Czechoslovakia between Stalin and Hitler: The Diplomacy of Edvard Benes in the 1930s

By Igor Lukes | Go to book overview
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Research for this book was conducted mainly in various archives in Prague and in the National Archives, Washington, D.C., as well as in Suitland, Maryland. The Prague archives contain primary evidence on Czechoslovak diplomatic activities during the interwar period; they also allow insight into the workings of the Soviet foreign affairs establishment before World War II. This is not a coincidence. As a result of World War I, the Bolshevik revolution, and the activities of the Czechoslovak legions in Russia, tens of thousands of Czechoslovak citizens came into direct contact with Soviet Russia. Officers and soldiers of the legions were being repatriated for years after the Great War had ended. Therefore, even before Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union had recognized each other, the two countries had to negotiate. Under one cover or another, Prague and Moscow maintained channels of communication from the moment the Bolsheviks seized power. It is a testament to such contacts that the State Central Archives in Prague now have remarkable collections of important documents on Soviet Russia and the Soviet Union before World War II.

The growth of Prague into a major center for Russian and Soviet studies was also enabled by President Thomas G. Masaryk. He was perhaps the best informed among world-class politicians when it came to matters Russian and Soviet. He had traveled in Russia both under the Old Regime and during the Civil War, and he had personally dealt with leading Russian and Soviet politicians. In the 1920s, the president's Russian library was among the best resources of its kind in the world. And Masaryk's interest in Russian and Soviet affairs set the tone for other politicians, intellectuals, and journalists in Czechoslovakia before World War II.

In the aftermath of the Russian revolution in 1917, Prague became a way- station for tens of thousands of Russian refugees escaping from the Bolsheviks. Some chose to stay in Czechoslovakia, but others moved on to Paris and other destinations in the West. Those who settled in Prague left behind documents and manuscripts and formed organizations which published newspapers and journals. In 1922 the Czechoslovak parliament had decreed the creation of the Slavic Institute in Prague. Although its collections were looted by the NKVD at the end of World War II, the institute survived all the upheavals of Czechoslovak history, and it


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Czechoslovakia between Stalin and Hitler: The Diplomacy of Edvard Benes in the 1930s


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