Italian aggression against Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935 placed Czechoslovak diplomacy in a predicament. On the one hand, as a member state of the League of Nations, the First Czechoslovak Republic was obliged to preserve the integrity and independence of other League members, including Abyssinia, and to apply at least economic sanctions against any aggressor. On the other hand, as a product of the First World War, Czechoslovakia was highly interested in maintaining the post-war order in Central Europe against growing German revisionism. Here, apart from France and Great Britain, Czechoslovak diplomats put their hopes in Italy as well and were particularly anxious to gain Mussolini for the defence of Austria. In light of this dilemma, the article examines the attitude and behaviour of foreign minister Edvard Beneš, who was not only Czechoslovakia’s leading diplomat but also the country’s principal actor in the League of Nations, where the Abyssinian crisis had been on the agenda since the beginning of 1935. As far as Beneš’ role in the League is concerned, the study focuses on the sixteenth Assembly in autumn 1935, of which Beneš was elected president. While previous works on Czechoslovakia’s Abyssinian policy are mainly based on documents from the Archives of the Czechoslovak Foreign Ministry, this article also uses sources from the League of Nations Archives in Geneva and the Archives of the Masaryk-Institute in Prague.
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”.