the Beneš-Skirmunt Pact (1921)

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the Beneš-Skirmunt Pact (1921)

Post by wm » 02 Jan 2022 21:00

Erazm Piltz, Dmowski’s right-hand man in the National Committee and at the Peace Conference, and a prominent figure in the Ministry of Foreign Afiairs after the war, was the leading Polish Czechophile, liked and respected by Benes." He seemed the ideal man to carry out in Prague the revolutionary mission of reversing the trend of Czechoslovak-Polish relations. He was assisted “with tremendous energy” by the Czechoslovak minister in Warsaw, Prokop Maxa."

Piltz outlined his views on foreign policy in general and Czechoslovak-Polish rapprochement in particular in a memorandum to Skirmunt on September 5, 1921. This document completed and elaborated Skirmunt’s circular note, and its importance can be gauged from the fact that copies of it were sent to all principal Polish missions abroad.

Piltz’s memorandum scrutinized first the dificult position of Poland and drew attention to the fact that practically all her borders were the object of revisionist ambitions of her neighbors.
In this situation, Piltz wrote, Poland had the choice between two policies: either continue to rely on a large army “basing peace and security of the state on its bayonets” or begin a policy of reconciliation. Analyzing the internal weakness of Poland resulting frominflation, social tensions, poverty, and absence of strong government andeficient administration, Piltz concluded that a policy of reconciliation and concession was far more realistic than maintenance of the present armed peace.

Turning to Czechoslovakia, the Polish diplomat developed his ideas on cooperation with that country, stating that such cooperation would be based not on sentiment but on mutual interests and therefore would have “vitality and chances of permanence.”Piltz painted the successes of Czechoslovak diplomacy in glowing colors. He spoke of Prague's advantageous position in the League of Nations and at the Conference of Ambassadors, of her excellent relations with both England and France, and of the realization of all claims by the Czechoslovak state at the Peace Conference and after.

Why should Prague wish to cooperate with Warsaw? Piltz answered by pointing to the problems of a multinational state, a dangerous geographical configuration, and a powerful Socialist pressure. To solve her internal problems Czechoslovakia needed a high standard of living, which could be secured only by economic expansion. She was likely to face dangerous German economic competition in the Balkan area, and she needed Polish cooperation and transit facilities to reach the vast Russian market.

A Czechoslovak-Polish entente could, according to Piltz, open the way for political and economic organization of East Central Europe. While critical of the narrowly conceived Little Entente, the Polish diplomat favored creation of a big bloc including Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Rumania, with possible additions later. Such a bloc would be “the only logical completion of our alliance with France,” and if politically and economically united it would represent a counterweight to Germany. Piltz had in mind an organization assuring protection against both Germany and Russia, radically difierent from the Little Entente, whose solidarity extended only to the Hungarian question.
He was aware of the dificulties, and in the last part of his memorandum retumed to the more concrete question of rapprochement with Prague. Its immediate advantage would be a détente along the entire Czechoslovak-Polish border and regularization of the status of the Poles in the Teschen area. Piltz stressed that Polish complaints from Teschen led to constant friction and made Czech-Polish cooperation dificult. They complicated in-directly the relations with Paris. Similarly, Czech intrigues in Eastern Galicia were a source of misunderstanding and uneasiness.

Piltz warned Skirmunt that numerous groups in Poland including the people from Teschen would dislike the policy he advocated. He recalled that the Polish emotional and nationalist approach had been responsible for many diplomatic defeats in the past, and even when crowned with success had often led to antagonism and tension. Reviewing the Polish-Czech controversy from 1918 onward, Piltz emphasized that the Polish side had been guilty of mistakes and miscalculations. He ended his memorandum with a powerful appeal for a new attitude toward foreign policy, and declared that “The only way out of this vicious circle of isolation and struggle is at present an understanding with Czechoslovakia.”"
France and her eastern allies, 1919-1925 by Piotr S. Wandycz

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Re: the Beneš-Skirmunt Pact (1921)

Post by wm » 02 Jan 2022 21:01

The Skirmunt-Piltz team undertook what was to be the most serious and sincere eflort in the interwar period to arrive at a rapprochement with Czechoslovakia. The new foreign minister gave an indication of his intention on his way from Rome to Warsaw. In an interview with the Neue Freie Presse Skirmunt declared that the “Principal object of Polish diplomacy is to create a parallelism of interests between Poland and the Czech people” and “to take a clear position with regard to what is called the Little Entente.” On assuming ofice Skirmunt sent a friendly telegram to Benes, and he may also have been responsible for a pro-Czechoslovak statement on June 16 by Prime Minister Witos.“

How did Prague react to these Polish overtures? Benes early in July 1921 explained his point of view to the counselor of the Polish legation in Prague. He declared that although Germany would not be a major military threat for the next fifteen years, she would become a dangerous economic rival much earlier. Hence Czechoslovak-Polish economic cooperation would be highly desirable.

Speaking of Russia, Benes expressed the opinion that Moscow would not play an important role for a decade or so and that consequently this period ought to be used for a consolidation of East Central Europe. Regarding Polish-Czechoslovak relations, the thing to do was to find a “form of coexistence and cooperation.”

Benes assured the Polish diplomat that neither he nor Masaryk favored an eastern (pro-Russian) orientation but that there were many Slavophiles in the country. The counselor in reporting this conversation to Warsaw remarked that Benes’s views were of great importance insofar as he was “the disciple, the exponent of the thoughts, and the executor of Masaryk.”
Nevertheless he was not “a complete master” of the situation and had to move cautiously between the pacifist Left and the highly nationalist Right."

The Czechoslovak foreign minister spoke at roughly the same time to the American charge in Prague, confirming his intention of working for an economic agreement with Poland to be followed by political understanding. The main objective of these agreements was to show that Polish-Czechoslovak difliculties were definitely over, and that friendly relations would prevail from then on. The American diplomat wrote that Benes “emphasized that he would allow nothing in the treaty which would in any way involve Czecho-Slovakia by reason of further trouble between Poland and Russia,” thus defining the limits of the proposed collaboration.
France and her eastern allies, 1919-1925 by Piotr S. Wandycz

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Re: the Beneš-Skirmunt Pact (1921)

Post by wm » 02 Jan 2022 21:03

he Benes-Skirmunt pact consisted of three parts, main accord containing nine articles, an annex, and a secret protocol. The main accord provided for mutual territorial guarantees, for concerted action on the application of treaties signed in common (Art. 1), and for benevolent neutrality in case of war and transit of war material (Art. 2).

Czechoslovakia expressed disinterest in Eastern Galicia and promised to dissolve Ukrainian organizations working against Poland. Warsaw promised to reciprocate for this measure (Art. 3). Both governments took cognizance of the treaties of the Little Entente and of Poland's alliances with France and Romania (Art. 4). They agreed on a commercial convention (Art. 5) and on arbitration (Art. 6). Czechoslovakia and Poland agreed not to sign treaties conflicting with the accord (Art. 7). The duration of the pact was set at five years, with provision for an earlier termination (Art. 8); it was to be ratified as soon as possible (Art. 9).

The annex to the political accord referred to the formerly disputed areas of Teschen, Spis, and Orava. Controversial matters in the districts under Czechoslovak rule were to be studied by a mixed delegation to establish “a state of legality, equity, and justice, and thereby to contribute to the appeasement in relations between the Czechoslovaks and the Poles.”
The two governments further agreed to settle within the next six months the fate of the border commune of Javorina in Orava.
The annex, unlike the main accord, was not subject to ratification and became binding immediately after its signature.

Although Benes carefully denied that the treaty with Poland contained any secret arrangements, there was a secret protocol attached to the political accord.
This protocol contained three main provisions:
first, Czechoslovakia promised to support Warsaw “within the limit of her possibilities” on the question of Eastern Galicia;
second, Czechoslovakia agreed not to do anything that could harm the eastern frontier settlement of Riga;
third, Poland promised not to recognize attempts of the Habsburgs to regain the throne of Austria or Hungary, though she made it clear that, not being a member of the Little Entente, she could not actively intervene.
The Benes-Skirmunt pact showed the extent of Czechoslovak-Polish cooperation possible in late 1921.
France and her eastern allies, 1919-1925 by Piotr S. Wandycz

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Re: the Beneš-Skirmunt Pact (1921)

Post by wm » 02 Jan 2022 21:05

The question of Javorina (Jaworzyna, in Polish), which so grievously afiected Polish-Czechoslovak relations in late 1922 and throughout 1923, was connected with the old issue of Teschen, Spis, and Orava.
This tiny commune high up in the Tatra Mountains, inhabited by a few hundred people, came into the limelight when the final boundary was drawn between Czechoslovakia and Poland by an Allied delimitation commission. The members of this commission while investigating conditions on the spot felt that the frontier established by the Conference of Ambassadors on July 28, 1920, was “a monstrosity” and that the local population was “laboring under an injustice.”
They therefore took it upon themselves to improve it by making small changes required by the everyday needs of the inhabitants. Thus the Polish member of the commission agreed on April 28, 1921, to minor modifications in Orava favoring Czechoslovakia and made it clear that he expected a Czechoslovak quid pro quo in the case of Javorina.

When Skirmunt and Piltz began their rapprochement with Prague they used Javorina to convince the Polish public of a Czechoslovak spirit of conciliation and good will. The cession of Javorina to Poland was to obliterate the resentment at the Teschen defeat, and so Warsaw purposely inflated the importance of the tiny commune.
As the American chargé in Prague correctly estimated, the issue of Javorina “had been almost invented by the late Polish Minister, Mr. Piltz, with a view to its satisfactory settlement in the interest of friendly relations” between the two countries.

The annex to the Benes-Skirmunt pact of November 1921 singled out the case of Javorina for direct negotiation, and the Conference of Ambassadors agreed to suspend work of the delimitation commission for a couple of months to allow Warsaw and Prague to solve the issue. Everything seemed to indicate a smooth settlement.
Since then the Slovaks, in whose territory Javorina lay, had expressed some annoyance that the Czechs after gaining Teschen now proposed to sacrifice Slovak land,‘ but the Polish side agreed to compensate them with the villages of Niedzica and Kacvin (Felsztyn was sometimes named in place of Kacvin). Apparently the Slovaks found this course satisfactory, and Slovak Catholic deputies came out strongly in June 1921 in favor of such an exchange.

Benes had also been won over to the Polish proposal, and he told the American charge in Prague as late as June 1922 that an agreement had been reached “assigning the village of Javorina with its 400 inhabitants to Poland, and the villages of Niedca [Niedzica] and Fulzteyn [Felsztyn] with about 2,000 inhabitants to Czecho-Slovakia.” The Czechoslovak minister added that to prevent the question from becoming inflammable he had entrusted it to technical experts, and appointed National Democrats on the delegation “to allay their criticism.”
France and her eastern allies, 1919-1925 by Piotr S. Wandycz

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