Primary Documents - Tomas Masaryk on Czechoslovak Fighting in Russia, 27 July 1918

Tomas Masaryk Reproduced below is the text of an official statement issued by Tomas Masaryk acting on behalf of the Czecho-Slovak National Council, in Washington, D.C., on 27 July 1918.

Masaryk, who served as chairman of the Czecho-Slovak National Council, and which campaigned throughout the war for the creation of an independent Czech state, emphasised in his statement that Czechoslovak forces currently fighting in Russia were doing so under the auspices of the Versailles War Council.  In doing so Masaryk further pressed his organisation's claim for official Allied government recognition.

In September 1918 the U.S. Secretary of State, Robert Lansing, formally acknowledged the status of Czechoslovak forces and Masaryk's position as prospective head of of a post-war Czech state.  Click here to read the declaration of independence of 18 October 1918.  Click here to read an extract from Masaryk's address upon re-entering Prague as President in December 1918.

Tomas Masaryk on Czechoslovak Fighting in Russia, 27 July 1918

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 Kornilov, 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 Czecho-Slovak 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 Bolsheviki 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 Murnian 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 Versailles 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.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. VI, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

Ack Ack was a term used to describe anti-aircraft fire.

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