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ISHA Bucharest Workshop: Isolation & Integration Han XU

Politics of Insecurity:

Polish-Czechoslovak Confederation 1940 – 1943

In connection with our focus on unions and confederations, I would like to present a failed project
between the exile governments of Poland and Czechoslovakia during the WWII. I came to this topic
because of my initial interest in the exile politics and the geopolitical dilemma of the region. The
wartime negotiations of Polish-Czechoslovak Confederation were directly informed by the aspirations
and frustrations of the interwar League of Nation, while foreshadowing the post-war division of
Europe and the imposition of the Warsaw Pact. My presentation is based on my past and current
research in the UK National Archives and the Sikorski Institute in London.

On November 11, 1940, the Polish government-in-exile and the Provisional Czechoslovak
government issued a joint statement: “Poland and Czechoslovakia...are determined, on the conclusion
of this war, to enter the independent and sovereign states into a closer political and economic
association.”1 With common military and foreign policy, customs and monetary union, this
confederation sui generis would become the basis of a new European order. The Grand Alliance of
the war, the British and American governments above all, welcomed the plan “not only as an end in
itself desirable but also a political necessity.”2 Merely two years later, however, the British and
American diplomats warmed the exiles not to “take any action which might displease the Soviet
Union.” They had to “keep Stalin in good humour.”3 In December 1943, the Czechoslovak President
Edvard Beneš told the Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov that, “all that had been settled about the
confederation was void already.”4

What gave rise and pulled apart the Polish-Czechoslovak initiative? How did the federative plan
configure within the Allied military and foreign policy? After all, what is the significance of this
short-lived proposal? My presentation will address the origin, goal, and failure of the Polish-
Czechoslovak Confederation between 1940 and 1943. I will argue that the vision of the confederation
illustrates the differences between Czechoslovak and Polish policy priorities, the dynamics of
diplomacy within the Grand Alliance, and the recurrent federalist thinking in East-Central Europe.
Polish-Czechoslovak relationship during the war was not unlike the Hungarian-Romanian contest
over the Transylvanian Question, for which small states struggled to maneuverer the Great Powers in
the international order.5

                                                                                                                       
1
Ivan Stovicek and Jaroslav Valenta (eds.), Czechoslovak-Polish Negotiations of the Establishment of Confederation and
Alliance 1939-1944 (Prague, 1995), 59-65.
2
British National Archives, FO 371/24292, Polish-Czech Relations. Sarah Meiklejohn Terry. Poland’s Place in Europe:
General Sikorski and the Origin of the Oder-Neisse Line, 1939-1943 (Princeton, 1982), 93.
3
Józef Łaptos and Mariusz Misztal (eds.), American Debates on Central European Union 1942-1944 (Brussels, 2002), 51.
4
Stovicek and Valenta, Czechoslovak-Polish Negotiations, 370.
5
Holly Case, Between States: The Transylvanian Question and the European Idea during World War II (Stanford, 2009).
Also Holly Case, ‘The Strange Politics of Federative Ideas in East-Central Europe’, Journal of Modern History, 12 (2013),
833-866.