Rudolf Kučera, “Exploiting Victory, Sinking into Defeat: Uniformed Violence in the Creation of the New Order in Czechoslovakia and Austria, 1918-1922”
Center for Slavic, Eurasian & East European Studies
University of North Carolina
FedEx Global Education Center, Room 4003
301 Pittsboro St., Chapel Hill, NC, USA
This lecture is presented as part of the Carolina Seminar Series “Russia and its Empires, East and West.”
Rudolf Kučera is a deputy director for research at the Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague. His research areas include the modern comparative history of Central Europe, war and violence history and history of historiography.
His lecture will explore the role that uniformed physical violence played in the creation of the new order in Czechoslovakia and Austria in the aftermath of the First World War. It begins with a comparison of the the level of proliferation of weapons in the newly emergent state of Czechoslovakia and Austria. It will argue that the dominant feeling of victory among the Czech-speaking population of the new Czechoslovak state made it possible to limit the proliferation of various weapons after the war and thereby to quickly recapture the state’s monopoly on violence. In Austria, by contrast, the feeling of unjust defeat had weakened the state to such an extent that it effectively ceased to control the proliferation of weapons. This enabled the emergence of a uniformed paramilitary culture that shaped the public space of the new Austrian republic and deepened the feeling of collapse and defeat. However, even though the Czechoslovak state quickly reclaimed the monopoly on violence, everyday violence remained pervasive, especially in Slovakia and Carpatho-Ukraine. Kučera will argue that, similarly to the case of Austria, Czechoslovak war returnees, now wearing uniforms of the new state, were able to exploit the national culture of victory by deploying violence in the service of a state eager to establish its legitimacy.