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Prague June Uprising

The June uprising in Prague from June 12 to 17, 1848, also called the Pentecostal uprising, was one of the most involved uprisings caused by popular rage in the year of the storm. Together with this uprising the 1848/49 revolution reached its culmination point in the Bohemian lands, but with its defeat--and it was the first of an urban popular movement after March--began the buildup of the counter-revolution in the Hapsburg Monarchy. This defeat put an abrupt end to the aspirations of Czech liberals concerned about a national consensus, and of German upper-class circles in Bohemia around the governor Leo Thun-Hohenstein to lay claim to a federalist autonomy for Bohemia in view of the power vacuum in Vienna. Therefore, on May 28, a provisional government council was set up from Thun and from four Czechs and four Germans each and the instant convention of the atate parliament was demanded. Thus, it was hoped to halt the process of destabilization and to stop the national conflict as well as to eliminate the revolutionary organs. However, the Court did not legitimize this specific federal national road. The June uprising obstructed it definitively. The Czech liberal Palacky saw it as "the work of foreign agents provocateurs and of indigenous stupidity."

Since March unemployment and distress had further increased and made the poorest still more radical in Prague. Students articulated their escalating dissatisfaction and became the spokesmen of a petty-bourgeoisie democratic movement oriented towards the May uprising in Vienna and assuming increasingly national Czech characteristics. Especially the return of the hated Prince Alfred von Windischgrätz as the military governor of Prague speeded up the polarization of the political forces and drove them into an armed conflict. By the end of May and the beginning of June the field marshal rallied his troops, made them parade in a provocative manner, made them bring up their big guns on the hills around the town and began to disarm the soldiers of the national guard and the students. The latter demanded another 2,000 guns, 80,000 live ammunition and artillery. Town Mayor Wanka tried in vain to mediate.

Already during the night of June 12, the Whit Monday, the impaired troops had been put on the alert. Around noon the emotions were vented violently, when after the Slavic mass on the Rossmarkt (today: Vaclav Square) the homeward marching workers were suddenly confronted by military. The soldiers, with bayonets at the ready, began to attack, there was bloodshed which gave the signal for the uprising. Shortly some 400 barricades were put up. The 10,000 soldiers and officers under the command of Windischgrätz waged an unequal battle against the isolated barricades with their 3,000 guns at the most which was continued up to the morning hours of June 13. After it, there was only a sporadic exchange of fire. The military secured first the general command, them it stormed 15 barricades in the main streets with the support of artillery. There were tough fights with great losses, among other things, between the magazine and old city ring (Altstädter Ring) and along the so-called "small side (Kleinseite)" on the right bank. The insurgents withdrew to the old town around Karolimun, Klementinum and Technikum and kept Thun hostage for one day. On the night of June 15, the troops left the interior of the town and took up their position on the left banks of the Moldau river. Windischgrätz imposed the state of siege and ultimately, after shelling, forced them to surrender. The fighters on the barricades alone had 43 dead and more than 60 heavily injured. These were mostly journeymen and apprentices, but also railway, industrial, and construction workers, but hardly any students and burghers among the casualties. Irrespective of the uprising, railway traffic was normal and the wagons with corpses were able to pass the town gates guarded by soldiers and the national guard.

Most contemporary German journals, but not the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, the members of the Frankfurt National Assembly and the majority of German democrats misinterpreted the June uprising as a struggle of nationalities in which Windischgrätz interfered, most commendably, in favor of the Germans who were victimize. But new sources, especially the diaries of radical-democratic Czech students, portray it more correctly as a brave, if futile attempt to halt the building-up counter revolution according to the "Model of Vienna."
Manfred Püschner


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Jilek, Frantisek "Prazska polytechnika a jeji studenti v revolucnim roce 1848," Sbornik Narodn.techn. muzea (Prague) IV (1965).

Klima, Arnost, Revoluce 1848 v ceskych zemich Prague: SPN, 1974.

Pech, Stanley, "The June uprising in Prague in 1848," East Europ. Quarterly I (1968).

Polisensky, Josef, Revoluce a kontrarevoluce v Rakousku 1848 Prague: Svoboda, 1975.

Polisensky, Josef, "Revolution und Konterrevolution in Österreich 1848" in Rolle ind Formen der Volksbewegungen in bürgerlichen Revolution Manfred Kossok (ed) "Studien zur Revolutionsgeschichte" (Berlin: Akad.Verl. 1976.

Prinz, Friedrich. Prag und Wien 1848: Probleme der nationalen und sozialen Revolution im Spiegel der Wiener Ministerrats-protokolle "Publications of the Collegium Carolinum" 21 Munich: Lerche, 1968..

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