Using records from Czech archives this article outlines the situation of the Belarusian émigrés in Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1938. It first presents a brief overview of the development of the Belarusian national movement and the reactions of this movement to the changes brought about largely by the First World War. In this context it traces the efforts of Belarusian émigrés who formed a government-in-exile and, after the stabilization of the Soviet Union, continued to push for an independent Belarusian state, despite the absence of truly international support, a lack of funds, and in-fighting. The archive records reveal that Belarusian émigrés began to settle in Czechoslovakia after the announcement of the Russian emergency aid operation. Students were clearly predominant amongst them. Most of the Belarusians in Czechoslovakia (about a hundred people) were involved in the national movement. Since, however, the émigrés probably did not manage to achieve de facto recognition, Belarusian national life could develop in Czechoslovakia only by means of clubs. In terms of politics, their situation was similar to that of the Russians' and Ukrainians' situation in Czechoslovakia: a heterogeneous group, which included Christian Democrats, Socialist-Revolutionaries, and Socialists. Soviet diplomats and secret agents were agitating amongst them with growing success. Only a minimum of Belarusians were oriented to working with Russian émigrés. Apart from having a political side, the club life of Belarusian students in Czechoslovakia also involved the arts. It failed, however, to create an independent Belarusian scholarly institution. Ultimately, the departure of students to find work in Belarusian parts of Poland, together with the consequences of the Great Depression, led to the failure of the Belarusian movement in Czechoslovakia. The Belarusian Self-help Committee's loyalty to the German authorities after the Occupation of Bohemia and Moravia cast the Belarusian national movement here into doubt amongst people opposed to the German Reich. This chapter of Czech-Belarusian relations closes with the handing-over of Belarusian émigrés to the Soviet authorities after the Second World War. As a supplement to the article the author provides biographical sketches of a hundred important Belarusian émigrés in Czechoslovakia.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.