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Czech News in English » News » National » 'Stupid premier' – newspapers 100 years ago

‘Stupid premier’ – newspapers 100 years ago

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Prague in 1909 when PM could be called Prague in 1909 when papers didn’t hesitate to call the PM “stupid”. (ČTK)

Would Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek get over being called a “stupid premier” by the press? It used to be an ordinary thing a hundred years ago. Czech press showed no mercy when it came to the then Prime Minister Baron Richard Bienerth.

The weather in the week from 9-15 February 1909 was miserable, the week started with floods and ended in snowstorms and frost. In Prague and in the countryside, the home brewing of beer was spreading. A shafting fell and killed a worker in a hat factory in Nový Jičín. A beggar girl in Ostrava had all her toes frostbitten.

Floods in the north (9 February 1909)

High water in Prague dropped, the rivers culminated in the north of Bohemia. Labe water level in Děčín rose to 572 centimetres. “The last information says: In Žatec Ohře rose to 4 metres above the normal level,” the daily press reported.

Dunce in lead (10 February 1909)

Austria was suffering from an economic and political crisis. Prime Minister Richard Bienerth dissolved the parliament meeting on 3 February and performed a reconstruction of the standing cabinet on 10 February 1909. “Old men are being called for to lead the state in these serious times. Almost all the ministers are in their 60s, one is 64 the other is 68,” the Czech press wrote. While today, the Czechs stand a chance of living to an average age above 70, one hundred years ago the average lifespan used to a be little above 40. A sixty-year-old politician was rightly considered to be old. “If Bierneth were not an ignoramus, we would have to call him a political criminal,” Czech journalists wrote about premier. They called the new cabinet to be “the ministry of political turncoats” on a par with 1867.

“The new government has in its leader, whose infinite incompetence has already been documented a number of times in the most spectacular way.” Another article directly described Bienerth as stupid. Interestingly enough, Bienerth was not considered so incapable after the fall of the Habsburgs. Otto’s encyclopedia from the 1930s considered Bienerth to be “honest but not energetic enough”.

A shafting weighing hundreds of kilos fell among the workers in the hat factory of J. Hückl in Nový Jičín (today Tonak). “One of the workers had his leg cut off so it remained attached only by a piece of skin, his ribs broken and his head smashed, so the poor man died in an hour in terrible pain.”

He offended the emperor (11 February 1909)

It was possible to offend the prime minister, but it was not permissible to publicly humiliate the head of the state. “A police officer was approached by a 35-years-old F. Koubský who made a statement in which he offended the emperor. Koubský was asked to be sent to jail, which he was and he was taken to custody at the regional court.”

From the Ostrava hell

Prague daily Právo lidu dealt with the suffering of children in Ostrava region in an article named From the Ostrava hell. A 10-year-old beggar girl was walking the streets of Ostrava. The girl was not allowed home unless she brought a crown at least. The girl was constantly punished by her alcoholic mother and after the severe frost in January “the child had not one toes left on her feet”.

The dead body of a 10-year-old boy with the surname of Pajonk was found in a burnt-down barn in Záblatí near Bohumín. The boy was in service at the local farmer at such an early age. His parents – alcoholics had no money to feed him.

They brewed beer at home

Advertisements in support of home brewing of beer started to appear in the papers at the beginning of February. Beer in pubs got more expensive, the price also increased because of the cartel agreements between breweries. “I will supply the perfect recipe for beer brewing at home, together with expertly put together ingredients for 12 litres of delicious dark beer for 90 hellers,” advertised Jiří Havelka, a druggist from Žižkov.

Retired Prague brewer Pšolka advised on how to make one litre of beer for only 10 hellers. Another retired Prague brewer Hořejš claimed that following his recipe one can brew 25 litres of beer for CZK 2,40. Hořejš also stated in his advertisement that home beer brewing is not forbidden. The authorities claimed that it is a violation of law.

Frost after floods (15 February 1909)

“Such a snowstorm started at 7pm that Prague was covered in snow in just a short while,” Prague dailies described the weather from 15 February 1909. The Vltava froze and journalists worried that another sudden thaw will bring floods again just like the previous week. Journalists called this kind of winter to be “extremely cruel”.

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