The Munich Agreement is a highly emotional topic for the majority of Czechs and a considerable number of Slovaks. Yet knowledge of the events that led to Munich, and the Munich Conference itself, is characterised by a lack of understanding of its history and by black-and-white thinking. A key reason for the emotional reaction from a significant proportion of the Czech and Slovak population is both the forty years of use and misuse of the issue in communist propaganda, but also how the event has been treated by the mainstream media, within the historiography, and represented in politics and culture. Building on the previous historiography and using a wide range of primary sources, this chapter offers a brief description and analysis of the communist regime’s use of Munich in its historiography, ideology and propaganda. For the forty years of the communist regime, propaganda consistently portrayed Munich as follows: France and the United Kingdom were responsible for the Munich disaster, their treachery motivated by an imperialist desire to direct Hitler against the Soviet Union and let him destroy communism. They were helped in this by a Czechoslovak bourgeoisie who colluded with the foreign capitalists to make Munich possible. The Munich Agreement served as a legitimising tool throughout the four decades of communist rule. And, despite this regime collapsing in 1989, this narrative of Munich still affects Czechs and Slovaks today.
This chapter challenges the common wisdom that appeasement was entrenched in the pragmatic, conciliatory and reasonable British approach to conflict resolution which assumes that unless national interests are deleteriously affected, the peaceful settlement of disputes is preferable to war. Instead, it focuses on the repercussions of the deliberate exclusion from the Munich Conference of the Soviet Union, arguably the key player in the events leading to war. It will contend that British policy reflected a priori principles and choices. Indeed, the existence of a viable Soviet alternative in 1938 is validated by the extensive Russian archival sources now available, sustained by the diary kept by Ivan Maisky, Soviet ambassador to London (1932–43). The diary reveals how the legacy of two centuries of imperial rivalry between the two countries, enhanced by anti-communism and the post-Russian Revolution ‘red scare,’ raised an insurmountable obstacle to an anti-Hitler alliance during and after the Munich Conference. The chapter will show how pessimistic assessments, writing off the Soviet Union as a potential ally against Germany, emanated from embedded and preconceived attitudes. It will also expose the pivotal role of human agency; indeed, Maisky’s diary reveals how much room for manoeuvre was left for diplomats, even under Stalin’s authoritarian regime. This is a facet of Soviet politics entirely missing in Western historiography, where personalities are largely anonymous and the impact of personal friendships, conflicts and rivalries within the Kremlin, even at the peak of Stalin’s terror and purges, are often overlooked.
Scholars and practitioners alike have identified interventions on behalf of Armenians as watersheds in the history of humanitarianism. This volume reassesses these claims, critically examining a range of interventions by governments, international and diasporic organisations and individuals that aimed to bring ‘aid to Armenia’. Drawing on perspectives from a range of disciplines, the chapters trace the history of these interventions from the 1890s to the present, paying particular attention to the aftermaths of the Genocide and the upheavals of the post-Soviet period. Geographically, they connect diverse spaces, including the Caucasus, Russia and the Middle East, Europe, North America and South America, and Australia, revealing shifting transnational networks of aid and intervention. These chapters are followed by reflections by leading scholars in the fields of refugee history and Armenian history, Professor Peter Gatrell and Professor Ronald Grigor Suny, respectively.
‘Aid for Armenia’ became a common catch cry in Australia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This chapter takes a longitudinal perspective of the campaigns conducted across Australia to assist Armenian refugees. In doing so it aims to chart the varied campaigns undertaken to offer aid and assistance to the Armenian population experiencing dispossession, displacement and genocide. It positions these efforts transnationally, identifying how these efforts of aid conducted throughout the English-speaking world intersected and were interconnected, particularly throughout the British Empire. But it also identifies activities at the local level, where public meetings, fundraising drives and lectures were delivered throughout Australia for the Armenian cause. Through an analysis of these endeavours this chapter more broadly seeks to explore how a study of Armenian relief efforts highlights the wider shifts of meaning of compassion and humanitarianism from a range of perspectives and how these changed over time.
During and after the Armenian genocide, Protestant missionaries in the Ottoman Empire played vital roles as providers of relief for surviving Armenians. Among the missionaries who joined the initial rescue work were a small cohort of Scandinavian women, the Danish Karen Marie Petersen, Maria Jacobsen, Jenny Jensen, Hansine Marcher and Karen Jeppe, Swedish Alma Johansson and Norwegian Bodil Biørn. In the inter-war years, these women continued their humanitarian efforts among Armenian refugees. Based on sources from the Danish and Norwegian branches of the Women’s Mission Organization this chapter will explore Scandinavian humanitarian ideas and practices in relation to Armenian refugees and orphans in Soviet Armenia. The chapter pays particular attention to the connections between relief workers, refugees and the donors in Scandinavia who supported their work.
This chapter examines the activities of the British-based Armenian Relief Fund (ARF) and the American National Armenian Relief Committee (NARC) in the aftermath of the Hamidian massacres. Working on the margins of inter-state diplomacy, the two institutions played an important fundraising role, through which they attempted to prove transparency and accountability to the donors. Although an Anglo-American cooperation was not formalised, in the Ottoman Empire the joint efforts of the ARF and the NARC, as well as the complex networks that they joined and fostered, concurred in conceptualising and implementing relief. Moreover, being on the spot allowed the two organisations to realise that relief alone was not adequate to cope with the Armenian suffering and that interventions needed to be adapted to the local context, where Armenian actors would have to be involved in the implementation of employment schemes and resettlement plans. The chapter suggests that the responses to the Hamidian massacres rather than the First World War are a watershed in the history of humanitarianism by means of open and multilateral negotiations between states and non-state actors.
As many as 120,000 to 150,000 Armenians – displaced as a result of the First World War on the Caucasus front and the genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman government against its own Armenian subjects – had crossed the border into Russian imperial territories in the Caucasus in summer and autumn 1915. To confront this emergency situation, imperial Russian authorities as well as non-governmental organisations engaged in the provision of relief to displaced Armenians. By exploring imperial Russia’s response to the refugee crisis on the Caucasus front of the First World War, this chapter elucidates the complexity of humanitarianism at the beginning of the twentieth century. Whereas existing research on humanitarian responses to the Armenian Genocide has focused on the work of Western European actors among Ottoman-Armenian refugees in the Middle East, this chapter shifts the geographical focus to include the Ottoman–Russian borderlands. Drawing upon hitherto unused primary sources from Armenian, Georgian and Russian archives, it focuses particularly on the emergence of refugee relief structures and practices on the Caucasus front during the first year of the war.
This chapter focuses on the role of the Armenian diaspora organisation, the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) in relief and development projects in the Soviet Republic of Armenia. The AGBU was founded in Cairo in 1906: its relationship with the Soviet Armenian Republic created in December 1920 constitutes one of the most turbulent and fascinating chapters in its history. The first phase of its relations with the Soviet regime ran for about fifteen years, from 1922 to 1937, until the announcement by the Soviet regime – at the peak of the Stalinist purges – of the prohibition of the AGBU’s activities in Soviet Armenia. Throughout this decade and a half, the AGBU was optimistic, elaborating vast construction projects in the hope that they would eventually make it possible to settle tens of thousands of refugees and orphans in Armenia. Examining this process highlights the complexities and particularities of the role of diasporic actors in humanitarian aid. Furthermore, shedding light to the cooperative endeavours between the Soviet Union and a diasporic organisation provides fresh insight into the place of the Soviet Union in wider histories of humanitarianism and its difficulties and contradictions.