The New Europe/Volume 5/A New Ally: The Bohemian Army

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For other English-language translations of this work, see A New Ally: The Bohemian Army.
The New Europe, vol. V, no. 61  (1917) 
A New Ally: The Bohemian Army
by René Pichon, translated by anonymous

A New Ally: The Bohemian Army

[The following article, published by M. René Pichon in L’Œuvre of 2 December, is, we believe, the first detailed public reference to one of the most remarkable movements of the war, the creation and recognition of the Bohemian Army as an independent factor on the side of the Allies. The consequences of such a step may be far-reaching.

In this connection it may be worth referring to a memorable meeting held on 16 September at the Carnegie Hall in New York by the Czech National Alliance. The then Mayor of New York, Mr. Mitchell, took the chair, and the chief speaker was Mr. Franklin-Bouillon, Chairman of the Inter-parliamentary Committee, who hailed the new Bohemian Army, and invited the Czechs and Slovaks of America to join its ranks:—]

“Last July, in referring to the Czechs of the Foreign Legion, I pointed out that there were not many of them under our flag, but that soon many more would come. To-day it is an accomplished fact. An impending Decree of the President of the Republic is to regulate the formation of the Czecho-Slovak Army, and we can now give details about what could then only be indicated in a veiled form.

“This organisation comes after two years of effort—a delay due solely to the complexity of the problem. It comes, too, at a good moment, to console us for a disappointment and to preserve us from an injustice. In our bitterness at the defection of the Russians, some of us might be tempted to bear a grudge against all that is Slav. A false and unjust generalisation. In Russia the Slav temperament has been depressed by centuries of servility, corrupted by a morbid mysticism and by Socialistic Utopias; in Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia it survives firm and robust. Morally the Czechs are more like the Serbs than the Russians; this shows sufficiently how they can be relied upon.

“The new army will be composed partly of Czech and Slovak citizens living in Allied countries, partly of prisoners who surrendered to the Russians and Serbians, and who only ask to serve side by side with those against whom their oppressors had sent them. No pressure, no material or moral constraint, was needed to enrol them. In Russia, as soon as the enrolment of prisoners was authorised, over 20,000 Czechs offered themselves. The work of the Czech politicians consists in spreading, by persuasion, this patriotic enthusiasm, and to negotiate with the Allied Governments, the ways and methods of execution. This was the task of the members of the National Czech Council—Professor Masaryk in Russia, Mr. Stefanik in Russia and America. Mr. Beneš in Paris, London and Rome.

“The Czecho-Slovak Army will number about 120,000 men. This is something even among the gigantic effectives of to-day. The valour of its fighting men is known. We have seen them in Artois and Champagne, and in the East Brusilov has done full justice to the Czecho-Slovak Brigade. In one of his communiqués he quotes it among the exceptions which throw into relief the general collapse: ‘The Czecho-Slovaks, perfidiously abandoned at Tarnopol by our infantry, fought in such a way that the world ought to fall on its knees before them.’”

“These 120,000 men will be distributed on the various fighting fronts. An important section of them is to be included in the French Army; the highest cadres will be, for the time being, French, for a reason which is worth mentioning. There are very few higher officers among the Czechs. In the Austrian Army the highest posts were for the most part closed, in practice, to the Slavs, as in Germany to the Jews. Thus the Czech troops at present lack leaders; but good ones will soon be formed.

“In return for this collaboration in our defence the Czechs ask us nothing! There has been no bargain between them and the Allied Powers. They claim no pledge which might embarrass us. They only claim the right to shed their blood for the cause which they feel to be just and to coincide with their destinies as a people.

“This does not mean that we ought to forget, later on, what they do for us; but such an attitude on their part is at once the most, generous and the most happily inspired. Like the philosopher who proved motion by walking, the Czech nation proves its existence by action and struggle.

“Thus we possess a new Ally—not a State, it is true, but a people, and what is better, a people personified in its heroic army. Let us welcome it, let us salute its Red-and-White banner, and re-echo its National Anthem:—

Were the world of devils full, for every man a devil.
God the Lord is on our side, and Death our foes shall vanquish.
O’er our heads may burst the storm, the rocks may reel and shudder,
Crashing oak and trembling earth shall not avail to daunt us.
Resolute we stand, unshaken as the mountain summits;
May the black earth yawn and swallow every shrinking traitor!’

“France is with Bohemia, and Bohemia with France, for the greatest good of both alike.”

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This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

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This work was published in 1917 and is anonymous or pseudonymous due to unknown authorship. It is in the public domain in the United States as well as countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 105 years or less since publication.

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