Beneš, Eduard

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Beneš, Eduard

Eduard Beneš (ĕ´dŏŏärt bĕ´nĕsh), 1884–1948, Czechoslovakian president (1935–38, 1946–48). As a student at Prague Univ. he adopted the political and social philosophy of T. G. Masaryk. Later he studied in France, taught sociology and economics at Prague, and joined (1915) Masaryk in exile in Paris to work for Czechoslovak independence. After the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy at the end of World War I, he represented Czechoslovakia at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. As foreign minister (1918–35), premier (1921–22), leader of the Czech National Socialist party (a liberal and nationalist party, unlike its German counterpart), and right-hand man of Masaryk, Beneš influenced both national and European politics. The Little Entente and the Czech alliance with France were essentially his work. He became (1935) president of Czechoslovakia at Masaryk's retirement but resigned (1938) after the dismemberment of his country by the Munich Pact and went into exile. After the outbreak of World War II he resumed (1940) the title president and headed, in London, a provisional government at war with Germany. Returning to Prague in 1945, he was confirmed in office and was reelected (1946) president. After the Communist coup of Feb., 1948, he reluctantly endorsed the new regime, but resigned in June on the ground of illness, refusing to sign the new constitution. He died shortly afterward.

See his two volumes of war memoirs (tr. 1928, repr. 1971 and tr. 1954, repr. 1972). See also K. Kaplan, The Short March: The Communist Take-over of Power in Czechoslovakia (1987).

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