View Full Version : Czechs in WWI
09-02-2001, 09:37 PM
In his book The First World War, Martin Gilbert mentions some Czech POWs of the Russians who were being trained to fight for the allies against their former masters. The Russian revolution occurs, and they are stuck with making their own way home. Gilbert doesn't mention what their fate was. Does anyone know if they completed their anabasis?
09-03-2001, 12:28 AM
The Czech deserters or POWs from tha Austro-Hungarian Army fought alongside the Russians in return for promises of support for an independent Czechoslovakia after the war. (Czechoslovakia was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which was allied with Germany). When the Russians signed a peace with Germany and Austria-Hungary in March 1918, the Czechs, apparently with Bolshevik approval, started moving east toward Vladivostok from where they hoped to reach the Western Front to continue the fight against the Central Powers.
In May, 1918, the Czechs had was some sort of dispute or skirmish with some Hungarian Communists, after which the Bolsheviks and Czechs were hostile to each other. The Czechs had control of most of the Siberian Railroad for a time, and fought some skirmishes against the Bolsheviks. Eventually the Czechs did reach Vladivostok and Europe, but I don't know if they made it the western front in time to fight any battles there.
09-03-2001, 08:16 AM
There was an American division at Archangel fighting the Communists (one reason the Ruskkies were really, really hacked during the Cold War...They didn;t mess with Our revolution!) They were cooperating with some Czechs holding a railroad; I didn't know that it was the same guys.
Carnivorous, just to clarify for other readers, I think it's unlikely that the Czechs were involved at all up near Archangel. However, there were simultaneous American interventions at Archangelsk, at Murmansk, and in the east at Vladivostok.
The evacuation of the Czechs was actually part of the reason that the US got involved, although this site (http://www.mmmfiles.com/20tha03.htm) suggests they were merely an excuse to try to overthrow the Bolsheviks. Here is some of the background given on the Czechs.With the withdrawal of Russia from the war against Germany, the 40,000 strong Czech Legion, which had been fighting with the Russians against the Germans, began a slow retreat eastward, through the Ukraine, and then into Siberia. The allies had decided to remove the Czechs from the port of Vladivostok and transport them around the world to the western front in France, but on their way across Siberia on the Trans-Siberian railroad, conflicts developed between them and the Bolshevik officials along the route -- conflicts which by May had become open warfare. The Czechs succeeded in defeating the local Bolsheviks and seized control of the entire Trans-Siberian, from western Siberia to and including the city of Vladivostok itself. Then, around the towns and cities in the hands of the Czechs, sprang up armed bands of Socialist Revolutionaries who joined the opposition to the Bolsheviks. Encouraged by British, French, and American agents, the Czechs and S.R.'s established two independent governments in Siberia.I couldn't find any details about their final evacuation back to Europe, but another site (http://www.santafe.edu/~shalizi/notebooks/czech-legions.html) confirms they did.The Whites weren't too happy about them, but the Americans --- especially the American Press --- loved them, and their reputation helped make sure that Czechoslovakia did get independence after all. They eventually made it to Vladivostok, at the time in the hands of the Japanese, and thence back to Europe
09-03-2001, 10:34 AM
Thanks for the titles, dqa!
This site (http://www.gmu.edu/departments/economics/bcaplan/museum/his1f.htm) includes a map of about where the Czech forces were relative to Archangel.
This Russian site (http://www.icc.ru/fed/transsib.html) provides an excellent history of the American involvement in improving and maintaining the railroads during this time of unrest, including details on the Czechs.About 15,000 of them had reached Vladivostok by mid-May 1918, but the greater part of the Czech forces were strung out at broad intervals along the Trans-Siberian Railway and the legion as a whole would finally succeed in leaving Russia only in June 1920The Hungarian incident bibliophage mentioned:On 14 May a seemingly minor incident became the catalyst for bitter and extended military conflict. A Czech troop train at Cheliabinsk station, just east of the Urals, found itself alongside a train load of Hungarian prisoners being evacuated from Siberia for repatriation. Nationalist antipathy flared, and a piece of iron or a stone was thrown from the Hungarian into the Czech train, killing one of the Czech soldiers. The Czechs retaliated by lynching the man responsible. When the authorities at Cheliabinsk, unable to identify the actual culprits, randomly arrested several Czech soldiers whose collaboration was desired as witnesses and incarcerated them in a local jail, their Czech comrades seized the town's arsenal, armed themselves, and forcibly released the prisoners. Upon learning of the Czech action, Bolshevik leaders ordered its forces stationed along the Trans-Siberian to disarm the legion immediately, to execute on the spot every armed Czech found on the railway, and to imprison the Czech soldiers in every troop train in which even one armed man was discovered.
09-03-2001, 05:37 PM
For a novel providing some background on the prevailing attitudes of the time, have a look at Jaroslav Hasek's anti-war satire The Good Soldier Schweik. It's also quite a page-turner (at least I liked it.)
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
09-05-2001, 06:52 PM
HI! I've been looking for book titles on this "Czech Anabasis".
Can't find any. :(
09-05-2001, 07:22 PM
Bosda, if you run out to a newsstand, you might still be able to grab the edition-before-last of Military History Quarterly (MHQ on the cover). They had a spiffy article on the Czech Legion's occupation of the Trans-Siberian Railroad and their eventual departure from Vladivostok. It must be either the Summer or Fall 2001 issue.
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