What does Czechoslovakia mean for the West?

Do you think there is some message of Czechoslovakia that was established in 1918 that still resonates in the West, means beyond Czech and Slovak Republic? Read few comments. (Of course, we just witnessed some high profile Western visits in the region, and every Embassy is celebrating 100 years of Czechoslovakia and 25 years of diplomatic relations with Czechia and Slovakia).

Credit: Andrej Matišák

Martin Brown, Lead Researcher, Centre of Excellence in Intercultural Studies, School
of Humanities, University of Tallinn

That is a tricky question to answer — I don’t have them to hand but back in 1917/8 when the formation of Czechoslovakia was being discussed in the UK parliament  the MPs expressed utter confusion and bewilderment at what it might be, who might be in it, and how it was spelt. Not an auspicious beginning. Of course in the UK Munich looms v large over all relations with Cz pre-1948. Appeasement still stands as the very embodiment of failed Foreign Policy and of course underpins the Churchill myth, ie that he alone stood up against it. Consequently, there’s remains a deep ambivalence about  the relationship. I’ve never really seen much evidence of a deep attachment to TGM   in the UK, seems he’s been largely forgotten, although Hašek and Čapek retain some traction, a little anyway.

So 1918-38 is not really remembered to be honest, not at least by the majority, Munich is of course and some historians have tried to argue that Chamberlain was right all along,  Robert Harris’s Munich novel might be a good example of this.

As for the war, well the Heydrich films may have introduced a new generation to Cz activities, but the Poles dominate in terms of who were the UK’s allies. So too never under estimate how significant the influence of the Sudeten German  version of post 1945 history is in the English speaking world. Cz now associated with Ethnic Cleaning through books from the likes of Anna Applebaum — almost no moderation of this view now in English, it is the norm.

The Communist period is associated with spies and Havel, maybe a few films from the 1960s too, but spying above all else with the allegations against Corbyn and now Trump’s father in law reporting to the StB! Tennis maybe, some of sports personalities might be recalled.

Fairly good coverage of 1989 and the fall of communism, but I really don’t know what the British people would know about break up of 1992/3.

Of course many, Brits now have fond memories of a trip to Prague, nice architecture and cheap beer…

Seán Hanley, Senior Lecturer in East European Politics, University College London

I thought about this, but I am afraid the answer is that Czechoslovakia (Czech, Slovakia) do not have a very high profile  in British public consciousness and the declaration of the CSR in 1918 is sadly a little known for most people here. Events elsewhere in Europe in 1918 are entirely overshadowed by the commemorations of the centenary of the  Armistice and the British Army’s war on the Western Front.

The only link I have heard anyone make between current events and the independence of the CSR and other Central and East European states came from one of my more right-wing students studying Politics and East European Studies, who saw a parallel with Brexit.

Kieran Williams, Visiting Professor of Political Science, Drake University

Perhaps something survives, in a very distant form, of how Masaryk framed the end of the big empires in his lecture on ‘Problem of Small Nations in the European Crisis’, in London in October 1915. Masaryk placed the war in a larger process of integration into a new Europe, of a striving both for self-government and for supranational cooperation. Even as smaller nations freed themselves, Masaryk foresaw that their new sovereignty would always be relative, limited by a global interdependence that required even the great powers to forge alliances. So, 1918 can be commemorated positively as the fulfillment of that Masarykian or Wilsonian outlook, but also taken with caution, because of how difficult it was to make it work in practice (and still is today).

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