Nationalizing Habsburg Regimental Tradition in Interwar Czechoslovakia

Kevin J. Hoeper
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 1  (2022):169-204 DOI 10.38145/2022.1.169

In interwar Czechoslovakia, the construction of a well-founded military establishment was a core component of the state building process. Reflecting broader trends across the post-imperial, particularly post-Habsburg space, Czechoslovak state builders deployed a rhetoric of radical military transformation predicated in part on a rejection of the imperial military legacy. As this article shows, however, certain elements of Habsburg military tradition survived the transition from empire to nation-state. Focusing on the legacy of Bohemia’s old Habsburg regiments, I argue that “imperial” military tradition could be adapted for use in the new republic through a process of selective reimagining. During the interwar period, regimental groups consisting of Czech-speaking Habsburg veterans dedicated considerable time and energy to the project of “nationalizing” Habsburg regimental tradition. By emphasizing the historically Czech character of their former regiments within the broader Habsburg military establishment, these veterans’ groups provided a means by which Bohemia’s old imperial regiments could be incorporated, conceptually, into prevailing interwar narratives of Czech military heritage.
Keywords: Austria-Hungary, Czechoslovakia, military tradition, veterans, regiment

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