Palacký, František

Palacký, František fränˈtyĭshĕk päˈlätskē [key], 1798–1876, Czech nationalist and historian, b. Moravia. Regarded as the father of the modern Czech nation, Palacký played a leading role in the Czech cultural and national revival in the 1820s, 30s, and 40s. During the revolution of 1848, he presided over the first Pan-Slav Congress (see Pan-Slavism) at Prague. He advocated Czech autonomy within a strong Austrian Empire as the best protection against German and Russian pressure. His paraphrase of Voltaire—“If the Austrian Empire did not exist, it would have to be invented”—remains famous. After the suppression of the liberal and nationalist uprisings of 1848 in the Austrian Empire, Palacký became disillusioned. He withdrew from political activity until 1861, when he became a deputy to the Austrian parliament. With the introduction (1867) of Austrian centralizing policies, he worked for complete Czech independence. Palacký was an advocate of enlightenment and education, rather than revolution. Strongly influenced by Immanuel Kant and J. J. Rousseau, he visualized the Czech nation as a bearer of the democratic ideal. His influence on the thinking of later national leaders, such as Thomas G. Masaryk, was enormous. In his Geschichte Böhmens [history of Bohemia] (in German, 5 vol., 1836–67; in Czech, 5 vol., 1848–76), he viewed Czech history as a constant struggle between Germans and Slavs. This monumental work of scholarship strongly influenced the burgeoning Czech national consciousness.

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