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Czecho-slovakian Foreigner s' Office.

Great Britain

and

The Czecho-Slovaks.

By

Vladimir Nosefy,

Secretary to the Czecho-slovak Legation in London.



Prague 1919.

Published by Czecho-slovakian Foreigners' Office.
Printed by Dr. Edv. Gregr & son.



Czecho-slovakian Foreigner s' Office,

Great Britain

and

The Czechoslovaks.



Vladimir TVosefc

Secretary to the Czecho-slovak Legation in London.



Prague 1919.

Published by Czecho-slovakian Foreigners* Office.
Printed by Dr. Edv. Gre*gr & son.



Z 7 C



B Since the beginning of the war the Cze-
cho- Slovak Nation had resisted the common
enemy by every means in its power. The Cze-
cho-SIovaks have constituted a considerable
Army fighting on three different battle-fields
and attempting in Russia and Siberia, to arrest
the Germanic invasion.

B In consideration of its efforts to achieve
independence Great Britain regards the Czecho-
slovaks as an Allied nation, and belligerent
Army waging regular warfare against Austria-
Hungary and Germany.

.Great Britain also recognizes the right of
the Czecho-Slovak National Council, as the sup-
reme organ of the Czecho-Slovak national in-
terests, and as the present trustee of the fu-
ture Czecho-Slovak Government, to exercise
supreme authority over this Allied and bellige-
rent Army."

Official British Declaration

of August 9th, 1918.

24th April 1919.

Great Britain and the Czecho-Slova^s.

1. The historical ties binding Great Britain with Bohemia
are not insignificant. It is especially in the intellectual sphere where
the influence of Anglo-Saxon civilisation was particulary felt in Bo-
hemia, both during the reformation period of Bohemian history and
in the critical period of the first beginnings of Czecho-Slovak rege-
neration.

The fact that Shakespeare in one of his plays speaks of the
sea-coast of Bohemia is wrongly quoted as an example that even
in old times the British people knew little about the Czechs. On the
contrary it could be proved that the important historical role which
the kingdom of Bohemia played in former times, was by no means
overlooked in England. The first Bohemian king was so well known
that even to-day a carol is sung about him in England: The Good
King Wenceslass an the Czechs are mentioned in old English chro-
nicles even as far back as the ninth century.

The friendship between the two countries was greatly strengthe-
ned through the marriage of Anne, daughter of one of the greatest



BpJjemian kings, Charles IV, with Richard II. Queen Anne justly
made herself popular in England through her wisdom and love of li-
terature. It was her grandfather, King John of Luxemburg, who fought
and fell as King of Bohemia on the side of the French at Crecy in
1346, with bravery admired even by his adversary King Eward III,
who was unable to refrain from tears when learning of his death.
His plumes, taken from him by the Black Prince, form the coat of
armes of the Prince of Wales.

The dynastic ties between England and Bohemia were not confined
to the marriage of Charles' daughter Anne. The wife of the last
Bohemian King Frederick of the Palatinate, Elizabeth, was the daugh-
ter "of James I, but Queen Anne's marriage was of far greater im-
portance, since it gave impulse to mutual relations between the two
countries which led to historical events of great significance. It was
about this time (end of the fourteenth century) that the wri-
tings of John Wycliff began to be studied in Bohemia and stimu-
lated the Bohemian movement for Church reform which resulted in
the Hussite wars. There is no doubt that even John Hus himself,
though not actually in complete agreement with Wycliff, nevertheless
was largely influenced by his writings. The Czech Protestant move-
ment naturally did not pass unnoticed in England, and various cri-
ticisms and historical studies, both favourable and unfavourable have
been written upon this momentous period in our history, when our
nation showed its inner potentiality by becoming the first Protes-
tant nation in Europe.

After the fateful battle of the White Mountain in 1620, England
became the refuge of Czech exiles who had to leave their native
country, conquered by the Habsburgs. Among these exiles was also
the famous painter and engraver Venceslas Hollar who became Master
of Designs to King Charles II., and the great paedagogue Komensky
(Comenius) who came to England at the express wish of the Long
Parliament in 1641. Komensky whose educational and religious
views were very advanced for those days, drafted a scheme for
the establishment of three Colleges, and the Parliament readily voted
the money for them, but the subsequent events in England which
culminated in Civil War, prevented, the realisation of his scheme,
and Komensky had to return. He was a bishop of the church called
the Unity of Bohemian Brethren whose spiritual descendants are the
Moravian Church.

The influence which in its turn English civilisation has made itself
felt in Bohemia a hundred years ago, is not negligeable. There is no
doubt that while the French humanitarian ideas contributed a great
deal towards creating the necessary atmosphere and ideology for the






Czecho-Slovak national revival, English literature, notably the works
of Milton and Byron have also played an important part in it. Today
the best works in English literature are translated into Czech and read
extensively. Needless to say that our that young Republic will have
a great deal yet to learn from a country so advanced politically and indu-
strially as England, and if before the war we have been unable to
study England so thoroughly as we would have liked, the changes
brought about by this war which gave our nation the long cherished
liberty, make it imperative for us to solicit British friendship and help
so that both the countries should know, understand and trust each other.

II. It is true that before the war the number of our friends in Great
Britain who took real interest in the Czecho-Slovaks was very limi-
ted. There were those who were interested in the Czech Sokol mo-
vement, others who knew our football teams, and others again who
studied and admired Bohemia from a purely touristic point of view.
But the political aspect of the Czecho-Slovak question was really tho-
roughly studied and understood only by a few, and of them two espe-
cially deserve to be mentioned: Dr. R. W. Seton Watson (Scotus
Viator), author of the famous Racial Problems in Hungary and Mr.
Henry Wickham Steed, formerly the Vienna correspondent of the
Times and author of the Habsburg Monarchy*.

The war has of course affected the proverbial indifference of the
English public towards international affairs, due to the happy sea-girt
position of Great Britain. The Czecho-Slovak question became an inter-
national question and public interest became aroused at the courage
and endurance displayed by a small nation right in the heart of Europe.

It must not be imagined however, that the scope of the Czecho-
slovak question was at once realised in its full bearing by the public,
There was many a prejudice to be overcome arising out of the tra-
ditional friendship of England with Austria, and there was a great
deal of spade-work to be done in the way of pure information owing
to the general ignorance about the mere existence of our nation, due
chiefly to our own failure to acquaint foreign opinion with the funda-
mental aspects of our national life, before the war, while the Germans
and Magyars have lost no opportunity to advertise themselves and
to poison public opinion against us. So strong were the sympathies
for Austria in certain circles in England that many politicians believed
almost to the very end of the war that our independence was impos-
sible and that Austria could be detached from Germany, to the ad-
vantage of the Allies.

On the whole, however, the British Press has, with few exceptions,
shown remarkable understanding of our question, and both the daily



press and reviews have readily published our articles and took gene-
rally a favourable attitude towards our movement.

The foremost object of our propaganda was, of course, to convince
the Allied public of the necessity of the break-up of Austria, if Pan-
Gerrnanism was to be beaten and a permanent peace assured. The ob-
jections raised againt the dismemberment of Austria were either based
upon malice and prejudice or upon misconception and ignorance.
Strangely enough among the politicians who have shown greater so-
licitude for the reactionary Austrian Empire than for the freedom of
the Slavs were such eminent Liberal and Socialist authorities, like
Mr. Brailstord and Mr. Noel Buxton, M. P. and their organs the He-
rald and the Nation. The arguments used by our opponents were
such as could have been manufactured by the Vienna Foreign Office
itself: We were described as moonstruck idealists, whose aims were
impossible to achieve. The dismemberment of Austria was described
as an imperialistic object, even after the collapse of Russia. We were
warned that the Allies did not enter the war to liberate us, that it
would require thousands of lives on the part of England, and that if
the Allies proclaimed the dismemberment of Austria as their object
it would prolong the war indefinitely. Furthermore, they expressed
doubts as to the real desires of the Czecho-Slovaks at home, and
pointed out that the war might be shortened, if the Allies approached
Austria with a view of concluding separate peace with her. They al-
leged that the new Austrian Emperor was anti-German, willing to
grant his Slav subjects autonomy and to introduce a new spirit into
the policy of Austria. This delusion about the possibility of detaching
Austria and of winning the Habsburgs over was so strong in England
that even some serious journals, like the Times and the Westmin-
ster Gazette* at one time worked under it, while the official circles
themselves, although at all times true to the proclaimed principles of
self-determination of nations, began to hesitate as to the advisibility
of insisting in public upon the dismemberment of Austria, and to con-
template the possibility of a new policy with a view of detaching
Austria-Hungary from the Central European Alliance.

From the very beginning we fought such prejudice and miscon-
ception as existed against us openly and always with the same
arguments. We revealed the crimes committed by Austria and Hun-
gary against their own subject Slavs, before and during the war,
and we pointed out the fact that Austria was nothing but a tool of
Germany, whose aim it was to dominate, with Austria's aid, through-
ut Central Europe and the Near East. The only way to defeat
this plan was to dismember Austria and liberate the Slavs and
Latins. It was this international aspect of our question as the crucial






question of Central Europe that enabled our propaganda to achieve
such a success as it did. Equally important was also the courageous
attitude taken by our countrymen at home who openly defied the
Austrian Government and proclaimed their aims to be identical with
those of their leaders abroad. Last, but not least, the wholesale
voluntary surrenders of our regiments to the Allies and the bravery
of our own troops fighting against Austria in Russia, France and
Italy, supplied an unanswerable argument against all who entertained
any doubt as to our true aspirations. In Great Britain itself all able
bodied Czechs volunteered to serve with His Majesty's forces and
fought with the British on various battlefields.

The result of our military and political contribution towards Allied
victory has been an increased interest and sympathy shown towards
us by the public. Today we have many devoted friends in Great
Britain in society circles, among members of Parliament, among
University professors, scientists, authors, musicians and journalists.
We shall never be able to realise quite fully how much we owe to
the untiring labours of President Masaryk in this regard, who justly
enjoys popularity and general respect in England.

Owing to lack of space we shall be able to refer only briefly to
the development of public opinion in England towards our question
during the war.

III. As early during the war as December 1914 a book apperead
in London called War and Democracy (Macmillan & C) in which
Mr. Seton Watson already developed the idea of the break-up of
Austria and spoke of the revival of the famous mediaeval kingdom
of Bohemia, advocating the inclusion of the Slovaks of Hungary
in it.

At a lecture delivered at King's College in May 1915, Mr. Seton
Watson developed his idea of the future of Bohemia* and concluded
that there will be room in the new Europe of which we dream for an
independent Bohemia, industrious, progressive and peaceful a Bohemia
which will have rescued its Slovak kinsmen from the intolerable
yoke of Magyar oligarchy.

The first occasion on which British sympathies with our struggle
for freedom were manifested on a larger scale, was the quincente-
nary of John Hus' martyr death in 1915. Extensive articles on John
Hus appeared in all journals as well as an appel of various mem-
bers of the Oxford University urging Czecho-Slovak independence.
The Times wrote in a leading article on July 6th. 1915:

The ties between England and Bohemia are old and
honourable. No race in Europe has striven more perti-
naciously and successfully than the Czechs to regain



a recognised place amongst civilised peoples. None
are more deserving of British sympathy in the cruel
position in which this war was placed them; and no
result of the war would be more welcome than the
re-establishment of Bohemian independence.*

A meeting was also held on the same day at Aeolian Hall at
which several prominent speakers, including Lord Bryce, Mr. A. F.
Whyte and Mr. Seton Watson spoke in favour of our independence.

Soon afterwards another event of great importance for the mu-
tual relations between Czecho-Slovaks and Great Britain took place
when Thomas Q. Masaryk was appointed professor at King's Col-
lege, London and delivered his inaugural lecture on October 19th,
1915, in which he outlined his political scheme for reorganising Cen-
tral Europe through the creation of an independent Poland, Bohemia
and Greater Serbia. The lecture acquired the character of a politi-
cal event, as Mr. Asquith, then premier, sent a cordial message to
the meeting congratulating King's College upon securing Professor
Masaryk's services. The British Press greeted him equally enthu-
siastically as the promoter of friendship between the Anglo-Saxon
and the Slav races.

It is not the purpose of this articles to describe in detail the ma-
nifold activities of Professor Masaryk since his arrival in England,
yet it is impossible to speak about the ties of friendship between
Great Britain and Bohemia without mentioning his name as the
chief promoter of this friendship. His world fame as scientist and
politician, his strength of personality, frankness, sincerity of con-
viction, and clearsightedness, not only won for him the affection and
respect of numberless friends, but enabled also our cause to be
better known and understood. Apart from his lectures at King's
College and his diplomatic and political activites as leader of the
movement for Czecho-Slovak independence, Professor Masaryk did
not miss any opportunity of informing the British public of our aspi-
rations through the medium of the Press. Thus several of his arti-
cles appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette*, Weekly Despatch, the
Times* and other journals, and he was also chief collaborator of
that splendid English Review of foreign politics, the New Europe .
when it was first started in the autumn of 1916. About that time
also the Czech Press Bureau has been opened by him in Thanet
House, Strand, which was working there up to the end of the war,
when our Legation has been opened in Grosvenor Place.

The daily Press has been very friendly towards us. The Pall
Mall Gazettes Times, and the Daily Chronicle* especially have
readily published news and statements about Bohemia. Well written



articles from the pen of Professor Pares and Dr. E. J. Dillon have
appeared in the Daily Telegraph*. The Morning Post* has pu-
blished pro-Magyar articles, and the liberal 'Manchester Guardian*
has not always been favourable disposed towards our movement,
yet even they gave publicity to our news. Among provincial jour-
nals, the Leeds Mercury*, Liverpol Courier*, 'Scotsman* and
Nottingham Guardian* have also shown lively interest in our mo-
vement.

As regards reviews, the ,,Everyman" has published for more than
a year (1916 1917) articles about us regularly. The ,,Spectator",
,,New Statesman", ,,Outlook" and ,,New Witness" also occasionally
had articles about us. A very favourable attitude was at all times
taken by the ,,Near East" and the socialist review ,,Justice". Above
all, of course, the ,,New Europe" has rendered signal service to our
cause by publishing well informed articles about our question.

The articles of Canon Barry in the ,,Nineteenth Century", of Mr.
H. Wickham Steed in the .,Edinburgh Review", of Mr. Seton Wat-
son in the ,,Contemporary Review", as well as arcticles in the ,,Na-
tional Review" and ,,Round Table" have also proved of great im-
portance.

Public opinion has naturally fluctuated with the military and po-
litical situation. The Allies' Note to President Wilson of January,
1917. proclaiming our independence as one of the Allied war aims,
has enormously increased the interest in our question as an interna-
tional problem. Then again the opening of the Reichsrat in May,
1917, and the courageous speeches of our deputies meant a great
moral support to our movement. The heroic deeds of our troops at
Zborow during the Kerensky offensive in July, 1917, provided a
welcome impetus to our suffering people at home. The declaration
of the Czech deputies of January 6th, 1918, and the French decree
concerning the formation of our own Army came at the right mo-
ment, when the diplomatic situation was very critical and preca-
rious. The former revealed to the whole world the unanimous deter-
mination of our nation to obtain independence at all costs, the latter
provided a guarantee of our actual sovereignty and a basis for our
future diplomatic successes. The Rome Conference of oppressed na-
tionalities in April 1918, met with a hearty response in Great Bri-
tain, where the traditions of justice and fair play have always been
so keen. The effect of this Conference was only strengthened by the
May demonstrations in Prague. But by far the greatest advertise-
ment for us meant the gallant stand of our Army in Siberia, who
succeeded, under most difficult circumstances and hardly 100.000 in
number, in controlling the whole trans-Siberian railway over 3.000



10

miles long against all German and bolshevik attacks. Owing no
doubt chiefly to these military efforts, Great Britain, first among
the Allies, decided to recognise us officially and unreservedly as an
Allied and belligerent nation as early as August 8 th, 1918, granting
at the same time our National Council powers of a de facto Gover-
ment. This was a deed of great generosity and wise statesmanship,
and there is no doubt that it contributed more than anything else
to the political bankruptcy of Austria. It was a deed which the
Czecho-Slovaks will never forget.

IV. Now that the Czecho-Slovaks have at last regained their lost
liberty, the task of strengthening mutual friendly relations between
our Republic and Great Britain most seriously occupy the minds of all
friends of the Slavo-British rapprochement. It is true that we have
a great deal yet to learn from the British, from their wonderful
spirit of organisation, calm perseverance and long political expe-
rience. But no doubt the British people on their part can also profit
from a better study of our life and ways. In Bohemia the English
will find an opportunity of studying the Slav, both from his weak
and strong points, since the Czechs combine the qualities of the
dreamy East with those of the practical West. In Bohemia the En-
glish could learn the spirit of a small self-sufficient and stubborn
nation, forced to live intensively and to fight for its living against
more powerful neighbours. They could learn the strength which this
nation draws from its idealism, its love of art, music and literature,
and they could then better appreciate the positive qualities which
the Slav can boast of. For after all, it is only on ground of such
mutual understanding that the real brotherhood of nations can be
built. The British and Slav character differ from each other, yet it
is just because of this difference that they learn from each other.

We can say without exaggeration that every Czecho-Slovak has
nothing but the most sincere sympathy and respect for Great Bri-
tain, and the Britain, and the British civilisation. English literature
is read extensively in Bohemia, English plays from Shakespeare to
Bernard Shaw are frequently performed at our theatre in Prague,
and our people take keen interest in every British movement or en-
terprise. There is no doubt that on the other hand British people
will manifest their sympathies shown to us during the war also
now, by taking greater interest in our literature, art, politics, trade
and industries.

A great deal unfortunately remains to be done by us in the way
of information. At present there is not even a good grammar for
English people to learn Czech. There are historical books about Bo-
hemia, notably Count Lutzow's sketch, and Mr. Paul Selver has



11

compiled an admirable little anthology of Bohemian poetry, but
beyond that very little has been translated from Czech into English.
There are one or two descriptive books in English, notably Mon-
roe's ,,Bohemia and the Czechs", but a great deal more ought to be
published about us in English. From political literature one could
recommend Mr. Seton Watson's book on Hungary, as regards the
Slovak question. Mr. T, Capek has published a book in America on
,,Bohemia under Habsburg Misrule" and the history of our move-
ment has been outlined in Dr. Benes' ,,Bohemia's case for Indepen-
dence" and my own ,,Independent Bohemia". It is to be hoped,
however, that a more detailed account of our remarkable revolution
against Austria-Hungary may at a later date be published in English,
when we shall be able to judge it from a more retrospective atti-
tude, and when we shall be in possession of all documents and evi-
dence relating to it.

The future relations between Great Britain and the Qzecho-Slovak
Republic should develope chiefly in the following directions:

a) Economic relations. It should be realised in Great
Britain that Bohemia is the most important factor in Central Europe
from the economic point of view. Bohemia is very rich industrially
as well as in mineral wealth and agriculture, even if she has suf-
fered owing to the war, and if her industries have been tempora-
rily suspended owing to lack of raw materials. Before the war Bo-
liemia formed by far the most productive part of the whole Austrian
Empire. She produced 929-lbs of grain per inhabitant, while the
rest of Austria yielded only 277 -Ibs. Bohemia also monopolised
almost the whole sugar and beer industry in Austria. Other pro-
ducts exported from Bohemia included the famous Bohemian glass,
gloves, hops, paper, coal, iron, textile products, agricultural products
and machinery, etc. Altogether it may be safely estimated that the
total export from the Czecho-Slovak territory before the war amounted
to some forty million pounds annually. On the other hand we used
to import from England and the colonies various machinery and
metals, cotton and wool, tea, coffee, spices and other colonial
products.

In view of the present situation, when our industries are almost
entirely suspended owing to lack of raw materials, British capital
could with great advantage be utilised in providing such raw ma-
terials for the manufacture of textile and other articles, while agri-
culture in Bohemia could be helped if English live stock, fertilisers
and seeds were imported. Incidentally, such step would prove both
a sound investment and a sound policy, for it would enable the
Czecho-Slovaks to emancipate their trade and industries from the tute-



12

lage of German capital and it would also strengthen the Republic
internally and externally as a bulwark against bolshevism. It is
essential that British merchants and financiers should have full con-


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Online LibraryVladimír NosekGreat Britain and the Czecho-Slovaks → online text (page 1 of 2)