If just 20 percent of Czechs see the collapse of Austria-Hungary in a negative light, we should ask ‘what Austria-Hungary?’. However, it’s not only a historical question. According to the Eurobarometer polls, roughly the same percentage of people think that Czech membership in the EU is warranted. Then again, what EU? Are Czechs really against any form of establishment or are they only being cautious?
An Empire that the question is referring to should be specified. Is it Austria-Hungary in the years 1914-1918, hectored by Wilhelm’s Germany, which dragged Europe into the Great war and couldn’t be saved? Or Austria-Hungary that secured stability in ethnically shattered Central Europe between Germany and Russia?
Even T. G. Masaryk had been a loyal citizen to the Empire until 1914, and back then it was a more liberal state compared to Wilhelm’s Germany. But he also recognized when the situation in Austria-Hungary went beyond breaking point.
The same applies to the Czech relationship with the EU. Despite overwhelming skepticism, no one is questioning the ideas of a connected Europe without borders and a peace among its countries. The skepticism is rather reflecting a fear that the EU is scoring an own goal, just like the Empire did a hundred years ago – that’s why its citizens find it pointless to save it.