Wójtowie na Śląsku Cieszyńskim 1864–1918. Studium prozopograficzne

Michael Morys-Twarowski, Wójtowie na Śląsku Cieszyńskim 1864–1918. Studium prozopograficzne, 3 vols. (Kraków: Historia Iagellonica, 2018).

Dostępne / Available on

academia.edu (vol. 1)

academia.edu (vol. 2)

academia.edu (vol. 3)

Streszczenie / Summary

The work presents the community of village mayors (German: Gemeindevorsteher, Polish: wójt/przełożony gminy, Czech: starosta) in Cieszyn Silesia, the eastern part of Austrian Silesia, one of the crown countries of the Austrian monarchy. The starting date of the work marks the beginning of municipal self-government in this region, the final date is related to the breakup of the Habsburg monarchy and the division of Cieszyn Silesia between Poland and the Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia).

The preliminary step was to list the heads of all municipalities in Cieszyn Silesia in the years 1864–1918, and then develop their biographical notes according to the standard adopted in prosopographical research. This includes data such as date and place of birth and death, information about parents and wives, denomination, occupation, affiliation at county level (Bezirk) and country level (Kronland), political (national) views, manifestations of social activities, and decorations. In this way, I developed biographical notes of 1332 village mayors.
In the first chapter, I pay attention to the characteristics of the region, such as: denominational structure, language structure, as well as development of national movements, social structure (essentially no nobility), high level of literacy, and industrialization. I also discuss crucial legal provisions regarding the heads of municipalities during this period, as well as the situation in practice. For example, three-year terms have often been extended due to electoral protests or the arbitrariness of the Municipal Department.

In the second chapter, I discuss the municipal elections in Cieszyn Silesia in 1864–1918 in the light of legislation (law in books) and practice (law in action).

In the third chapter, I discuss a group of village heads in terms of age, marital status, occupation, education and place of origin. Municipal heads were typically people between 35 and 70 years of age. The majority of village heads were married. In a group of 1332, only a few (around 6) were bachelors. In the case of candidates from peasant families, being married was an asset; in the case of the widely understood administrative staff associated with the Cieszyn Chamber (German: Teschner Kammer), the Larisch family or industrial plants — not so much. Representatives of the rich local peasantry prevailed. Due to the fact that in the sources the same person was referred to as a landowner (German: Ackerbauer, Polish: siedlak), farmer (German: Gärtler, Polish: zagrodnik) or homeworker (German: Häusler, Polish: chałupnik) it is difficult to provide accurate data. Tenants and landowners, as well as the archduke and count’s officials, seldom became village heads, however they often ruled the community from the backseat, e.g. as councilors. In villages where industrial plants were established, the local peasant elite lost their village heads status. In Třinec, from 1867, village heads were chosen from members of the administrative staff of the local ironworks; in Chybie, since the early 20th century — staff from the local sugar factory. In Hrušov, from 1872, village heads came from the Miller family, owners of the soda factory, or their employees. In Polská Ostrava from 1879 and in Orlova from 1910, clerical staff of the local mines. In Baška and Ustroń, people associated with the local ironworks became village heads, but at the beginning of the 20th century, local peasants began holding office again. Almost all of those officials were able to read and write (about 1% of illiterates were found, compared to 80% in Galicia in 1881). At least over 20 municipal heads from local peasant families attended high school. A dozen, mainly associated with industrial plants, had higher education. Most of the village heads came from Cieszyn Silesia. The rest came from Moravia (16), Bohemia (10), Austria (6), Galicia (6), Opavian Silesia (4), Prussian Silesia (2), and even Italy (1). It was not possible to determine the place of origin of all of them, but the above data reflects trends. Interestingly, mass migration from Galicia to the area of Zagłębie Karwińsko-Ostrawskie (Czech: Ostravsko-karvinská uhelná pánev) did not influence the makeup of the local government. What’s more, if the village heads were from outside the region, they were most often Czechs working in industrial plants.

The fourth chapter is devoted to religious issues. In villages with a definite predominance (over 60%) of one religion (Catholic or Protestant), a representative of that denomination was elected. In cases where a representative of a different denomination was elected, in about 71% it was a representative of the local peasant family (24 cases out of 34 in Catholic cities, or 71%, 13 out of 18 in Protestant towns, or 72%). It is important to note here that in these places, representatives of Jewish communities were elected, and even one follower of Old Catholicism. In mixed towns (where neither Catholics or Protestants account for more than 60% of the population), there is a greater religious solidarity of the latter, who in 9 places held office throughout the period in question (Catholics managed that in 3 places). There were municipalities where Catholic and Protestant peasant elites were able to get along without major problems. Some village heads belonged to multi-denominational families. Seven Protestant village heads (including 1 convert) were married to a Catholic, 4 Catholic village heads were married to Protestants, 1 Catholic village head was married to a Jew. Four Protestant village heads were sons of Catholic women, 1 Protestant village head was the son of a Catholic man, and 2 Catholic village heads were sons of Protestant women. Seven of the village heads were Jewish. In the Czech press, this fact was criticized, while Polish press was only outraged when Jews who lived in towns where the Polish population dominated supported the German party.

In the fifth chapter, I analyze the political (national) views of municipal heads. At that time, the political scene in Cieszyn Silesia was mostly divided by nationality, hence the parties: German liberal (within it also the pro-German Silesian People’s Party [Polish: Śląska Partia Ludowa]), Polish (Catholic and Protestant fractions, later also the „Freistadt radicals” [Polish: radykałowie frysztaccy] who joined forces with the Protestants), Czech and socialist (within it Czech, Polish and German fractions). Village heads constitute a sample representative enough that it was possible to establish a relationship between political views, religion and nationality (in this case, it is assumed that nationality is determined by the native language).

In the sixth chapter, I looked at the village heads’ kindred. I include relatives and family members to the fourth degree of Roman computation, as well as witnesses at weddings and godparents. It is possible to estimate carefully that the „circle of relatives” of a municipal head was approximately 100–150 people. It turns out that out of 1332 village heads in Cieszyn Silesia in the years 1864–1918 at least 1006 had another village head in their circle, which is almost 76%. Then I tried to correlate various “kindred circles” in order to create “large kindred circles”. The most numerous “large Catholic kindred circle” included 618 village heads who formed some kind of ties with 863 other village heads of the same denomination (or 72%). By analogy, the most numerous “large Protestant kindred circle” included 254 who had 393 other village heads in their social circle, or 65%. Adding interfaith relationships, the largest “kindred circle” numbered a total of 875 village heads, which is 66% of all known village heads in Cieszyn Silesia in 1864–1918. A given village head’s “kindred circle” included village heads of different denominations, nationalities and political affiliations. And while contemporary press referred to denominational, linguistic (ethnic) and political solidarity in the context of elections, in the case of the relatives of individual municipal heads, these issues had little importance. Outside the „kindred circles” were primarily the duke’s and count’s officials (the „green army”) as well as fabricants and management of industrial plants, who — making use of the electoral law — eliminated representatives of local peasant elites in areas affected by industrialization. Also, there was a small group of Jewish village heads outside the clans, who were probably not related nor affiliated to each other.

In the seventh chapter, I discuss strategies to achieve the office of village head. Often, it was key to establish an alliance with the „green army” (officials of the Teschner Kammer or Count Larisch) or an alliance with the „black army” (the clergy). From around 1880, the elections began to become politicized, and from around 1900 in almost every town the elections were already a battlefield for parties. Often voters were persuaded by election promises, alcohol (vodka and beer), and even sweets.

Chapter eight presents the standing of village heads in the rural community. The office came with a certain degree of authority, but among them one can also find alcoholics and unreasonably litigious men eager for physical violence. They often broken laws, for example by rigging contests. Residents often repaid in kind: some village heads were insulted or beaten up, and there were even assassination attempts.

It is the first prosopographical study devoted to village heads of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Other scientists may ask different research questions; therefore, it is also material for comparative research. It’s not just about historians. This study presents how the inhabitants of Cieszyn Silesia learned local democracy. This allows for insight into the timeless mechanisms associated with the functioning of a municipal government.