In those territories in which several races dwell, the public and educational institutions are to be so arranged that, without applying compulsion to learn a second Landessprache, each of the races receives the necessary means of education in its own language." The application of this law gives great power to the government, for everything depends on what is meant by landesüblich, and it rests with them to determine when a language is customary. The Germans demand the recognition of German as a customary language in every part of the empire, so that a German may claim to have his business attended to in his own language, even in Dalmatia and Galicia. In Bohemia the Czechs claim that their language shall be recognized as customary, even in those districts such as Reichenberg, which are almost completely German; the Germans, on the other hand, claim that the Czech language shall only be recognized in those towns and districts where there is a considerable Czech population. What Taaffe's Administration did was to interpret this law in a sense more favourable to the Slavs than had hitherto been the case.
Peculiar importance is attached to the question of education. The law of 1867 required that the education in the elementary schools in the Slav districts should be given in Czech or Slovenian, as the case might be. The Slavs, however, required that, even when a small minority of Slav race settled in any town, they should not be compelled to go to the German schools, but should have their own school provided for them; and this demand was granted by Prazak, minister of education under Count Taaffe. The Germans had always hoped that the people as they became educated would cease to use their own particular language. Owing to economic causes the Slavs, who increase more rapidly than the Germans, tend to move westwards, and large numbers settle in the towns and manufacturing districts. It might have been expected that they would then cease to use their own language and become Germanized; but, on the contrary, the movement of population is spreading their language and they claim that special schools should be provided for them, and that men of their own nationality should be appointed to government offices to deal with their business.
This has happened not only in many places in Bohemia, but in Styria, and even in Vienna, where there has been a great increase in the Czech population and a Czech school has been founded. The introduction of Slavonic into the middle and higher schools has affected the Germans in their most sensitive point. They have always insisted that German is the Kultur-sprache. On one occasion Count A. Auersperg (Anastasius Grün) entered the diet of Carniola carrying the whole of the Slovenian literature under his arm, as evidence that the Slovenian language could not well be substituted for German as a medium of higher education.
The first important regulations which were issued under the law of 1867 applied to Dalmatia, and for that country between 1872 and 1876 a series of laws and edicts were issued determining to what extent the Slavonic idioms were to be recognized. Hitherto all business had been done in Italian, the language of a small minority living in the seaport towns. The effect of these laws has been to raise Croatian to equality with Italian. It has been introduced in all schools, so that nearly all education is given in Croatian, even though a knowledge of Italian is quite essential for the maritime population; and it is only in one or two towns, such as Zara, the ancient capital of the country, that Italian is able to maintain itself. Since 1882 there has been a Slav majority in the diet, and Italian has been disused in the proceedings of that body. In this case the concessions to the Servo-Croatians had been made by the Liberal ministry; they required the parliamentary support of the Dalmatian representatives, who were more numerous than the Italian, and it was also necessary to cultivate the loyalty of the Slav races in this part so as to gain a support for Austria against the Russian party, which was very active in the Balkan Peninsula. It was better to sacrifice the Italians of Dalmatia than the Germans of Carinthia.
It was not till 1879 that the Slovenes received the support of the government. In Carniola they succeeded, in 1882, in winning a majority in the diet, and from this time, while the diet of Styria is the centre of the German, that of Carniola is the chief support of the Slovene agitation. In the same year they won the majority in the town council of Laibach, which had hitherto been German. They were able, therefore, to introduce Illyrian as the official language, and cause the names of the streets to be written up in Illyrian. This question of street names is, as it were, a sign of victory. Serious riots broke out in some of the towns of Istria when, for the first time, Illyrian was used for this purpose as well as Italian. In Prague the victory of the Czechs has been marked by the removal of all German street names, and the Czech town council even passed a by-law forbidding private individuals to have tablets put up with the name of the street in German. In consequence of a motion by the Slovene members of the Reichsrath and a resolution of the diet of Carniola, the government also declared Slovenian to be a recognized language for the whole of Carniola, for the district of Cilli in Styria, and for the Slovene and mixed districts in the south of Carinthia, and determined that in Laibach a Slovene gymnasium should be maintained as well as the German one.
The Germans complain that in many cases the government acted very unfairly to them. They constantly refer to the case of Klagenfurt. This town in Carinthia had a population of 16,491 German-speaking Austrians; the Slovenian-speaking population numbered 568, of whom 180 were inhabitants of the gaol or the hospital. The government, however, in 1880 declared Slovenian a customary language, so that provision had to be made in public offices and law courts for dealing with business in Slovenian. It must be remembered, however, that even though the town was German, the rural population of the surrounding villages was chiefly Slovene.