The Science Work
Site is for sale:
Category: History

V. Smetana. In a shadow of Munich. The British policy for Czechoslovakia from signing before cancellation of the Munich agreement (1938-1942)

UDK 94 14)





The author reviews the monograph by the Czech historian

V. Sour creams. In the book motives of policy of the British leaders in relation to Czechoslovakia on the eve of are in details analyzed and during the Sudeten crisis. The chosen chronology allows the Czech researcher to reveal not only direct results of the Munich decisions for two countries and international policy in general, but also influence of "a factor of Munich" at a new stage — during formation of the relations between the British leaders and the emigrant representation of Czechoslovakia formed in London.

e-mail: Vasilenko_

Smetana V. In the shadow of Munich. British policy towards Czechoslovakia from the endorsement to the renunciation of the Munich Agreement (1938-1942). Prague: Karolinum Press, 2008. 358 p.

The monograph by the senior research associate of Institute of the contemporary history of Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic of Vit Smetana is devoted to very contradictory period in policy of Great Britain in relation to Czechoslovakia (ChSR) — to 1938-1942. The British government played not the last role that at this time ChSR was transformed to Chekho-Slovakia, then on its place there were a "independent" Republic Slovakia and the German Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia, and soon various political groups began to fight for an opportunity to present the people or the separate people (Czechs and Slovaks) to emigrations in London. A starting point for a research — the Munich conference of 1938. The author in details analyzes motives of policy of the British leaders in relation to Czechoslovakia on the eve of and during the Sudeten crisis. The chosen chronology allows it to reveal not only direct results of the Munich decisions for two countries and international policy in general, but also influence of "a factor of Munich" at a new stage — during formation of the relations between the British leaders and the emigrant representation of Czechoslovakia formed in London. August, 1942 when Great Britain declared itself "free from obligations", connected with decisions of Munich became a logical conclusion of the period. Certainly, many works and in our country, and abroad are devoted to "the Munich conspiracy", its results and value. However the book by V. Smetana which appeared in the 70th anniversary of the Munich agreement convincingly shows as there are a lot of questions and new opening this page of diplomatic history conceals.

Work is written on the basis of an extensive circle of sources, many of which were not introduced earlier for scientific use. Besides the published documents, memoirs literature and the press, V. Smetana attracts materials of a number of archives of Great Britain and also the Czech Republic, Russia and the USA. At the same time it should be noted care of study by the author of this huge massif of sources. The critical comparative analysis of the diplomatic documents (in particular records of conversations of diplomats) postponed in archives different is of great interest

Series History. Political science. Economy. Computer science. 2010. No. 1 (72). Release 13

countries. The monograph is supplied with good explanatory notes which included also biographies of significant, but not the most famous politicians and diplomats of the studied period.

In chapter 1 V. Smetana nevermore analyzes the reasons and the nature of participation of Great Britain in the Sudeten crisis of 1938 which result in many respects and was a convocation of a conference in Munich and, in particular, the Anglo-German declaration on intention "two people to be at war with each other". The author briefly and capaciously characterizes the factors which defined specifics of the British approach — the prevailing belief of government circles in correctness of the Sudeten Germans in the conflict and aspiration to peaceful settlement of crisis in Czechoslovakia at any cost, including by means of "uninterested" active mediation at the highest level. V. Smetana speaks and about value of opinion of military who repeatedly empasized a lack of resources for a victory in war, at the same time underestimating the military potential of ChSR and overestimating possibilities of the German aircraft, and about unwillingness of the people to be at war, even it is rather a fear of war which were aggravated by the press. As a separate factor the researcher shows moods in ruling circles of Great Britain: here and sympathies for the leader of SNP K. Genleynu who during the visits to London could convince the British politicians of tragic position of Germans in Czechoslovakia and present ChSR as the state, "infected with communism virus", and low opinion on Czechoslovakia and its Slavic population of key members of a diplomatic corps in this crisis — pronatsistsk of the adjusted ambassador in Germany N. Genderson and also the staff of embassy in Czechoslovakia J. Edison and his deputy R. Headou (page 44-49).

In the following chapter the author draws attention to a problem of performance by Great Britain of the guarantees provided by the Munich agreement. Special attention in a historiography was not paid to the matter. Meanwhile, the culmination of policy of "pacification" of the western democracies it is worth calling rather a refusal of performance of guarantees of integrity of Chekho-Slovakia, but not the fact of signing of the notorious document in the capital of Bavaria. Tracing process of development of the solution of a question of guarantees, acceptable for Great Britain, the author reveals disagreements between the prime minister and Foreign Offis at the beginning of 1939 which reason was just an obvious unwillingness of the active participant of "the Munich conspiracy" N. Chamberlain to lift a problem of the British obligations (page 75). The author shows as in consciousness of statesmen and diplomats of the United Kingdom the thought that there is no other alternative, except refusal of guarantees was pretty fast approved. A striking example — emotional lines of the British diplomat Sargent of December 16, 1938 that the guarantee of Chekho-Slovakia would be at this conjuncture equivalent that "Germany would have to guarantee Egypt" (page 68). Chamberlain's statement at a cabinet council on March 15, 1939, in day of annexation by Germany of Chekho-Slovakia that Ch-SR broke up even before participation of the Third Reich (page 107) became a logical result of search of arguments for refusal of Great Britain of guarantees.

At the same time V. Smetana pays attention and to other side of the problem: British (and not only) guarantees became a question of minor value because of promptly growing German influence in Ch-SR that perfectly understood the country leaders which generally concentrated efforts on confirmation of obligations from one power — Germany (page 67.71).

In the chapter 3 the author considers the British policy for now Czechoslovak question up to the announcement Great Britain of war of Germany in the context of a pre-war political crisis (that is from March 15 to September 3, 1939). V. Smetana reveals significant consequences of disappearance of Czechoslovakia from the political map of the world for domestic and foreign policy of Great Britain. The point of view of Chamberlain about independent disintegration of Ch-SR underwent unprecedentedly severe criticism in the government, parliament and the press in day of occupation of the country of Gitlerom. It became clear that the prime minister will not keep in power without treason -

a niya of the foreign policy which called sharp opposition and in Fo-rin Offis. At the same time the popularity of opponents of policy of "pacification" — first of all U. Churchill and E. Iden grew. However, as the author specifies, then the prime minister rather effectively could keep the positions at the expense of rhetoric of changes. Chamberlain carried out a thought about rather radical, "cherchillevsky", changes in policy owing to which need to invite in Churchill's government disappeared. This politician could obviously weaken positions of the prime minister and reduce the field for maneuver in negotiations with Germany which still were on the agenda (page 108-115).

Understanding of that fact that as a result of capture of Chekho-Slovakia Hitler for the first time attached the territories which are not occupied by Germans to the Reich forced the British ruling circles to expect also other annexations in the region. Intelligence agents and diplomats agreed in opinion that Poland and Romania will be the following objects of aggression. Already by the end of March the British government cardinally reconsidered the relation to obligations in Central and Southeast Europe. In particular, the 31st very ambiguous act followed — Great Britain unilaterally announced a guarantee of territorial integrity of Poland, as caused official Germany of declaration of war in September. From the first day the effectiveness of such policy raised doubts. It is not surprising that in the analysis of the British policy of guarantees negative estimates prevail. V. Smetana, without belittling adverse effects of this policy for the United Kingdom and an international situation, at the same time reasonably emphasizes that it is necessary to consider that it was the improvisation taken for the short period in response to "a number of impossible circumstances" (page 118-119). Other question — that the leadership of Great Britain did not develop the action plan in case of failure to follow of the obligations by Germany in advance though it possessed information on a possibility of such development sobytiy1.

Already then in the British government the opinion on need of building relations with the USSR (page 117) was expressed. The author allocates such factor which had negative effect on relationship between Great Britain and the USSR and on development of foreign policy of the Soviet Union in general as reports of the Soviet diplomats who were often drawing in black color of intention of the western powers. Special attention V. Smetana gives roles of the ambassador in the United Kingdom I.M. Maysky who, according to him, promoted a failure of the Soviet Anglo-French negotiations and strengthening of suspiciousness in the Kremlin (page 120). In my opinion, the author underestimates value, according to F. Kostiglioly2, "the prevailing cultural paradigm" in the USSR. In other words, diplomats acted within the system of signs approved in the Soviet Union. For obvious reasons to foreign representatives of the young "socialist state" which was in "a hostile environment" (and often it was near the truth) still big requirements to loyalty in comparison with ordinary citizens were applied. At the same time I.M. Maysky was allocated with a certain flexibility in interpretation of behavior Soviet diplomata3.

V. Smetana draws attention to miscalculations of the British leaders in value assessment for Germany of the economic and military capacity of Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II: quite paradoxical opinion that submission of Czechs did not enhance power of the Reich (page 124-127) prevailed. The problem "Czech zolo-

became one of aspects of submission of economy of Ch-SR by Germany also
1 Hill Ch. Cabinet decisions on foreign policy: the British experience October 1938 - June 1941. 2nd edition. Cambridge, 2002. P. 19.
2 About interrelation of psychology and foreign policy see: Costigliola F. After Roosevelt&s death: dangerous emotions, divisive discourses, and the abandoned Alliance//Diplomatic History. 2010. No. 1. P. 7.
3 See assessment of I.M. Maysky and his wife the plenipotentiary envoy V.N. Pavlov: "Autobiographical notes" of V.N. Pavlov — the translator I.V. Stalin / / Modern and contemporary history. 2000. No. 4. Page 94-111.

Series History. Political science. Economy. Computer science. 2010. No. 1 (72). Release 13

that" which remained in banks of Great Britain after annexation of the country. A part of gold, thanks to unwillingness of bankers to be involved in political affairs, Germany received, but the remained assets managed to be kept in the United Kingdom. After a while this gold became financial base for formation of the authorities of Czechoslovakia in emigration. It was promoted also by Foreign Offis's decision to keep diplomatic mission in London of any more not existing Czechoslovakia (page 127-132, 150).

In a domestic historiography until recently activity of governments in exile of the occupied countries did not receive special attention (especially in aspect of the relations with Great Britain) and if was considered, then very critically. Therefore, perhaps, the subsequent chapters (4-6) in which the specifics of political activity of Czechoslovak emigration in London, the relation of Great Britain to a problem of formation of political representation (as a result of the government) Czechoslovakia in emigrations and also formulation and the beginning of implementation of the foreign policy programme by E. Benesh who as a result was recognized as the leader of Czechoslovak emigration and the occupied country are analyzed are of special interest.

The author shows that Munich caused the contradictory relation of the British authorities to Czechoslovak emigration. On the one hand, the help to Great Britain to refugees from Chekho-Slovakia before war exceeded the help to refugees from other countries occupied by fascist Germany. Even in government correspondence the allocated sums often called "conscience money" (page 156-157).

With another — the British leaders very frostily treated a possibility of political representation of Czechs and Slovaks in emigration. From all emigrant groups this question at that time was particularly acute most concerning potential representatives of the former ChSR or its separate parts. The role was played by both a problem of continuity, and very critical relation of the British ruling circles to a figure of the only potential leader of Czechs and Slovaks, the former president of Czechoslovakia E. Benesh. He was reproached at the same time with the irreconcilable attitude towards the Sudeten Germans and with "a lack of eagerness to fight" (Page 158). Besides, Benesh's group had also rather influential competitors — such, for example, as the former prime minister M. Godzha who was trying to obtain separate representation of Slovaks.

As a result, the British government recognized the Czechoslovak national committee created in Paris on October 17, 1939 only at the end of December and that on the basis of a formula that ChNK represents not the Czechoslovak people (Benesh's formula), and the people (page 181). It was necessary to fight for the status of the government nearly a year more. In general the author notes that the position of Great Britain, as envisioned by Foreign Offis, ha - was rasterized at that time by "double non-recognition" — occupations by Germany of Czechoslovakia and Benesh's committee as the government in emigration (page 182).

It is interesting that basic elements of the political program of Benesh in which implementation he put so many forces during war were issued already during its first emigration at the end of 1938 — the beginning of 1939. Then he lived in London as the individual. Restoration of the country in domyunkhensky borders was the purpose of the second president of Czechoslovakia initially. He predicted initiation of war in the near future and considered that then and there will be conditions for revival of freedom and independence of the Czechoslovak state. Close cooperation with the USSR and the general border had to become an important element of safety of Czechoslovakia. At the same time Benesh considered necessary also carrying out some socialist transformations in the social and economic sphere of the country (page 160).

Certainly, for the former president ChSR "Munich conspiracy" became the tragedy and further considerably affected its assessment of political realities. V. Smetana in detail considers value of this factor up to 1942. He calls Benesh and his supporters "prisoners of Munich" as this negative experience led sometimes to incorrect assessment of the situation (page 208). The author carries out a thought that

the emigrant leader of Czechs and Slovaks often without any bases did not trust intentions of Great Britain which for a variety of reasons did not hurry to fulfill the requirements of Benesh, and at the same time overestimated value of the Soviet statements and stocks in support of the purposes. As a result it prevented to implement the updated foreign policy concept of the president of ChSR in emigration which assumed maintenance of balance between the West and the East.

Important, but in the beginning nevertheless not key, the part was assigned in this concept to the relations with the Soviet Union. According to the researcher, only in 1942 this direction began to be transformed to main (page 314). V. Smetana draws special attention to "two decisive conversations" of Benesh with May on September 22 and on November 21, 1939 (page 183). The USSR and even establishment of the Soviet system in Czechoslovakia (according to the Soviet records) 4 was talked of possible transfer of the Transcarpathian Ukraine. It is difficult not to agree with the author that such statements from Benesh were not justified by requirements of policy. They did not lead to growth of sympathies of soviet leadership for Benesh at all, and further played a role in the solution of a question of the fate of Transcarpathian Ukrainy5. However it is it is unlikely possible to tell about their significant influence on post-war position of the country what the researcher speaks about. Other emigrant leaders of the countries of the region did not make similar statements, but it did not prevent the countries to fall them within the Soviet sphere of influence. Especially as Benesh in the fall of 1939 was only the head of ChNK, therefore, it had very limited powers to represent the interests of Czechs and Slovaks. At the same time the point of view of a number of historians, including E. Durachinski, that the post-war mode of "national democracy" which was established in Czechoslovakia was softer, than in other countries formed Soviet bloka6 is represented quite reasonable.

The British position shows how ambitious and unrealistic the main goal of Benesh seemed in the beginning. Despite some sense of guilt concerning Munich, the leadership of Great Britain very reserved and disapprovingly treated the idea of restoration of domyunkhensky ChSR. First, it could arouse indignation and among the people on the continent, and in emigrant circles — the Sudeten Germans, Poles, Hungarians and Slovaks. Therefore Chamberlain as one of the military purposes sounded "release of the Czech people" (page 169-170). Secondly, at that time in ruling circles of Great Britain shortcomings of the Versailles settlement of Central and Southeast Europe and possible ways of its improvement were rather widely discussed and in particular the viability of Czechoslovakia was called into question. As a result the thought that creation of some "closer association" in the region is desirable was approved. As a result, the British intended to encourage, in addition, cooperation between emigrants — Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, etc. (page 173).

And, one may say, revolutionary, an innovation in Czechoslovak (and Polish) the project of Polish-Czechoslovak federation which development is carefully analyzed by V. Smetana in the context of policy Great британии7 became policy in emigration important. Serious disagreements between Czechoslovakia and Poland arose practically at once after recovery of their statehood following the results of World War I — concerning Teshinsky Silesia. The relations of two countries in interwar years were konfliktna that strengthened mutual distrust. In October, 1938 the Polish side occupied the disputed territory during the Munich crisis.

4 See: Documents of foreign policy. 1939. T. XXII. Prince 2. M, 1992. Page 121-122, 326-327.
5 In 1945 the Soviet part at discussion of a question of the fate of the Transcarpathian Ukraine with Benesh appealed to record of the first of the mentioned conversations of 1939 See: Maryino V.V. the Soviet Union and a Czechoslovak question during World War II. 1939-1945. Book 1. 1939-1941 of M., 2007.
6 Durachinski E. Vladislav Sikorsky and Edward Benesh: what aspired to that was reached / / by the Slavic people: community of history and culture. M, 2000. Page 368 (sn. 83).
7 Czechs and Slovaks called this project "confederation", Poles — "federation", and in the British documents are used both options.

S. 102-103.

Series History. Political science. Economy. Computer science. 2010. No. 1 (72). Release 13

The initiative of formation of joint association after war sounded in November, 1939 during the conversation of the head of ChNK with the prime minister of the Polish government in emigration V. Sikorsky. The author on the basis of the careful analysis of sources reveals great value of federal projects in the British plans of post-war settlement in the region, disproving opinion of some historians (page 307-309). It explains support of the Polish-Czechoslovak project by Foreign Offis even then when its development practically stopped. At the same time V. Smetana shows also from time to time the critical attitude of the British Foreign Ministry towards the idea (game) of federation of Poland and Czechoslovakia that was caused by different ideas of post-war association of Poles, Czechs and Slovaks and also the British (see Chapter 6).

Most of authors are inclined to lay blame for failure of the project (game) of federation to the USSR, speaking about "the Soviet veto" in June, 1942 which was read by V.M. Molotov in a conversation with Benesh. Soon practically work on implementation of the project stopped. V. Smetana is not inclined to absolutize influence of this factor, including significant also continuing Czechoslovak-Polish disagreements during negotiations about (game) of federation and Benesh's position. The project (game) of federation was obviously less significant for the leader of Czechs and Slovaks who sincerely sought for settlement to the relation with Poles, than for Sikorsky. At the same time improvement of the relations with Poles was for Benesh and the instrument of achievement of a main objective: the positive nature of policy of ChNK was confirmed, and the requirement of the leader of Committee about need of the status of the government for successful negotiating quite logically sounded. Finding of the desired status was an important step on the way to official recognition invalid the Munich agreement.

The researcher shows that increase in the status of ChNK was promoted by external factors — fall of France, then the introduction in war of the USSR, and active efforts of Benesh, in particular his reminder on Munich, generally caused irritation of the British. As a result the Czechoslovak political representative office received the status of the full government in emigration only in July, 1941. Final political recognition of group of Benesh from Great Britain was valid very important and responsible step as actually called into question into legitimacy of the Munich agreement. But long process of negotiations with the British strengthened mistrust of the president of ChSR in emigrations and his supporters to foreign policy of the United Kingdom — even fears of rather separate contract with Germany (page 207) were rather strong.

Further V. Smetana analyzes the next stage of fight of "Czechoslovaks" for realization of a main goal. Now Benesh and his supporters in negotiations with the British leaders set the following tasks: recognition of decisions of Munich and their consequences insignificant in terms of international law and also continuity of the Czechoslovak government in emigration in relation to domyunkhensky ChSR that assumed restoration of Czechoslovakia in borders till September, 1938. Such statement of a problem was directly connected with the solution of a question of jurisdiction over the Sudeten region and settlement of German and also Hungarian minorities in ChSR.

Problems of the Sudeten Germans after war and "transfer" of Germans from Czechoslovakia and now are debatable in the Czech and German historiography though after 1989 a lot of things were made on improvement of climate for discussion of history bilateral otnosheniy8. V. Smetana shows what first ways of solving the problem of "transfer" of Germans Benesh in 1941-1942 were. The author pays special attention to reaction of the British leaders to this problem and its contribution to discussions.

8 See: E.P. Serapionova. Czech lands, Czechs and German question (1918-1945)//Slavic studies. 2000. No. 5. Page 43-52.

Quite many experts during discussions in Foreign Offis recognized need of inclusion of the most part of the Sudeten region in structure of post-war ChSR and considered inevitable eviction of a considerable part of Germans from Czechoslovakia. However, being afraid to encourage Benesh, "as Czechs always want to receive a little more than what we can offer" 9, Great Britain induced Czechs and Slovaks to improve the relations with the sudeto-German emigration led by V. Yaksh, insisting in particular on inclusion of her representative in the State Council. However Benesh, giving in general reasonable objections, as a result qualified some British support of Yaksh as "a new genleynizm" (page 298).

V. Smetana estimates results of this stage in activity of Czechoslovak government in exile as insignificant. The official formulation concerning Munich which was heard in exchange of letters on August 5, 1942 differed not in much from the position of Great Britain stated earlier and had rather propaganda effect. Despite Benesh's attempts to coordinate discussion of a territorial question in the British-Soviet negotiations with a problem of borders of ChSR, the leader of Czechoslovaks was forced to agree with the British position of refusal of discussion of territorial questions. The author fairly considers the most significant achievement of Benesh the consent of Great Britain to "transfer" of the Sudeten Germans after war (page 296-307).

Analyzing a role of the Soviet factor in the British-Czechoslovak relations, the researcher reveals absolutely unreasonable belief in Foreign Offis that Benesh, despite the Soviet support of the idea of restoration of domyunkhensky Czechoslovakia and its obvious "syndrome" of Munich, will keep "balance between the West and the East" in the policy and will trust a course of Great Britain and the USA. Summing up the result of the analysis of the British-Czechoslovak relations, the author emphasizes that in August, 1942 Benesh practically exhausted opportunities of Great Britain for realization of his main objective, and approximately at this time he made a choice for the East (page 315).

In general the book of Vit of Smetana — a fine sample of the professional funded research. In this review I stopped only on some main ideas of the author, without concerning many valuable observations. In conclusion especially it should be noted that the author managed to carry out successfully very difficult task — to show the British mechanism of development and implementation of policy in relation to Czechoslovak emigres that is useful also for the analysis of relationship of Great Britain with emigrant representatives of other occupied countries and in general the place of emigres in the British foreign policy.



e-mail: Vasilenko_

Belgorod State University

The author reviews the monograph of the Czech historian V. Smetana. The book deals with detailed analysis of motives of the British policy towards Czechoslovakia on the eve and in the course of the Sudeten crisis. The chosen chronology allows the Czech scholar to reveal not only the immediate outcomes of the Munich decisions for both countries and international politics, but also influence of the & #34; Munich factor" in the course of establishing relations between the British government and the Czechoslovak government-in-exile being formed in London.

9 Words of the acting head of the Central department Foreign Offis of F. Roberts. Page 301.
Gabrielsen Simen
Other scientific works: