VLADIMIR NOSEK CHAIRMAN PROZATIMNI
THOMAS MASARYK ROBERT LANSING
Another new country to arise in 1918 was Czecho-Slovakia. The name in itself is confusing. The Czechs are the Bohemians or North Slays, commonly known as the Czecho-Slavs, to distinguish them from the Jugo-Slavs or South-Slays of the Balkan States. There exist, however, contiguous to the Czechs, a people of another branch of the Slavic race, known as Slovaks; and their home, a northern district of Hungary, they have named Slovakia. As these people have united with the Czechs to form the new independent republic, its authorities have decided that both the land and the people should be called, not Czecho-Slavic as they were at first, but Czecho-Slovak.
The forming of the Czecho-Slav army in Russia, and the cause of its attempting its amazing march across Russia and Siberia, have been already told in the Outline Narrative for this volume. Their journey from Kiev in the Ukraine to Vladivostok on the Pacific coast, six thousand miles across a hostile land, has no parallel in history. The "Retreat of the Ten Thousand" Greeks under Xenophon was conducted over only a comparatively small portion of Asia Minor. It was but a schoolboy undertaking when measured against this tremendous feat triumphantly accomplished by the Czecho-Slovak army.
The outline of their effort is here given by one of their leading diplomatic representatives, M. Nosek. The detailed account of their quarrel with the Boishevists is told officially by the man the wandering army made its executive organizer on the spot--one of the dozen Xenophons of the great march. Thomas Masaryk, the most trusted and successful leader of Czecho-Slovak affairs in Europe and America, was made first president of the new republic. He states the general position of his people.
The peculiar situation of the Czecho-Slovaks, with their land wholly in
Austrian hands, but their men free either in Siberia or in the Allied lands, and
ready to speak and fight, has led to many anomalies. Chief of these is that the
Czecho-Slovaks were recognized as a nation even when they had no country.
The United States formal recognition of them is here given as announced in
September, 1918 Their own Declaration of Independence of Austria was not
issued until October 18, 1918, when it was proclaimed by Masaryk in Paris.
The Teutonic breakdown enabled them to set up a government in their
own land in November; and the ancient Bohemian metropolis of Prague was
then proclaimed the capital of Czecho-Slovakia.
When war broke out, the Czecho-Slavs all over the world felt it their duty to prove by deeds that their place was on the side of the Entente. The Czecho-Slavs in Great Britain, France and Russia volunteered to fight for the Allies, while in the United States of America, where there are some one and a half million Czecho-Slavs, they have counteracted German propaganda and revealed German plots intended to weaken the American assistance to the Allies.
In France 471 Czechs, i.e., over 6o per cent., entered the Foreign Legion and greatly distinguished themselves by their bravery. The majority of them have been mentioned in dispatches and received the Military Cross. They have also won five crosses and twenty medals of the Russian Order of St. George. Their losses amount to more than 70 per cent.
Further, many Czechs living in Great Britain at the outbreak of the war joined the French Foreign Legion in France, and after His Majestys Government allowed Czechs to volunteer for service in the British army in the autumn of 1916, practically all Czechs of military age resident in Great Britain enrolled so far as they were not engaged on munitions. In Canada, too, the Czechs joined the army in order to fight for the British Empire.
The most important part was taken, however, by the
Czecho-Slavic colonies in Russia and America. In Russia,
where there are large Czecho-Slavic settlements, numbering
several thousand, a Czecho-Slavic legion was formed at the
outbreak of the war which rendered valuable services, especially in scouting and reconnoitering. This legion grew gradually larger, especially when Czech prisoners began to be
allowed to join it, and finally, under the direction of the
Czecho-Slavic National Council, it was formed into a regular
army. In September, 1917, it had already two divisions,
and in 1918 fresh prisoners joined it, so that it counted some
In order to be able fully to appreciate this achievement, we must remember that this was an army of volunteers, organized by the Czecho-Slavic Council without the powers of a real government. At the beginning of the war the Czecho-Slavs not only had no government of their own, but not even any united organization. And if we realize that to-day, the National Council is recognized by the Allies as the Provisional Government of Bohemia with the right of exercising all powers appertaining to a real government, including the control of an army as large as Great Britain had at the outbreak of the war, it must be admitted that the action of the Czecho-Slavs abroad was crowned with wonderful success.
In Russia the difficulties with which the National Council had to cope were especially grave, and mainly for two reasons. In the first place, the Czecho-Slavic prisoners who voluntarily surrendered were scattered all over Russia. It was extremely difficult even to get into touch with them. In addition there was a lack of good-will on the part of the old Russian Government. Thus very often these prisoners, who regarded Russia as Bohemias elder brother and liberator, were sadly disillusioned when they were left under the supervision of German officers, and thousands of them died from starvation. Nevertheless they never despaired. Eager to fight for the Allies, many of them entered the Jugo-Slav Division which fought so gallantly in the Dobrudja. Nearly all the Czech officers in this division were decorated with the highest Russian, Serbian and Rumanian orders. Half of them committed suicide, however, during the retreat rather than fall into the hands of the enemy.
It was not until after the Russian Revolution, and especially after the arrival of Professor Masaryk in Russia in May, 1917, that the Czecho-Slavic army in Russia became a reality.
The Czecho-Slavs had been mentioned in Russian official communiques of February 2, 1916, and March 29, 1917. The most glorious part was taken by the Czecho-Slavic Brigade during the last Russian offensive in July, 1917, in which the Czechs showed manifestly the indomitable spirit that animates them. Since every Czech fighting on the side of the Entente was shot, if he was captured by the Austrians, the Czechs everywhere fought to the bitter end, and rather committed suicide than be captured by their enemies. For this reason they were justly feared by the Germans. As in the Hussite wars, the sight of their caps and the sound of their songs struck terror in the hearts of the Germans and Magyars. At the battle of Zborov on July 2, 1917, the Czechs gave the whole world proof of their bravery. Determined to win or fall, they launched an attack almost without ammunition, with bayonets and hand-grenades---and they gained a victory over an enemy vastly superior in numbers.
According to the official Russian communiqué: "On July 2nd, at about three oclock in the afternoon, after a severe and stubborn battle, the gallant troops of the CzechoSlavic Brigade occupied the strongly fortified enemy position on the heights to the west and southwest of the village of Zborov and the fortified village of Koroszylow. Three lines of enemy trenches were penetrated. The enemy has retired across the Little Strypa. The Czecho-Slavic Brigade captured 62 officers and 3,150 soldiers, 15 guns and many machine guns. Many of the captured guns were turned against the enemy."
Finally, however, when the Russians refused to fight, the Czechs had to retire as well. General Brusiloff declared:
"The Czecho-Slavs, perfidiously abandoned at Tarnopol by our infantry, fought in such a way that the world ought to fall on its knees before them."
Professor Masaryk succeeded admirably in uniting and
strengthening all the Czecho-Slavic forces in Russia, and in
organizing a regular army of the many thousands of CzechoSlavic prisoners there. Before the Revolution these efforts of
the National Council and the Czech prisoners, who were always
eager to fight for the Allies, were rendered immensely difficult
by the obstacles inherent in the geographic conditions of Russia
and by obstacles placed in their way by the old Russian régime.
Unfortunately now, when the Czecho-Slavs had at last succeeded after much work in realizing their plans, the Czecho-Slavic army became powerless owing to the collapse of Russia. Without ammunition, without support from anywhere, the Czecho-Slavs thought they could no more render very effective service to the Allies in the East. They decided, therefore, to go over to join their compatriots in France.
The position of our army was as follows: After the offensive of July, 1917, the Czechs retreated to Kiev, where they continued to concentrate fresh forces. At that time they numbered about 60,000, and this number had gradually increased to 8o,ooo by the end of 1917. They always observed strict neutrality in Russias internal affairs on the advice of their venerable leader, Professor Masaryk. It was necessary to counsel this neutrality for the sake of our army itself, since it contained partisans of different creeds and parties, disagreement among whom might have led to its dissolution. On the whole, the Czecho-Slavs, who are an advanced nation, fully conscious of their national aspirations, remained unaffected by the misleading Boishevist theories. The Czechs abstained throughout from interfering with Russian affairs, yet they did not wish to leave Russia as long as there was any chance for them to assist her. It was not until the shameful peace of Brest-Litovsk in February, 1918, that Professor Masaryk decided that the Czecho-Slavic army should leave Russia via Siberia and join the Czecho-Slavic army in France. The Bolsheviks granted them free passage to Vladivostok.
This journey of some 5,000 miles was not, however, an easy task for an army to accomplish. The troops had to move in small echelons or detachments, and concentration at the stations was prohibited. They had to procure their trains and their provisions, and they had constant trouble with the Bolsheviks, because in every district there was a practically independent Soviet Government with whom the Czechs had to negotiate. The first detachments with the generalissimo of the army, General Diderichs, at the head arrived in Vladivostok at the end of April, 1918. But the other detachments were constantly held up by the Bolsheviks and had great trouble in passing through.
They moved from Kiev via Kursk, Tambov, Penza and Samara. The two last-named towns lie on the line between Moscow and Tcheliabinsk at the foot of the Urals, whence a direct line runs across Siberia to Vladivostok.
As we have already pointed out, the Bolsheviks agreed in principle to allow our troops to leave Russia. Their commander-in-chief, General Muraviev, allowed the Czechs free free passage to France on February 16th. The same concession had been granted by the Moscow Soviet. On the whole, the Czechs were on tolerably good terms with the Bolsheviks. Professor Masaryk rejected every plan directed against the Bolsheviks submitted to him even by such of their political adversaries as could not justly be called counter-revolutionaries. The Czecho-Slavic troops went still further; they actually complied with the request of the Bolsheviks and partially disarmed.
The trouble only began in May, 1918, when the Bolsheviks yielded to German intrigues and resolved to destroy our army. Already at the beginning of May the Czechs had begun to feel embittered against the Bolsheviks, because in defiance of the agreement their troops were constantly being held up by local Soviets. At Tambov, for instance, they were held up for a whole month. At Tcheliabinsk the Czechs had a serious scuffle with Magyar ex-prisoners on May 26th, and the Bolsheviks sided entirely with the Magyars, even arresting some Czecho-Slavic delegates. The Czechs simply occupied the city, liberated their comrades, and at a congress held by them at Tcheliabinsk on May 28th it was decided to refuse to surrender any more arms and ammunition and to continue transports to Vladivostok, if necessary with arms in their hands.
This was a reply to Trotskys telegram that the CzechoSlays should be completely disarmed, which the CzechoSlays
defied as they knew that another order had been issued by
Trotsky simultaneously, no doubt on the instigation of Count
Mirbach, saying that the Czecho-Slavic troops must be
dissolved at all costs and interned as prisoners ot war.
The Bolsheviks now arrested prominent members of the Moscow branch of the Czecho-Slavic National Council on the ground that they were "anti-revolutionaries." They alleged also that they had no guarantee that ships would be provided for the Czechs to be transported to France, and that the Czechs were holding up food supplies from Siberia. The Bolsheviks deliberately broke their word, and Trotsky issued an order to "all troops fighting against the anti-revolutionary Czecho-Slav brigades."
In this he said: "The concentration of our troops is complete. Our army being aware that the Czecho-Slavs are direct allies of the anti-revolution and of the capitalists, fights them well. The Czecho-Slavs are retreating along the railway. Obviously they would like to enter into negotiations with the Soviets. We issued an order that their delegates should be received. We demand in the first place that they should be disarmed. Those who do not do so voluntarily will be shot on the spot. Warlike operations on the railway line hinder food transports. Energetic steps must be taken to do away with this state of affairs."
The Czecho-Slays were sorely handicapped, since they were not only almost unarmed, but were also dispersed along the trans-Siberian line in small detachments which had considerable difficulty in keeping in touch with each other. Nevertheless the fates were favorable to them. They were victorious almost everywhere, thanks to their wonderful spirit and discipline.
The first victories gained by the Czecho-Slavs over the Bolsheviks were at Penza and Samara. Penza was captured by them after three days fighting at the end of May. Later the Czecho-Slavs also took Sysran on the Volga, Kazan with its large arsenal, Simbirsk and Yekaterinburg, connecting Tcheliabinsk with Petrograd, and occupied practically the whole Volga region.
In Siberia they defeated a considerable force of GermanMagyar ex-prisoners in Krasnoyarsk and Omsk and established themselves firmly in Udinsk. On June 29, 15,000 Czecho-Slavs under General Diderichs, after handing an ultimatum to the Bolsheviks at Vladivostok, occupied the city without much resistance. Only at one spot fighting took place and some 16o Bolsheviks were killed. The Czecho-- Slays, assisted by Japanese and Allied troops, then proceeded to the north and northwest, while the Bolsheviks and German prisoners retreated to Chabarovsk.
In September the Czech and Allied troops from Vladivostok joined hands with the Czecho-Slavs from Irkutsk and western Siberia, and thus gained control over practically the whole trans-Siberian railway. By this means they have done great service to the Allies, especially to Great Britain, by defending the East against the German invaders. Furthermore, it was the Czecho-Slavs bold action which induced Japan and America at last to intervene in Russia and for the sake of Russia, and it was their control of the Siberian railway which made such intervention possible. Let us hope that their action will lead to the regeneration and salvation of the Russian nation.
The service rendered by Czecho-Slav troops to the Allied cause was justly appreciated by the Allies. Mr. Lloyd George sent the following telegram to Professor Masaryk on September 9, 1918: "On behalf of the British War Cabinet I send you our heartiest congratulations on the striking successes won by the Czecho-Slav forces against the armies of German and Austrian troops in Siberia. The story of the adventures and triumphs of this small army is, indeed, one of the greatest epics of history. It has filled us all with admiration for the courage, persistence and self-control of your countrymen, and shows what can be done to triumph over time, distance and lack of material resources by those holding the spirit of freedom in their hearts. Your nation has rendered inestimable service to Russia and to the Allies in their struggle to free the world from despotism. We shall never forget it."
Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Czecho-Slovak army in
An authorized and verified translation of the official version of the incident given by the Temporary Executive Committee of the Czecho-Slav army, into whose hands the direction of military operations and political negotiations was placed by the Assembly of C2echo-Slav Soldiers at Tcheliabinsk, May, 1918.
The. principle of the neutrality of the Czecho-Slav army as regards the internal conflicts and battles of Russia was definitely expressed and recognized both in the agreement and treaty made by the Czecho-Slav National Council with the temporary government of Russia, and in that arrived at later with the government of the Ukraine Republic, the Ukraine National Council. To this principle both political and military leaders adhered firmly, and succeeded in implanting it so deeply in the minds of the soldiers that, in spite of the attempts made right and left to induce them to break it, not a single section of the army could be induced to do so.
Later, when the Ukraine National Council was defeated and gradually driven out of the governments on the eastern side of the Dnieper and later out of Kiev and the rest of the Ukraine, the commander-in-chief of the Soviet forces, Colonel Muravjof, and Mr. Kocubinsky, the minister of war of the Soviet Government of the Ukraine, recognized the strict armed neutrality of the Czecho-Slav army.
Prior to this, when on January 12, 1918, the Ukraine Central Council adopted the "Fourth Universal," which expressed the desire of the Ukraine Government to live on terms of friendship and harmony with all neighboring states, and especially with Austria, it was decided at a meeting of the Czecho-Slovak National Council, at which Professor Masaryk himself presided, to declare the Czecho-Slav army in all parts of the former Russian state as a part of the autonomous army of the Czecho-Slavs in France. This proclamation was published on February 10, 1918, after the arrival of the Bolsheviks in Kiev. Soon after that, simultaneously with the success of the peace negotiations of the delegates of the Soviet and Ukraine Governments with the representatives of the Central Powers at Brest-Litovsk, definite steps were taken to arrange for the departure of the Czecho-Slav army to the French front.
The first movement was to be the concentration of all our forces on the eastern side of the Dnieper, and this was to be carried out on the basis of an agreement made with the Ukraine-Soviet Government, which at one time planned to establish a front against the Germans in the Ukraine. In the meantime, however, the Germans began to threaten the Czecho-Slavs from both flanks, and they were obliged to retire into the territory of Great Russia. Again this retirement was made in complete agreement with the Soviet authorities in the Ukraine, an arrangement having been reached with the Czecho-Slovak National Council and the commander of the Soviet forces of the South Russian Republics, Antonov-Ovsejenko. On the basis of this agreement an order was issued to the Czecho-Slav Army Corps (No. 26, March 16, 1918)to turn over to the Soviet forces all superfluous arms and other military equipment, while Antonov on his part issued an order to all revolutionary forces of the South Russian Republics (No.92, March 16th), from which the following is a literal extract:
"Our comrades of the Czecho-Slav Army Corps, who fought so bravely and gloriously at Zhitomir, Kieff, Grebyonka, and Bachmac, defending the way to Poltava and Kharkoff, are now leaving Ukraine territory, and are turning over to us a part of their military equipment. The revolutionary army will never forget the fraternal assistance rendered by the Czecho-Slav Army Corps in the battle of the working people of the Ukraine against the thieving bands of imperialism. The military equipment given up by the Czecho-Slavs the revolutionary army accepts as a fraternal gift."
On the basis of this agreement, Antonov consented to the departure of the Czecho-Slavs from the Ukraine, and the staff of the Soviet army of Great Russia also agreed to our departure toward the East, and issued the necessary orders to the railway officials who were to attend to the details of the transport on behalf of the Soviet Goyernment. Agreement to our departure from Russia via Vladivostok was also expressed in telegrams sent by Lenine and Trotsky.
In Penza, however, a new set of negotiations was begun. The Council of People’s Commissioners in Moscow demanded the complete disarmament of the Czecho-Slavarmy. As the result of the negotiations between the CzechoSlays and the Moscow authorities a telegram was sent from Moscow on March 26th signed by Stalin, in which a certain number of arms were to be left to each echelon to provide protection against attack by counter-revolutionists. In this same telegram the promise was made to help in every way possible the Czecho-Slavs as long as they remain on Russian territory, provided they maintain an honest and sincere loyalty. Further, the Penza Soviet was ordered to appoint reliable commissioners who were to accompany the Czecho-Slav echelons to Vladivostok, see that their unity as an organization was unimpaired, and at the same time keep the Council of People’s Commissioners informed as to the progress of the transport. In this same telegram it was stated that telegrams with necessary instructions would be sent by the Council of People’s Commissioners to all interested parties.
Our army maintained an honest and sincere loyalty. But meanwhile the Soviet Government proceeded to break its word at every step. The Penza Soviet named but one commissioner, who went on ahead to Vladivostok with the first echelon, and there sat down and did nothing. In spite of our repeated requests that other commissioners be named, the Penza authorities absolutely refused to do this, giving as an excuse the lack of suitable men.
The local Soviets one after another put all sorts of obstacles in our path. In Samara, but 400 versts beyond Penza, the local Soviet demanded that we give up more of our arms. These demands were repeated in Ufa, Ziatoust, Omsk, Irkutsk, Tchita, and so on all along the line. The representatives of the Czecho-Slav National Council, as well as the commanders of the various echelons, used every possible means to prevent the movement of our transports from being halted. In Samara the echelons gave up 138 rifles apiece, leaving only thirty to an echelon; in Omsk each echelon gave up a machine gun, and in Irkutsk more rifles, until there was left but twenty to an echelon. The negotiations of these loyal Soviets, being in clear opposition to the orders of the Council of People’s Commissioners quoted above, often had the appearance of bargaining at the bazaar, and for the Czecho-Slav soldiers was insulting in the extreme, and had the effect of increasing every day mistrust in the Soviet Government, and in creating a disgust for them which ever grew stronger.
One great reason for this lack of confidence and disgust was the attitude assumed by the Soviet authorities, both local and central, toward those who had deserted the CzechoSlav army and joined the ranks of the Red army. There were not many of them, and they were bad soldiers and men of weak characters. They went over to the Soviet army for mercenary reasons. The munificent salaries, the opportunities to at once assume a position of high rank, fear of the French front, petty personal spite, these were the motives that led these men to desert their comrades. Our soldiers knew these men, and were glad that they were rid of them. The Soviet Government welcomed these deserters and sup ported them in every way possible. At Penza the Soviet named some of these deserters as their representatives on the commission which had charge of receiving the arms given up by the Czecho-Slavs. Other deserters holding documents from the Soviet political or military authorities insisted on coming into the Czecho-Slav echelons to carry on agitations for the Red army, and to determine if we did not have some arms hidden away.
These deserters, who called themselves social revolutionists, internationalists, and communists, often declared that the holding up of our transport and all the obstacles put in our path were for the purpose of causing dissension within our ranks and gaining as many recruits as possible for the Red army. They declared that this was the reason why the Soviet Government wished a part of the troops to go by way of Archangel; that somewhere on the way in a region where no food was to be had they planned to halt us and compel us from very hunger to join their ranks.
The Czecho-Slav National Council exercised all its influence with the army to keep them from taking stock in these tales, and to induce them to keep their patience, and as good soldiers not to make any reply to the unfaithfulness and insulting behavior of the Soviet Government.
The atmosphere was therefore highly charged with electricity when the Tcheliabinsk incident occurred. At Tcheliabinsk, besides the Czecho-Slav echelons, there stood several trains filled with prisoners on their way home to Austria and Germany. The relations between the Czecho-Slav soldiers and these prisoners was good, as it was uniformly whenever they came in contact with one another on the road. The soldiers did carry on an agitation amongst them against Austrian and German imperialism, and laughed at them for returning to serve once more under Austrian and German officers. But at the same time they felt sorry for them, and often shared their food with them. On May 14th, one of these prisoners threw a piece of iron out of a train that was just leaving, wounding one of the Czecho-Slav soldiers. The soldiers immediately surrounded the car from which the iron had been thrown, and demanded that the guilty prisoner be given up to them. When this was done, they immediately killed him.
In the course of the investigation of this affair, the local Soviet called as witnesses the members of the guard which had been on duty at the station. But instead of hearing their testimony, they put these men under arrest. A deputation which was later sent by the Czecho-Slavs to demand the release of the guard was likewise put under arrest. This illegal imprisonment of their fellows was more than the soldiers in the echelons at Tcheliabinsk could stand, and, led by their commanders, they marched into the city, released their imprisoned comrades, and returned immediately to their trains. No attack by force was made, the whole proceeding was conducted in an orderly and quiet manner, hardly a shot being fired.
The local Soviet proceeded to describe this action on the part of the Czecho-Slavs in lurid colors in telegrams sent out in all directions. Believing the information thus imparted to them, the Council of People’s Commissioners issued an order to disarm completely all Czecho-Slav echelons. At the same time orders were issued to the Soviets of all cities where our echelons were then located to proceed against them by force. Accordingly, almost on the same day the Soviet forces, composed for the most part of Magyar and German prisoners of war, fell upon the Czecho-Slav echelons, which were almost entirely disarmed.
At the attack made upon echelons of the Sixth CzechoSlav Regiment at Marianovka, near Omsk, the Czecho-Slavs suffered losses amounting to ten killed and ten severely wounded. The staff of the First Regiment, whose echelon was attacked at Ziatoust, defended itself with stones against the machine guns and rifles of the Bolsheviks, but lost six men killed and ten severely wounded, and was compelled to make its way across the Urals on foot. Similarly the staff of the Second Artillery Brigades was attacked at Imokentjeska, near Irkutsk, when they had already given up their arms. Machine guns placed in the windows of the railway station opened up a heavy fire upon the Czecho-Slavs, but in spite of the fact that the men had no arms except a few hand-grenades, they succeeded in clearing the station of Bolshevist forces and in capturing their machine guns. A fourth attack was made at Serodobsk, south from Penza. All of these attacks were made on May 27th and the following two or three days immediately after the issuance of the order from Moscow to disarm the Czecho-Slavs at any cost.
Prior to these events, but after the first incident at Tcheliabinsk, the Assembly of Czecho-Slav Soldiers met for its annual meeting and decided that in view of the tense situation existing between the Soviet Government and the CzechoSlays, vigorous measures must be taken immediately in order to secure the rapid passage of the trains toward Vladivostok. Accordingly delegates were dispatched to all echelons with instructions to proceed ahead at any cost, and an executive committee was appointed to see that these plans were carried out. The executive committee in formulating its plans counted on the probability of an armed conflict with the Bolshevik forces, but felt confident that they would be able to force their way through to Vladivostok in spite of any resistance that might be offered by the Soviet forces.
The reason for their confidence in the successful outcome of their new plan lay not only in the well-known weakness of the Red army, but also in the fact of their knowledge that the people at large were sick and tired of the Boishevist rule, and that therefore they would not turn a hand to help the Boishevists in any possible conflict with the Czecho-Slavs. Furthermore, the Czecho-Slavs, from their intimate knowledge of political conditions throughout Russia, judged that the feeling against the Boishevists was strongest in the very regions where most of their echelons were located, namely in the Urals and western Siberia. The executive committee, therefore, in planning their action, took cognizance of these facts and planned to take advantage both of the weakness of the Red army and of the strong popular feeling against the Bolshevists to force their way through to the East. That their action would be accompanied by or followed by the overthrow of the Soviet Government and the establishment of a new government in western Siberia never entered into their calculations, although later, when the fall of the Soviet Government was an accomplished fact, the Czecho-Slavs were the first to welcome the new government and to lend it their moral and armed support.
The plans of the executive committee for the forcing of the passage of Vladivostok had not been thoroughly worked out when the events of May 25th brought things to an issue. By its cowardly attacks upon the Czecho-Slav echelons the Soviet Government began a warfare against the Czecho-Slavs, the object of which was, according to the command of Trotsky, to disarm and disband the CzechoSlav army corps, place them in prison camps, and there try to enlist them in the ranks of the Red army or to put them out at hard labor. In short, they wished to destroy entirely the Czecho-Slav army, that important moral support of the revolutionary movement of the Czecho-Slovakia and the other oppressed nationalities of Austria-Hungary.After the first order to disarm completely the CzechoSlav echelons, there still remained the possibility of diplomatic negotiations. But after the attack made upon the echelons on May 25th-26th, the soul of each soldier cried out for revenge for the blood of their innocent comrades. And so there was nothing left but war, a war which has already resulted in the seizure of almost the entire Siberian Railway by the Czecho-Slavs and the fall of the Soviet Government all along the line.
The Czecho-Slavs are convinced that the action taken against them by the Soviet Government was dictated from Berlin through the German ambassador in Moscow, Count Mirbach. This conviction is based on the opinion, very widely spread throughout Russia, that the Soviet Government is the paid agent of Germany. This conviction grew stronger as repeated attempts were made to disarm the soldiers, for the men could not but see in this disarmament real danger, knowing as they did that the Central Soviet Government was really powerless, and that in most places the chief strength of their armed forces consisted in armed German and Magyar prisoners.
For example, in Omsk the commander of the forces of the Internationalists, composed of prisoners, was an Austro-Hungarian officer, a Magyar by race. This officer, Ligeti by name, had all the Czecho-Slavs and other Slays who were serving in the Red army disarmed, so that Omsk was really in the hands of this Austro-Hungarian officer. In Ishim the Red army was composed entirely of Magyars. In Petropavlovsk the men who came to negotiate with the CzechoSlays in the guise of Czech communists afterward proved to be the representatives of the German section of the Internationalists. The commanding officers of the Red army were in many cases Germans and Magyars, judging by the orders and the curses in those tongues that were heard on all sides during the battles. When the echelon was attacked near Irkutsk, there was heard the command: "Schiessen."
The conviction that the Soviet Government wished to destroy our forces was also strengthened by the constant holding up of the transport, for which no adequate cause could be found. At first the delay was blamed upon the Amur railway, where transportation was reported to have been halted. The advance of Semenov upon Irkutsk was given as an excuse. But the Czecho-Slavs soon learned that transportation on the Amur railway had been soon resumed, while the advance of Semenov existed more in the imagination of the Soviet authorities than in reality. Amongst other excuses given was that of a lack of locomotives on the Amur road, but all the while German prisoners were being merrily transported toward the west, and there were plenty of locomotives for them. On April 20th the people’s commissioner for foreign affairs, Tchitcherin, sent the following telegram to the Siberian Soviets: "Transport German prisoners as rapidly as possible toward the west. Hold back the Czecho-Slav echelons." It was only after a long and tedious session of negotiations that there was secured an order for the renewal of our transport toward Vladivostok. One day, about May 15th, a member of the Czecho-Slav National Council was officially informed that the trains would now be moved. On the very next day, however, he learned through private conversation with the railway officials that another order had been issued in Irkutsk to stop the movements of the CzechoSlav trains. He finally learned that this command had issued from the commander of the Soviet forces at Irkutsk, General von Taube, a German, whose adjutant had issued the order by "mistake." The Seventh Czecho-Slav Regiment captured a German engineer, who had been commandeered from Moscow to destroy the bridges and tunnels on the railroad beyond the Baikal. In Troitsk the commanders of the Soviet artillery were all Austrian officers. From all these facts even an uninterested onlooker may picture to himself the news which had been spread about the Czecho-Slav army. Inasmuch as the warfare is still being carried on on all sides, it has not been possible to gather all the evidence from the Soviet offices, and unfortunately in many cases the Bolsheviks succeeded in carrying away with them or destroying all their papers before our men took possession. Later, however, there will be certainly found many proofs of the truth of the assertion made by the president of the Tcheliabinsk Soviet and the military commissioner in that town, who informed our representatives in confidence, shortly before the outbreak of hostilities, that the cause of all the acts against the Czecho-Slavs was the German ambassador at Moscow.
The conviction that the Soviet Government wished to destroy our forces was also strengthened by the constant holding up of the transport, for which no adequate cause could be found. At first the delay was blamed upon the Amur railway, where transportation was reported to have been halted. The advance of Semenov upon Irkutsk was given as an excuse. But the Czecho-Slavs soon learned that transportation on the Amur railway had been soon resumed, while the advance of Semenov existed more in the imagination of the Soviet authorities than in reality. Amongst other excuses given was that of a lack of locomotives on the Amur road, but all the while German prisoners were being merrily transported toward the west, and there were plenty of locomotives for them.
On April 20th the people’s commissioner for foreign affairs, Tchitcherin, sent the following telegram to the Siberian Soviets: "Transport German prisoners as rapidly as possible toward the west. Hold back the Czecho-Slav echelons."
It was only after a long and tedious session of negotiations that there was secured an order for the renewal of our transport toward Vladivostok. One day, about May 15th, a member of the Czecho-Slav National Council was officially informed that the trains would now be moved. On the very next day, however, he learned through private conversation with the railway officials that another order had been issued in Irkutsk to stop the movements of the CzechoSlav trains. He finally learned that this command had issued from the commander of the Soviet forces at Irkutsk, General von Taube, a German, whose adjutant had issued the order by "mistake."
The Seventh Czecho-Slav Regiment captured a German engineer, who had been commandeered from Moscow to destroy the bridges and tunnels on the railroad beyond the Baikal. In Troitsk the commanders of the Soviet artillery were all Austrian officers.
From all these facts even an uninterested onlooker may picture to himself the news which had been spread about the Czecho-Slav army. Inasmuch as the warfare is still being carried on on all sides, it has not been possible to gather all the evidence from the Soviet offices, and unfortunately in many cases the Bolsheviks succeeded in carrying away with them or destroying all their papers before our men took possession. Later, however, there will be certainly found many proofs of the truth of the assertion made by the president of the Tcheliabinsk Soviet and the military commissioner in that town, who informed our representatives in confidence, shortly before the outbreak of hostilities, that the cause of all the acts against the Czecho-Slavs was the German ambassador at Moscow.
Announcement issued at Washington, D. C., on July 27, 1918, by authority of the Czecho-Slovak National Council, then acting at Washington under Thomas Masaryk as president.
There have been so many promising campaigns started in Russia during the last year of which nothing more is heard that the people in this country watch with a certain lack of confidence the successes of the Czecho-Slovak forces in Siberia and Eastern European Russia.
Will they be permanent or will they come to nothing, as did the ill-fated campaigns of Korniloff, the Don Cossacks, the various Siberian governments and many others? Can the Czecho-Slovaks stand their ground, a hundred thousand men among a hundred million, and are they not themselves talking about withdrawing from Russia?
It is, of course, well known that the Czecho-Slovaks are not Russians; that they are a well organized and thoroughly disciplined force recruited from former Austrian soldiers of the Bohemian and Slovak races, who surrendered to the Russians. The Czecho-Slovak Army in Russia was created in order to fight the Germans and the Austrians, and when Russia deserted the cause of the Allies, arrangements were made by Professor T. G. Masaryk, President of the CzechoSlovak National Council and by virtue of that Commander in Chief of the Czecho-Slovak forces, with the allied representatives in Russia and also with the Boisheviki to march the Czecho-Slovaks out of Russia and take them to the western front.
It should be kept clearly in mind that occupation of Russian territory or the restoration of an eastern front was not thought of when these arrangements were made, in February,1918. It was due to one of those German blunders, like the one that brought America into the war, that the Czecho-Slovaks, instead of withdrawing from Russia, are now in control of Siberia and of considerable territory west of the Urals.
Under pressure of Austrian and German demands Trotsky tried to disarm the Czecho-Slovaks and put them in prison camps, with a view of turning them over to the Austrian authorities. The Czecho-Slovaks, being attacked, had to defend themselves, and as a result found themselves in control of the greatest portion of the Trans-Siberian Railroad and the Volga River. They were like Saul, who went to seek his father’s asses and found a kingdom.
Professor Masaryk was by this time in America, and the Czecho-Slovak leaders, under the changed conditions, hesitated as to their course of action. The only orders they had were to take their forces to the Pacific. They had no desire to play policemen in Russia, and they realized that their position could not be indefinitely sustained unless they were assured of a steady flow of supplies. And yet the unparalleled strategic opportunities which their position gave them made a strong appeal to their imagination. This seems evident from the fact that, instead of withdrawing from European Russia, they occupied more cities on the Volga, stretching out their detachments in the direction of the Murman Coast.
A week ago Professor Masaryk received a lengthy cable report from the leader of the Czecho-Slovak forces in which the following words are found indicative of the present desires of these men:
"In our opinion it is most desirable and also possible to reconstruct a Russia-Germany front in the east. We ask for instructions as to whether we should leave for France or whether we should stay here to fight in Russia by the side of the Allies and of Russia. The health and spirit of our troops are excellent."
Professor Masaryk has since then instructed the forces in Siberia to remain there for the present. The question, however, of staying in Russia or getting out does not depend on the Czecho-Slovaks alone. That is something which must be decided by the Allies. The Czecho-Slovak Army is one of the allied armies, and it is as much under the orders of the Ver
sailles War Council as the French or American Army. No doubt the Czecho-Slovak boys in Russia are anxious to avoid participation in a possible civil war in Russia, but they realize at the same time that by staying where they are they may be able to render far greater services, both to Russia and the allied cause, than if they were transported to France. They are at the orders of the Supreme War Council of the Allies.
U. S. Government announcement issued by Secretary Lansing, September 3, 1918, recognizing the Czecho-Slovaks
The Czecho-Slovak peoples having taken up arms against the German and Austro-Hungarian empires, and having placed in the field organized armies, which are waging war against those empires under officers of their own nationality and in accordance with the rules and practices of civilized nations, and Czecho-Slovaks having in the prosecution of their independence in the present war confided the supreme political authority to the Czecho-Slovak National Council, the Government of the United States recognizes that a state of belligerency exists between the Czecho-Slovaks thus organized and the German and Austro-Hungarian empires.
It also recognizes the Czecho-Slovak National Council as a de facto belligerent government, clothed with proper authority to direct the military and political affairs of the Czecho-Sloyaks.
The Government of the United States further declares that it is prepared to enter formally into relations with the de facto government thus recognized for the purpose of prosecuting the war against the common enemy, the empires of Germany and Austria-Hungary.home