Thursday, August 11, 2016

Robert Kalivoda thinks, "Bilá Hora, to je škoda!"

I would like to try to summarize what I have been learning from this really fantastic book of essays translated into English for the first time, and only very recently available to me via inter-library loan (but apparently almost completely available online!) The book is called Between Lipany and White Mountain: Essays in Late Medieval and Early Modern Bohemian History in Modern Czech Scholarship, edited by James R. Palmitessa.

The first essay is a major section of Robert Kalivoda's 1983 article: "Hussitism and its Legacy in the Pre- and Post-White Mountain Periods."

Kalivoda, Robert. "Husitsví a jeho vyůstění v době předbělohorské a pobělohorské." SCetH 25, XIII (1983): 3-44.

A short synopsis of Kalivoda's career:
"Robert Kalivoda (1923-1989) studied at the Philosophical Faculty of the Charles University of Prague where he wrote a dissertation on the ideology of German National Socialism. In the late 1940s and early 1950s he worked first as a secondary school teacher and then a staff member at the Czechoslovak Ministry of Education. From 1954-1970 he was a researcher at the Philosophical Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences; and from 1970 to 1974 he was employed at the Pedagogical Faculty of the Academy of Sciences. In 1974 he was granted early retirement for political reasons."
(page 43)

Robert Kalivoda was influenced by Marxism and surrealism. His research reflects his understanding that history a permanent struggle for man's freedom and self-realization. He was involved in the Communist reform movement in the Prague Spring of 1968, which to my understanding was essential to Communism's eventual (and miraculously peaceful and non-violent!) demise during the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

Kalivoda's main idea in this article is basically the same as many 19th and early 20th century historians and pro-protestant reformation theologians: Hussitism is seen as the high point in both history and religion, and everything goes downhill after Bilá Hora. This is not the dominant view of historians today. But it is important to understand this view because it has been highly influential on how we understand history.

"The ruling intellectual awareness" of Hussitism shaped the social and political transformation of Bohemia until the defeat at the Battle of Bila Hora.

A new word I learned from this article:
Utraquism: (from the Latin sub utraque specie, meaning "in both kinds") was the principal dogma, and one of the four articles, of the Calixtines or Hussites, who maintained that both the bread and the wine should be administered to the people during the Eucharist.

Kalivoda uses "Utraquism" it to refer to Hussites AND Brethren as well. To him, it symbolized nationalism; it was a form of nationally political awareness.

He argues that Utraquism left a permanent mark on the whole of Bohemian society; that the battle of Lipany (which was basically the end of the Hussite wars) did not actually mean the defeat of the Hussite revolution.

Utraquism created a bond between all the social classes that could not be destroyed...until the battle at Bilá Hora.

He believes it was fatefully tragic that militant Catholics bent on restoration acquired political power after the Tridentine council because they were enemies of the Czech nation.

He goes on to review many of the events that transpired, and it was kind of lost on me, except for this one section which made me think, "What! What!??!?! WHAT?" He's talking about my ancestors here!
"Nevertheless, 1620 and the years following brought numerous proofs of the fact that the simple Czech people were deeply interested in the last fateful context of the Bohemian Reformation without regard to its limitations regarding estates and classes. This was the case especially in the heroic Wallachian risings, constantly breaking out for a whole decade after the battle of the White Mountian, a contest crowned by unprecedented heroism long after other areas and elements of Bohemian society had already capitulated to a militant and triumphant enemy."
(page 47)

This quote makes me want to learn more about the history of Wallachia! It sounds like my ancestors were involved in some very interesting, very bloody battles.
"The defeat at white mountiaun had an incalculable influence not only on the future development of the whole of Europe but above all on the fate of the Bohemian Lands themselves in subsequent centuries. All the hardships, fears and tragedies of the Bohemian Lands in modern times have one fundamental "non-fatal" cause: the collapse of the "glorious" Bohemian revolution which could and should have triumphed, but did not."
(page 62)

Kalivoda's attitude seems to imply that the influence that Bilá Hora has had on the Czech spirit remains in place today: perhaps it helped develop a pessimistic realism. I wonder how much that is true. It's interesting to consider, especially in the context of other historians' interpretations of the same events.

To be continued...

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