860F.01/1–2545: Telegram

The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Kennan) to the Secretary of State

235. In regard to the question of the detachment of Ruthenia from Czechoslovakia, the Department’s attention is invited to my 4384, [Page 510] November 163 repeated to London as 260 numbered paragraphs 4 and 5, and Mr. Harriman’s 4873 December 17, 8 a.m.4 In addition to these communications, a despatch No. 13705 was addressed to the Department on January 9, in which the situation was treated in some detail. For the Department’s convenience there follows a paraphrased summary of pertinent portions of that despatch:

Nemec6 returned to Moscow beginning of December to establish contact with his Government. During the month he and his delegation had spent in liberated area they had been allowed to reside in Chust but not to visit larger centers of Uzhorod and Mukucevo nearer to front. He had also not been able to communicate with his Government. Local executive power was exercised by Ruthenian National Council, a local political organization Communist controlled, ostensibly representing resistance and patriot elements. Nemec and other members of delegation had functioned as liaison officers of London Government vis-à-vis Ruthenian National Council and Red Army. Council had come out in favor of annexation with Soviet Union, Formal resolution to this effect passed November 26. Red Army had been entirely correct and had remained aloof from this agitation. Czechs recognized, however, that movement enjoys at least tolerance of Moscow party circles, and realized that choice before them was whether to retain province nominally part of Czechoslovakia though penetrated and dominated from Soviet side or to cede it entirely, which could be done only after liberation of entire country and consultation of electorate. Pros and cons of this question are then discussed. End Summary.

It is understood here that the Red Army has been drafting Ruthenians and that the Czechs have protested in vain against this practice as inconsistent with the Civil Affairs agreement.

It should perhaps be added that there has been no manifestation on the official Soviet Government level of any desire to incorporate [Page 511] the province into the Soviet Union,7 and it is significant that this item has been noted only on the Kiev (Ukrainian language) radio.8 It is possible that no final view has evolved on this point in high party circles. In this case, the Communist penetration of local Ruthenian administration and the concurrent agitation for annexation would reflect only the usual predilection for encouraging conflicting tendencies until it is clear which one presents the greatest advantages to Soviet interests.

Sent Department as 235; repeated to London as 28.


[For a report on the remarks of Czechoslovak President Eduard Beneš regarding the question of Ruthenia made in the course of a conversation with the Ambassador in the Soviet Union, see telegram 866, March 22, 1945, 9 p.m., from Moscow, printed on page 427.]

  1. Not printed; in it the Chargé in the Soviet Union reported his observations on a public lecture delivered in Moscow by Vaclav Kopecký, a leader in the Czechoslovak Communist Party in exile in Moscow, before a small audience composed in considerable part of Czechs, on the subject of Czechoslovakia’s liberation. Paragraphs 4 and 5 of the telegram expressed the Chargé’s view that the Soviet Union would not annex Ruthenia but would subject it to considerable cultural and political penetration (860F.01/11–1644).
  2. Not printed; in it the Ambassador in the Soviet Union, W. Averell Harriman, reported on a conversation with the Czechoslovak Ambassador in the Soviet Union, Zdenek Fierlinger. Fierlinger stated that the Ukrainian nationalist movement appeared to be strong in Ruthenia, but he appeared to be complacent about the question, and he pointed out that Ruthenia had never been important economically to Czechoslovakia and that it was not in the interests of his country to force the Ruthenians to remain in Czechoslovakia against their will (860F.01/12–1744).
  3. Not printed.
  4. Frantisek Nemec, Delegate for Liberated Territories for the Czechoslovak Government in Exile in London. Delegate Nemec and his staff arrived in a portion of Ruthenia liberated by the Soviet Army in October 1944.
  5. In this connection, telegram 63, January 6, from Moscow, reported that Czechoslovak Ambassador Fierlinger had told Ambassador Harriman that the Czechoslovak and Soviet Governments had reached agreement that neither Government would involve itself in the Ruthenian separatist movement and both would await liberation to ascertain whether the people really wanted to join the Ukraine (860C.01/1–645). Despatch 225, January 1 from the Chargé to the Czechoslovak Government in Exile in London, Rudolf Schoenfeld, reported that Czechoslovak Government officials admitted privately that pro-Ukrainian sentiment had increased in Ruthenia, but they denied that the Soviet Government had shown bad faith (740.0011 EW/1–145).
  6. In telegram 124, January 19, 8 p.m., to Moscow, the Department reported on a Kiev radio broadcast of January 10 describing a manifesto by the First Congress of People’s Committees of Ruthenia calling for the reunion of Ruthenia with the Soviet Ukraine; the Department asked for information regarding the attitude of the Soviet Government toward the detachment of Ruthenia from Czechoslovakia (740.0011 EW/1–145).