Soviet Annexation of Subcarpathian Ruthenia

Soviet Annexation of Subcarpathian Ruthenia

On May 8, 1944, Benes signed an agreement with Soviet leaders stipulating that Czechoslovak territory liberated by Soviet armies would be placed under Czechoslovak civilian control. Subcarpathian Ruthenia had been reconstituted into the autonomous Carpatho-Ukraine during the Second Republic. When the Second Republic collapsed, Carpatho-Ukraine declared its independence but was occupied by the Hungarians. In October 1944, Carpatho-Ukraine was taken by the Soviets. A Czechoslovak delegation under Frantisek Nemec was dispatched to the area. The delegation was to mobilize the liberated local population to form a Czechoslovak army and to prepare for elections in cooperation with recently established national committees. Loyalty to a Czechoslovak state was tenuous in Carpatho-Ukraine. Benes's proclamation of April 1944 excluded former collaborationist Hungarians, Germans, and the Russophile Ruthenian followers of Andrej Brody and the Fencik Party (who had collaborated with the Hungarians) from political participation. This amounted to approximately one-third of the population. Another one-third was communist, leaving one-third of the population presumably sympathetic to the Czechoslovak Republic.

Upon arrival in Carpatho-Ukraine, the Czechoslovak delegation set up headquarters in Khust and on October 30 issued a mobilization proclamation. Soviet military forces prevented both the printing and the posting of the Czechoslovak proclamation and proceeded instead to organize the local population. Protests from Benes's government went unheeded. Soviet activities led much of the local population to believe that Soviet annexation was imminent.

The Czechoslovak delegation was also prevented from establishing a cooperative relationship with the local national committees promoted by the Soviets. On November 19, the communists, meeting in Mukachevo, issued a resolution requesting separation of Carpatho-Ukraine from Czechoslovakia and incorporation into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. On November 26, the Congress of National Committees unanimously accepted the resolution of the communists. The congress elected the National Council and instructed that a delegation be sent to Moscow to discuss union. The Czechoslovak delegation was asked to leave Carpatho-Ukraine.

Negotiations between the Czechoslovak government and Moscow ensued. Both Czech and Slovak communists encouraged Benes to cede Carpatho-Ukraine. The Soviet Union agreed to postpone annexation until the postwar period to avoid compromising Benes's policy based on the pre-Munich frontiers. The treaty ceding CarpathoUkraine to the Soviet Union was signed in June 1945. Czechs and Slovaks living in Carpatho-Ukraine and Ukrainians (Ruthenians) living in Czechoslovakia were given the choice of Czechoslovak or Soviet citizenship.

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