Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Kevin J. McNamara's "Dreams of a Great Small Nation"

Kevin J. McNamara followed the path taken by the Czecho-Slovak Legion shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, traveling almost 2,000 miles along the Trans-Siberian Railway. He was subsequently awarded research grants by the Earhart and Tawani Foundations to acquire and translate from Czech to English first-hand accounts by the men who had served in the legion, which were published in Prague in the 1920s but were suppressed following the Nazi and Soviet conquests of Czecho-Slovakia.

A former journalist for Calkins Media Inc., and a former aide to the late U.S. Congressman R. Lawrence Coughlin, McNamara is an Associate Scholar of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, PA and a former contributing editor to its quarterly journal, Orbis: A Journal of World Affairs. He earned a B.A. in journalism and M.A. in international politics from Temple University.

McNamara applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Dreams of a Great Small Nation: The Mutinous Army that Threatened a Revolution, Destroyed an Empire, Founded a Republic, and Remade the Map of Europe, and reported the following:
Dreams of a Great Small Nation, a narrative history of the First World War, Russian Revolution, and the founding of Czecho-Slovakia, passes Ford Madox Ford's test, in that on page 99 a fugitive philosophy professor from Prague, Tomas G. Masaryk, is informed for the first time that France and its Allies, primarily Great Britain and the United States, might – perhaps – actually liberate the Czechs and Slovaks from Austria-Hungary's iron grip by granting them a nation-state of their own after the war.

A young Slovak aide with influence in Paris, Milan R. Stefanik, secured a meeting for Masaryk, his elderly former professor, with Aristide Briand, then serving as both war-time prime minister and foreign minister of France. Following their meeting, Briand issued a public statement on February 3, 1916, that announced to the world:
"We French have always entertained keen sympathies for the Czech nation, and these sympathies have been strengthened by the war. I assure you that France will not forget your aspirations, which we share, and we shall do everything in order that the Czechs may obtain their independence. We will not speak about the details now, but as far as the chief point of your claim is concerned, we are in agreement."

This was the first public Allied expression of sympathy and support for the aspirations of the Czechs and Slovaks delivered by an Allied government official.
Yet the Czechs and Slovaks will not earn any real attention or respect from the Allies until and unless they can help France, Great Britain, and the United States defeat Germany and Austria-Hungary. To do that, Masaryk travels to revolutionary Russia, which has exited the war, abandoned the Allies, and emptied its POW camps. Among the 2.3 million German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners taken by Russia in the war are 210,000-250,000 Czechs and Slovaks. Masaryk spends almost a year traveling among Moscow, Kiev, and St. Petersburg, recruiting these men into an ad hoc army that he promises the French he will deliver to the Western Front. What he wants in return is an Allied guarantee of a new nation for his peoples on the ruins of Austria-Hungary.

During a perilous journey along the Trans-Siberian Railway toward Vladivostok, where ships will sail them around the world to Europe, Russia’s new Bolshevik regime and its agents begin a campaign to keep this Czecho-Slovak Legion from leaving Russia, and tensions slowly mount. At the train station outside of Chelyabinsk, Siberia, on May 14, 1918, a fist-fight leads to a brawl, a lynching, and arrests of the Czechs and Slovaks. Worse, Soviet Red Army commander Leon Trotsky loses his cool and threatens the lives and freedom of all 50,000 legionnaires stretched 5,000 miles across Siberia. The Czecho-Slovak Legion revolts, seizes all of Siberia, and nearly topples the new Soviet regime.
Visit Kevin J. McNamara's website.

--Marshal Zeringue