The Chargé in Czechoslovakia (Klieforth) to the Secretary of State
[Received June 10—9:40 a.m.]
8. My 2 of June 3.13 The presence of this mission and that of the British has not embarrassed or weakened the high popularity of President Beneš but on the contrary has strengthened his position. The long delay in our arrival caused a certain feeling of despair in the country that the Western Powers had left Czechoslovakia to deal alone with Russia but this situation is now rapidly being modified. The Russian authorities here, both military and political, likewise have reacted to our arrival and have moderated certain unpopular public activities, and the Russian troops in Prague have been subjected to better discipline.
Beneš definitely is not a figurehead in spite of the high degree of the control of the country exercised by Russia. If the Russians removed him or publicly weakened him the country could fall into a state of civil war. So far no noticeable efforts have been made by any one to whittle down the President’s popularity or if made there is no indication that they are sucessful. The President continues secure in his position unless he himself makes a public blunder. Prime Minister Fierlinger does not wield much influence except as a go-between with Moscow.
No Cabinet changes have occurred since liberation of Bohemia and Moravia but in view of great authority of the President it is accepted for the present as workable. Fierlinger wants to avoid unsettlement of frequent changes. Some may be made but I doubt whether Moscow will tolerate any shift towards the right.
The general elections are much discussed. This indicates country’s desire to return soon to constitutional govt. However that seems unlikely while the country is occupied by Russian forces. The President and the govt and the political parties except Communists are very anxious to hold general elections at earliest possible date in order to profit by his popularity and the present unpopularity of Russia, due to excesses of the Red Army. The Communists for similar [Page 458] reasons prefer to postpone elections and therefore they may be deferred until end of the year.14
The various political parties are taking steps to strengthen themselves. In the meantime the Communist Party which had a good head start and derives support from the presence of the Red Army is making the greatest progress in the technical organization of the Party, but not in popularity. Due to the domination of the National Committees by the Communist members, the other parties are unable to obtain as readily as the Communists facilities for quarters, public meetings, transportation, etc. As long as the Russian occupation continues the average Czech however will play safe in not incurring the hostility of the Communists as he learned that the future under any occupation remains uncertain.
[Apparent omission] reestablishing the independence of Czecho-slovakia depends on Beneš’ ability to retain his prestige. He remains the outstanding man in the country and any help he receives in a general way from the western powers is a factor. He manages to make almost daily progress in obtaining concessions from the Russians although major political matters are still decided by Moscow, such as foreign relations and the strict censorship of the press and radio.
Russian events and the exploits of the Red Army constitute the major part of the published news. Other foreign news is reported only in an obscure fashion, similar usage in Moscow.
It is possible to take advantage of the keen desire of the Czech people to learn about the aims, ideals and war effort of the US by means of various media, as films, lectures and literature. If this is desired, I urge that it be done quickly. Proper activities of this kind are welcomed by the Czech authorities. A supply of films prepared by OWI15 for Czechoslovakia is now available in London.
Demobilization of the Czech guerrilla and revolutionary soldiers is proceeding without serious difficulty parrallel with reestablishment of the regular army and does not constitute a political problem for the Govt.[Page 459]
Russian Marshals Koniev16 and Malinovsky, 117 who visited Prague recently, promised the Prime Minister that the requisitioning of industrial machines and goods by the Red Army which was done on a rather large scale, would cease immediately, and Czech owned property, but no German previously taken would be returned. This situation is seriously delaying the reconversion of industry and definitely slows recovery.
There are indications that stocks of goods useful to our war effort will come to light as soon as (1) the currency is stabilized and (2) Russian removal of industrial machinery and goods and indiscriminately living off the land are ended.
- See supra. ↩
- General elections were not held until May 1946. However, on October 14, 1945, “elections” were held for a Provisional National Assembly which was to exercise legislative power for the Czechoslovak Republic until a constitutional National Assembly was elected by general, direct, secret voting according to the principle of proportional representation. The total membership of the Assembly was 300, of which 200 were Czechs and 100 were Slovaks. Regardless of the popularity of the respective parties, 240 seats were divided equally among the four legal parties in Bohemia and Moravia (Communist, Social Democratic, National Socialist and Peoples Democratic Parties) and the two legal parties in Slovakia (Communist and Democratic Parties). The remaining 60 seats were divided among so-called independent industrial and agricultural groups. Deputies to the Provisional National Assembly were chosen through a series of elections by national committees at local, district, and provincial levels, and not by a general popular vote.↩
- Office of War Information.↩
- Marshal of the Soviet Union Ivan Stepanovich Konev, Commander of the First Ukrainian Front, troops of which liberated Prague on May 9.↩
- Marshal of the Soviet Union Rodion Yakovlevich Malinovsky, Commander of the Second Ukrainian Front, troops of which participated in the liberation of Czechoslovakia.↩