Czechoslovak-Soviet Contacts from the End of World War I to Adolf Hitler's Machtergreifung, 1918-1933
"You hooligan, you'll never make it," burst out Professor František Hrdlička at Eduard Beneš, his student at the Imperial and Royal Gymnasium in Prague. The professor quickly calmed down, but he remained serious. He advised Beneš to resign from the prestigious school and join the Hapsburg army. The year was 1902, and Vienna needed soldiers to deal with the latest crisis in the Balkans. After twelve years in uniform, Beneš should be able to secure a position in the Austrian civil service; a post office job would be suitable, Hrdlička thought. But the eighteen-year- old rebel laughed in his face. 1 Beneš knew he would never be a clerk. He was preparing for a more spectacular career, and he was not an idle dreamer. A year ago he had already established contact with Thomas Garrigue Masaryk, professor of philosophy at Charles University and a prominent personality on the Prague political scene. Their friendship grew, and so did their anti-Hapsburg sentiments. When the Great War broke out in 1914, Masaryk and Beneš were ready to assume prominent roles in the campaign to create a new state, the Republic of Czechoslovakia. Beneš did not excel in Professor Hrdlička's subject, Latin, but he had a great talent for politics and diplomacy.
With the war in progress, the sixty-four-year-old Masaryk went abroad to work for independence in December 1914. 2 Beneš followed him in September 1915. After three more years of intensive work, the two achieved their main objective: on 14 October 1918, the allies granted recognition to a provisional Czechoslovak government. It was headed by Masaryk, and Beneš fulfilled the roles of minister of foreign affairs and minister of interior. Just two weeks later, at seven o'clock in the evening, the newly formed National Committee in Prague issued its first law. Its preamble stated: "The independent Czechoslovak State has come into existence."3 The Hapsburg political and military authorities on the scene were not able, and in no