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A Guide to the United States’ History of Recognition, Diplomatic, and Consular Relations, by Country, since 1776: Czechoslovakia

Summary

The Kingdom of Bohemia was incorporated into the Holy Roman Empire during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) and came under the domain of the Habsburg monarchs. Czech nationalism grew throughout the nineteenth century as a cultural movement despite the fact that under the Dual Monarchy (1867-1918) Bohemia and Moravia were part of the Austrian Empire while Slovakia was part of the Kingdom of Hungary. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson had a significant role in the founding of the Czechoslovakian Republic; thus, since Czechoslovakian independence, the United States and the Czechoslovakian Republic enjoyed close ties. This friendship, however, was strained by the tensions of the Cold War as Czechoslovakian foreign policy from 1948-89 was the prerogative of the Soviet Union.

National flag of Czechoslovakia, which was adopted by the Czech Republic in 1992

Recognition

U.S. Recognition of Czechoslovaskian Independence, 1918.

The tenth of President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points called for free opportunity for the “autonomous development” of the peoples of Austria-Hungary.

On September 3, 1918, Secretary of State Robert Lansing announced that the United States recognized the Czecho-Slovak National Council, which was resident in Paris, as a de facto government at war with the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires and that it was prepared to enter into formal relations with it. The Czecho-Slovak National Council organized a Provisional Government on October 14 and declared its independence from Austria-Hungary on October 18, 1918.

Consular Presence

First U.S. Consular Post, Prague, 1869.

The first U.S. consular post in Bohemia was in Prague. A consulate was opened in 1869 and closed April 9, 1917, after Austria-Hungary severed diplomatic relations with the United States.

The United States opened a Consulate General in Bratislava in 1947. It was closed in 1950 after the Communist Government of Czechoslovakia alleged that U.S. diplomatic personnel were engaged in espionage and other improper activities, and demanded a reduction in their numbers. For the establishment of an Embassy in Bratislava after the “Velvet Divorce,” see the entry for Slovakia.

Consulate in Carlsbad (Karlovy Vary), 1906-1917, permanently closed, 1922.

A Commercial Agency was opened in Carlsbad (Karlovy Vary) in 1887. It became a Consulate in 1906, but was closed in 1917. There is no record of any postwar consuls being appointed before it was permanently closed in 1922.

Consulate in Reichenberg (Liberec), 1893-1917.

A Commercial Agency was opened in Reichenberg (Liberec) in 1886. It became a Consulate in 1893, was closed in 1917, and did not reopen after World War I.

There were also Commercial Agencies in Haida (Novy Bor) (1892-1908) and Brunn (Brno) (1863-1907).

Diplomatic Relations

Establishment of Diplomatic Relations, 1918.

On November 12, 1918, Assistant Secretary of State William Phillips announced that the United States recognized Charles Pergler as the Czecho-Slovak National Council’s Commissioner in Washington.

Establishment of American Legation in Prague, 1919.

Richard Crane was appointed U.S. Minister to Czechoslovakia on April 23, 1919. He presented his credentials on June 11, and served until December 5, 1921.

Establishment of a Czechoslovak Legation in Washington, 1919.

On October 24, 1919, Foreign Minister Eduard Benes announced the appointment of Jan Masaryk, son of President Thomas Masaryk, as Chargé d’Affaires in Washington. Masaryk was officially received by Secretary of State Robert Lansing on December 8, 1920. Minister Bedrich Stepanek presented his credentials on January 5, 1921.

U.S.-Czechoslovakian Relations During World War II

Wilbur J. Carr, former Assistant Secretary of State and Chief of the Consular Bureau, was Minister to Czechoslovakia when German forces occupied Prague on March 15, 1939, Carr closed the Legation on March 21, and departed on April 6. The United States did not recognize the establishment of a German protectorate over Bohemia and Moravia, or the establishment of the state of Slovakia.

On September 4, 1941, Anthony J. Drexel Biddle Jr. was appointed Minister to the Czechoslovakian Government in London. He presented his credentials on October 28. Biddle was also commissioned to the governments-in-exile of Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Yugoslavia. Biddle was promoted to Ambassador on June 4, 1943, and presented his new credentials on July 12. He left London on December 1, 1943.

Vladimir Hurban, the Czechoslovak Minister to the United States since 1936, was promoted to Ambassador and presented his new credentials on June 14, 1943.

Establishment of American Legation to Embassy Status, 1945.

Embassy Prague was established on May 29, 1945 with Alfred W. Klieforth as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim. Laurence A. Steinhardt was appointed as the first U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia on December 20, 1944. He presented his credentials on July 20, 1945 and served until September 19, 1948. Steinhardt’s tour of duty covered the Sovietization of Czechoslovakia.

Dissolution of Czechoslovakia, 1992.

On December 31, 1992, the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic ceased to exist and was succeeded by two new states: the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Treaties and Agreements

Commericial relations treaty, October 1923.

The first treaty between the United States and Czechoslovakia dealt with commercial relations, and was signed at Prague on October 29, 1923. It entered into force on November 5. It was supplanted by a reciprocal trade agreement signed in Washington on March 7, 1938. It entered into force provisionally on April 16, 1938, but was terminated April 22, 1939.

Air transport Services treaty, January 1946.

The first postwar agreement between the two countries dealt with air transport services, and was signed January 3, 1946 and entered into force on June 17, 1946.

Resources
  • Bevans, Charles I. Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America, 1776-1949. Volume 6: Canada-Czechoslovakia. Department of State Publication 8549 (January 1971).
  • Department of State Country Fact Sheet: Czechoslovakia
  • Department of State Country Information: Czechoslovakia
  • Langer, William L. An Encyclopedia of World History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1968.
  • Library of Congress Country Study: Czech Republic