Continuity, Legitimacy, and Authority at the Local Level: The “New” State in Prague
This paper will investigate the nature of state-society relations in the 1918 transition from the Habsburg Empire to the Czechoslovak Republic in Prague. The war sacrifices and the creation of a republic had generated expectations of radical change that were disappointed in the immediate aftermath of the conflict. The Czechoslovak state had in many cases taken over institutions and practices from the previous regime. These elements of continuity undermined the new state’s legitimacy in the eyes of many Prague residents. The paper will examine various channels of interactions between the state and citizens as the state was embodied in various institutions. It will especially focus on the ways this relationship could be manifested in urban space: which uniforms conveyed state authorities, which buildings demonstrators targeted in their protests, what was the new symbolic geography of power in the city. Prague residents also tried to shape the look of public spaces through complaint, violence, or performance. Using police records, this study will delineate the contours of both state presence and participation in the state management through ordinary citizens. Special attention will be paid to the legacies of wartime administration, rationing systems at the state and municipal levels, and military-civilian relations. Focusing on the case study of this new capital city, this paper will shed light on the interactions between the local, national, and imperial levels in the 1918 transition.