride, and her South-Slavian cousins, in that of the eager suitors, it follows that the only part which Russia can play in the whole matter (at least openly) with any propriety is a pas- sive one,'while all the active part devolves as naturally upon the Chekhs, Serbs, &c. I purposely single out these two among the non-Russian Slavians, firstly, because of their numerically and intellectually preponderating position among their brethren, and secondly, because they occupy analogous positions with reference to the Austrian and Turkish Governments respectively.

And firstly, as for the Chekhs. Putting aside all the frothy talk about the " principle of nationalities," " national affinities," &c. (things which, for the most part, are perfectly unknown to the peoples themselves, and are talked about most by those who know the people the least, viz., French newspaper and pamphlet writers), let us examine what the real interests of the Chekhs in the matter are. As to the approaching downfall and ultimate break-up of the Austrian Empire there can scarcely be a doubt ; least of all can the Chekhs doubt it, who see the old fabric crumbling into dust in their very midst, and who have witnessed the impotent efforts of the Austrian bureaucracy against the systematic opposition of the Hungarian Diet. And now that Baron von Bengt has come to an understanding with M. von Dealt, the position of the Chekhs, by having grown a good deal clearer, has scarcely become less dangerous. Upon the disruption of the Empire, of two things, one must most assuredly take place. Either Bohemia will be added to the lands of the Crown of St. Stephen, and being governed from Pesth, instead of from Vienna, will, in fact, merely have exchanged her German masters for Hungarian ones (and the Slovaks and Croats of 1848 know what it means to have the Magyars for one's masters) ; or remaining, as is the case at present, incorporated with M. von Beust's Cisleithania, Bohemia will have to follow the fortunes of this newfangled creation of the Austrian Premier. Now, what these fortunes are likely to be is pretty clear to every thinking man in Austria, and more especially at Vienna. In their public speeches these men, all the more so if they happen to be members of the Reichsrath, of course express their opinions upon the subject more guardedly, if only from a feeling of respect for their Sovereign, who, after all, still continues to bear the title of Emperor of Austria ; but in private conversations (as I had several opportunities to convince myself), they make no secret of their hopes or fears, as the case may be, of seeing the whole of the

Cisleithanian, i. e., non-Hungarian possessions of the Austrian Crown incorporated with united Germany. I can quite under-

stand that the Austrian Germans loirg for such a reunion, espe- cially now, since their preponderating influence in the Transleitha- nian part of the Empire seems to be gone for ever. But it is equally clear that the Bohemian and other Austrian Slavians can expect in new Germany no better fate than the Poles of Posen have found in it, viz., a systematic disregard of even their justest claims, gradual dispossession from the land, and consequent loss of all influence upon the management of their own affairs, possibly destined to end with entire extinction. Nor should it be thought that these questions have an interest only for the pro- fessed politicians and the higher classes in Bohemia. Of course, it is always difficult to solve the question, to what an extent any political object really interests a people at large ; and, not having visited the country now for several years, I should be all the more reticent to express an opinion on the subject, if I had not had several opportunities of conversing lately with a good many Chekhs, belonging to almost all classes of society, at the Paris Exhibition. Millowners and manufacturers, landowners and farmers on a small scale, coachbuilders, engineers and tradesmen, nay, simple mechanics and artizans, were—each in his way and from his own point of view—looking forward with apprehension to " the Magyar getting the country," but with something far more approaching real terror to being handed over to the tender mercies of Count von Bismarck and United Germany ; although, of course, the yet fresh memory of the horrors of Sadova, and of the Prussian excesses which preceded and followed it, may account for a good deal of the latter feeling.

But it may be said that, to avoid being Magyarized from Pesth on the one hand, and to escape incorporation with Germany on the other, another. course was left open to the Chekhs besides asking help of the power whose hands are still red with the blood of another Slavian nation ; the Chekhs might have made com- mon cause with the Austrian Poles, and by adopting towards the Viennese Government the same policy as the Hungarians, they might have obtained similar advantages. Now, this is just what the Chekhs did, or rather what they tried to do. When, after the conclusion of the peace of Prague, Baron von Beust convoked the Austrian Reichsrath once more, the Chekhian Diet of Prague came to a clear understanding with the Polish Diet of Lemberg, that neither of them would allow their respective national rights to be overruled and disregarded in the coming session of the Austrian Parliament. And yet when the Chekhs, confident in the promised- co-operation of the Poles, protested at Vienna against any future violation of their autonomy, and the Prague Diet was dissolved in consequence by the Government, the Lemberg Diet suddenly changed its tactics, broke its engagements with the Chekhs, and following the advice of Count Goluchowski and Prince Czar- toryski, made its peace with Vienna. Now, it is not for me to say if, in their fear of Russia, the Poles were justified, or at least excusable, for breaking the engagements they had entered into with the Chekha, and hastening to the support of tottering

Austria; but at all events, by their conduct they freed the Chekhs from all further obligations to themselves, and almost forced them to go and look at Moscow for that help, which they could find nowhere else. Of course, this does not justify the supremely bad taste which the Russian Government exhibited in receiving its Slavian guests, both at Warsaw and at Vilna, with banquets and rejoicings, and showing them the " lions " of the two cities under an escort of police-constables, which naturally only rendered the position of the Slavian deputies all the more painful. But the want of good taste is perhaps the least important objection one would care to make against the men who for the moment are at the head of affairs in Russia.

As for the Serbs, Bosniaks, Turkish Croats, Bolgars, &c., their position is, of course, from a purely political point of view, much better than that of the Chekhs, and other Austrian Slaviaus. Not only is the Turkish Empire in a much worse condition than the Austrian one, but the probably not very distant collapse of the Ottoman rule will not expose the Turkish Slavians to the same perilous alternative between Magyars and Prussians, which their Northern brethren will have to undergo on the disruption of the Hapsburg State. In fact, numerically, financially, perhaps even intellectually, the position of the Slavians in the Ottoman Empire is so much superior to that of the Turks, that nothing but the general unpreparedness and the mutual jealousy between Serbs, Bolgars, Bosniaks, &c., can account for the continued existence of the bankrupt and tottering fabric. An appeal to Russia, if only responded to by the latter, might do away with both these diffi- culties, and thus pave the way for the establishment of an•inde- pendent power, comprising the Slavians of Turkey and Southern Austria, with Servia at its head. Of course, such an appeal could have been made in the usual diplomatic way, and did not require so clumsy and unpractical a machinery as the sending of Servian and Croatian deputieS to the Moscow Ethnographical Exhibition. But it should be remembered that the social constitution of all the South Slavian communities is essentially democratic, and that it is absolutely necessary for the rulers of these communities, whenever they desire to raise or even to direct any popular feeling, to work upon it in a more palpable and public manner than the forms of regular diplomatic intercourse admit of.

What practical shape this help, so generously promised to the Chekhs and Serbs at Moscow, and so clearly implied in the Emperor's Speech to the Slavian deputation at Tsarskoye-Selb, is likely to assume it would be very difficult indeed to say, for any

one who is not in the secret of the confidential interviews so frequently held during the past fortnight at the Tuileries, the Elysde Napoleon, and at the Russian Ambassador's Hotel in the Rue de Grenelle, St. Germain. It may, however, throw some light upon the subject if I mention that there exists in Russia, and by this time probably in the other Slavian countries too, a chart of the Balkan peninsula, on which Constantinople is marked as a free city ; Serbia, Bosnia, Bolgaria, and the Herzegowina as forming one independent State, and Roumelia with Montenegro another, the latter being destined for the Grand Duke Constan- tine ; while, according to letters which I have just received from

Prague, the Chekh deputies who have returned thither from Moscow speak openly of the Grand Duke's son, Vatslav (age, five years), as the future King of Bohemia! Qui vivra, terra.—I am, Sir, &c., A RECENT TRAVELLER IN RUSSIA.