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Past in the Making

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Michal Kopecek

The Czechoslovak Legionary Tradition and the Battle Against the “Beneš Doctrine” in Czech Historiography

The Case of General Rudolf Medek (1890–1940)1

Katya A. M. Kocourek

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OVERVIEW

  • 1 I am most grateful for helpful comments received from Michal Kopeček & Adela Gjuričova during the (...)
  • 2 J. Křen, Bila mista v našich dějinach [White spaces in our history] (Prague: Lidove noviny, 1990).
  • 3 For example, see most recently, E. Broklova, “Demokrat Edvard Beneš” in Věře Olivove ad honorem. S (...)
  • 4 For an introduction to this debate, see M. Zuckert, “Memory of War and National State Integration: (...)

1Despite the fact that almost 18 years have lapsed since the Changes in East Central Europe, several “white spaces” (Jan Křen) in contemporary Czech (and Czechoslovak) history are yet to be reassessed objectively by historians.2 “Historical revisionism” has in many respects obscured understanding of several key events in 20th-century history (most notably concerning ethnic cleansing). However, when considering other significant historical periods in Czechoslovak national history specifically—most notably the so-called Second Republic and the period immediately prior to the communist coup of 1948—the tendency among some historians has not been to negate fact but rather to reinforce ideologically-motivated narratives (which I refer to here as the “Beneš doctrine”) in an attempt to legitimize the moral standards of Czechoslovak political culture.3 Labored efforts to overcome the Marxist historiographical heritage by underlining the founding myths of Czechoslovak history and defending the political traditions of the First Republic, evidenced most notably in the cult-like adulation of T.G. Masaryk and Edvard Beneš, has, in some cases, resulted in the “periodization” and conceptualization of history into “fascist” (cen-ter- to extreme-right) and “democratic” (center-left) sub-groups, thereby blurring the political motivations of particular individuals or groups, particularly those belonging to the conservative right wing. Revisiting “historical revisionism”—particularly the Czech brand of which Beneš is such an obvious part—need not necessarily lead to more fudging; it should in fact help clarify core detail and viewpoints obscured by existing “gray spaces.” This chapter discusses three political narratives about Czechoslovak history in relation to Edvard Beneš’s conception of the political tradition represented by the Czechoslovak legionaries during the 1920s. It begins with an introduction of the case study, General Rudolf Medek, and an appraisal of scholarship published since 1989 relating to the Czechoslovak political right; followed by a discussion of the institutionalization of the Beneš doctrine after the Second World War; and ending with a section about the political crisis of the mid-1920s, which is crucial for understanding the origins of Edvard Beneš’s conception of “left” and “right” in Czechoslovak political ideology. Several legionary groups played a critical role in the interwar period in helping to consolidate the legitimacy of the political ideology of the Czechoslovak state;4 and therefore, it is the contention of this paper that it is necessary to reassess the history of Czechoslovak legionary politics during the 1920s, and the role played by Edvard Beneš in the legionary sphere, in order to account for the multitude of political ideologies and viewpoints in interwar Czechoslovakia, particularly on the right of the political spectrum.

I. THE HISTORIOGRAPHICAL DEFICITS OF CZECH SCHOLARSHIP AFTER 1989: RUDOLF MEDEK AS CASE STUDY

Introducing Rudolf Medek (1890–1940)

  • 5 Medek was conscripted into the Habsburg Army as an officer cadet at the beginning of the First Wor (...)
  • 6 J. Syrovy, “Rudolf Medek,” Československy vojak [Czechoslovak soldier], No. 29 (Irkutsk: 20 Novemb (...)

2Rudolf Medek’s name is inextricably linked with the history of the Czechoslovak legions during the First World War. He was a legionary, a professional soldier, as well as a legionary poet and impassioned promoter of the legionary ideal after 1918. His military career on the Eastern Front, first as a volunteer in the Russian Imperial Army and then as a Czechoslovak legionary, was highly successful.5 He rose rapidly through the ranks; his outstanding record in reconnaissance missions as well as key battles involving Czechs and Slovaks on the Eastern Front, for which he was decorated on numerous occasions, were matched by an impressive political and administrative career as a leading representative of Czechoslovak legionaries in Russia. Medek achieved high status within the Czechoslovak military leadership in Russia. He was promoted by Milan Rastislav Štefánik, the Czechoslovak minister for war, to the position of head of (Czechoslovak) military administration in January 1919 following Štefánik’s two-month visit to Siberia. After Štefánik’s departure, Medek was appointed, along with General Jan Syrový and fellow legionary and later Czechoslovak diplomat, Bohdan Pavlů, to a special three-man governing committee responsible for all matters relating to Czechoslovak soldiers in Russia, which included overseeing major reforms in the Russian–Czechoslovak branch of the evolving republican Czechoslovak army. Just shortly before his departure from Russia in the summer of 1919, Medek was honored with the Distinguished Service Order for his contribution to the organization of Czechoslovak forces in the country. Following his departure, an article by Jan Syrový (1888–1970) entitled “Rudolf Medek” appeared in Československý voják, a journal Medek had founded in September 1917. Syrový praised Medek for his journalistic work on the Eastern Front and particularly for the patriotic tone of his poetry (captured most notably in Medek’s most celebrated poem, “Zborov” written in July 1917), which had helped consolidate the meaning of the “Czechoslovak idea” in the minds of fellow legionaries.6 Medek joined the Czechoslovak Ministry of Defense on 8 January 1920, following his return to the new Republic, where he worked as the head of a complaints committee and oversaw the first critical reforms of the newly evolving Czechoslovak army, until he became Director of the Resistance Memorial Institute, Památník odboje (after 1929 it was re-named as the Památník osvobození or Liberation Memorial Institute), established in May 1920.

3Rudolf Medek is much admired for his popularization of the political and social history of the Czechoslovak legions as well as for his portrayal of the idea of vlast (homeland) and nationhood more generally. He is rather less admired for his politicization of the role of the legions in the period during and after the Bolshevik Revolution. The fact that Medek envisaged a distinct political role for the legionaries in Russia between 1918 and 1921, after their return to the Czechoslovak Republic, should come as little surprise, and yet the politics of Medek’s nationalist dis-course remain gravely misunderstood. The fact that Medek attributed a civilizing mission to Czechoslovak “freedom fighters” (rank and file legionaries) in order to rid Russia of the degenerate Bolshevik ideology in 1918, for instance, arises directly from his conception of the Czechoslovak idea not simply as a cipher for the liberation of “Czechoslovak” national territories, but as a source of political values for the new citizenry of a future Czechoslovak state. Medek remained a firm Czechoslovakist throughout his life, and he represented a distinct legionary tradition of state ideology rooted in “national defense,” “patriotism,” and “male courage.” Medek was in many respects a typical product of the Central European tradition of littérateur as nation-builder. He was a conservative nationalist who stood on the right of Czechoslovak politics. He became associated with the National Democratic Party led by the Czech politician Karel Kramář in the early 1920s through his friendship with party members including the poets J.S. Machar, Viktor Dyk and party secretary, František Hlaváček. Most significant of all, Medek wrote for the journal that became the repository of national democratic thinking in the late 1920s, Fronta (The Front) established by the journalist and littérateur, Karel Horký.

  • 7 The Castle Group was a powerful extra-parliamentary and extra-constitutional group of politicians, (...)
  • 8 See M. Kučera, “Vyznamni legionaři v roce 1938: Přispěvek k vyzkumu společenskych elit mezivalečne (...)
  • 9 The ČsOL was created with Medek’s involvement in January 1921. The Independent Union of Czechoslov (...)

4Medek’s case provides a unique example of a distinguished serving army officer who was also fully engaged in Czechoslovak cultural life and, during three key periods (1923–26, 1933–34, and 1938–39), the political life of the Republic. He was a high-ranking member of a distinct interwar elite made up of former Czech and Slovak or Czechoslovak-Russian legionaries who occupied significant positions at the Ministry of Defense, the Castle,7 and in the General Staff of the Czechoslovak Army.8 Medek’s cult-like status of “legionary Bard” and “leading Czechoslovak revolutionary” amongst right-wing legionaries intensified after his creation of the “Independent Union of Czechoslovak Legionaries” (Nezávislá jednota československých legionářů or NJČsL) in December 1925. Medek’s “independent union” was a military organization established in opposition to the social-democratic and state-sponsored “Union of Czechoslovak Legionaries” (Československá obec legionářska or ČsOL).9

  • 10 For instance, Medek’s play Plukovnik Švec (1929), about the suicide of the Czech legionary colonel (...)
  • 11 V. Justl and I. Medek, eds., Rudolf Medek. Odvrhnuty basnik [Rudolf Medek: Shunned poet] (Prague: (...)
  • 12 Ivan Medek and Zdenĕk Kalista had prepared a collection of Medek’s verse during 1947 that was neve (...)
  • 13 Archiv kancelaře presidenta republiky (KRP) [The archive of the office of the Czech president], Pr (...)

5Medek was a polemicist whose writing was both revered and fiercely contested.10 As an ardent anti-Bolshevik and anti-German, Medek was inevitably shunned by both the Nazis and the communists. Owing to a combination of ideology, history and folkloric-political hearsay, since 1939 Rudolf Medek has become, according to his émigré-publicist son, Ivan Medek, “one of the most sequestered figures of the First Czechoslovak Republic.”11 A gradual dissipation of historical memory is inevitable and natural in this instance because Medek was placed on the index of banned authors after the German Occupation in March 1939, and remained there until the autumn of 1989. However, there are other factors that explain this loss of historical memory. The period 1945–48 was decisive in determining the fate of those figures that had been deemed taboo at the end of the First Republic. The victory over the Germans, albeit with Soviet help, provided a new context for the partial intellectual rehabilitation of some whose ideas (most notably Viktor Dyk’s ideology of patriotism) were deemed useful for reinforcing the mores of postwar Czechoslovak state and society. However, the Košice program (4 April 1945), which laid down the institutional framework of the postwar Czechoslovak political order and forbade the participation of right-wing parties in government, made it almost impossible for those figures from the 1930s generation to make a comeback, posthumously or otherwise.12 Several rightwing figures from the pre-1939 period, such as the renegade legionary Radola Gajda, sought official forgiveness for their previous political misdemeanors committed before the Second World War. This was not Medek’s case. However, unlike members of Gajda’s family, who remained out of favor with elite circles at the end of the Second World War, Medek’s son Ivan was granted a private audience with Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš in September 1945.13 However, Ivan’s defense of his father as a “vehement, impulsive and subjective” man who found it difficult to comprehend the “complex prudent realism of Beneš’s politics” did little to alter existing perceptions about those on the opposing side of the ideological barricade prior to the war, despite the fact that they had not collaborated with the Germans after 1939.

Historical Writing and Rudolf Medek

6Rudolf Medek presents most historians with a quandary. He represented neither the extreme nor the traditional conservative right wing of interwar Czechoslovak politics. Medek has fallen into the ideological crack existing between “extremism” and “conservatism.” He was neither a clear-cut traitor to the Czechoslovak idea nor to the Czechoslovak Republic, like fellow legionary figures, Radola Gajda (1892–1948) and Emanuel Moravec (1893–1945); nor was he conventionally loyal to the Castle Group (Hrad). He disliked Edvard Beneš intensely, but was immensely fond of T.G. Masaryk.

  • 14 See, for example, M. Hruban, Z časů nedlouho zašlych [From times recently past] (Rome-Los Angeles: (...)
  • 15 T. Pasak, Česky fašismus 1922–1945 a kolaborace 1939–1945 [Czech Fascism and collaboration] (Pragu (...)

7There has been little discussion about the political and cultural significance of Medek’s writing. The greater part of the memoirs published by leading First Republic political figures discuss only the political role of former legionaries who became close to Masaryk’s Castle Group, such as General Stanislas Čeček (1886–1930), and seemingly exclude those unable or unwilling to negotiate and compromise with the Castle.14 Historical judgements about Medek as a representative of the interwar Czechoslovak political right through his work as a prominent ex-legionary writer, and as Director of the Resistance Memorial Institute, have been clouded by the polemical controversies in which he became embroiled during the 1920s and 1930s, which supposedly confirmed Medek’s pro-fascist leanings.15

  • 16 “Pražsky večer” [Evening Prague] (28 November 1938), Rudolf Medek Collection, Pamatnik narodniho p (...)

8Medek’s political infamy was confirmed by his frequently expressed public criticism of Edvard Beneš, both as foreign minister and later as Czechoslovak president. Medek’s relationship with Beneš became increasingly complicated over the issue of capitulation at the time of Munich, when he branded Beneš “public enemy number one.” Medek’s criticism of Beneš after Munich was brutally blunt: “Edvard Beneš suffers from a misguided doctrinaire attitude. Beneš has placed humanitarian democracy above reality, and there is nothing more real and valuable than the nation and the homeland … [Humanitarian democracy] equates with pacifism; this is an absurdity. We are not enemies of the peace, but we were always enemies of phraseology which converts the belief of the masses, a Christian ideal, into a single phrase.”16 The events of Munich constituted a tragic blow for the military establishment. For those who considered themselves the architects of a new Czechoslovak army after 1918, Munich was also a cruel humiliation. And therefore Medek’s writings about both T.G. Masaryk and Edvard Beneš in the aftermath of Munich must be understood in the context of a brutalized sense of disappointment at being unable to defend a country the legionaries had helped create.

  • 17 Medek never collaborated with the Nazis; after March 1939 the family doctor, and a close circle of (...)
  • 18 The perception of Medek as an anti-Semite, a view largely borne of the Second Republic as describe (...)

9The most politically significant moment in Medek’s life came when his military career was already over, following the dissolution by the government of the Czechoslovak Army, during the so-called Second Republic, when he delivered an impassioned panegyric, “Zemi milovanou…” (Beloved homeland), about the critical importance of the nationalist verse of Karel Hynek Mácha on the occasion of the reburial of Mácha’s remains in the Vyšehrad cemetery on 7 May 1939. With this Medek firmly established himself primarily as a figurehead of the type of Czech nationalism that was later frowned upon after the war, and less as a symbol of the archetypal Czechoslovak patriot, the cult of political acceptability— paradoxically precisely the quality with which Medek had captured public imagination during the interwar years. Propagandist journalism published during the Second Republic exploited the controversial nature of Medek’s First Republic persona, and it was after 1938 that Medek’s reputation as a “fascist” or figure of the extreme Czechoslovak right wing was consolidated. Medek was seemingly exposed as a “collaborator”17 only nine days after his death on 31 August 1940 in an article by Vladimír Břetenář published in a leading Protectorate newspaper, Arijský boj, “Básník pod Hradem—Židé na Hradĕ” (The poet beneath the Castle—Jews at the Castle), which discussed Medek’s “hatred of Jews,” his ostracism from the Castle, and most significant of all, his personal feud with Beneš arising from his rejection of the Beneš presidency as part of a wider “Judeo-Bolshevik” plot against the Republic resulting in Munich.18

  • 19 See, for instance, A. Klimek, Průvodce armadnim muzeem [A guide to military museums] (Prague: Hist (...)
  • 20 On 29 March, an exhibition entitled ‘Rudolf Medek – soldier’ was opened at the Vojensky historicky (...)
  • 21 See for example Š. Filipek, ‘K čemu je general, ktery vraci vyznamenani’, Mlada fronta Dnes, 9 Jul (...)
  • 22 T. Jakl and Z. Polčak, “Vystava Rudolf Medek – vojak” [Rudolf Medek – soldier] Historie a vojenstv (...)
  • 23 As an example of such viewpoints, see R. B. Pynsent, “The Literary Representations of the Czechosl (...)

10Historians writing about Medek from a purely military perspective, such as Jiří Fidler, Petr Hofman and Jitka Zabloudilová, do not write in much detail about Medek during the Second Republic, and end their narrative in the autumn of 1938. The period from October 1938 to March 1939 remains a politically sensitive topic. A more likely reason, however, is that the attempt to write about Medek after 1938 would prove far too difficult because of the plethora of actions and journalism that supposedly contradicted his First Republic persona. Due to the risk of further damaging Medek’s already misunderstood and blighted reputation as “national hero, given the incompatibility of Medek’s First and Second Republic personae, this is a task that has not been undertaken in the Czech Republic despite the fall of Communism. Unlike other leading military figures from the First Republic, such as the Chief of Staff during the 1930s, General Ludvík Krejčí (1890–1972), Medek has not been adequately rehabilitated in memoriam since 1989, a fact poignantly illustrated by the lack of proper acknowledgement of Medek’s foundation and directorship of the Liberation Memorial Institute in Žižkov in either the main building itself or in recent publications about its history.19 Despite past failings, however, the Czechs appear to be experiencing something of a ‘Medekian’ revival at present: two exhibitions commemorating Rudolf Medek’s wartime and peacetime exploits have been held in Prague since March of this year20 and newspaper articles published in the Czech broadsheets for the first time since the Changes are beginning to discuss the political, not simply literary or cultural, significance of Medek’s First Republic writings.21 Furthermore, the Vojenský historický ústav [VHÚ] (Military Historical Institute), the seat of Medek’s First Republic home, the old Liberation Memorial Institute (Památník osvobození), has created a special commemorative medal in Medek’s honour (Pamětní odznak generála Rudolfa Medka). The first recipient of this distinction was Rudolf Medek’s son, Ivan, on the occasion of the opening of an exhibition entitled ‘Rudolf Medek – soldier’ at the Military Historical Institute in Žižkov on 29 March 2007.22 These recent developments will help combat the multifarious misunderstandings existing in the public and academic domain about Rudolf Medek the soldier, writer and political figure.23

  • 24 V. Kopecky, T. G. Masaryk a komuniste [Masaryk and the communists] (Prague: 1950), p. 30.
  • 25 See B. F. Abrams, The Struggle for the Soul of the Nation: Czech Culture and the Rise of Communism(...)
  • 26 In his memoirs, Vaclav Černy notes that Křik Koruny česke [The Cry of the Czech Crown Lands], (194 (...)
  • 27 J. Seifert, ed., Křik Koruny česke [The Cry of the Czech Crown Lands] (Prague: Klin, 1947), p. 39; (...)
  • 28 D. Sayer, The Coasts of Bohemia: A Czech History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), pp (...)
  • 29 Letter from Max Švabinsky to Eva Medkova-Slavičkova, (28 August 1940), Rudolf Medek Collection Pam (...)
  • 30 F. Halas, Bez legend. “Sibiřska anabase” ve vzpominkach byvaleho dělnika a rotniho důvěrnika [With (...)

11In Bílá místa v našich dějinách? (1990) Jan Křen identifies the political right as one of many thematic white spaces in Czech history and historiography. The revision of history for political reasons is an obvious cause of such spaces. Indeed Rudolf Medek did not feature in the communists’ reinvention of themselves as Czechoslovak patriots after 1945 because as a “fascist” (which at that time meant “anti-Bolshevik” and “pro-German,” in line with Marxist-Leninist ideology) he combined all the worst qualities of a class enemy typical of his reactionary generation which included, most notably, Rudolf Beran, Jaroslav Preiss, Jan Černý, Jan Malypetr, Konrad Henlein, Andrej Hlinka and Jozef Tiso.24 Any competing sources of nationalist legitimacy from First Republic life, other than that associated with T.G. Masaryk, were ruled out of the new, highly selective communist reading of Czechoslovak history. (T.G. Masaryk was only deemed “acceptable” in the immediate aftermath of the communist coup and during the period of ideological thaw in the 1960s, otherwise he too was consigned to history by the communist regime). In death, Medek’s name erroneously became associated with the “Protectorate mentality” described by Bradley F. Abrams25 and was thus washed up in the wave of retributions aimed at the political right on the pretext of Nazi collaboration, starting in 1946 with the trial and imprisonment of leading Second Republic figures, many of whom were legionaries that had held influential positions in the Czechoslovak Army prior to 1938. Such ideological condemnation, coupled with the jettisoning of the historical status of individuals of the political right, resulted in the confirmation, rather than the alteration, of preexisting judgements about the “extreme wings” of Czechoslovak politics. Medek’s last published work, following an abridged collection of verse published during the Protectorate in 1943,26 appeared in 1947 in a nationalist collection of poems compiled and edited by Jaroslav Seifert, Křik Koruny české. 27 However in the “Afterward” written by Karel Cvejn, Medek is the only poet not mentioned directly by name, and therefore the authorship of the poem “Hradec studentům—mučedníkům” is left blank, an ironic twist given that Medek’s poem was more virulently anti-German than any other poem included in the collection. (Medek did not fit the criteria, outlined by Cvejn, of a suppressed left-wing poet, mouthpiece of the humiliated yet proud nation, silenced both prior to and following Nazi occupation).28 After 1950, with the complete communist clampdown on the Czechoslovak legionary tradition, Medek’s poems were never again reprinted, not even in commemorative literature about the Great War battles of Zborov or Bahmač, which formed an integral part of Czechoslovak nationalist ideology. The legionary tradition as represented by Medek was confined to the past once and for all in June 1954 with the display of Klement Gottwald’s embalmed body (and not the remains of T.G. Masaryk, as had originally been planned by Medek) in the mausoleum of the Liberation Memorial Institute.29 Any lingering memory that remained of Rudolf Medek thereafter, depicted most notably by František Halas in his wartime memoirs, Bez legend (1955), was the entirely negative representation of an aggressively elitist Czechoslovak legionary with no respect for the views of the “masses” and utter contempt for any form of equality.30

  • 31 Unlike the Second Republic, the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia after March 1939 neverthe (...)
  • 32 P. Tigrid, Kapesni průvodce inteligetni ženy po vlastnim osudu [Pocket guide of an intelligent wom (...)

12Medek remains misunderstood as a figure of the political right due to perhaps the largest white or misunderstood space of Czechoslovak history not mentioned by Jan Křen—a period that lasted less than a decade between Munich and the communist ascendancy.31 It is ironic that the legacy of the Second Republic has damaged Medek’s historical status most of all. The fascist epithet dished up by the communists is misplaced. The following image illustrates the point. At the same time as Medek’s body was laid to rest in the cemetery at Olšany on the afternoon of 28 August 1940, the new Nazi occupants of the Liberation Memorial Institute in Žižkov whitewashed over captions written by Medek accompanying a mosaic by the artist Max Švabinský for the “Chapel of Executed Legionaries” inside the mausoleum of the Memorial which was built specially for the commemoration of the founding of the Republic that never took place in October 1938. The entirety of Medek’s Czechoslovak nationalist program was rooted in anti-Bolshevik and anti-German sentiment and therefore remained anathema.32 It would be incorrect to say, therefore, that Medek has been straight-forwardly airbrushed out of history. If anything, he has fallen into a rather large grey historiographical space that has resulted in the imprecise understanding of his political views.

  • 33 J. Rataj, O autoritativni narodni stat. Ideologicke proměny česke politiky v druhe republice 1938– (...)
  • 34 Rataj, O autoritativni narodni stat, pp. 40–41, 74–48, 51–53, 61–63, 70–71 and especially 119–20.
  • 35 Various pieces of “dis-information” about leading Czech nationalists circulated regularly during t (...)
  • 36 S. Vejvar, “Česky konzervatimus za druhe republiky” [Czech conservatism during the Second Republic (...)

13The literature published since 1989 shows that Rudolf Medek is a figure associated primarily with the Second Republic, the cultural politics of the authoritarian-national state, and Czech “Fascism” in general. Together with the Catholic writer, poet and journalist, Jaroslav Durych, Medek managed the National cultural committee (Národní kulturní rada), the cultural wing of the National Unity Party (Strana národní jednoty), created in November 1938 during the Second Republic. Jan Rataj is explicit about Medek’s politics after 1938 and notes that Medek associated with or belonged to “fascist sub-groups,” the “militant right,” and “integral Catholics,” that is, all those apprehensive of German aggression.33 However, according to Rataj’s analysis, in which “left” seems to be synonymous with “democrat” and “right” with “demagogue,” in their attempts to refashion the concept of the national state, the intolerant intellectual wing of political Catholicism laid the groundwork for cooperation with the Germans.34 Reinventing the status of those on the right as pseudocollaborators because their thinking “corresponded” with Nazi ideology is a view that clearly requires revision, and yet in Medek’s case the impression remains also partly because several legionary colleagues with whom he had been closely associated during the First World War—most notably Czechoslovak legionary and Nazi collaborator Emanuel Moravec (1893– 1945)—did become collaborators, although certainly many did not. Medek was not and was unlikely ever to have become a collaborator.35 Medek wrote for Řád, the journal of the “integral Catholic” intelligentsia led by Count Karel Schwarzenberg; however after November 1938 he also wrote for a range of right-wing newspapers and journals (both centrist and more extreme) including Tak, Národní politika, Narodní listy, Venkov, Národní obnova, Cesta, Lumír and Národní myšlenka, besides indulging in polemics with Ferdinand Peroutka on the pages of the left-liberal journal, Přítomnost. In an article for the Catholic journal Obzory, Stanislav Vejvar correctly emphasizes the multifaceted nature of conservatism in the Second Republic and identifies distinct Catholic-conservative, conservative-national, and radical-nationalist ideological currents.36 Medek did not identify fully with any one of these, but dabbled in each, a polemical practice carried over from the First Republic. It is overlooked that Medek distanced himself from Fascism on several occasions including, most notably, several months before the Munich crisis when he denounced the concept of fascist dictatorship in several articles for Národní politika, whilst calling on the population to prepare themselves to defend their country in May 1938.

  • 37 M. Havelka, “Zamyšleni nad genezi českeho konzervatismu” [A thought about the genesis of Czech con (...)
  • 38 Podiven [= Petr Přihoda, Petr Pithart, Milan Otahal], Češi v dĕjinach nove doby (1848–1939) [Czech (...)

14According to dissident literature of the 1970s and 1980s, which sought to revise stringent Marxist-Leninist interpretations by offering a more objective interpretation of the First Republic, part of the problem in assessing the Czech political right is due to the fact that the interwar Czechoslovak political spectrum lacked a clearly defined conservative tradition, thereby pushing right-of-center figures to the extreme fringes of politics.37 However, the existing distinctions between different groups of “right-wing” in the Czechoslovak legionary camp were not accounted for and some Catholic writers including those authoring, most notably, Češi v dĕjinách nové doby (1848–1939) (Podiven), developed the image of Medek as a proto-fascist due to his close association with legionary radical Radola Gajda during the 1920s.38

  • 39 A. Klimek, Boj o Hrad 1918–1935 [The battle for the castle], 2 vols (Prague: Pan Evropa, 1996), Vo (...)
  • 40 See, for instance, the line adopted in V. S. Mamatey and R. Luža, eds., A History of the Czechoslo (...)

15The work of the late Antonín Klimek has highlighted new avenues of investigation into the tense relationship between the Castle and the “nationalist right” in the First Czechoslovak Republic. When writing about the crisis that beset the so-called “Gentlemen’s Coalition” in the summer of 1926, with the ousting of Jiří Stříbrný from the National Socialist Party in July of that year, Klimek notes that Medek joined several others, including one other army officer, two academics, a journalist, the party secretary of the National Democratic Party, František Hlaváček, and Agrarian politician, Adolf Hrubý, at a meeting designed to create a political oppositional front to Edvard Beneš.39 Medek was appointed to a short-lived governing committee known as “[The] movement for national purification” (národní hnutí očistné) established by Jiří Stříbrný in protest to the style of politics promoted by the Castle. The movement and its journal, “The Revivalist movement” (Obrodné hnutí), which never materialized, were to form and maintain alliances with controversial leading figures of the political right including the controversial legionary hero, Radola Gajda. Jitka Zabloudilová and Petr Hofman have identified some interesting new material in Medek’s private papers that would suggest that Beneš made unsuccessful conciliatory overtures to Medek in the autumn of 1929 in an attempt to remedy the latter’s estrangement from the Castle. However, they do not explain why these efforts came to nothing and thus do not explore the nature of political opposition on the “military right” in interwar Czechoslovakia. In current Czech literature the precise political stance of individual members of the military establishment remains an under-researched topic. The result is that old historiographical assumptions about the First Republic reminiscent of the uncritical political history written in English during the 1970s have now been duplicated in more recent literature, and accordingly anything connected with the Castle is politically legitimate, whilst everything that stood beyond the purview of T.G. Masaryk and Edvard Beneš is politically suspect.40

  • 41 See Z. Karnik, Česke země v eře Prvni republiky (1918–1938). Dil druhy. Československo a Česke zem (...)
  • 42 The 8,000 page, four-volume historical chronicle, Za svobodu. Obrazkova kronika československeho r (...)

16According to historian Zděnek Kárník, for instance, the statesponsored legionary organization (ČsOL) had a decisive influence on Czechoslovak public mood during the First Republic over and above Medek’s Independent Union of Czechoslovak Legionaries. Kárník also argues that the ČsOL was the main promoter, in conjunction with the Castle, of the idea of Czechoslovak statehood.41 The significance of the legionary right, represented most notably by Medek’s Independent Union of Czechoslovak Legionaries, has therefore been marginalized despite the fact that it was the widely-known Resistance Memorial Institute, the de facto seat of the NJČsL under Medek’s direction, that produced major publications about Czechoslovak legionaries and other promotional mate-rial which shaped both political and popular conceptions of Czechoslovak state ideology during the interwar period.42

II. THE LEGACY OF THE SECOND REPUBLIC AND THE INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF THE “BENEŠ DOCTRINE,” 1945–48

  • 43 “Obhajovaci řeč generala V. Klecandy před Narodnim soudem dne 2. sprna 1946. Stenograficky zaznam (...)
  • 44 See P. Pithart, “Prvni republika: jak ji viděla opozice” [The First Republic: as seen by the oppos (...)
  • 45 See for instance, J. Plojhar, Vitĕzny unor 1948 a čs. strana lidova [Victorious February and the C (...)

17The immediate postwar period 1945–48 constituted one of the most dramatic phases of Czechoslovak life in the 20th century. This was a crucial time for several reasons, not least because it was an interval between two types of dictatorship, a transitional phase for coming to terms with the immediate past and the evolution of postwar political discourse. The period 1945–48 was one of retribution for political crimes committed by figures of the “right,” which, coupled with the oppositionless National Front government or Peoples’ Democracy, split Czechoslovak society into “democratic,” and “anti-democratic” or “fascist” camps and reinforced political stereotyping about ideological distinctions between “left” and “right,” building on the black and white political experiences of the Second Republic and the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (1939– 45). The national tribunals, conducted throughout 1946 and 1947, convicted several leading right-wing figures on the basis of wartime collaboration and the propagation of anti-Semitic views. Several of these were former legionary figures from the First Czechoslovak Republic, and specifically those who had served in the Russian army as Czechoslovak legionaries during the First World War. The trial of General Vladimír Vojtěch Klecanda (1888–1947), co-founder of the nucleus of the Czechoslovak army in Russia, the “Czech unit” (Česká družina), is a case in point. In his defense speech before one tribunal in August 1946, Klecanda attempted to explain that as a “Czechoslovak patriot” from the First World War, collaboration with the Bolsheviks was as unlikely as with the Germans. Furthermore, he underlined the difference between the “aggressive nationalism” of the Nazis and the “patriotic” nationalism (or národovectví) of the legionary right wing, which was patriotically “Czechoslovak” and expressed through the military establishment and the Czechoslovak army during the First Republic.43 Klecanda’s comment raises a crucial point about the multiple strands of right-wing ideology within the Czechoslovak legionary movement in the interwar period yet to be properly accounted for by historians, beyond the epithet of “integral nationalist” for all members of the extreme right posited by Petr Pithart during the 1970s.44 It is clear from the transcript of Klecanda’s trial that he was brought to account on the basis of his acquaintance after Munich with Czech army officer Emanuel Moravec and, more significantly, with the deputy German representative in Prague, Karl Hermann Frank, who had summoned Klecanda to his office in the Černín Palace in the closing months of the Second World War. The culture of “trial by association,” that is the discrediting of right-wing figures in the immediate postwar period as “Nazi collaborators,” was directly connected to the political climate of the Second Republic rather than the daily realities of the Protectorate that followed. The postwar writings of the priest-collaborator and deputy chairman of the (Catholic) Czechoslovak Peoples’ Party in and after 1948, Josef Plojhar (1902–81), reveal that the Second Republic posed a much greater strain on postwar Czechoslovak imagination than the war experience itself because it was a specifically Czech nationalist experience, rather than a Nazi import, and a Czech political design that had distinguished itself from the Masarykian First Republic by its association with Catholicism and Bohemian Catholic traditions. On the eve of the communist takeover Plojhar argued that Czech collaboration with the Nazis after March 1939 was precipitated by a “Fascism” specific to the Czech political culture of the Second Republic which had fused Catholicism with the worst elements of intolerant nationalism left over from First Republic life, pushing all legitimate peace-loving Czechoslovak democrats aside.45 This political line—later exploited by the communists in justifying their use of repressive force against “enemies of the state” after 1948—was preceded by the work of the national tribunals between 1946 and 1947, which created a heady propagandist atmosphere in which any form of right-wing political culture (both extreme and conservative) was legitimately banished from the political landscape along with the symbolic remnants of political “collaboration” in the new Czechoslovak state. The actions and writings of Edvard Beneš in the period from 1946 to 1948 corresponded ideologically to the work of the national tribunals in justifying the need for the symbolic cleansing of any form of “right-wing” opposition after the war.

18There were two defining themes of the “Beneš doctrine” in the immediate postwar period. The first relates to the fight against a rather nebulous concept of radical right-wing ideology or “Fascism.” In a speech delivered to the “Czechoslovak anti-fascist society” (Československá protifašistická společnost) in March 1946, Beneš explains that

  • 46 E[dvard] B[eneš] narodu. Z projevů presidenta republiky v letech 1945–46 [Edvard Beneš to the nati (...)

the war against Fascism in Czechoslovakia has deep roots which can be traced back to the founding of the state during 1918 and 1919, to our legionary problem and the conflict with [Karel] Kramář about Czechoslovak military intervention in Russia [following the Bolshevik Revolution] … These represent the worst aspects of our political life in the First Republic. However this is now part of our political history, and it is now possible to identify precisely why and how our war with Fascism began, which predated the Occupation. Everything that occurred during the Occupation is logically rooted in the First Republic, and specifically in the period following our return [to Czechoslovakia] after the Paris Peace Conference [in 1919] … When taking account of these facts, the views and actions of many periods during and after Munich, and during the Occupation, become clear.46

  • 47 Ibid., p. 28. The same sentiments are expressed in Beneš’s pamphlet, E. Beneš, Nova slovanska poli (...)
  • 48 E. Beneš, President legionařům. Legionaři narodu [The president [speaks] to the legionaries. The l (...)
  • 49 See J. Galandauer, 2.7.1917. Bitva u zborova. Česka legenda [The battle of Zborov: Czech legend] ( (...)
  • 50 See I. Šedivy, “Vznik Nezavisle jednoty československych legionařů” [The founding of the independe (...)
  • 51 See Karnik, Česke země v eře Prvni republiky, pp. 2, 336–37.
  • 52 See J. Pernes, Až na dno zdrady. Emanuel Moravec [Emanuel Moravec: To the depths of traitorousness (...)
  • 53 E. Beneš, Poslani vojenskeho historickeho ustavu [The mission of the military historical institute (...)

19For Beneš, therefore, the national tribunals heralded the “beginning of the end of all forms of Fascism and Nazism [and their arch-representatives] in a Czechoslovak context, and the return to a clean form of political ideology and a Masarykian conception of Czechoslovak democracy.”47 The second theme of the “Beneš doctrine” relates directly to the organization of Czechoslovak legionaries in postwar Czechoslovakia, and their role in securing social and national justice for the state. Beneš had always maintained a close working relationship with the state-sponsored Union of Czechoslovak Legionaries (Československá obec legionářská or ČsOL), in effect becoming its unofficial patron after its establishment in Prague in January 1921. In his address to the first postwar annual meeting of the ČsOL, which convened in St Wenceslas Square in July 1947, Beneš declared that the ČsOL was the only legionary organization to have continuously and faithfully represented the Masarykian Czechoslovak ideals of “freedom,” “democracy” and “genuine humanitarianism” making it, according to Beneš, the only legionary tradition worth preserving.48 As Jan Galandauer notes in his recent work about the “Battle of Zborov,”49 the ČsOL was the only legionary organization recreated after the war, in 1946, which signalled the beginning of the gradual transformation of historical memory about Czechoslovak legionary culture as it had existed before 1938. The traditions associated with the legionary right-wing, particularly their commemoration of wartime, as well as their conception of the Czechoslovak national state and other military rituals, were gradually phased out of Czechoslovak national consciousness altogether, and indeed Beneš makes no reference to any other legionary organizations in his 1947 address. Beneš’s depiction of the ČsOL as the only genuine, loyal and state-enforcing legionary organization devoted to the consolidation of the Czechoslovak state eclipsed the existence, and the work, of other legionary organizations in the interwar period. According to Beneš, the ČsOL represented an ideal combination of the best military traditions of both prewar and postwar Czechoslovakia. However Beneš’s attitude towards the political role of the ČsOL changed after 1945 (his pre-Munich view about Czechoslovak legionaries will be discussed in the next section). In contrast to the interwar period, Beneš urged Czechoslovak legionaries within the ČsOL to remain firmly above politics, thus relieving the legionary superstructure of its role as a state-legitimizing entity. Whereas in the First Republic Czechoslovak legionaries felt directly responsible for the existence and defense of the state, given their dramatic experience of the First World War, postwar legionaries were to play quite a different role as defenders rather than promoters of the ideals of socioeconomic justice and Czechoslovak national state. In this way Beneš decreed that the ČsOL should take over the position occupied by Rudolf Medek’s Independent Union of Czechoslovak Legionaries (NJČsL) as the leading promoter of the ideal of the Czechoslovak national state. In his 1947 speech Beneš further explains that the ČsOL constituted a repository of a new form of Czechoslovakism that equally and faithfully represented Czech and Slovak interests. This contrasted starkly with the reputation of the ČsOL during the interwar period as an overly “Czechophile” organization disinterested in Slovak affairs. However as of 1947, the traditions of the legionary right-wing were consigned to oblivion, which undoubtedly explains the lack of interest in Rudolf Medek’s legionary organization in Czech scholarship today. The historian Ivan Šedivý is an exception in this respect.50 The NJČsL was not simply, as Zdeněk Kárník has written, a fringe legionary organization or even the military wing of the National Democracy Party in the interwar period.51 Medek managed the activities of the NJČsL under the auspices of the Resistance Memorial Institute in Žižkov, which was in effect the outpost of the Czechoslovak ministry of defense in interwar Czechoslovakia; and the position of director was considered a key political post by leading military figures.52 Significantly, in one postwar pamphlet about the activities of the Liberation Memorial Institute, which became the “Military Historical Institute” (Vojenský historický ústav) in 1945 following the reorganization of a separate “Liberation Memorial Institute” and “Liberation Museum,” Beneš insists that the role of the military institute had changed considerably since the First Republic.53 In the postwar era, the Žižkov institute was reinvented as a purely academic, as opposed to political, organization, which gives some indication of the reputation of the institution, as well the level of notoriety surrounding Medek its director-general during the interwar period.

III. THE ORIGINS OF THE “BENEŠ DOCTRINE” OR THE “DEMOCRATIC-FASCIST” PARADIGM

  • 54 See E. Beneš, “Naš největši ukol narodni” [Our greatest national task] in Idea Československeho st (...)
  • 55 See E. Beneš, Smysl čs. Revoluce [The significance of the Czechoslovak revolution] (Prague: Pamatn (...)
  • 56 The significance of this period of vacuum has been discussed most recently by Jiři Kovtun in his e (...)

20Following T.G. Masaryk, Edvard Beneš conceived of Czechoslovak nationalism as an expression of “humanist” democratic principles, which formed the core of state ideology. For Beneš, patriotism had no distinct role to play in politics, for he considered this an obvious facet of nationalism. Beneš understood the ideology of the Czechoslovak state, Czechoslovakism, primarily as a social democratic ideal rooted in the social emancipation of the small Czech man (malý český clověk).54 Beneš’s emphasis on the social aspects rather than the national-political meaning of the “Czechoslovak revolution” of 1914–18 (reflected most notably in his objection to Czechoslovak military intervention in Bolshevik Russia and his conception of a “democratic army” rooted in mutual respect between the rank-and-file and military leadership), brought him into conflict with right-wing legionaries and legionary organizations in the mid-1920s.55 Even more damaging for Czechoslovak legionary politics in the long term was the furore surrounding the poor showing of center-left parties (particularly the National Socialists) at the parliamentary elections of November 1925, which precipitated a dramatic political crisis culminating in the summer and autumn of 1926 during which Beneš played a significant role in shaping perceptions about “left-” and “right-” wing politics. It is argued here that the “democratic-fascist” paradigm, propagated by Beneš after the Second World War, traces its origins to the political vacuum of the mid-1920s.56

  • 57 It was at the same meeting that Gajda announced his intention to assume the leadership of the ČsOL (...)
  • 58 Report about the founding of Medek’s “Independent Union of Czechoslovak Legionaries” compiled by C (...)

21The denunciation of the Czechoslovak political right by the center-left, which began in the autumn of 1925 in the run-up to the parliamentary elections, signaled the culmination of several years of tension between centerleft and right-wing parties, most notably between the National Socialists and Social Democrats, on the one hand, and the National Democratic Party on the other. The chasm between left and right was also reflected in the increasingly politicized camp of Czechoslovak legionaries. Starting in the autumn of 1923, during the convening of the annual congress of the ČsOL in Bratislava, the first signs of a split between the left and right-wing leadership of the organization emerged, following Radola Gajda’s accusation that the ČsOL had failed to properly represent the interests of all Czechoslovak legionaries—by which he meant a group of right-wing legionaries comprising himself, Rudolf Medek, and Vojtěch Holeček, which had evolved by 1923 into a separate political wing of the ČsOL combining both radical and conservative legionary viewpoints.57 A volatile exchange of polemics between “left” and “right” wing legionary branches ensued. By the mid-1920s most leading Czechoslovak politicians, most notably Beneš, but also those who served as ministers of defense, had correctly gauged the potential value of using Czechoslovak legionaries as an unofficial tool of politics by engaging them as vessels of party-political interests. In this way organizations such as the ČsOL became gradually attached, albeit informally, to political parities. The increasing closeness between the ČsOL and the National Socialist Party through Edvard Beneš created an irreparable chasm between legionary left and right, and resulted in the departure of a significant group of right-wing legionaries, led by Rudolf Medek, from the ČsOL in the autumn of 1925. Although as a report from 1930, drawn up by a ČsOL member, Colonel Josef Vavroch, explains the right-wingers were dismissed from the ČsOL in 1925 on account of their refusal to terminate their association with the National Democratic Party.58

  • 59 Vojensky archiv Vojensky historicky ustav/VHU [Military Archive, Military Historical Institute], Ž (...)
  • 60 Chab, Několik legionařskych co a jak, p. 20.

22Coupled with the increasing dominance of former legionaries within the Czechoslovak military establishment, and the appointment of Agrarian František Udržal as defense minister (followed in early 1926 by the appointment of radical Jiří Stříbrný), the results of the 1925 parliamentary elections signified a short-lived political honeymoon for the conservative right in Czechoslovakia. Given that political circumstances favored the political right at the close of 1925, Rudolf Medek decided to establish a new legionary organization, the Independent Union of Czechoslovak Legionaries (NJČsL) with the full support of František Udržal,59 which can be interpreted as a response to Beneš’s active support of the ČsOL throughout the early 1920s. However, even the creation of the NJČsL was shrouded in controversy—journalists from the ČsOL speculated that the new legionary movement was created on the basis of the close collaboration between Medek and Gajda during 1923 and 1924.60

  • 61 See “Legie” [Legions] file on “Nezavisla jednota československych legionařů,” Edvard Beneš Collect (...)
  • 62 See Beneš’s letter entitled “Gen. Medek” to Andrej Laurin (2 July 1934), Edvard Beneš Collection, (...)
  • 63 R. Medek, “K situace v legionařstvu” [The situation amongst legionaries]. Fronta (6 May 1927): 4–6

23The new legionary organization did indeed fuel the suspicions of the Castle Group about the political agenda of the legionary right-wing. Beneš’s reaction to the creation of the NJČsL is significant; immediately following its creation, Beneš branded the NJČsL the military arm of the National Democratic Party.61 Beneš sensed that a more sinister plot was afoot and that Medek’s legionary union was part of a broader “protofascist,” anti-Castle bloc in the Republic. Furthermore, Medek’s friendship with the poet and National Democratic politician Viktor Dyk throughout the 1920s did nothing to alleviate Beneš’s concerns about the evolving legionary right wing.62 The animosity between the legionary left and right remained, and this is illustrated by Medek’s impassioned article published in Karel Horký’s Fronta in May 1927 calling for a legionary organization that would remain “above-politics.”63

24The term “fascist” appeared intermittently in the daily press at the time of the split of the ČsOL and the creation of Medek’s NJČsL in the autumn of 1925. However, it became an intrinsic part of Czechoslovak political discourse during the coalition crisis of the summer and autumn of 1926 as a result of Beneš’s frequent use, and misuse, of the term in reaction to two political affairs at the time: the so-called “Stříbrný” and “Gajda” controversies. Beneš cleverly used these scandals (which related to two separate plots aiming to shift the balance of power away from the Masarykian Castle Group to the more right-wing elements in the Republic) as a pretext with which to discredit both the political (National Democratic) and legionary right-wing (led by Medek and Gajda) in Czechoslovakia.

25During the inter-party coalition crisis that followed the split within the National Socialist Party in June 1926, the ČsOL publicly expressed their support for Beneš, in opposition to the factional intrigues led by party renegade Jiří Stříbrný who had endeavored to bring the National Socialist party under his control. In return for their support, Beneš actively promoted the ČsOL as the leading legionary organization in Czechoslovakia that best represented Czechoslovak military traditions and, crucially, Czechoslovak state nationalism. Given Beneš’s support, the ČsOL was formally acknowledged as the official legionary guardian of Czechoslovak state legitimacy. Beneš delivered two significant speeches at two separate sessions of the ČsOL annual congress held in September 1926, the contents of which are discussed here.

26In his main address to the congress, entitled “Bratřím legionářům” (To brother legionaries, later published by the ČsOL publishing house as a pamphlet entitled Pro čistotu veřejného života [In support of a clean public life], Prague, 1926), Beneš underlined the role of the ČsOL in the new state in maintaining a “clean public life”—this exposed Beneš’s concern about the politicization of the military establishment during the 1920s, and particularly the impact of Radola Gajda’s anti-state plotting on the political character of the Czechoslovak army:

  • 64 “Bartřim legionařům” [To brother legionaries], Archiv Ustavu T.G. Masaryka [T.G. Masaryk Archive], (...)

I am absolutely and always against any kind of politics in the army. In a democratic state the politicians deal with politics and the soldiers are obliged to fulfil their military obligations. The permeation of politics into the army signifies the disruption of the army. Similarly, I have always maintained that the minister of foreign affairs must stand above politics in our state, both left and right, and I have always attempted to do just that … much like in the state itself, politics are to be found within the army … however for the reasons I have explained, I have always opposed the political agitation of generals within the [Czechoslovak] army.64

  • 65 See the report on Medek compiled by General Ludvik Krejči, Chief of Staff in January 1937, later s (...)

27Rudolf Medek’s own peripheral involvement in Czechoslovak politics during the mid-1920s seemingly fits Beneš’s evaluation of a “politicized army general,” and indeed Medek, much like Gajda, was unpopular with Czechoslovak politicians as well as the General Chief of Staff because of his tendency to air his political views in public.65 According to Beneš, a “clean public life” is ensured by maintaining both an apolitical army and apolitical representative veteran organizations such as the legionary unions. However, by addressing the ČsOL as minister of foreign affairs Beneš was making a clear political statement about the “correct” form of Czechoslovak nationalism:

  • 66 Ibid., p. 18.

This [debate] is not about a left or right bloc … Legionaries must be the guardians of a clean public life. They must be the bricks and mortar of the nation; they must be committed to integrity and to the truth … This is about the battle for the future of the nation, and you [the legionaries] play a critical and steadfast role in this battle. This is your national calling and your mission. I am and will always remain, to the end of my life, a legionary in this sense of the word.”66

28Beneš’s second address to another session of the congress on the following day, during which he also signed a formal letter endorsing the political ideology espoused by the ČsOL, revealed the extent of his obsession with the difference between legionary “left” and “right” wings. This speech signified a watershed in Czechoslovak political rhetoric because in it Beneš clearly provided a justification for the naming (and shaming) of the “right-wing” as “fascist” or “demagogue,” and anything center-left or “left-wing” as “democratic” or “progressive.” Beneš declared that by adopting the motto of “humanism,” the ČsOL had categorically expressed its loyalty to the politics of the Castle represented by T.G. Masaryk and Beneš himself. “Humanism,” explains Beneš:

  • 67 “Reč dra Beneše” [Beneš’s speech to the ČSOL congress], Archiv Ustavu T.G. Masaryka [T.G. Masaryk (...)

determines the character of nationalism … The fascists attempt to justify their patriotism on the basis that they are the primary and genuine defenders of the nation. They [the fascists] lecture us about patriotism … When discussing nationalism, we must be aware of the difference between the others and our definition of patriotism and the fascist definition. We [the ČsOL] harbour a different philosophical view of nationalism. We feel deeply national, however we explain our national consciousness differently to our leading nationalists, those swastika-bearing fascists. It is on account of our diverse psychological viewpoints, and our understanding of nationalism, that we advocate quite different political practices and tactics.67

29Most significant here is Beneš’s conviction that the ČsOL’s respect for the cult of the President-Osvoboditel (President-Liberator) favorably distinguishes the “humanists” on the “center-left” of the political spectrum (ČsOL) from the “fascists” (NJČsL) on the right. In other words, it is only through absolute deference to T.G. Masaryk as the founding father of the Czechoslovak state that genuine Czechoslovak patriotism is expressed. According to this logic, “fascists” are conceived as primarily anti-Masarykian and thus illegitimate actors in the Czechoslovak political process. Much like T.G. Masaryk, Beneš failed to grasp the true significance and nature of Czechoslovak right-wing ideologies. However, Beneš went further than T.G. Masaryk in his insistence that:

  • 68 Ibid., p. 5.

Fascism is an over-excitable nationalism which develops into aggressive forms, [nationalism is] a force which is in fact overwhelming for a small nation. … We [the ČsOL and the National Socialist Party] stand for a reasonable and calm definition of nationalism acceptable for all … the entire debate about nationalism represents a disagreement over the nature of the national philosophy of state, which is rooted in principles of humanity. These unpatriotic, fascist demagogues exploit this distinction for their own political purposes.68

  • 69 See “Legionaři a narodni demokracie” [Legionaries and national democracy]. Narodni osvobozeni, (23 (...)
  • 70 F. Peroutka, Muž přitomnosti [Man of the present] (Zurich: Confrontation, 1985), p. 58; see also [ (...)

30Beneš’s tirade against the “right” helped consolidate the prevailing view in the press at that time, propagated by the leading newspaper of the ČsOL, Národní osvobození (National Independence), that everything connected to the National Democratic party as a whole, irrespective of distinct wings of the party, was fascist.69 In this respect Beneš’s view was close to that of T.G. Masaryk, who also equated practically everything on the right with creeping Fascism, by which he meant the “political disorientation of the bourgeois members of the National Democratic party.”70

  • 71 See, for instance, V. Chab, Několik legionařskych co a jak, pp. 20, 26, 40, 42, 44, 45; and see al (...)
  • 72 Archiv Ustavu T.G. Masaryka (T.G. Masaryk Archive), Edvard Beneš Collection “BALegie: Nezavisla je (...)
  • 73 See F. Turek, “Prohlašeni Nezavisla jednota československych legionařů” (Declaration of the indepe (...)

31Beneš’s sweeping, almost facile categorization of the Czechoslovak extreme right quickly achieved the status of legitimate political canon, despite its ideological fluidity, and was further disseminated by leftleaning legionary historians and journalists such as, most notably, Václav Cháb, a ČsOL member.71 It was with the same ideological brush that Rudolf Medek’s legionary organization became tarnished. In a report compiled by one of Beneš’s personal assistants about the Independent Union of Czechoslovak Legionaries (dating from the autumn of 1926) it is noted, albeit erroneously, that Rudolf Medek is “an anti-Masarykian figure” who shaped the agenda of his organization according to the “need to fight the [Czechoslovak] political center-ground represented by Masaryk and Beneš.”72 Significantly, Medek’s founding of the NJČsL in 1925 is described in the report as the first institutional manifestation of Fascism in the Czechoslovak Republic, disregards the Union’s commitment to Masarykian principles and the cult of President-Liberator. The formal declaration issued at the time of the founding of the NJČsL pledges that Medek’s union is a “non-political organization” devoted to the propagation of Masarykian principles, particularly “social justice” and “Czechoslovak national unity.” However, Medek’s organization distinguished itself from the ČsOL by emphasizing the importance of a national, as opposed to social, program committed to increasing awareness about the importance of national defense in the minds of all “Czechoslovak citizensoldiers.”73 The 1926 report originating in Beneš’s office defines Fascism as both “conservative” and “active nationalism,” indicating that few Czechoslovak politicians, not even Beneš himself, had a clear concept of Fascism during the 1920s. However the conceptual flexibility afforded by such indeterminate ideological fudging suited Beneš as a tool of coalition party political intrigue, which he employed in his dealings with legionary organizations during the 1920s, as described here; but the mislabelling of “Fascism” proved a costly political tool, for by becoming directly involved in legionary affairs Beneš helped politicize further, whether deliberately or inadvertently, the work of those legionary organizations that were supposed to remain above politics. The legionary groups remained forever split by the crisis of the mid-1920s and were unable to reach agreement on any issue until the Munich crisis of 1938.

IV. DEFINITIONS OF THE CZECHOSLOVAK POLITICAL “RIGHT”—NEW PERSPECTIVES

  • 74 See in particular, M. Gregorovič, Kapitoly o českem fašismu. Fašismus jako měřitko politicke dezor (...)
  • 75 J. Čechurova, Česka politicka pravice mezi převratem a krizi (The Czech right between revolution a (...)

32This chapter has argued that Edvard Beneš’s sweeping characterization of political ideology, as well as his direct involvement in legionary poli-tics during the mid-1920s, and again during the mid- to late-1940s, has hampered historical understanding of the diverse nature of right-wing political ideologies, and the political persuasions of their representatives (in this instance, Rudolf Medek) in interwar Czechoslovakia. Indeed, Beneš’s writings influenced the perception of “Fascism” in interwar and postwar Czechoslovakia more than any other Czech political figure. Contrary to recent work about the history of Czechoslovak Fascism,74 which stresses the marginality of extremists in the First Republic, this paper has demonstrated that “Fascism” was of great concern to Czechoslovak political society several years before the economic crisis of the early 1930s and that “Fascism” as perceived by Czechs, as opposed to Slovaks, evolved from the internal Czechoslovak political crises of the mid-1920s. A new approach to the “political right” is therefore required. Several historians have begun this task. In Česká politická pravice mezi převratem a krizí, 75 Jana Čechurová distinguishes between different branches of the “Right”: the “Fascism” associated with the young generation of National Democracy enamored by Benito Mussolini’s rise to power in 1922; the “Agrarian Conservatism” of Republican Party leader Antonín Švehla; and the “clerical right” represented by those such as the priest-politician Jan Šrámek. This approach largely builds on Václav Černý’s earlier distinction between “patriots” (conservative nationalists) and “religious politicians” (clericals) in addressing the political right. Both the “clerical” and “conservative” members of the right led a political campaign against Beneš in the mid-1920s (in reaction to both foreign and domestic policy), however this did not mean that these groups were “fascist.”

  • 76 Z. Karnik, “Prave a leve politicke extremy v Českych zemich a Československu predevšim mezivalečne (...)
  • 77 M. Havelka, “Zamyšleni nad genezi českeho konzervatismu” (A thought about the genesis of Czech con (...)
  • 78 See, for instance, M. Freeden, Ideology: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Pres (...)
  • 79 R. Medek, Posledni udalosti a nezavisla jednota čsl. Legionařů (Recent events and the independent (...)

33Zdeněk Kárník has recently pointed out the difficulties with the term “integral nationalist” coined by dissident writers in the 1970s, noting that it is rooted in a conception of a First Republic of two political extremes, the “extreme right” and the “democratic-center,” thus fudging the different brands of Czechoslovak political right.76 “Integral nationalist” is obviously too broad a term to accommodate all the ideological forms, “moderate,” “conservative” and “extreme.” More should be made, for instance, of the typology relating to the “genesis of Czech conservatism” devised by Miloš Havelka in the Catholic journal Obzory in 2005.77 As is the case with all ideologies, conservatism is context-specific and instead of adopting the “fascist” epithet for all right-wing positions in the period between 1925 and 1948, Havelka underlines the analytical value of associated political concepts such as “populism,” “traditionalism,” “historicism” and “authoritarianism” (which help define the conceptual traits, components and characteristics of ideologies and their relationship to each other) when making the distinction between different types of “right-wing.” This history of ideas approach is advocated by British political scientists such as Michael Freeden in their discussion of variant forms of nationalist ideology as being indicative of specific conservative traditions.78 Adopting this approach, for instance, reveals that Medek’s Independent Union of Czechoslovak Legionaries (NJČsL) aimed to preserve a particular legionary tradition rather than to radically alter it for some anarchic political purpose, which clearly distinguishes the organization from Radola Gajda’s National Union of Fascists (Národní obec fašistická or NOF). Gajda’s 1931 political pamphlet about the “Ideology of Czech Fascism” (Ideologie Čsl. fašismu. Cyklus přednášek “O ideologii Českoslov. politických stran”) defines what is understood by “fascist” in a Czechoslovak context, beginning with the concept of the corporate state model alongside the institutionalization of political order through the rejection, by force, of coalition government. In his political pamphlet, Poslední události a nezávislá jednota čsl. legionářů (Recent events and the independent union of Czechoslovak legionaries) published in November 1926, Rudolf Medek attempted to deflate much of the speculation about his organization as a “fascist movement,” explaining that the NJČsL is opposed to any form of “red guard” or fascist militia: “our state is strong enough to defend itself against all those who wish to create a new state other than that created by the legionaries.” And indeed, following the Gajda affair in the summer of 1926, Medek distanced himself from Gajda altogether. In contrast to Gajda’s NOF, the NJČsL, Medek explained further, was committed to the “creation of an active and responsible [Czechoslovak] patriot concerned more with order and stability than with political coup and national consciousness rather than corruption.”79 Legitimate legionary organizations, insists Medek, should retain and express their national orientation through their commitment to the “idea of Czechoslovak national unity proposed by

  • 80 Ibid., p. 16.
  • 81 Reflected most notably in the distinct approaches to the “legionary question” in Czechoslovakia ad (...)

34T.G. Masaryk and Milan Rastislav Štefánik.”80 It is significant that Medek does not mention Beneš in relation to either Masaryk or Štefánik as statebuilders. Unlike Gajda, Rudolf Medek was concerned about the importance of preserving legionary military norms and traditions for the creation of a new Czechoslovak army and a culture of national defense, perhaps even more so than the ideological significance of legionary culture for Czechoslovak politics.81 The splintering impact of the Gajda affair of 1926 on the legionary political right cannot be underestimated—the affair signified the end of the short-lived partnership between “extreme” and “conservative” strands of the legionary right and their subsequent estrangement. In short, Medek’s case necessitates a reevaluation of the role and significance of the “political right.” I argue that the following analytical qualifications should be made when assessing the “right” and distinguishing between different right-wing viewpoints in Czechoslovak poli-tics between the wars:

  • Establishing the relationship between the (legionary) organization, individual or political party and the cult of President-Liberator; that is, the perception of T.G. Masaryk as representative of the Czechoslovak state and distinct from the ideas espoused by Edvard Beneš. The “Masaryk versus Beneš” distinction is critical when discussing political loyalty, legitimacy and authority in interwar Czechoslovakia.
  • Assessing the nature of the perception of state legitimacy by an individual and group; that is, accounting for the multiple interpretations of Czechoslovak nationalism that existed in interwar Czechoslovakia.
  • Accounting for the distinct experiences of groups and individuals during the First World War, resulting in diverse interpretations of “national history” and historical memory after 1918; that is, acknowledging the varied historical roots of Czechoslovak political legitimacy.
  • 82 For the official military establishment view of T.G. Masaryk as “military leader and patron of all (...)

35Organizations, individuals and political figures belonging to the political fringe, aside from the formal political arena (such as the legionaries, although they were unofficially connected to mainstream politics through political parties such as the National Socialists and Agrarian), considered themselves very much a part of state life. Consequently they conceived of political authority and state legitimacy differently—and the importance and function of the state and even the role of T.G. Masaryk as the founder of Czechoslovakia—from those occupying formal positions in government and state institutions. The ideological space between extreme and center-right politics must be accounted for in any assessment of Czechoslovak legionary traditions and the nature of political opposition in interwar Czechoslovakia. Those occupying the political right of the interwar political spectrum considered themselves loyal supporters of state ideology and as “Czechoslovakists.” However many reinvented the cult of Masaryk President-Liberator to suit their military and nationalist agenda on the basis of their own legionary politics and the nature of their adjustment to Czechoslovak republican life after 1918. For those such as Rudolf Medek, allegiance to Czechoslovak state ideology was based on distinct precepts including, most notably, the cult of T.G. Masaryk as military leader and a commitment to a strong and unified national state.82

Notes

1 I am most grateful for helpful comments received from Michal Kopeček & Adela Gjuričova during the writing of this chapter.

2 J. Křen, Bila mista v našich dějinach [White spaces in our history] (Prague: Lidove noviny, 1990).

3 For example, see most recently, E. Broklova, “Demokrat Edvard Beneš” in Věře Olivove ad honorem. Sbornik přispěvků k novodobym československym dějinam [In honour of Věra Olivova: Volume of essays about contemporary Czechoslovak history] E. Broklova and M. L. Neudorflova, eds., (Prague: Masarykův ustav/T.G. Masaryk Institute, 2006), pp. 42–65.

4 For an introduction to this debate, see M. Zuckert, “Memory of War and National State Integration: Czech and German Veterans in Czechoslovakia after 1918.” Central Europe 4, No. 2 (November 2006): 111–21. Zuckert does not, however, discuss in any great detail the impact of the creation of a Czechoslovak national memory after 1918 on the perceived legitimacy of the Czechoslovak state by key legionary figures both directly involved in, and external to, the political scene in the interwar period (although Rudolf Medek is not discussed at all).

5 Medek was conscripted into the Habsburg Army as an officer cadet at the beginning of the First World War. However, his military career began in earnest after he deserted to the Russians on the Eastern Front in a small town in eastern Galicia on the night of 25 December 1915, where he worked for a brief while as an interpreter for the General Staff of the 7th division of the Russian army. In June 1916 he joined the Czech Družina organization based in Kiev as a volunteer in the “Jan Hus First Czechoslovak Firing Brigade” (1. Střelecky pluk Mistra Jana Husa). He was awarded a total of five medals on several occasions for his reconnaissance work, most notably for the successful mission he led in the town of Břežan in March 1917, which was mentioned in the official bulletin of the Russian High Command and in the world press, as well as for his participation in various battles, the most important of which took place near the village of Zborov in western Ukraine on 2 July 1917. He was promoted to the position of “flag bearer” (praporščik) in September 1916, then to “platoon commander” (poručik) of the 6th platoon of the Jan Hus Czechoslovak Firing Brigade in May 1917. In May 1917 Medek was elected to the “Organizational-financial commission” of the military branch of the Czechoslovak National Council in Russia. In this capacity he was sent by the National Council to officially welcome and brief T.G. Masaryk upon his arrival in Petrograd in the summer of 1917 following the battle of Zborov; he remained Masaryk’s chaperone until the autumn of 1917. In December 1917 he was voted deputy chairman representing legionary-soldiers of the Czechoslovak National Council in Russia. Together with colonel Jiři Švec, he led the Czechoslovak legionary advance on Penza and Samara against the Bolsheviks in the spring of 1918, at which point he was reelected to the legionary assembly in Omsk as the head of the military branch of the Czechoslovak National Council.

6 J. Syrovy, “Rudolf Medek,” Československy vojak [Czechoslovak soldier], No. 29 (Irkutsk: 20 November 1919): 1. Medek outlines the reasons for his departure from Siberia in his final article written for the legionary newspaper edited by Medek’s colleague, Jaroslav Kuděla. See R. Medek, “Moje motivy” [My motives]. Československy denik [Czechoslovak daily], No. 137 (14 June 1919): 1.

7 The Castle Group was a powerful extra-parliamentary and extra-constitutional group of politicians, litterateur and intellectuals loyal to the Czechoslovak president, T.G. Masaryk, and his political views. Membership of the group was at Masaryk’s discretion. Sessions of the “Castle,” chaired by Masaryk himself, influenced thinking about Czechoslovak state and political ideology in the interwar period.

8 See M. Kučera, “Vyznamni legionaři v roce 1938: Přispěvek k vyzkumu společenskych elit mezivalečneho Československa” [The significance of legionaries in 1938: A contribution towards research into social elites in interwar Czechoslovakia], in Politicke elity v Československu 1918–1948 [Political elites in Czechoslovakia], I. Koutska and F. Svatek, eds., (Prague: Ustav pro soudobe dějiny/Institute of Contemporary History, 1994), pp. 81–100; see also I. Šedivy, “Legionaři a československa armada 1918–38” [Legionaries and the Czechoslovak army], in Česke země a Československo v Evropě XIX. a XX. stoleti. Sbornik praci k 65. narozeninam prof. dr. Roberta Kvačka [The Czech lands and Czechoslovakia in Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries: A volume of essays commemorating the 65th birthday of Professor Robert Kvaček], J. Dejmek and J. Hanzal, eds., (Prague: Historicky ustav AV ČR, 1997), pp. 209–30.

9 The ČsOL was created with Medek’s involvement in January 1921. The Independent Union of Czechoslovak Legionaries (NJČsL) increased its membership from 7,492 in 1926 to 13,000 in 1929. 1929 was its peak year in terms of membership, but this was dwarfed by the membership figures of the ČsOL. See also, Vojtĕch Holeček, “Slavna rozvĕdka Medkova” [Medek’s celebrated reconnaissance unit], Legie 2, No. 9 (20 March 1927): 1.

10 For instance, Medek’s play Plukovnik Švec (1929), about the suicide of the Czech legionary colonel Jiři Švec in May 1918, underlined the existing split in the Czechoslo vak legionary movement. Medek’s pentalogy, Legionařska epopeja (1921–29), was praised by Matěj Čapek-Chod as a monumental work of national-political significance on par with the historical chronicles of Alois Jirasek.

11 V. Justl and I. Medek, eds., Rudolf Medek. Odvrhnuty basnik [Rudolf Medek: Shunned poet] (Prague: Torst, 2002): 106.

12 Ivan Medek and Zdenĕk Kalista had prepared a collection of Medek’s verse during 1947 that was never published. An exception, as Robert Pynsent has pointed out, was the publication in May 1945 of Medek’s volume of verse from his experiences during the First World War, Lvi srdce. Basnĕ 1914–1918 [Heart of lions. Poems] (Irkutsk: 1918). “[Lvi srdce] was published with an unnamed editor’s preface stating that the work of the Great Legions in Russia had now been completed—without any indication of the fact that the editor had cut out the anti-Bolshevik poems and replaced them with poems from later collections.” See R. B. Pynsent, “Resurrections of the Czech National Revival,” Central Europe 1, No. 1 (May 2003): 76–95 (81).

13 Archiv kancelaře presidenta republiky (KRP) [The archive of the office of the Czech president], Prague Castle, f. “Rudolf Medek,” Ivan Medek letter to Edvard Beneš dated 20 July 1945.

14 See, for example, M. Hruban, Z časů nedlouho zašlych [From times recently past] (Rome-Los Angeles: Studium Křesťanska akademie, 1967), p. 214.

15 T. Pasak, Česky fašismus 1922–1945 a kolaborace 1939–1945 [Czech Fascism and collaboration] (Prague: Prah, 1999), pp. 148–164.

16 “Pražsky večer” [Evening Prague] (28 November 1938), Rudolf Medek Collection, Pamatnik narodniho pisemnictvi (PNP) [National Literature Memorial Institute], Strahov, Prague, “Newspaper clippings.”

17 Medek never collaborated with the Nazis; after March 1939 the family doctor, and a close circle of friends, had gone to great lengths, following Medek’s first admittance to hospital in January 1939, to keep him isolated from journalists working for Protectorate newspapers—author’s interview with Ivan Medek, Letna, Prague, September 2004. See also I. Medek, Děkuji, mam se vyborně [Thank you very much, I am keeping very well], Prague: Torst, 2005, p. 26. Ivan Medek notes that the efforts of Dr Otakar Janota to isolate Rudolf Medek from any visitors during 1939 saved him from both the Gestapo and the Czech journalist-collaborators.

18 The perception of Medek as an anti-Semite, a view largely borne of the Second Republic as described here, is to be found in some contemporary writing, which does not distinguish between Medek’s popular nationalist literature such as that epitomized by his pentalogy, Legionařska epopeja (1921-28), and his more serious political writing – see most notably R. B. Pynsent, “The Literary Representations of the Czechoslovak ‘Legions’ in Russia”, Czechoslovakia in a Nationalist and Fascist Europe 1918-1948 ed. by M. Cornwall and R. J. W. Evans (Proceedings of The British Academy 140, Oxford

University Press, 2007) pp. 63-89 (esp. pp, 80-82)..

19 See, for instance, A. Klimek, Průvodce armadnim muzeem [A guide to military museums] (Prague: Historicky ustav Armady Česke republiky/Historical institute of the Czech army, 1996), which fails to mention Medek’s directorship of the Liberation Memorial.

20 On 29 March, an exhibition entitled ‘Rudolf Medek – soldier’ was opened at the Vojensky historicky ustav (Military Historical Institute) in Žižkov; and on 21 June, an exhibition devised to complement that held at the VHU, ‘Rudolf Medek –writer’, was opened at the Pamatnik narodniho pisemnictvi (National Literature Memorial Institute) in Strahov, Prague.

21 See for example Š. Filipek, ‘K čemu je general, ktery vraci vyznamenani’, Mlada fronta Dnes, 9 July 2007.

22 T. Jakl and Z. Polčak, “Vystava Rudolf Medek – vojak” [Rudolf Medek – soldier] Historie a vojenstvi, No. 2, Vol. LVI, 2007 pp. 110-11. The mark of distinction bearing Medek’s name was created in conjunction with the commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the First World War ‘battle of Zborov.’

23 As an example of such viewpoints, see R. B. Pynsent, “The Literary Representations of the Czechoslovak ‘Legions’ in Russia” in Cornwall & Evans, Czechoslovakia in a Nationalist and Fascist Europe 1918-1948 pp. 63-89.

24 V. Kopecky, T. G. Masaryk a komuniste [Masaryk and the communists] (Prague: 1950), p. 30.

25 See B. F. Abrams, The Struggle for the Soul of the Nation: Czech Culture and the Rise of Communism (New York & Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2004), pp. 113–16.

26 In his memoirs, Vaclav Černy notes that Křik Koruny česke [The Cry of the Czech Crown Lands], (1947) was a new edition of a collection of poems first published in Paris in 1940 under the title Hlasy z domova [Voices from home]. However, the original name for the collection suggested by František Halas in late 1939 was used for the 1947 edition. See V. Černy, Křik Koruny česke. Paměti, 1938–1945 [The Cry of the Czech Crown Lands: Memoirs], 3 vols, (Prague: Československy spisovatel, 1977), Vol. III, p. 102.

27 J. Seifert, ed., Křik Koruny česke [The Cry of the Czech Crown Lands] (Prague: Klin, 1947), p. 39; see p. 44 for the description of Medek’s poem.

28 D. Sayer, The Coasts of Bohemia: A Czech History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), pp. 256–75.

29 Letter from Max Švabinsky to Eva Medkova-Slavičkova, (28 August 1940), Rudolf Medek Collection Pamatnik narodniho pisemnictvi (PNP), Strahov, Prague, “Correspondence” file No. 2. Švabinsky likened the Liberation Memorial Instituteto an “abandoned cemetery” following Medek’s departure and the arrival of the Nazis in March 1939.

30 F. Halas, Bez legend. “Sibiřska anabase” ve vzpominkach byvaleho dělnika a rotniho důvěrnika [Without legend: The Siberian anabasis in the memoirs of a former laborer and sergeant major confidante] (Prague, 1955), pp. 56, 58–59, 69, 73.

31 Unlike the Second Republic, the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia after March 1939 nevertheless has been regularly discussed since the Changes as a prime example of a “white space” See, for instance, J. Loewy, ‘Bila mista 15. března 1939, Lidove noviny, 15 March 2000.

32 P. Tigrid, Kapesni průvodce inteligetni ženy po vlastnim osudu [Pocket guide of an intelligent woman responsible for her own fate] (Toronto: Sixty-Eight Publishers, 1988), pp. 102–104.

33 J. Rataj, O autoritativni narodni stat. Ideologicke proměny česke politiky v druhe republice 1938–1938 [About an authoritarian national state: Ideological change in Czech politics during the Second Republic] (Prague: Karolinum, 1997), pp. 36, 65, 159, 36. Similar views are expressed by Miroslav Gregorovič, see M. Gregorovič, Kapitoly o českem fašismu. Fašismus jako měřitko politicke dezorientace [Chapters about Czech Fascism: Fascism as a gauge of political disorientation] (Prague: Lidove noviny, 1995). See also J. Gebhart and J. Kuklik, Druha republika 1938-1939. Svar demokracie a totality v politickem, společenskem a kulturnim životě. [Second Republic 1938-1939. The struggle of democracy and totalitarianism in political, societal, and cultural life] (Praha-Litomyšl: Paseka, 2004) Gebhart and Kuklik note that ANO established itself as the “spiritual guide and heart of the consciousness of the nation,” which attracted extreme right-wing elements particularly “anti-Semites and Germanophiles.”

34 Rataj, O autoritativni narodni stat, pp. 40–41, 74–48, 51–53, 61–63, 70–71 and especially 119–20.

35 Various pieces of “dis-information” about leading Czech nationalists circulated regularly during the Second Republic. For instance, the Cleveland-based newspaper, Američan [The American], carried a report in July 1939 of Medek’s arrest by the Gestapo at the same time as the arrest of Agrarian leader Rudolf Beran.

36 S. Vejvar, “Česky konzervatimus za druhe republiky” [Czech conservatism during the Second Republic], Obzory, Vol. 2 (February 2005): 62–73.

37 M. Havelka, “Zamyšleni nad genezi českeho konzervatismu” [A thought about the genesis of Czech conservatism], Obzory, Vol. 2 (February 2005): 7–33.

38 Podiven [= Petr Přihoda, Petr Pithart, Milan Otahal], Češi v dĕjinach nove doby (1848–1939) [Czechs in the history of the modern age] (Prague: Academia, 2003), pp. 494–95 and 566–67. Přihoda and colleagues develop the thinking of Count Karel Schwarzenberg on the non-existence of a Czech right-wing between 1918 and 1938. See K. Schwarzenberg, Obrana svobod (Prague: Československy spisovatel, 1991), p. 80.

39 A. Klimek, Boj o Hrad 1918–1935 [The battle for the castle], 2 vols (Prague: Pan Evropa, 1996), Vol. II, Kdo po Masarykovi? 1926–1935 [Who comes after Masaryk?], pp. 84–85; A. Klimek, Velke dĕjiny zemi koruny česke, svazek. XIII. 1918–1929 [Voluminous history of the Czech Crown Lands: Volume 13] (Prague: Paseka, 2000), p. 569. See also T.G. Masaryk Collection, “Fašismus” [Fascism file], Box 1, f. 3, letter from Karel Řežny to T.G. Masaryk, (30 July 1926), T.G. Masaryk Institute Archive, Prague. Řežny, a secretary at the Castle, had been instructed by the Castle to infiltrate the inner circles of this political clique around Adolf Hruby and František Hlavaček.

40 See, for instance, the line adopted in V. S. Mamatey and R. Luža, eds., A History of the Czechoslovak Republic 1918–1948 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973).

41 See Z. Karnik, Česke země v eře Prvni republiky (1918–1938). Dil druhy. Československo a Česke země v krizi a ohroženi (1930–1935) [The Czech Lands in the era of the First Republic. Volume two: Czechoslovakia and the Czech Lands in crisis and under threat] (Prague: Libri, 2002), pp. 336–37.

42 The 8,000 page, four-volume historical chronicle, Za svobodu. Obrazkova kronika československeho revolučniho hnuti na rusi, 1914–1920 (1925–1931) [For (our) freedom: A picture chronicle of the Czechoslovak revolutionary movement in Russia], edited by Rudolf Medek and his NJČSL colleague, Vojtěch Holeček, is the most important of these.

43 “Obhajovaci řeč generala V. Klecandy před Narodnim soudem dne 2. sprna 1946. Stenograficky zaznam M.V”. [Defense speech of General V. Klecanda before the national tribunal, 2 August 1946. Stenographic record], Rudolf Medek Collection, Pamatnik narodniho pisemnictvi (PNP), Strahov, Prague, f. ‘Varia,’ Box 23, p.3. Those convicted and imprisoned during 1946–47 included in the main, former legionaries, Jan Syrovy, Radola Gajda, besides the Agrarian leader Rudolf Beran. Medek’s former colleague from the Liberation Memorial Institute, Otakar Husak, was imprisoned by the communists after a separate trial in 1950.

44 See P. Pithart, “Prvni republika: jak ji viděla opozice” [The First Republic: as seen by the opposition] Svědectvi, Vol. XVIII, No. 70/71 (1984): 271–314, see particularly pp. 274–80.

45 See for instance, J. Plojhar, Vitĕzny unor 1948 a čs. strana lidova [Victorious February and the Czechoslovak Peoples’ Party] (Prague: 1948), pp. 8–9; see also J. Plojhar, “Poslani katolickych kněži” [The mission of Catholic priests] in Katolicka cirkev v lidove demokracii [The Catholic Church in the peoples’ democracy] (Prague: 1951), pp. 18–19.

46 E[dvard] B[eneš] narodu. Z projevů presidenta republiky v letech 1945–46 [Edvard Beneš to the nation. Snippets from speeches delivered by the president of the republic between 1945 and 1946] (Prague: Jaroslav Jiranek, 1946), pp. 26–27 (27).

47 Ibid., p. 28. The same sentiments are expressed in Beneš’s pamphlet, E. Beneš, Nova slovanska politika [The new Slav politics] (Prague: 1946): 39–40, 44, 46, 48–50.

48 E. Beneš, President legionařům. Legionaři narodu [The president [speaks] to the legionaries. The legionaries to the nation] (Prague: Československa obec legionařska [ČSOL], 1947), p. 5. Beneš’s speech was also published in Slovak as “Reč prezidentabudovateľa dr. Ed. Beneša.”

49 See J. Galandauer, 2.7.1917. Bitva u zborova. Česka legenda [The battle of Zborov: Czech legend] (Prague: Havran, 2002).

50 See I. Šedivy, “Vznik Nezavisle jednoty československych legionařů” [The founding of the independent union of Czechoslovak legionaries], Historie a vojenstvi 6 (1996): 47–60.

51 See Karnik, Česke země v eře Prvni republiky, pp. 2, 336–37.

52 See J. Pernes, Až na dno zdrady. Emanuel Moravec [Emanuel Moravec: To the depths of traitorousness] (Prague: Themis, 1997), pp. 103–04.

53 E. Beneš, Poslani vojenskeho historickeho ustavu [The mission of the military historical institute] (Prague: Vojensky historicky ustav, 1947), p. 5.

54 See E. Beneš, “Naš největši ukol narodni” [Our greatest national task] in Idea Československeho statu [The idea of the Czechoslovak state], 2 vols, J. F. Kapras Soukup and B. Němec eds., (Prague: Narodni rada československa, 1936), pp. 2, 218–235 (218).

55 See E. Beneš, Smysl čs. Revoluce [The significance of the Czechoslovak revolution] (Prague: Pamatnik odboje, 1924), pp. 16, 22, 55.

56 The significance of this period of vacuum has been discussed most recently by Jiři Kovtun in his excellent study. See J. Kovtun, Republika v nebezpečnem světě. Era prezidenta Masaryka 1918–1935 [The republic in a dangerous world. The era of President Masaryk] (Prague: Torst, 2005), pp. 448–62.

57 It was at the same meeting that Gajda announced his intention to assume the leadership of the ČsOL. See V. Chab, Několik legionařskych co a jak. Poznamky a polemiky [Several legionary “what” and “how”: Notes and polemics] (Prague: Československa obec legionařska, 1932), pp. 44–45.

58 Report about the founding of Medek’s “Independent Union of Czechoslovak Legionaries” compiled by Colonel Josef Vavroch for Edvard Beneš (20 July 1930)—Archiv Ustavu T.G. Masaryka (T.G. Masaryk Archive), Edvard Beneš Collection [EB] I, box 62, “Legionaři, 1922–1937” (Legionaries file), Box 62, f. 165/3, p. 3.

59 Vojensky archiv Vojensky historicky ustav/VHU [Military Archive, Military Historical Institute], Žižkov, Prague, Vojenska kancelař presidenta republiky [Military Office of the President of the Republic], f. 48, year 1937, “Response to article by Rudolf Medek published in Venkov” [by General Ludvik Krejči, Chief of Staff], (1 January 1937), p. 2.

60 Chab, Několik legionařskych co a jak, p. 20.

61 See “Legie” [Legions] file on “Nezavisla jednota československych legionařů,” Edvard Beneš Collection, T.G. Masaryk Archive, Box 62, f. 165/3 and “Gajda a blok pravice” [Gajda and the right-wing bloc], “Fašismus” [Fascism] file, Box 57, f. 168/3, pp. 1–3.

62 See Beneš’s letter entitled “Gen. Medek” to Andrej Laurin (2 July 1934), Edvard Beneš Collection, Box 9, f. 197, Archiv Ustavu T.G. Masaryka [T.G. Masaryk Archive], Edvard Beneš Collection [EB] [unsorted material/external to catalogue]. Laurin’s response to Beneš is also revealing (6 July). He states: “[Medek has gained the reputation of] an opponent of democracy. His political views are controversial and he is highly opinionated. However, he is an absolutely trustworthy and loyal person; he holds the president [T.G. Masaryk] in high regard; he spoke about the president with great fondness during the summer … [Medek] is a good man at heart.”

63 R. Medek, “K situace v legionařstvu” [The situation amongst legionaries]. Fronta (6 May 1927): 4–6.

64 “Bartřim legionařům” [To brother legionaries], Archiv Ustavu T.G. Masaryka [T.G. Masaryk Archive], Edvard Beneš Collection [EB] I, Box 62, “Legionaři, 1922–1937” (legionaries file), f. 165/2–148, pp. 3–5.

65 See the report on Medek compiled by General Ludvik Krejči, Chief of Staff in January 1937, later sent to the Military Office at Prague Castle—Vojensky archiv Vojensky historicky ustav/VHU [Military Archive, Military Historical Institute], Žižkov, Prague, Vojenska kancelař presidenta republiky [Military Office of the President of the Republic],

f. 48, year 1937, “Response to article by Rudolf Medek published in Venkov,” (1 January 1937), pp. 1–4.

66 Ibid., p. 18.

67 “Reč dra Beneše” [Beneš’s speech to the ČSOL congress], Archiv Ustavu T.G. Masaryka [T.G. Masaryk Archive], Edvard Beneš Collection [EB] I, Box 62, “Legionaři, 1922–1937” (Legionaries file), f. 165/2, p. 4.

68 Ibid., p. 5.

69 See “Legionaři a narodni demokracie” [Legionaries and national democracy]. Narodni osvobozeni, (23 October 1925): pp. 1–2.

70 F. Peroutka, Muž přitomnosti [Man of the present] (Zurich: Confrontation, 1985), p. 58; see also [T.G. Masaryk] Cesta demokracie. Projevy, članky, rozhovory, 1924–1928. Svazek čtvrty [Path of democracy: Speeches, articles and interviews. Volume four], Vols. 1–4, (Prague: Čin, 1938) Vol. IV, p.161.

71 See, for instance, V. Chab, Několik legionařskych co a jak, pp. 20, 26, 40, 42, 44, 45; and see also V. Chab, Spasi Radola Gajda a jeho fašismus naš lid? (Will Radola Gajda and his Fascism redeem our people?) (Prague: 1932).

72 Archiv Ustavu T.G. Masaryka (T.G. Masaryk Archive), Edvard Beneš Collection “BALegie: Nezavisla jednota čs. Legionařů” (Legionaries: Independent union of Czechoslovak legionaries), Box 62, f. 165/3, (26 September 1926): 5; see also ‘Gajda a blok pravice’ (Gajda and the right-wing bloc) [23 April 1929], “BA-Legie: Fasišmus a narodovci” (Legionaries: Fascism and patriots), Box 57, f. 168/3.

73 See F. Turek, “Prohlašeni Nezavisla jednota československych legionařů” (Declaration of the independent union of Czechoslovak legionaries) (Prague: Pamatnik odboje [osvobozeni], December 1925).

74 See in particular, M. Gregorovič, Kapitoly o českem fašismu. Fašismus jako měřitko politicke dezorientace (Chapters about Czech Fascism: Fascism as a gauge of political disorientation) (Prague: Lidove noviny, 1995).

75 J. Čechurova, Česka politicka pravice mezi převratem a krizi (The Czech right between revolution and crisis) (Prague: Dějin a součanosti, 2000).

76 Z. Karnik, “Prave a leve politicke extremy v Českych zemich a Československu predevšim mezivalečne doby, zvlaště pak fašismus a komunismus” (Right and left political extremes in the Czech lands and Czechoslovakia, particularly in the interwar period and in relation to Fascism and Communism) in Bolševismus, komunismus a radikalni socialismus v Československu (Bolshevism, Communism and radical socialism in Czechoslovakia), Z. Karnik and M. Kopeček, eds., (Prague: USD/Dokořan, 2004), pp. 12–57 (37).

77 M. Havelka, “Zamyšleni nad genezi českeho konzervatismu” (A thought about the genesis of Czech conservatism), Obzory 2 (February 2005): 7–25.

78 See, for instance, M. Freeden, Ideology: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 50–52; see also M. Freeden, “Is Nationalism a Distinct Ideology?” Political Studies XLVI (1998): 748–65 (especially 755–51).

79 R. Medek, Posledni udalosti a nezavisla jednota čsl. Legionařů (Recent events and the independent union of Czechoslovak legionaries) (Prague: Pamatnik narodniho odboje [nakl.Legie], 1926), p. 15.

80 Ibid., p. 16.

81 Reflected most notably in the distinct approaches to the “legionary question” in Czechoslovakia adopted by Rudolf Medek and Radola Gajda—see R. Medek, Pouť do Československa. Valečne paměti a vzpominky z let 1914–1918 (Pilgrimage to Czechoslovakia: War memoirs and reminiscences from 1914 to 1918) (4 vols, Prague: 1929–32), Vol. 1: V munduru Rakousko-Uherska (In the clutches of Austria-Hungary), p. 5; contrasted to Gajda’s approach, R. Gajda, General ruskych legii R. Gajda, Moje paměti. Československa anabase. Zpět na Ural proti bolševikům. Admiral Kolčak (General R. Gajda of the Russian legionaries: My memoirs. Czechoslovak anabasis. Back again to the Urals against the Bolsheviks. Admiral Kolchak) (Prague: 1920), pp. 177–78.

82 For the official military establishment view of T.G. Masaryk as “military leader and patron of all Czechoslovak legionaries” see, for instance, the introduction by General Jan Syrovy in J. Dvorsky, ed., Naše vojsko a československy důjstonik v projevech T.G. Masaryka (Our army and the Czechoslovak officer in the speeches of T.G. Masaryk) (Prague: 1931), pp. 9–12.

Auteur

Katya A. M. Kocourek studied the contemporary history of East-Central Europe and Russia at the universities of London and Oxford. Her current research concerns the political legitimacy of Czechoslovak state ideology, particularly in interwar Czechoslovakia (1918–38). She has published essays and articles on themes of Czechoslovak and Russian history in the 20th century. She was founder-editor of the journal Central Europe (2002–04) at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES), University College London.

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