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Content available remote Moderní dějiny československého státu v revizionistickém pohledu
This review article scrutinizes a history of Czechoslovakia from the pen of the British based, American born historian Mary Heimann. This review critically assesses some of the author’s propositions, which relate to, for example, the politics of inter-war Czechoslovakia and its minority policy. She also investigates issues of the resistance movement, which fought for the restoration of the Czechoslovak state in the years following World War II. Dejmek observes that the book under review often overlooks the international context of certain events. At the same time he also comments upon the selective manner in which they are chosen as well as considerable gaps in the use of English and American works on this topic, which contributes to rather numerous factual mistakes in this historian’s interpretation.
The documents published in the present study offer new views of the activities of two Czechoslovak embassies after 21 August 1968, namely those in Paris and Rome, and describe also some details of the attitude of the French and Italian governments to the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact armies. The first couple of documents are related to the positions of Vilém Pithart, the Czechoslovak Ambassador to Paris. This important diplomat of the 1950s and 1960s (prior to his arrival in Paris he had been Foreign Office General Secretary and a Deputy Foreign Minister) initiated a dynamical rise of contacts between Prague and Paris. After the Soviet invasion in August 1968 (which he personally witnessed while being in Czechoslovakia at that time) he immediately returned to his office, strongly condemned the invasion and tried to make both the French official circles and the French Communist Party officials support the legal Czechoslovak government. Two other documents illustrate the situation at the Czechoslovak Embassy in Rome. Ambassador Vladimír Ludvík, also an experienced diplomat, who had worked in the Foreign Office West European Department and served also as Czechoslovak Ambassador to Belgium, transmitted the protests of the legal government in Prague after 21 August, 1968. Soon, however, he tried to restore contacts with diplomats of the aggressor countries and 206 actually he fully supported what is referred to as a policy of “normalization”. The documents published in the study also illustrate the rather hesitant reaction of French and Italian government circles to the invasion and also the differentiated positions of the large Communist parties in the two countries.
Communist Czechoslovakia’s diplomacy found itself in a completely unfamiliar situation after the invasion of the Warsaw Pact armies on the night of 20/21 August 1968, having to defend the state’s sovereignty against its allies, which the leadership of the governing party and a large section of the public had until then perceived as a guarantee of national independence. The failure of Moscow’s official justification for the invasion was in particular due to appearances by Czechoslovak representatives at the UN, first of all interim CSSR ambassador at the UN Security Council, J Mužík, and then J Hájek himself. Although Prague very early on called upon the ministers not to oppose the invasion at the UN, Hájek repeatedly protested against the occupation. This ‘internationalisation’ of the Czechoslovak question along with other factors, including the opposition of a large number of Western communist parties to the invasion, could have helped ensure a compromise outcome to the crisis. Signature of the Czechoslovak-Soviet ‘Moscow Protocol’ of 26 August which anticipated the withdrawal of the Czechoslovak issue from the UN and the strengthening of mutual diplomatic collaboration between Moscow and Prague amongst other items, however, represented the end of active Czechoslovak diplomacy resistance to the occupation.
The foreign policy of the post-war Third Czechoslovak Republic, based on a consensus of the democratic parties and the communists was established on the idea that co-operation between the Western powers and the USSR would continue. This was to have provided the restored state both with sufficient guarantees in the event of new aggression from Germany, something perhaps generally anticipated at that time, and also to secure the survival of the limited post-war democracy, at least within the National Front. As soon as the first serious conflicts began to occur between Moscow and the West, in particular Washington and London, in 1948, the first serious flaws in the concept became apparent. While the “Western” pillar of the notional “bridge” concept weakened, the “Eastern” pillar strengthened including at a trading and political level. This was subsequently expressed in international aspects of the communist coup in early 1948. The KSČ’s easy victory in February 1948 did nevertheless trigger a number of diplomatic and other acts from the West in other conflicts with communists, such as during the elections in Italy and the accelerated signature of Western Union’s Treaty of Brussels, and it also facilitated the initial round of discussions on the establishment of NATO.
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