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2009 | 44 | 149-197

Article title

A PRACTICAL TEST OF THE CZECHOSLOVAK-SOVIET ALLIANCE TREATY OF 12 DECEMBER 1943 (April-October 1944) (Praktyczny sprawdzian czechoslowacko-sowieckiego ukladu sojuszniczego z 12 grudnia 1943 r. (kwiecien-pazdziernik 1944 r.))

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Not until the end of February 1944 did the Czechoslovak authorities in exile decide to officially recognise September and October 1938 as the beginning of the war between Czechoslovakia, Germany and Hungary. President Edvard Benes wanted to link the defeat of the Czechoslovak state with events associated with the Munich conference, and not with the liquidation of the so-called second Czecho-Slovak Republic by the Third Reich in the middle of March 1939. Accepting the second variant he could not longer treat the Czech borderlands, inhabited by a German population, as an integral part of the Czechoslovak state, and as a result of the resolutions of the Munich Conference incorporated into Germany. A grave problem faced by Benes and his team was the fact that their pro-Soviet foreign policy meant that the leaders of Great Britain were slowly losing their trust in the émigré Czechoslovak authorities and rejected the possibility of signing a Czechoslovak-British treaty similar to the Czechoslovak-Soviet one of 8 May 1944, concerning the administration of Czechoslovak lands after the entry of the Red Army. Benes was forced to seek doubtful solace in the British praise of his policy as 'very wise' and in the perspective of an eventual coming to terms with the British side as regards a cultural convention, which the President envisaged as proof that the Czechoslovak side had not totally lost its political bonds with the West. In her relations with the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia had experienced a foretaste of the future, when the Red Army would begin occupying lands belonging to the Czechoslovak Republic. In April 1944 the Czechoslovak side faced the introduction of the so-called invasion banknotes, which the Soviet side decided to print, at the same time trying to impose its model of the currency - each banknote would feature Czech inscriptions accompanied by those in Slovak. The Czechoslovak authorities, however, managed to print banknotes designed in accordance with the theory of 'Czechoslovakism', i. e. the existence of a single Czechoslovak nation. An extremely ambiguous role was played in this affair by Zdenek Fierlinger, the Czechoslovak ambassador to Moscow, whom the Czechoslovak Council of Ministers failed to discharge although he was evidently serving Soviet interests. It was precisely for this reason that the Council proved to be helpless, fearing the unfavourable reaction of the Kremlin. For the same reason Benes refused to deprive Fierlinger of his post until the end of the war, and probably never presumed that Fierlinger would become the prime minister of the new post-war government of Czechoslovakia. At the beginning of June 1944 Benes allowed himself to be used by the Soviet ambassador, Victor Lebiediev, as a mediator urging the Polish Prime Minster Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, prior to his visit to the United States, to capitulate in the face of Soviet demands intent on a decomposition of the Polish central authorities in exile and of Soviet territorial claims towards the Republic of Poland. In the first half of July 1944 the president's servility towards Lebiediev went so far that he declared a readiness to fight on the Soviet side in the future war against the West. The talks held by the Czechoslovak government with the Provisional Government of the French Republic, headed by General Charles de Gaulle, made little headway; the talks concerned a joint declaration that would recognise 'anew' the Munich treaties 'together with all their consequences' as 'invalid'. The declaration was not signed until 22 August 1944. Jan Masaryk, the Czechoslovak minister of foreign affairs, was well aware of the fact that without an exchange of letters between him and Maurice Dejean, the French ambassador, the declaration would have limited significance for the Czechoslovak signatory. The letters were rendered secret upon the request of the French side, which did not intend to additionally weaken the position of the Polish givemment in exile. It was easy to notice that the French authorities appreciated the exceptionally unfavourable circumstances in which the Polish government was forced to act, in contrast to the Czechoslovak side, which wished to recall in the published text the obligations of the French National Committee (of 29 September 1942), undertaken to the detriment of Polish interests and contrary to the defence of the principle of her territorial integrity. In turn, Fierlinger warned Masaryk that the Soviet authorities could recognise the Czechoslovak-French declaration as an expression of a striving towards weakening the Czechoslovak-Soviet alliance. In its attempted rapprochement with France, Benes and his entourage tried to compensate the absence of effective political cooperation with the West with the intermediary of the United Kingdom, which remained suspicious of the pro-Soviet line of the Czechoslovak foreign policy. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union was gradually preparing ground for provoking an armed uprising in Slovakia. Naturally, it was not concerned with liberating Slovakia from under German rule. The Kremlin was interested in changing Slovakia into a terrain of an armed confrontation, which would bind the German forces and facilitate the onslaught of the Red Army. Soviet plans foresaw the deployment of the Slovak armies and the partisan movement, inspired from the outside, i.e. the Soviet Union. Both Benes, General Sergey Ingr, the Czechoslovak minister of national defence, and General Heliodor Pika, head of the Czechoslovak military mission in Moscow, should have retained far-reaching caution and kept in mind the interests of the Slovak population, instead of becoming involved in the uprising which started on 29 August 1944. The Czechoslovak politicians, who asked the Soviet Union for military assistance, did make the reservation that such help should not exceed the strategic plans of the Red Army. Next, they expressed their unwillingness to cause the Soviet side the sort of 'trouble' which accompanied the Warsaw Uprising. Already that the very onset of the uprising General Ingr appeared not to harbour any illusions that it would not end in defeat. The overall impression was that Benes treated the rising in a purely instrumental way. It enabled him to refer to it, for propaganda reasons, as evidence of the active participation of the Czechoslovak side in the armed struggle against the Nazis. His only initial fear was competition on the part of General Ferdinand Catlos, the Slovak minister of national defence, who offered his services to the Russians. Stalin, however, wanted to exploit the Czechoslovak President for political and military purposes. The uprising, which never received effective help either from the Soviet Union or the Anglo-Saxon powers, collapsed. Its sole outcome was that Czechoslovakia had an alliance exclusively with the Soviet Union.







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  • Instytut Historii im. Tadeusza Manteuffla PAN, Rynek Starego Miasta 29/31, 00-272 Warszawa, Poland


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