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1. THE CAUSES OF THE WORLDWIDE CONFLICT
2. THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD WAR
3. THE COURSE OF WAR, 1914-1915
4. THE FINAL STAGE OF THE WORLD WAR I, 1917-1918
5. PARTICIPATION OF CZECHS AND SLOVAKS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST THE CENTRAL POWERS
5.1 THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD WAR I AND THE POLITICAL SITUATION THROUGHOUT THE CZECH COUNTRIES
5.2 THE FIRST ANTI-AUSTRIAN MANIFESTATIONS ABROAD
5.3 THE FORMATION OF THE CZECHOSLOVAKIAN FOREIGN RESISTANCE
5.4 THE FINAL STAGE OF THE CZECHOSLOVAKIAN RESISTANCE ABROAD
5.5 THE CULMINATION OF THE EFFORTS TO ACHIEVE A NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE. OCTOBER 28TH, 1918
6. WORLD WAR AND AN INTERNATIONAL LAW
7. PEACE NEGOTIATIONS AT THE PARIS PEACE CONFERENCE
8. THE DEVELOPMENT OF EFFORTS TO ENSURE COLLECTIVE SAFETY BETWEEN WORLD WARS
8.1 ORIGINATION, ORGANIZATION, AND PURPOSE OF THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS
8.2 EFFORTS AIMED AT SECURITY AMONG STATES IN THE TWENTIES
8.3 THE THIRTIES IN THE LIGHT OF UPCOMING FASCISM
THE VERSAILLES TREATY
Es ist schon 90. Jahre her, als die Vertreter der Siegerstaaten des bisher größten Kriegskonfliktes begannen, über weitere Entwicklung in Europa und in der ganzen Welt zu verhandeln. Trotz der zweifellos problematischen Ergebnisse dieser Konferenz, die oft auch als Voraussetzungen für die neue Krisensituation in Europa in der Zwischenkriegszeit betrachtet werden, war dieses Ereignis von grundlegender Bedeutung. Es wurde hier eine Grundlage für das System der kollektiven Sicherheit geschaffen. Sie konnte sich aber erst nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg entwickeln.
Die Konferenz wurde offiziell am 18. Januar 1919 eröffnet. Zu den Konferenzbeteiligten gehörten 27 Staaten und fünf britische Dominien (Indien, Kanada, Australien, Südafrika und Neuseeland). Russland wurde nicht eingeladen und ein Sitz blieb unbesetzt: für Montenegro. Die Führungsfunktionen auf der Konferenz teilten sich fünf Hauptgroßmächte untereinander auf.
Die Delegationen der einzelnen Staaten wurden von Ministerpräsidenten und Außenminister geführt. An der Spitze der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika stand W. Wilson. Alle auf der Konferenz beteiligten Länder wurden in vier Kategorien eingeteilt.
Zu der ersten Gruppe gehörten die Kriegsmächte, die die Interessen allgemeinen Charakters hatten (USA, Großbritannien, Frankreich, Italien und Japan). Diese Länder konnten sich an allen Sitzungen und Kommissionverhandlungen beteiligen. In der zweiten Gruppe waren die Kriegsstaaten mit den Interessen des Teilcharakters, zu denen u.a. auch die Tschechoslowakei gehörte. Diese sollten sich an den Verhandlungen beteiligen, die sie betrafen. Zu der dritten Kategorie gehörten die Staaten, die die diplomatischen Verhandlungen mit dem deutschen Block abbrachen. Ihre Delegationen nahmen an solchen Verhandlungen teil, die sie betrafen. Die vierte Gruppe bildeten die neutralen Staaten. Sie konnten sich entweder mündlich oder schriftlich im Falle äußern, wenn sie von einer der fünf Großmächte zur Sitzung eingeladen wurden. Auf dieser Sitzung wurden die Fragen behandelt, die diese Staaten direkt betrafen Die Konferenz bildete eigene Organe, deren Aufbau bis zu einem gewissen Grad zwischen dem Gleichheitsprinzip aller Beteiligten und der immer mehr in den Vordergrund tretenden Rolle der Großmächte darstellte. Das oberste Organ war formal die Plenarsitzung aller Staaten; sie zeigte sich aber in der realen Praxis bald als wenig wichtig.
Indirekt erwies es sich die Tatsache, dass die Plenarsitzung während der Konferenzzeit nur zu sieben Sitzungen zusammentraf. Die führenden Funktionen der Konferenz teilten sich die fünf Hauptgroßmächte untereinander auf. Clemenceau erklärte ganz offen, die Großmächte, die zwölf Millionen Männer in den Kampf stellten und den Krieg entschieden, hätten ein unstreitiges Recht, auch über den Frieden zu entscheiden. Die Schlüsselrolle fiel also dem sog. Rat der Zehn zu, der von den Delegationsführern und Außenministern der fünf Großmächte gebildet wurde. Es waren Präsident Wilson, Premierminister G. Clemenceau, D. Lloyd George, V. Orlando und N. Makimo und Minister R. Lansing, S. Pichon, A. J. Balfour, S.
Sonnino und S. Chinda. Nach zahlreichen Verhandlungen waren in diesem Organ immer weniger Mitglieder vertreten. Die japanischen Interessen lagen vorwiegend nur in den asiatischen Angelegenheiten, v.a. ging es um den Geländegewinn in den ehemaligen deutschen Kolonien in Asien (ursprünglich um chinesische Gebiete, was zu der Tatsache führte, dass China sich zwar auf der Konferenz beteiligte aber den Frieden nicht unter-zeichnete). Italien rief seine Vertreter für eine gewisse Zeit von der Konferenz ab. Darüber hinaus begannen die Delegationschefs sich über gewisse Sachen selber zu beraten, und so wurde aus dem Rat der Zehn, der Rat der Vier (ohne Japan) und schließlich nur der Rat der Drei–W. Wilson, G. Clemenceau und D. Lloyd George.
Am 28. Juni 1919 - am Jahrestag des Attentats von Sarajevo wurde der Friedensvertrag von Versailles unterzeichnet. Deutschland verpflichtete sich zur Abtretung Elsass-Lothringens in den Grenzen von 1870 und verzichtete auf seine Kolonien zugunsten der Sieger. Es verzichtete auf seine Rechte und Vorrechte in China, Thailand, Liberia, Marokko und Ägypten und stimmte der Errichtung des französischen Protektorats über Marokko und über das britische Protektorat über Ägypten, usw. zu.
Als die Sieger mit Deutschland aufgeräumt hatten, leiteten sie die Verhandlungen mit Verbündeten ein. Am 10. September 1919 wurde in Saint-Germain-en-Laye ein Vertrag mit Österreich unterzeichnet (sog. Vertrag von Saint-Germain). Österreich verpflichtete sich einen Teil der Krain und Kärntens, das Küstenland und Südtirol an Italien zu übergeben. Die Gebietsgewinne erzielten zulasten Österreichs auch Jugoslawien und Rumänien. Seine Kriegs- und Handelsmarine übergab Österreich den Siegern. Das Reich der Habsburger hörte auf zu existieren.
Am 27. November 1919 wurde nach den langen Verhandlungen ein Vertrag mit Bulgarien in Neuilly unterzeichnet. Rumänien bekam Dobrudscha und ein Teil des bulgarischen Gebiets ging an Jugoslawien. Thrakien blieb bei den Siegern, die es später an Griechenland abgaben. Der Vertrag stellte weitere Forderungen auf dem Gebiet der Reparationen und Kontributionen.
Am 27. November 1919 wurde nach den langen Verhandlungen ein Vertrag mit Bulgarien in Neuilly unterzeichnet. Rumänien bekam Dobrudscha und ein Teil des bulgarischen Gebiets ging an Jugoslawien. Thrakien blieb bei den Siegern, die es später an Griechenland abgaben.
Ungarn verzögerte die Friedensverhandlungen, weil es auf eine wunderbare Änderung hoffte. Deswegen wurde der Vertrag erst am 4. Juni 1920 in Trianon (sog. Vertrag von Trianon) unterzeichnet. Aus dem ehemaligen ungarischen Königreich gingen die Slowakei und die Karpatenukraine an die Tschechoslowakei über. Jugoslawien bekam Kroatien und Slowenien und Rumänien Transsylvanien und Banat ausgenommen der Teile, die an Ju-goslawien abgegeben wurden. Ungarn blieb also ohne Zutritt zum Meer, darüber hinaus wurde eine Kontrolle der Sieger über die Donau errichtet.
Ungarn fühlte sich mit dem Verlust der umfangreichen Gebiete, die als eigene betrachtete, mehr bestraft als die anderen Geschlagenen. Der letzte Vertrag wurde mit der Türkei abgeschlossen, die sich in einem innerpolitischen Chaos befand. Es geschah am 10. August 1920 in Sévres (sog. Vertrag von Sévres). Laut diesem Vertrag verminderte dieser das türkische Gebiet um drei Viertel und die Türkei musste ihre Flotte den Siegern überlassen.
Die Siegermächte erhielten das Kontrollrecht über die türkischen Finanzen, d. h. fast über die ganze Wirtschaft.
Alle unterzeichneten Verträge bildeten das sog. Versailler System, das eine neue Weltordnung einführen sollte. Wenn auch das nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg ausgebaute System mehr gerecht, demokratischer und fortschrittlicher als das vorherige sein sollte, zeigte es sich als kein dauerndes System.
It has been ninety years, since the representatives of the allied victors of the until-then biggest military conflict sat down to one table to negotiations that were supposed to change the further development of Europe or even of the whole world fundamentally. Despite the problematic outcomes of this conference which built up a base for a new critical situation in Europe, this event was of a significant importance. The fundamental bases of the so-called collective security were laid down at this conference. However, these bases were not given chance to develop until after another terrible experience – World War II.
World War I is deemed to be one of the most dramatic landmarks of modern history. Certainly, it did not start unexpectedly. The military action was a result of a continuous culmination of disagreements between the biggest world-powers. Although the last twenty years of the preceding century were the most pleasant period throughout the history of Europe, that does not mean, there was no international tension.
The tensive relations between France and Germany resulted from France never having forgotten its defeat in 1870 and its loss of Alsace-Lorraine. Next to that, there was the so-called “eastern problem” meaning that the Balkan nations were trying to achieve their independence and the Ottoman Empire was gradually falling apart. One started to call the empire “a sick man of Europe” and its end was really close by. Basically, the eastern problem meant Russia trying to extend its sphere of influence to Balkan and get to the Straits of Black Sea, but, understandably, this was opposed by Great Britain and Austria. There were a bunch of reasons. The Great Britain was competing with Russia in the Central Asia and one of its political targets was to prevent Russia from getting to open seas. Austria was interested in Balkan too. However, even Great Britain and France had opposite views on it. More than once, these two counties got into troubles with one another. These events took place, especially, in India, Canada and in Africa - at the end of the preceding century. These and many other disputes between the crucial world-powers helped to bring up many new treaties and coalitions.
Germany whose international influence was growing in connection with its economic boom, started to endanger not only France but also Russia. In order to support itself in its standing, Germany entered into coalition with the Austrian Empire in 1879. This coalition was joined by Italy in 1882 which formed a so-called “Triple Alliance”. The reason Italy joined the coalition was an effort to get allies against France that Italy was in conflict with because of colonies in North Africa.
As it was already mentioned, an answer to this coalition was a formation of “Triple Entente”.
The formation of these two blocks was not done without affecting international relationships. There were a number of diplomatic incidents and serious international crises within the last ten years prior the war. These incidents were resulting from the efforts of these two blocks trying to get the till then independent countries into the sphere of their influence or attract the countries controlling strategic areas. Understandably, this applied especially to Balkan area. And it was the Balkan who became a sort of barrel of gunpowder that blew up the unstable peace in Europe.
What was the situation in the Balkan like? Traditionally, Greek was controlled by British and French funds so there was no chance for Germany to succeed there. In Romania where there was a king belonging to the accessory stem of Hohenzollern, the positions of both blocks were pretty much equal. On the other hand, Bulgaria was being tied to the German block by the loans it was given. After the dramatic acts of regicides in 1903, the long-lasting fight of Serbia resulted in the “Customs war” with Austrian Empire during 1901-1911, Bosnian crisis in 1908, and Balkan wars in 1912-1912 and especially the famous conflict of July 1914.
The gun shots that were fired by the student Gavrilo Princip, which hit and killed the crown prince Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28, 1914, were just the last little flames that emblazed an enormous fire that spread into many countries of the world. The Austrian Empire accused Serbia that had a treaty of alliance with Russia, of supporting the assassins. Having discussed the issue with Germany, the Austrian Empire declared a war against Serbia on July 28th, 1914. This declaration was followed by an immediate general mobilization called up by Nicholas II of Russia on July 30th. The decree was published on July 31 which induced a prompt response of Germany. At the stroke of midnight, the German government submitted an ultimatum to Russia wherein it requested to call off the mobilization in Russia. Hence, a military conflict between the cardinal European powers became unavoidable.
Although German government requested France to remain neutral in Russian-German conflict, the general mobilization in Germany was followed by a same measure in France. The political tension between these two counties was intensifying and got escalated due to the declaration of war by Germany against France on August 3. At the same time, Germany asked Belgian government for permission so that German soldiers might pass through Belgium to French borders. However, this German ultimatum was rejected by Belgian government that, in turn, requested London for a help. British government decided that it would use that request as pretence to join the war.
The beginning of war was followed by Bulgaria, Greece, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Spain, and Portugal proclaiming their neutrality. Proclamation of neutrality was announced also by both Italy and Romania that were allies of Central Powers. The United States and many countries of Asia and Latin America proclaimed their neutrality too. Nonetheless, the further political and military events showed that this state of affairs was not sustainable. In August, Japan figured out that there was an optimal situation for establishing its rule over China and within the territory of Pacific Ocean. Hence, Japan gave an ultimatum to Germany wherein it requested an immediate withdrawal of German forces from Chinese and Japanese waters. Next to that, Japan wanted to be handed over a control over the leased territory of Tiao-Chou including the harbor of Tsingtao. Germany did not accept the ultimatum and Japan declared a war against Germany on August 23.
The next country that joined the “game” was Turkey. Having proclaimed its neutrality notwithstanding, it concluded a secret treaty with Germany on August 2. In the terms of the treaty, Turkey agreed on standing with Germany and, in fact, getting its forces under the German command. Thus having entered into this agreement, Turkey called up a general mobilization and started getting ready for war on the same day. The German diplomacy that was supported especially by the most influential pro-German pan-Turkish group within Turkish government, was trying to get Turkey engaged in war as soon as possible. The efforts of German diplomacy were achieved soon, especially by many acts of provocation throughout the Black Sea.
By the end of 1914, the Austrian Empire, Germany, Turkey, Russia, France, Serbia, Belgium, Great Britain, Montenegro and Japan were in the state of war. The military conflict that had started in Europe got spread to both the Far East and the Middle East and that way it grew into a conflict of an international character.
Broadly, the first front that was heading to Serbia was inferior. But both the western front against France and the eastern front against Russia were of significant importance. The German command assumed that its forces would get very fast through Belgium to achieve a thunderbolt victory in France. Austrian troops were ordered to delay the line-up of Russian forces which was considered by Germans to be lengthy. The idea was that having defeated the France, German forces would concentrate on Russia in order to attain another thunderbolt victory. However, these plans were not achieved. Despite not having been completely lined up, the Russian forces started an offensive against Germany, in order to support France that was endangered. Consequently, Germans were forced to relocate some of their troops to eastern front which weakened their positions in the battle of the Marne. That meant an end to both the German strategic anticipations and victory in France.
Neither the efforts of both enemies to affect one another with enveloping maneuvers (a Gallic-Polish operation in the Straits between the April 1915 and January 1916; an invasion of Allies in Salonica in October 1915 and the following Macedonian military campaign; and finally, the Mesopotamian military campaign to Bagdad between September and December 1915), nor the efforts of getting one of the allies out of the game (a Spring offensive of Germans and Austrians in Baltic nations and Galicia; a military campaign against Serbia in fall 1915; ), nor the efforts of getting new allies (Italy joining the Triple Entente in May 1915; Turkey and Bulgaria joining the Central Powers in November 1914 and September 1915) were successful. All of these efforts to break the front of enemies on, at least, the fringes, got ended up in the dug-outs and caused additional expenditures to Britons and Frenchmen, especially in the form of additional losses and dispersion of their troops.
The military tension got culminated in 1916. From February to July, Germany was trying to achieve its goals in the western front. The fights were centered to the city of Verdun in northeastern France which was a strategic position for controlling the access to Paris. Almost all of the Austrian troops that were embattled on the eastern front were decimated by the offensive of Russian troops. Germans were forced to interrupt their attacks on the western front and to relocate their troops to east against Russians. However, Russian progress was stopped. Having joined the war in August 1916 as an ally of Triple Entente, Romania got defeated. Its defeat improved the way the Central Powers were being supplied and Germany acquired petroleum it needed for amplifying the submarine warfare.
All the following issues such as: a perspective of a long-lasting war, an ammunition crisis, the raw material problems, a blockade, and the commercial submarine warfare forced the countries at war to reevaluate the role of economy in modern military conflicts. National economy had to concentrate on war issues and “an economic war” got evolved along with a double tactic of exhausting an enemy.
In spite of partial success of Central Powers, “the time” had served better the Triple Entente that had much bigger economic sources needed for leading a war and isolated the Central Powers with a maritime blockade. In turn, using the military submarines, Germans tried to disturb supplies to the countries of the Triple Entente by attacking both the warships and ships carrying supplies. The war was getting into its final stage.
1917 was an important and decisive year of World War I. There were two major events that definitely played their role: a revolution in Russia; and the United States joining the war. After the huge losses experienced within the Somme Offensive in fall 1916, the Triple Entente was forced to increase its requests to United States for military assistance. The complicated situation of Triple Entente forced the American president Thomas Woodrow Wilson to a categorical step. Having broken the diplomatic connections with Germany due to an open submarine warfare that was officially declared by Germany in the end of January 1917, the United States declared a war against Germany.
In 1917, the Central Power got into an obvious defensive. The economy of the Austrian Empire was completely disorganized. There were food shortages in Turkey, too, and many Bulgarian companies had to stop their activities. Throughout all of these countries, the antiwar movements were on the rise. Three years of fighting brought even Germany near to poverty.
On January 8, 1918, the American president Woodrow Wilson faced the US Congress and presented his Fourteen Points that also contained instructions on how to end the world war. The conditions for peace contained: general peace agreements; freedom of the seas; free trade; guarantees of reduction of military equipment; colonial questions left open to further discussions; Germany was supposed to vacate the occupied territories in Russia; restitution of Belgian independence; a reversion of Alsace-Lorraine back to France; a fair demarcation based on national principle in Italy; an autonomy given to its nations by the Austrian Empire; a vacation of the territories belonging to Montenegro, Serbia and Romania, and also ensuring that Serbia will have an access to sea; the Asian part of Turkey shall be independent with autonomous nations; and last but not least, a restoration of Poland; and formation of a general association of nations in order to preserve peace. These peace-conditions were really large-hearted. However, the final peace treaties were much harder than what the Fourteen Points had stated.
Later, German propaganda called the Fourteen Points to be a “Wilson’s perfidiousness” that was supposed to kick out a sword out of hand of Central Powers. These peace-conditions were considered unacceptable by Germans in the beginning of 1918. There was a strong utopian idea that a victorious peace would be achieved on the battle fields. Germany did not understand the intent of the Triple Entente and was sure about its victory. However, the further months showed that the Central Powers were not able to reverse the success to their side and their defeat was just a question of time.
The military outbreak was a setback of the whole Czech politics. There was no Czech statesman who would have sympathized with the military conflict. The war destroyed all Czech political programs and conceptions. A victory of the Central Powers would have been a disaster for both the Czech politics and fate of Czech nation. The Czech politicians, or at least the more active part of them, started to look for possibilities of common actions against the German-Austrian nationalistic policies. Lots of negotiations took place, especially led by the prominent representatives of the Czech political life, such as Tomáš Garrique Masaryk, Antonín Švehla, Edvard Beneš, PŽemysl Šámal, and others. These negotiations resulted in a formation of an organization called “Maffie” that later became an illegal center for influencing Czech domestic politics. This purpose of this organization, led by T. G. Masaryk, was to obtain important information on military and economic situation in Austria, pass it over the border and even to harm the Austrian Empire in many other ways. Especially this group of Czech politicians that were cooperating with Karel KramáŽ and a journal called “The Time” (as), played an important role within both the domestic and exterior anti-Austrian resistance in the years ahead.
Czech compatriots living out of Austrian Empire had started their actions aimed at achievement of national liberation of Czech of Slovakian people already in 1914, i.e. even before same activities took place inside the Austrian territory. One of the main centers of compatriots’ resistance against monarch was in Russia. Already in September 1914, the representatives of Czech minority gave a memorandum to government and czar wherein they requested closer relationship of Russia and Czech lands. Simultaneously, there was established a volunteer organization called The Czech Fellowship (eská družina) in Kiev whose purpose was to carry on intelligence and propagandistic tasks. A formation of the Alliance of Czechoslovakian institutions in Russia (Svaz eskoslovenských spolkO na Rusi) in 1915, shall be understood as a landmark in the development of the movement of compatriots. The leadership of compatriotic fellowships within Russia was trying to influence the practice of Czech and Slovakian fellowships in France and England in favor of czarism.
The second center of the Czech and Slovakian resistance against monarchy was France. On January 28, 1915, the National Counsel of Czechoslovakian Domicile (Národní rada obcí eskoslovenských) was formed at the meeting of the Czech foreign organizations in Paris. French historian Ernst Denis became the chairmen of the Counsel. Despite trying to become a unifying component of the Czech foreign resistance, the Counsel disqualified itself because of its pro-Russian approaches. However, Czechs and Slovaks were allowed to join the foreign legion where they formed a troop entitled “Nazdar”. This troop was actively engaged directly in the front and it helped to victory of Frenchmen in the battle of Arras.
The Czech and Slovakian organizations in the United States, especially Slovakian league (Slovenská liga) and Czech National Alliance in America (eské národní sdružení), played much bigger role in forming the ideas about the future state. The so-called “Cleveland Agreement” from October 1915 arose specially from activities of these two abovementioned organizations. The Cleveland Agreement contained following requirements:
a) An independence of the historical Czech lands and Slovakia;
b) A coexistence of Czechs and Slovaks under federal union wherein Slovakia shall have an absolute national autonomy, an own national counsel, an own national administration, a full cultural freedom, i.e. a right to use a Slovakian language, and an own financial and political administration using Slovakian language;
c) Right to vote: general, secret, direct;
d) Form of government: personal union under the democratic organization, similar to England.
The agreement was based on an idea of a federalized Austrian Empire securing the existence of Czechoslovakia that would provide Slovakia full autonomy within its unitary form.
The members of the Triple Entente did not support the international and political activities of the Czech and Slovakian compatriots because the ideas of these compatriots did not fit together with the Triple Entente’s post-war plans that were not based on the idea of destructing the Austrian Empire but rather aimed at separating it from the imperial Germany.
In January 1915, T. G. Masaryk left the Austro-Hungary. He settled in Geneva where he delivered his first political speech abroad. This event took place on celebrations of Jan Hus’s anniversary on July 6, 1915 and in his speech, T. G. Masaryk, on behalf of the Czech nation, announced a war against the Austrian Empire. Shortly after that, having arrived to Paris with Edvard Beneš, T. G. Masaryk became a chief of the Czech Committee Abroad (eský zahraniní komitét) that was formed in Paris after long discussions and that became the head all the Czech organizations abroad. In November 1915, this committee officially announced that it supported the Triple Entente and proclaimed a demand for an independent Czechoslovakian state to be organized in the form of monarchy and to be governed by a monarch from the Romanov dynasty. In February 1916, the Czech Committee Abroad was renamed to Czech National Council that, after having been joined by Milan Ratislav Štefánik, changed its name to Czechoslovak National Council that became the leading body in Czechoslovakian resistance abroad. The main purpose of CNC was to persuade the Powers of the Triple Entente into considering the demand for dissolution of Austro-Hungary. In respect to this, the representatives of CNC endeavored to create an independent Czechoslovakian army, similar to French legions, which would have been joined especially by Czech and Slovakian captives from Russia. They were also trying to concentrate all the Czech and Slovakian compatriotic organizations. Further, they organized wide intelligence organization operation throughout Czech lands and in Vienna. Most importantly, the Czechoslovak National Council stated as idea of an independent Czechoslovakian state as the main goal of its resistance. However, the form of government was not supposed to be decided until after the end to war.
The National Council was recognized by great majority of Czech and Slovakian compatriots abroad and its formation was praised in Czech lands too. Nonetheless, in respect to the Triple Entente, the role of the CNC was very inferior because the Powers of the Triple Entente were promoting the idea of keeping the Habsburg monarchy. As there were more Czechoslovakian volunteers joining the troops of Triple Entente (there were more than 145 000 Czechs and Slovaks), the influence of CNC was on the rise. The first bigger political success was attained by the Czechoslovak National Council on the beginning of 1917. On January 10, a demand for liberation of Czechoslovakian nation was included, thanks to A. Briand, into the list of the Triple Entente’s military targets.
The Powers of Triple Entente started to consider the Czechoslovakian outland formations, led by the Czechoslovak National Council, as serious in the end of 1917. Nevertheless, the idea of dissolving Habsburg monarchy and enabling an independent life for Czechs and Slovaks had still a long journey ahead of it. The United States became the head of the Powers of Triple Entente and president W. Wilson announced his famous Fourteen Points. The representatives of the Czech activities abroad were, however, disappointed because the Fourteen Points requested, among others, that the nations under Austro-Hungary were supposed to be given only an autonomy. This request was in conformity with a previous Wilson’s statement of December 7, 1917. Wilson ensured the Central Powers that the United States is not interested to harm or reorganize the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In a similar way, in January 5, 1918, the British Prime Minister Lloyd George stated that dissolution of Austro-Hungary is not their military goal, although he was asking for a democratic autonomy for nations under the Austrian Empire.
These tendencies, understandably, were opposed by representatives of the Czechoslovakian resistance abroad. On December 12, 1917, Masaryk sent an open letter to Wilson, in which he asked about a future of all small nations residing the territories between East and West.
The ideas of Entente’s politicians, regarding organization of the Central Europe, got changed within the first half of 1918. In the beginning of April 1918, the Congress of Oppressed Nations of Austro-Hungary gathered in Rome and the delegates of Czechoslovakian, Polish, Yugoslavs, and Rumanian emigrants demanded for independent nation states. Although the Italian, French, British, and American governments understood that gathering in a positive way, they did not make any binding decisions, yet. On May 29, the Secretary Lansing’s expression of American sympathies to national desires of Czechoslovaks and Yugoslavs was joined by France, England and Italy and announced in their joint declaration.
The new declaration of the United States from July 28 got even further. It demanded so “all the members of Slavic race should be deliberated from the Austrian oppression”. Even the French Address of July 29 accepted the Czechoslovaks demand for independence and, further, it gave a promise of helping to achieve formation of Czechoslovakian state within its historical borders. Next to that, this French Address contained recognition of the emigrant Nation Council that was supposed to serve as a foundation for the new Czechoslovakian government. The British Government, by means of the so-called Balfour declaration of August 9, recognized both the Czechoslovakian legions as an official part of the Triple Entente forces and the Nation Council as a future temporary government of Czechoslovakia. On September 3, the National Council concluded an agreement with British government. Having been recognized by the United States on September 3, followed by Japan on September 9, the Nation Council entered into an agreement with France on September 10. Lastly, the National Council was recognized by the Italian government on October 3.
During the last year of the military conflict, the ideas on form of the Czechoslovakian state culminated even in the compatriotic organizations of the American Czechs and Slovaks. This enhancement was crowned by a Pittsburg conference of 1918 where T. G. Masaryk was present. The representatives of the Slovakian league, the Czech National Alliance, and the Alliance of Czech Catholics, signed an agreement whose purpose was to approve the political program of the Czechoslovakian representation in Paris that had been trying to achieve a formation of an independent Czechoslovakia.
Having overthrown the Cleveland Agreement of 1915, the Pittsburg Agreement brought an enormous progress in the compatriots’ ideas on a form of the future Czechoslovakia. It was decided that the future state would have: a republican constitution based on democratic values; Slovakia would have own administration, council and court system; Slovakian language would also become an official language in public life and education. Even though this agreement was signed by Masaryk who is considered to be its drafter, it had not been influenced by the then actual theory of Czechoslovakism. Not the Czechoslovakian nation, but only such terms as Czechs, Slovaks, Czech lands, and Slovakia were mentioned in this agreement. Hence, as the time showed within the following twenty years, the Czechoslovakian approach was criticizing the Pittsburg program and the agreement itself became a center of political tension.
Such reasons as an active Czechoslovakian resistance abroad, the spy successes of the Czechoslovak National Council, and Masaryk’s contribution to ideological standpoint of Entente in respect to Russia, were appreciated by the Powers of Triple Entente by recognition of both the Czechoslovak National Council and Czechoslovakian legion and by adopting them as a part of their military efforts. The mission of the Czech and Slovakian representation was near to its completion.
The anti-war movement was rising during 1918 and the social events were getting into their final stage. In the summer of 1918, some specialists were forecasting an end to war by the end of the year. Austria was considered to get out of the war very weakened. Disputes occurring on the top Vienna level resulted in an appointment of a new government chaired by Max Hussark instead of Seidler. Simultaneously, fighting between political parties to attain leading position in resistance and national deliberative movements was still going on. A member of the Agrarian party Antonín Švehla was actively engaged in long-lasting discussions between representatives of political parties. These discussions led to the reorganization of the National Committee. A representation of each political party in this central body was based on election return of 1911. Next to that, a co-optation of some famous figures was being considered. The National Committee was, basically, an illegal body that was tolerated by Austrian authorities only because of pressure of revolutionary situation that these authorities were not able to suppress. This Prague based National Committee was constituted as a body of only Czech lands, i.e. Slovaks were not represented in it. Next to that it gave an example to many districts where local committees got established and started taking over the authority from the Austrian officials.
One could say that in August 1918 the war was still going on only due to inertia. Nations, being economically exhausted, were facing crises. Any further continuation of the military conflict was just a question of time. The representatives of the National Committee were asked by the Austrian government to go to southern front and help to convince soldiers to stay in army. However, the National Committee accepted neither this request nor an offer of federalization of monarchy. On September 6, 1918, on the conference of presidiums of social democracy and Socialist party, there was established the Socialist Council that was regarded as a part of the National Committee. The events of September and October had a fast run.
The general strike of October 14, 1918 was supposed to be just a warning protest march against an economic plunder done by Austrian authorities throughout Czech lands. In October 17, T. G. Masaryk delivered the so-called Washington declaration that contained ceremonial proclamation of Czechoslovakian independence, to the president Wilson. This declaration was taken into consideration by him when forming an answer to a peace proposal by Central Powers. In a reply from October 18, Wilson emphasized, that the Austrian government shall negotiate directly with the Czechoslovakian government in Paris. On the basis of Wilson’s statement, the monarch Karl I called upon the National Committee that had supported the Masaryk’s international negotiations and the idea of uniting Czech lands with Slovakia, so that the Committee sent its representatives to Geneva to further negotiations with members of Czechoslovakian representation from abroad. On October 24, 1918, E. Beneš communicated to the governments of the Entente that the first government of Czechoslovakia was established. The government members were as it follows: T. G. Masaryk, E. Beneš, and M. R. Štefánik. On October 27, there was appointed a new Austrian government that, being led by liberal Heinrich Lammasch, was supposed to hand over the power to the forming national governments in particular countries of the monarchy, in a peaceful way. In the same day, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs G. Andrassy handed over a diplomatic note, through the neutral Sweden, to the president W. Wilson. By means of this diplomatic note, the Austrian government accepted the conditions for capitulation, or to be more precise, the so-called Wilson’s Fourteen Points. After this diplomatic note was announced, which was understood as an act of surrender, the new gained independence started being proclaimed throughout the region.
The most important day for the following development of the Czech and Slovakian nations was October 28, 1918. On that day, the National Committee definitively proclaimed an independent Czechoslovakia. The fight for national deliberation culminated and Austro-Hungary started disappearing from a map of Europe.
It appeared, during the world war that there was no international law. What was the real situation in this branch of law like, on the beginning of the twentieth century?
The first peace conference in Haag was already described above and the era following this conference could be defined as the times of many local international conflicts, but on the other hand, it was an era of many activities within the field of an international law and diplomacy, which can be shown on many examples.
Shortly after the peace conference took place, there was a war in South Africa which got started in September 1899. It was a military conflict between Great Britain and two Boer republics that were defeated in 1901. Both the murder of a German diplomat on June 10, 1900 and the general attack on foreign legations in Beijing, forced Powers to undertake a joint action against China. Nonetheless, the relationships with China were patched up. In December 1902, Great Britain, Germany, and Italy blockaded the coasts of Venezuela to force it to take care about their claims for compensation of damages that their citizens suffered during the war in Venezuela. In February 1904, a war to gain control over Korea and Manchuria between Japan and Russia got started. Russia was defeated and after a brokering action of the United States, a peace was concluded in Portsmouth on September 5, 1905. This led Korea to fusion with Japan. In 1908, Bulgaria proclaimed its independence and Austro-Hungary announced its supremacy over Bosnia and Herzegovina which had been the Turkish control since 1878. After many diplomatic activities, there was a protocol signed in February 1909 and according to this protocol the Turkey was granted a high monetary compensation. There was a war between Italy and Turkey which started in September 1911, because of alleged injuries that some Italians were to suffer in Tripoli. Turkey was defeated and on the grounds of Treaty of Lausanne signed on October 18, 1912, it turned Tripoli and Cyrenaica over to Italy. Before the peace treaty was negotiated, Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia declared war against Turkey. The war was ended on May 17, 1913 by the means of the London Peace Treaty. Turkey handed over to its enemies the biggest part of its European territories and the island Crete too. A future existence of the Turkish islands in Aegean Sea was to be decided by six European powers and Albania was to become an independent state. Nevertheless, even in this case a war anticipated peaceful resolution. Before any peace treaty got ratified, military outburst between Bulgaria and Greece, Serbia, Montenegro, and Rumania got inflamed. Even Turkey declared war to Bulgaria that was finally defeated. The Peace Treaties were concluded on July 28, 1913 in Bucharest and on September 16, 1913 in Constantinople. In 1914, the United States intervened in Mexico and US forces took control over Vera Cruz. However, this military conflict did not last for long and on November 23, the Americans moved back.
During this era, the international law continued to develop, which can be seen on the fact that many congresses and conferences took place, and many bilateral or multilateral treaties were concluded. It is important to emphasize at least the second, third, and fourth Pan-American congresses which took places in Mexico in 1901, Rio in 1906, and Buenos Aires in 1910. Even thought the treaties that were signed on these congresses got never ratified, their importance cannot be denied. There was a first Pan-American scientific congress gathered together in 1908 in Santiago. In 1906, there was a conference in Geneva whose purpose was to amend the Geneva Convention of 1864 on dealing with those injured in a land-warfare and the new Geneva Convention was signed on July 6, 1906. Undoubtedly, the most important event was the second peace conference in Hague of 1907 and the Maritime Conference held in London in 1908-1909.
The Maritime Conference held in London gathered together on December 4, 1908 and its purpose was to lead negotiations on an International Code that would be dealing with prizes. Such a code was also needed to materialize the idea of having an international prize court that had been already approved at the second of the Hague Conferences. The outcome of the London Conference was the Declaration of London that was signed on February 26, 1909. It was dealing with regulations over: blockades; contraband; activities contravening the neutrality; destroying the neutral prizes; getting under neutral flag; resistance against control; compensations; and others. Notwithstanding that this declaration got never rarified, it shall be considered as a significant landmark in the development of the international law, because it was the very first attempt to create a code that would contain regulation on “prize law”.
It is important to highlight the fact that especially after the first Hague Conference, the peace movement looking to settle all international disputes by means of arbitrations or rulings of international court, gained on importance. This resulted in many arbitrational agreements and the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in Hague delivered its very first decision in 1902, and its fifteenth decision in 1914. Despite the fact that none of this was able to eliminate neither the significant international conflicts, nor the World War I, all that created the rudiments of peace law. These rudiments were later used while developing system of law and influencing public opinion. Probably because of these results, there were lots of general arbitration agreements between particular states. It is useful to mention at least the most important ones such as the arbitration agreements between Argentine and Chile (1902), Denmark and Holland (1904), Denmark and Italy (1905), Denmark and Portugal (1907), Argentine and Italy (1907); the arbitration agreements of the Central American countries such as Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador (1907); and of Italy and Holland (1909). Also the Briand’s peace treaties concluded by the United States and more than thirteen other states were of significant importance. These treaties stated that in the cases where a dispute can be solved neither by settlement nor before arbitrator, it shall be handed over to an international commission of inquiry that was obliged to response within particular period of time. Parties also obliged themselves that they would not resort to war until the commission delivered its report.
By looking at a detailed overview of the development of the international law in the prewar times, one can see that there was a great activity regarding these issues. Despite all that, as it was already mentioned above, the Central Powers acted as there had been no international law, especially after July 28, 1914. Germany started its maritime operations by planting sea mines on open seas and its land operations by breaking the military laws in Belgium. German army destroyed Leuven. Germans were cannonading from sea and bombing from air the cities that were not fortified and they also started using poison gas, etc.
In the first months of war Great Britain, France, and Russia were proclaiming that they were intending to bring a modified version of the unratified London declaration into power. The attempt of the United States from August 7 so that the Triple Entente and Central Powers adopted the whole declaration, came into grief.
On December 28, 1914, the American government started to complain that the Great Britain was interfering with the American business. A long-lasting diplomatic correspondence on rights and duties of neutrals had been going on between the United States, France and Great Britain until the United States declared a war against Germany in 1917.
On November 5, 1914, England annexed Cyprus and on December 18, 1914, it proclaimed its supremacy over Egypt.
In spring 1915, Germany proclaimed the waters surrounding the British islands a military zone and, further, it stated that “all ships of enemy shall be destroyed and neutral ships might be in danger”. Also it started launching mortars into the business ships and even the hospital ships. These steps initiated correspondence between Germany and the United States on leading maritime war and other issues. This correspondence had lasted until the United States joined the war in 1917.
In March 11, 1915, having agreed on the issue with its allies, Great Britain announced that, in turn, it would try to hinder an export and import of goods to and from Germany.
On May 7, 1915, a German submarine sank the Lusitania – a British steamship filled by civilians.
On July 7, 1915, the British and French governments announced that they did not intend to keep any parts of the unratified London declaration and that they would follow only the historical and recognized principles of international law.
On January 31, 1917, Germany announced that it would stop all the transit of any ships, including the neutral ships, in the blocked area surrounding Great Britain, France and Italy, and in the eastern part of Mediterranean Sea. It also proclaimed that all ships having been caught in this zone would be sunk. In response to this, on February 16, Great Britain passed a royal decree that announced new reciprocal measures whose purpose was to ensure the steps that had been already taken to prevent the states of enemies from having any goods imported or exported. The United States discontinued all diplomatic relations with Germany and, on April 6, declared a war against Germany.
Many other relevant events took place on the field of the international relations in 1917. The Triple Entente intervened in Greece. The reason they did so was, firstly, that Greece refused to rate the attack of Bulgaria against Serbia in 1916 as “causus foederis” as it should according to a Greece-Serbian treaty of alliance and, secondly, that because of an activity of the king Konstantin it had passed a statement of benevolent neutrality for the benefit of Germany. The following intervention of the Triple Entente resulted in enthroning the king and declaring a war against Germany on July 29, 1917.
In consequence of heavy military clashes at Ypres in summer and fall 1917, a dispute between Dutch and British governments took place. It related to the shipment of material for constructions of German concrete defensive facilities in Flanders and other military needs of Holland.
In winter 1917, a German submarine campaign forced all the Dutch business fleet back to the docks. Situation got worsened especially in the beginning of 1918 when the Central Powers started to commander the Dutch ships berthing in their seaports, because of failed negotiations.
Germany signed a Treaty of Bresk-Litovsk with Soviet government in On March 3, 1918, followed by Romania that signed a Treaty of Bucharest under pressure of the Central Powers on May 7, 1918.
During the second half of March, Germany relocated its forces from eastern to western front and tackled a large offensive resting on five military campaigns. However, not even one was successful. In turn, the offensive of allies had broken the defense on several places and the Triple Entente launched counter-attacks on all fronts.
Bulgaria fell apart already in September, followed by Austro-Hungary and Turkey in October and shortly after that, even Germany was forced to conclude peace with the triumphant Powers of Entente. This took place on November 11, 1918. The war was over. Nevertheless, it left over 10 millions of death, 3.5 millions crippled, 10 millions wounded, and additional tens of millions injured by military immiseration. There were many extensive areas plundered and many cultural values irretrievably destroyed.
A truce was signed by the Triple Entente and the German block for a period of thirty-six days. Five times during this period, Germany demanded conclusion of preliminary peace. However, the Entente did not accept these offers. We are waiting for Wilson was their unofficial answer. But waiting for Wilson who arrived to Paris on December 13, 1918, was not the only reason they had. The victors still did not manage to agree on peace conditions. Hence, the truce had to be prolonged several times.
The conference had officially started on January 18, 1919 and there were twenty-seven states and five British dominions (India, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand) participating in it. Russia was not invited and the Montenegro’s seat remained empty. The five main powers divided the positions of leaders of this conference. G. B. Clemenceau was elected chairman and the American Secretary of State R. Lansing, Prime Minister of Great Britain Lloyd George, Prime Minister of Italy V. E. Orlando, and Japanese Marquis Saionji became vice chairmen.
The delegations from particular countries were led by their Prime Ministers and Ministers of Foreign Affairs. Only the delegation from the United States was led by the president W. Wilson. All countries represented at the conference were divided into four categories. In the first category, there were the powers that had been engaged in war and which had interests of a general character (USA, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan). These countries participated in all meetings and committees. In the second category, there were the countries having interests of particular character (Czechoslovakia was in this category too). These countries were supposed to participate in meetings where issues respecting them would be negotiated. In the third category, there were states that discontinued diplomatic relations with the German block. Their representatives were supposed to participate in meetings that would be dealing with issues respecting them. Lastly, the fourth category contained the neutral countries that were in the process of constitution. These were allowed to express themselves either verbally or in writing when asked to attend special meetings on issues respecting them by, at least, one of the main powers.
The conference had its own bodies. Especially, it was the plenary session of all countries which, however, turned out to be of small importance. Only seven such plenary sessions took place during the conference. The victors did not let the smaller countries to get engaged in the new lay-out of the world. Clemenceau said openly that the great powers that had been able to line up about 12 million men and decided the way the war had turned out, were unquestionably entitled to make decisions on peace.
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