Then Why Aren’t There Slovaks Everywhere?

Thanks be to Project Gutenberg, I’m reading this charming little guide to Austria (really, the entire Austro-Hungarian Empire from Aš to Braşov, which isn’t just the cute little Austria we now know all snuggly in mitteleuropa) — Austria; Containing a Description of the Manners, Customs, Character and Costumes of the People of That Empire by one Frederick Schoberl, published in 1828. It’s a charming little book, filled with the certainties of the educated Englishman (or Anglicized German, as Schoberl likely is), for whom the Magyar and the Wend are as much foreign and exotic people — and separate “races” of human beings — as were the Zulu, the Bengali and the Mongol.

Case in point, this little bit from his brief overview chapter early in the book. On Slovaks, which he spells (following, I think, the Polish, but I’m probably mistaken there) “Slowack,” which sounds like the kind of thing that might happen at a baseball game on a particularly hot afternoon. He is praising either their fecundity, or their pushiness, or quite possibly both. And it makes me wonder — why aren’t there more Slovaks?

The Slowacks, the relics of the Moravian monarchy, which comprehended Moravia and the north-western part of Hungary, are nearly confined to those two countries. There are nevertheless some of them in Bohemia. To those people particularly applies the observation of Schwartner, who remarks, that of all the inhabitants of Hungary the Slowacks multiply fastest. Wherever they settle, the Germans and Magyares gradually disappear. Thus in the 14th century the mountainous part of the county of Gömör was entirely inhabited by Germans, whereas at present the population consists exclusively of Slowacks.

I suspect many Slovaks wonder this as well (and probably dispute Schoberl’s and Schwartner’s assertion, given how persistent German settlement was and what a problem that would be in the 20th century). But Schoberl didn’t live in that world. He lived in that era between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the Revolutions of 1848, of which I know little about save that lots of educated Englishmen and women traveled the continent, staying and studying in Germany and Italy and elsewhere, and then wrote a ghastly number of books about it all. Schoberl might not have even lived to see 1848. I don’t know.

The Schwartner in question might be this man, Marton Schwartner, a Magyar academic from the 18th century. No, I do not read Magyar, and the Google translation of the Magyar is a mess. He was a teacher, a protestant, wrote some books (including one excellent statistical volume on the Kingdom of Hungary) and left his personal library of some 12,000 volumes to a high school somewhere. Probably in Magyarország. Or quite possibly Slovakia.

Sorry, “Slowackia.” You’re out!