Secret Societies of All Ages: Vol 2 - Charles Heckethorn

IX. The Omladina

604. The Panslavists.—The desire of the Sclavonic races, comprising Bohemians, Moravians, Silesians, Poles, Croats, Servians, and Dalmatians, to be united into one grand confederation, is of ancient date. It was encouraged by Russia as early as the days of Catherine II. and of Alexander I., who, as well as their successors, hoped to secure for themselves the hegemony in this confederation. But the Sclavonians dreaded the supremacy of Russia, and in the earlier days the Sclavonian writers subject to Austria wished to give the proposed Panslavist movement the appearance more of an intellectual and literary, than of a political and social league.

But the European revolution of 1848 infused a purely political tendency into Panslavist ideas, which already in June of the above year led to a Sclavonic-democratic insurrection at Prague, which, however, was speedily put down, Prince Windischgratz bombarding the town during two days. The further progress of the Panslavistic movement is matter of public history; but a society arose out of the Sclavonic races, whose doings have of late been brought into prominence; this society is the Omladina. The exact date of the origin of this society is not at present known; probably it arose at the time when the Italian party of action, led by Mazzini, about 1863, attempted, by assisting the so-called national party of Servia, Montenegro, and Roumania, to cripple Austria in Italy, and so render the recovery of the Venetian territory more easy.

Simon Deutsch, a Jew, who had been expelled from Austria for his revolutionary ideas, and afterwards, on the same grounds, from Constantinople, who was the friend of Gambetta, an agent of the International, and of "Young Turkey," was one of the most active members of the society, whose inner organisation was known as the Society Slovanska Liga, the Slav Limetree. This latter, however, did not attract the attention of the authorities till 1876, when its chief, Miletich, a member of the Hungarian Diet, was arrested at Neusalz. But the society continued to exist, and occasionally gave signs of life, as, for instance, in 1882, when it seriously talked of deposing the Prince of Montenegro, and electing Menotti Garibaldi perpetual president of the federation of the Western Balkans.

At last, in January 1894, seventy-seven members of the Omladina, including journalists, printers, clerks, and artisans, mostly very young men, were put on their trial at Prague for being members of a secret society, and guilty of high treason. When the arrests began, one Mrva, better known as Rigoletto di Toscana, was assassinated by Dolezal, who afterwards was seized, and was one of the accused included in the prosecution. This Mrva had been a member of the Omladina, and was said to be a police spy. He made careful notes of all the proceedings of the society, as also of another with which he was connected, and which was called "Subterranean Prague," the object of which was to undermine the houses of rich men, with a view to robbing them. His papers and pocket-books, which after his death fell into the hands of the police, served largely in drawing up the indictment against the Omladina. The result of the trial, ended on the 21st February 1894, was that all the prisoners but two were convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from seven months to eight years. Whether the Omladina is killed or only scotched, remains to be seen; probably it is the latter, for the Panslavic movement it represents is alive, and will some day lead to the solution of the Eastern question. For Panslavism—of which the Omladina was the outcome—means Muscovite patriotism, and its war-cry, "Up against the unbelieving Turkish dogs!" finds an echo in all Russia; and though the Berlin Congress has for a time checked the progress of Panslavism, yet, as we said above, it is alive.