Czechoslovakia: Anvil of the Cold War

By John O. Crane; Sylvia E. Crane | Go to book overview

5 Drawing the Frontiers

The treaties drawn at Versailles by the victorious Western Allies organized the peace and gave the new Europe its legal framework. Soviet Russia, still rent by civil strife and intervention, was excluded. Four treaties were produced by prolonged negotiations, delineating new borders for the liberated nations that were carved out of the domain of the defeated Central Powers and Czarist Russia.

The Versailles system was ultimately dependent for enforcement on French military power. This presence, combined with a network of alliances, provided the keystone of the new order that welded the outlines of Czechoslovak independence. With English and French backing, Czechoslovakia was positioned to reorganize trade and political relations among the successor states of Central Europe. Her territorial perimeters presented the first set of her problems at Versailles concerning Czechoslovakia.1

President Masaryk and Foreign Minister Eduard Benesš made clear from the outset of their negotiations with the Allies that they would insist on realizing in the West the historical frontiers of the Kingdom of Bohemia. Within these natural boundaries, Slavic tribes had lived far earlier than the time of Charlemagne. The territory now also held more than 3 million Germans, whose native land had lost the war; consequently, the occupation of Czechoslovakia's three western provinces presented no political obstacles at Versailles. The definition of the three Slovak borders, however, provoked ethnic and strategic clashes deriving from the dismemberment of royal Hungary.

Preceding the armistice in Europe, on October 30, 1918, the Bohemian German nationalist leader, Rudolf Lodgmann, headed a

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