Sudetenland 1938: where Putin got the idea from?

March 3, 2014 at 11:11 pm (Europe, fascism, Germany, history, imperialism, posted by JD, Russia, stalinism, war)

From the BBC’s ‘Higher Bitesize‘ history site:

Hitler’s plans for Czechoslovakia

Sudetenland Invasion, October 1938

map showing German territory and Sudetenland

In 1938, Hitler turned his attention to the Sudeten area of Czechoslovakia.

The nation of Czechoslovakia had been created after WWI. Two Slavic peoples, the Czechs and the Slovaks, came together to form the country along with three million German speakers from the Sudeten area on the border with Germany, and smaller numbers of Hungarians, Ukrainians and Poles. The 20 years since its creation had seen its democracy and economy flourish.

The main threat to the fledgling nation was from Hitler’s plans for expansion and from the Sudeten Germans who, used to being part of the German-speaking Austrian empire, were not happy at their inclusion in a Slav-controlled state.

By March 1938, Hitler had successfully invaded Austria without a shot being fired. With one major German-speaking territory under his control he then turned his attention to another – the Sudeten area of Czechoslovakia.

Hitler wanted to use the Sudeten Germans to create trouble in Czechoslovakia and, as he had in the Rhineland and Austria, use this as a pretence for invading and “restoring order”.

Not content with merely one piece of Czechoslovakia, Hitler planned to smash the country. The Czechs and Slovaks were of Slavic origin and, according to Hitler’s racial proclamations that the German/Aryan people were superior to other races, they were considered Untermenschen (subhuman).

Hitler builds the tension

map showing Czechoslovakia, bordered by (clockwise) Germany, Poland, Romania, Hungary and Austria

Czechoslovakia 1933

Hitler financed and supported the Sudeten German Party under Conrad Henlein. With Hitler’s backing the party became a force to be reckoned with in Czechoslovakia.

  • In March 1938, Hitler ordered Henlein to create a crisis in the country. The Sudeten Germans made increasingly bold demands from the government. When the demands could not be met they insisted that they were being persecuted.
  • In April 1938, Henlein announced his Karlsbad Programme for Sudeten self-government, and organised civil unrest.
  • In May 1938, Hitler moved his armies to the Czech border to intimidate the Czechoslovakian President, Benes. In response, Benes mobilised the Czech army into positions along the border.
  • In July 1938, Hitler promised Britain’s Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, that he would not invade Czechoslovakia if he were given control of the Sudetenland.
  • In September 1938, Hitler made an inflammatory speech against the Czechoslovakian President, Benes, at a Nazi rally at Nuremberg.
  • On the 12 September, the Sudeten Germans rioted and martial law was declared in Czechoslovakia.

Read the rest here


  1. Jim Denham said,

    …and a further parallel with 1938: Cameron as Chamberlain:

  2. Sudetenland 1938: where Putin got the idea from? | OzHouse said,

    […] Mar 04 2014 by admin […]

  3. Robert Calder said,

    Until the period after 1990 the Ukraine was never any sort of independent state, It was a sort of Wild West or Wild East, depending on which neighbouring country’s point of view — a Wild South too, in fact, in relation to Lithuania long ago, It was always dependent on the protection of a neighbour because there was no internal centralisation of powers, and indeed there was the horror in 1914 when Ruthenian troops seemed neither to be AustroHungarian nor Tsarist “Russian” and were hanged en masse by the first lot. In 1918 the independence movement had support from the West when German troops after the surrender were kept there as a sort of garrison, before Bolsheviks got round to assassinating officers. Much more recently there was the Ukrainian bad joke about Perestroika/ “It’s near Moscow!”
    Obviously Putin is trying to drum up support for himself at home, to judge from the press reports quoted on TV, a parallel to the also prejudice-friendly “disciplining” in the Caucasus et cetera. One of the areas which fits Iosif Brodsky’s term “Wogistan”, populated by people routinely regarded near Moscow as being of a certain character. Where the city of Grozny was sore beset in an earlier campaign, now it’s the country associated with “Ivan Grozny”, not the ancient one but the concentration camp guard, which is getting the supposed lesson.
    There is a parallel with a pre-1938 German notion of inferior neighbours, a notion tied to possibilities of exerting external power and attacking a point liable to destabilise. The evidence is on television, the unhappy Russian wife of a Ukrainian, unable to get her parents to think outside a stereotype which dates back to not the grab of the Ukraine in the wake of 1917 but to the artificial famine of the 1930s, when among other things the exactions of impossible quantities of grain from the Ukraine were paid for useless machinery discovered after 1990.
    Putin may well be repeating not merely what Hitler did in taking over the Egerland and Sudetenland but also what Stalin did before then in the Ukraine, but with ambitions on Putin’s part to rouse a violent nationalism which became part of the lie about the Ukraine after 1945, so that rather than Peter the Great having begun a very long period taking advantage of Ukraine’s need for protection against other countries, the story was told of a Ukraine permanently in need of protection against native Ukrainian gangsters.
    Putin is doubtless hoping for quite a number of deaths. The Hague should get on with impeaching the prominent Ukrainian gangster of the past few years.
    Of course Putin is also playing a game with the same psychological nasties all too obvious in Ireland, the nature of which in Ireland a lot of Germans I knew when living in Germany had not grasped during the Troubles until some of the violence was simply inexplicable as other than pathology.
    Putin’s actions are utterly formulaic, trying to prevail most of all by manipulating ignorant Russian prejudices, and trying to stir up psychoses in the territory he dislikes not having power over.

    • finbar. said,

      Ukraine MONARCHY and DICTATORSHIP that is how its history runs.Recently they have been proffered so called DEMOCRACY,their first elected leader was jailed for usury of manipulation of her corporate rule and profiteering over her ownership of the Electric and Gas control of their countries needs.The new Premier had her arrested, and now he has been ousted as her right wing friends call fowl and appoint a puppet leader without the peoples elect.

      Can see a east and west Ukraine on the horizon.

  4. R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    Not really.

    Hitler’s plans for the Sudetenland were full integration into the Reich and for rump-Czechoslovakia reduction to protectorate status – all as part of a grand strategy to redraw the racial map of Europe.

    Putin’s for the Crimea are presumably the same as for South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria and he is quite happy to settle for a separatist Crimea as a satellite if he can’t keep the whole Ukraine in that state.

    The problem being that actually the Crimea and the eastern Russian-majority provinces of the Ukraine are not economically worth having with their rustbelt industries and will be a net drain on the Russian economy – while a Ukraine (or rather the Tymoshenko faction of its kleptocratic elite who are the only people who really matter there) stripped of these liabilities and able to fully integrate into the EU would probably be better off – and certainly politically more stable.

  5. Babs said,

    Ukraine and the ‘Little Cold War’

    Geopolitical Weekly
    TUESDAY, MARCH 4, 2014 – 03:09 Print Text Size

    Editor’s Note: In place of George Friedman’s regular Geopolitical Weekly, this column is derived from two chapters of Friedman’s 2009 book, The Next 100 Years. We are running this abstract of the chapters that focused on Eastern Europe and Russia because the forecast — written in 2008 — is prescient in its anticipation of events unfolding today in Russia, Ukraine and Crimea.

    By George Friedman

    We must consider the future of Eurasia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Since 1991, the region has fragmented and decayed. The successor state to the Soviet Union, Russia, is emerging from this period with renewed self-confidence. Yet Russia is also in an untenable geopolitical position. Unless Russia exerts itself to create a sphere of influence, the Russian Federation could itself fragment.

    For most of the second half of the 20th century, the Soviet Union controlled Eurasia — from central Germany to the Pacific, as far south as the Caucasus and the Hindu Kush. When the Soviet Union collapsed, its western frontier moved east nearly 1,000 miles, from the West German border to the Russian border with Belarus. Russian power has now retreated farther east than it has been in centuries. During the Cold War it had moved farther west than ever before. In the coming decades, Russian power will settle somewhere between those two lines.

    After the Soviet Union dissolved at the end of the 20th century, foreign powers moved in to take advantage of Russia’s economy, creating an era of chaos and poverty. Most significantly, Ukraine moved into an alignment with the United States and away from Russia — this was a breaking point in Russian history.

    The Orange Revolution in Ukraine, from December 2004 to January 2005, was the moment when the post-Cold War world genuinely ended for Russia. The Russians saw the events in Ukraine as an attempt by the United States to draw Ukraine into NATO and thereby set the stage for Russian disintegration. Quite frankly, there was some truth to the Russian perception.

    If the West had succeeded in dominating Ukraine, Russia would have become indefensible. The southern border with Belarus, as well as the southwestern frontier of Russia, would have been wide open.

    Russia’s Resurgence

    After what Russia regarded as an American attempt to further damage it, Moscow reverted to a strategy of reasserting its sphere of influence in the areas of the former Soviet Union. The great retreat of Russian power ended in Ukraine. For the next generation, until roughly 2020, Russia’s primary concern will be reconstructing the Russian state and reasserting Russian power in the region.

    Interestingly, the geopolitical shift is aligning with an economic shift. Vladimir Putin sees Russia less as an industrial power than as an exporter of raw materials, the most important of which is energy (particularly natural gas). He is transforming Russia from an impoverished disaster into a poor but more productive country. Putin also is giving Russia the tool with which to intimidate Europe: the valve on a natural gas pipeline.

    But the real flash point, in all likelihood, will be on Russia’s western frontier. Belarus will align itself with Russia. Of all the countries in the former Soviet Union, Belarus has had the fewest economic and political reforms and has been the most interested in recreating some successor to the Soviet Union. Linked in some way to Russia, Belarus will bring Russian power back to the borders of the former Soviet Union.

    From the Baltics south to the Romanian border there is a region where borders have historically been uncertain and conflict frequent. In the north, there is a long, narrow plain, stretching from the Pyrenees to St. Petersburg. This is where Europe’s greatest wars were fought. This is the path that Napoleon and Hitler took to invade Russia. There are few natural barriers. Therefore, the Russians must push their border west as far as possible to create a buffer. After World War II, they drove into the center of Germany on this plain. Today, they have retreated to the east. They have to return, and move as far west as possible. That means the Baltic states and Poland are, as before, problems Russia has to solve.

    Defining the limits of Russian influence will be controversial. The United States — and the countries within the old Soviet sphere — will not want Russia to go too far.

    Russia will not become a global power in the next decade, but it has no choice but to become a major regional power. And that means it will clash with Europe. The Russian-European frontier remains a fault line.

    It is unreasonable to talk of Europe as if it were one entity. It is not, in spite of the existence of the European Union. Europe consists of a series of sovereign and contentious nation-states.

    In short, post-Cold War Europe is in benign chaos. Russia is the immediate strategic threat to Europe. Russia is interested not in conquering Europe, but in reasserting its control over the former Soviet Union. From the Russian point of view, this is both a reasonable attempt to establish some minimal sphere of influence and essentially a defensive measure.

    Obviously the Eastern Europeans want to prevent a Russian resurgence. The real question is what the rest of Europe might do — and especially, what Germany might do. The Germans are now in a comfortable position with a buffer between them and the Russians, free to focus on their internal economic and social problems. In addition, the heritage of World War II weighs heavily on the Germans. They will not want to act alone, but as part of a unified Europe.

    Russia is the eastern portion of Europe and has clashed with the rest of Europe on multiple occasions. Historically, though, Europeans who have invaded Russia have come to a disastrous end. If they are not beaten by the Russians, they are so exhausted from fighting them that someone else defeats them. Russia occasionally pushes its power westward, threatening Europe with the Russian masses. At other times passive and ignored, Russia is often taken advantage of. But, in due course, others pay for underestimating it.

    Geographic Handicaps, Energy Assets

    If we are going to understand Russia’s behavior and intentions, we have to begin with Russia’s fundamental weakness — its borders, particularly in the northwest. On the North European Plain, no matter where Russia’s borders are drawn, it is open to attack. There are few significant natural barriers anywhere on this plain. Pushing its western border all the way into Germany, as it did in 1945, still leaves Russia’s frontiers without a physical anchor. The only physical advantage Russia can have is depth. The farther west into Europe its borders extend, the farther conquerors have to travel to reach Moscow. Therefore, Russia is always pressing westward on the North European Plain and Europe is always pressing eastward.

    Europe is hungry for energy. Russia, constructing pipelines to feed natural gas to Europe, takes care of Europe’s energy needs and its own economic problems, and puts Europe in a position of dependency on Russia. In an energy-hungry world, Russia’s energy exports are like heroin. It addicts countries once they start using it. Russia has already used its natural gas resources to force neighboring countries to bend to its will. That power reaches into the heart of Europe, where the Germans and the former Soviet satellites of Eastern Europe all depend on Russian natural gas. Add to this its other resources, and Russia can apply significant pressure on Europe.

    Dependency can be a double-edged sword. A militarily weak Russia cannot pressure its neighbors, because its neighbors might decide to make a grab for its wealth. So Russia must recover its military strength. Rich and weak is a bad position for nations to be in. If Russia is to be rich in natural resources and export them to Europe, it must be in a position to protect what it has and to shape the international environment in which it lives.

    In the next decade, Russia will become increasingly wealthy (relative to its past, at least) but geographically insecure. It will therefore use some of its wealth to create a military force appropriate to protect its interests, buffer zones to protect it from the rest of the world — and then buffer zones for the buffer zones. Russia’s grand strategy involves the creation of deep buffers along the North European Plain, while it divides and manipulates its neighbors, creating a new regional balance of power in Europe. What Russia cannot tolerate are tight borders without buffer zones, and its neighbors united against it. This is why Russia’s future actions will appear to be aggressive but will actually be defensive.

    Russia’s actions will unfold in three phases. In the first phase, Russia will be concerned with recovering influence and effective control in the former Soviet Union, re-creating the system of buffers that the Soviet Union provided it. In the second phase, Russia will seek to create a second tier of buffers beyond the boundaries of the former Soviet Union. It will try to do this without creating a solid wall of opposition, of the kind that choked it during the Cold War. In the third phase — really something that will have been going on from the beginning — Russia will try to prevent anti-Russian coalitions from forming.

    If we think of the Soviet Union as a natural grouping of geographically isolated and economically handicapped countries, we can see what held it together. The countries that made up the Soviet Union were bound together of necessity. The former Soviet Union consisted of members who really had nowhere else to go. These old economic ties still dominate the region, except that Russia’s new model, exporting energy, has made these countries even more dependent than they were previously. Attracted as Ukraine was to the rest of Europe, it could not compete or participate with Europe. Its natural economic relationship is with Russia; it relies on Russia for energy, and ultimately it tends to be militarily dominated by Russia as well.

    These are the dynamics that Russia will take advantage of in order to reassert its sphere of influence. It will not necessarily recreate a formal political structure run from Moscow — although that is not inconceivable. Far more important will be Russian influence in the region over the next five to 10 years.

    The Russians will pull the Ukrainians into their alliance with Belarus and will have Russian forces all along the Polish border, and as far south as the Black Sea. This, I believe, will all take place by the mid-2010s.

    There has been a great deal of talk in recent years about the weakness of the Russian army, talk that in the decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union was accurate. But here is the new reality — that weakness started to reverse itself in 2000, and by 2015 it will be a thing of the past. The coming confrontation in northeastern Europe will not take place suddenly, but will be an extended confrontation. Russian military strength will have time to develop. The one area in which Russia continued research and development in the 1990s was in advanced military technologies. By 2010, it will certainly have the most effective army in the region. By 2015-2020, it will have a military that will pose a challenge to any power trying to project force into the region, even the United States.

    Editor’s Note: Subscribers are invited to access the full text of the chapters that focused on Eastern Europe and Russia from George Friedman’s 2009 book, The Next 100 Years, by clicking the links below. Excerpts reprinted with permission from Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.

    Read more: Ukraine and the ‘Little Cold War’ | Stratfor
    Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook

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