Czechoslovak leaders caught up in Russian Revolution
The 100th anniversary of the revolution bringing the Bolsheviks and Vladimir Lenin to power in Russia is being marked with discussions and exhibitions in the Czech Republic. Although the events preceded the creation of a separate and independent Czechoslovakia around a year later, Czechs and Slovaks were very much caught up in what was happening.
One trump card in those moves should have been the Czechoslovak legion, a fighting force which eventually numbered 100,000 from former Russian prisoners of war, that should have fought on the Allied Side. Historian Radomír Vlček explains:
"The question of the Czech, or Czechoslovak legion, was envisaged by Masaryk, the same as the legion in France, as the military force of the future state. He had to explain and convinces other European countries that here there was already a clearly defined military force which has nothing to do with Austro-Hungary and for its interests and its nation."
"A majority of politicians and the public when they heard the news took this as yet another change in Russia, a minor change. This was typical for [Tomáš Garrige] Masaryk and Karel Kramář who thought that these were, yes, extreme left wing forces who had gained power but that this was a short term affair."
But as Bolshevik intentions became clearer, when the Tsar and his family were murdered and civil war broke out in Russia, one major figure in the movement for Czechoslovak independence Karel Kramář lined up with those calling for the Czechoslovak legion to intervene against the Bolsheviks. Radomír Vlček:
That rift even revealed itself at the Versailles Peace Conference. But Kramář’s star was waning and a more pragmatic line towards the Soviet Union evolved. And over time Czechoslovak investments, such as by the Bat’a shoe company, also took place. What Vlček describes as correct but not warm relations with Moscow eventually culminated in diplomatic relations being renewed between the countries:
"In foreign policy terms, the Soviet Union was finally recognised in 1934. This was largely thanks to Masaryk’s standpoint that Russia would not always be that way, that it would continue to be Bolshevik."