2008 | 2 | 61-84
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The titular visit was the outcome of six months of efforts made by Czechoslovak diplomacy. The prime item on the agenda was the Czechoslovak-Soviet Treaty of friendship, mutual assistance and post-war cooperation signed on 12 December 1943. Benes was under the impression that in this way he would guarantee the independence and sovereignty of Czechoslovakia and non-ntervention in her domestic affairs. Just as essential were the talks held by the President with Stalin and Molotov. Benes presented postulates that both Soviet leaders appeared to approve, e. g. the transfer of the German and Hungarian minorities from the Czechoslovak state. The President could, therefore, consider that he had succeeded by achieving understanding on the part of the Soviet dictator and his commissar for foreign affairs. Meanwhile, at Molotov's suggestion, Stalin rejected the possibility of signing any sort of obligations in the protocol prepared by Benes on assorted questions discussed in the bilateral talks. Naturally, both Soviet leaders stressed that they could not interfere in the internal issues of the Czechoslovak state, which did not prevent Stalin from expressing the opinion that Czechoslovakia should get rid of 'old democracy', conceived as 'incapable of further existence' and doomed to fall. Communists inspired by the dictator, and headed by Gottwald, began to put pressure on Benes, a tactic that was to destabilise the Czechoslovak émigré authorities as the war was nearing its end. The President not only succumbed, but also proposed to create within the post-war Czechoslovak government a bloc of left-wing parties in which the leading role would be played by the communists. For all practical purposes, Benes had severely impaired the cause of the independent Czechoslovak state. His policy could also have adverse consequences on the future fate of Central-Eastern Europe. This threat became increasingly vivid when, queried by Stalin, Benes spoke about Polish affairs and seemed to suggest to the Soviet dictator a further course of conduct vis a vis the legal Polish government-in-exile. At the same time, he declared support for Soviet efforts to disintegrate the Polish authorities in London. An assessment of Benes' visit must lead to the conclusion that his appeasement policy regarding Soviet strivings towards territorial and systemic expansion was doomed to fail, a course of events that the President of Czechoslovakia appeared not to appreciate.
  • M. K. Kaminski, Instytut Historii PAN, ul. Rynek Starego Miasta 29/31, 00-272 Warszawa, Poland
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