Journal of Ethnology 3/2011 is devoted to Czechoslovak legionnaires who fought in World War I. as volunteer corps of Czechs and Slovaks abroad. In his study, Ferdinand Vrábel explains the main data on this phenomenon (The Czechoslovak Legion Story), the contribution by Jan Rychlík (Legions and Legionnaires in Czech and Slovak Tradition and Historiography) includes the research work into this issue. In his essay, Dalibor Vácha sketches the theme from the standpoint of interdisciplinary positions, paying attention to concrete life stories of Czechoslovak legionnaires (In the Far East. A Probe into Everyday Life of Czechoslovak Legionnaires in Russia). Authors Jan Kincl, Svatopluk Valníček and Ferdinand Vrábel write about legionnaires´ fortunes based on personal diaries and correspondence (Legionnaires´ Memories, Memo Books and Diaries). The material part of the issue is completed by contribution Folk violin-maker Martin Kuča from Strážnice (1888-1967) by Jiří Höhn.
Stopping with Photos (author Martin Šimša) focuses on the legionnaire theme as well. In Interview section, two ethnologists - Miroslav Válka (born 1951) and Miloš Melzer (born 1941), celebrating their anniversaries in this year, interview each other. Other regular columns include reports from conferences, exhibitions, festivals, and reviews of new books.
The Czechoslovak Legion Story
The essay provides a brief summarizing overview on the development and history of the Czechoslovak volunteer armed forces in the years of World War I., an introduction to the issue of the development and functioning of armed units that - fighting together with the Entente powers (Russia, France, Great Britain, and Italy) - contributed to the creation of the independent Czechoslovak Republic in 1918. The author depicts the development of an idea to create resistant movement of Czechs and Slovaks, which led to the establishment of political centre of the Czech (later Czechoslovak) National Council with the seat in Paris and under the leadership of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, Edvard Beneš, and Milan Rastislav Štefánik. He also devotes himself to the period beginning with creation of the first units fighting with the Entente powers until the time when the Czechoslovak Brigade fighting in the battle of Zborov (2 July 1917), the individual divisions in Russia, France, Italy and even the Czechoslovak Corps in revolutionary Russia were set up. The essay commemorates also the anabasis of Russian legions on their way from Ukraine through Siberia to Vladivostok and their return back home in 1920. The conclusion of the essay informs about the next fates of legionnaires at home, about the legionnaire organizations, the significance of legionnaire traditions for new Czechoslovak army, the participation of legionnaires in the second resistant movement (1938-1945), the communist persecution of legionnaires and the renewal and work of the Czechoslovak Legionnaires Community after 1989. It puts stress on the need to recall the history of legions in order to bring up young people to patriotism and to strengthen the national identity.
Czechoslovak Legions and Legionnaires in Czech and Slovak Tradition and Historiography
The history of the fight of Czechoslovak legionnaires in World War I for independent Czechoslovakia became a part of the new state “foundation story“ in Czechoslovakia. A legionnaire became a symbol of conscious Czechoslovak citizen who never hesitate to die in the struggle for Czechoslovak independence. For German and Hungarian minorities, however, the new legionnaire tradition was unacceptable. In inter-war Czechoslovakia there were severe discussions about the role of legions in the Russian Civil War. The legions took part in the Civil War on the side of the forces of “White Army”. Especially problematic was their indirect support of the white dictatorship of Admiral Alexander Kolčak in Siberia. The political left criticized legionnaires for their support of Kolčak while the political right - on the other hand - criticized them for the fact that they concluded an armistice with Bolsheviks at the end of the war. During the occupation by Nazi Germany (1939-1945) and during the period of Communist regime (1948-1989) the legionnaire tradition was considered politically dangerous for the existing system and suppressed. After 1989 some attempts to restore the tradition occurred. The question is, however, whether the tradition can survive even if the Czechoslovak state does not exists any more.
In the Far East. A Probe into Everyday Life of Czechoslovak Legionnaires in Russia
The essay focuses on Czechoslovak volunteer corps in Russia in the days after the end of World War I. The main aim of the text is to demonstrate the soldiers’ perception of the Russian Far East regions. The introductory part discusses the existing sources and topics connected with the topic of everyday life in the war. The main part of the text outlines several factors connected with the soldiers’ stay in the Russian Far East regions: the architecture, languages, and everyday life of local townsfolk or peasants (clothes, boarding, hygiene, festivities etc.) or the soldiers´ relationship with local women (including Japanese prostitutes in Vladivostok). It was businesspersons, rickshaws, acrobats and prostitutes, whom the Czechoslovak legionnaires used to meet, so those occupations are understood in the diaries and memories as to be typical for the corresponding region. Czechoslovaks also met a lot of Japanese soldiers whose regiments garrisoned in the Vladivostok and the Baikal regions. Some of the records show a great soldiers’ interest in foreign destinations, cultures, and customs. However, it is not to be omitted that there was a war raging all around the Czechoslovak distinctive soldiers-tourists for the entire time of their exploring the Far East.
Legionnaires´ Memories, Memo Books and Diaries
The authors of the contribution focused on diaries and recollections of the Austrian-Hungarian troops members, captured at different fronts in World War I (in Serbia, Russia, and Italy), who later joined the Czechoslovak volunteer armed forces - the Czechoslovak legions. On an example of recorded memories of French legionnaire A. Šíma, Italian legionnaire V. Valníček and Russian legionnaire A. Šikura, the authors explain the circumstances at the time when World War I broke out, the moods and opinions of inhabitants, the mobilisation and leaving for the front, the baptism of fire at the fronts, the trials and horrors of war. Their diaries demonstrate clearly, how they as private soldiers and the civil inhabitants experienced the apocalyptic moments brought by the worldwide conflict to the proximity of the fronts and the rear, their everyday life and the importance of the memories of their relatives at home and of the rare correspondence with them. As immediate witnesses of significant political and military events from 1914-1918, when the future fate of Czechs and Slovaks and their common state - the Czechoslovak Republic - was decided, they provide a conclusive picture of those difficult times. Their records from war years, which were completed and even printed later, helped to keep the essential and even less essential experiences from that period in individual mind of their relatives and in collective mind of the nation. Frequently, they give also the historians, military historians, ethnologists and other experts very detailed and from other sources unknown information.
Folk violin-maker Martin Kuča from Strážnice (1888-1967)
The essay, which speaks about folk violin-makers, tries to create a certain model for the approach to that specific part of Czech music culture. Such a model is based on the thorough organological analysis of maintained instruments made by one of the producers. Martin Kuča from Strážnice, a farmer and wine-grower, who made his music instruments just for laughs, has been chosen as an example. Three of the safeguarded instruments made by him are a part of collections at the National Institute of Folk Culture in Strážnice (violin, viola and baset/violoncello); the other instruments are owned by his family. Purity in workmanship of his string instruments and their carefully worked construction bear witness to quite high level of folk violin making in Moravia and hopefully refute deep-routed theses on imperfection of musical instruments made by folk producers. The instruments themselves as well as the condition of aids (moulds) and tools used by violin maker Martin Kuča show, inter alia, the carefully worked-out technological procedures.