Czechoslovakian Republic - Czechoslovakia
   
Stamp Regions: Bohemia - Moravia - Silesia - Slovakia - Carpathian Ruthenia


Czechoslovakia was a country in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. From 1939 to 1945 the state did not have de facto existence, due to its forced division and partial incorporation into Nazi Germany, but the Czechoslovak government-in-exile nevertheless continued to exist during this time period. Before the establishment of the First Czechoslovak Republic stamps of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were used and remained valid until 15 March 1919.

World War I (1914–1918) At the outbreak of World War I, the Czechs and Slovaks showed little enthusiasm for fighting for their respective enemies, the Germans and the Hungarians, against fellow Slavs, the Russians and the Serbs. Large numbers of Czechs and Slovaks defected on the Russian front and formed the Czechoslovak Legion, organised by Milan Rastislav Štefánik (a Slovak astronomer, general of the French army and a war hero). Masaryk went to western Europe and began propagating the idea that the Austro-Hungarian Empire should be dismembered and that Czechoslovakia should be an independent state. In 1916, together with Edvard Beneš and Milan Rastislav Štefánik, Masaryk created the Czechoslovak National Council. Masaryk in the United States, Stefanik in France, and Beneš in France and Britain then worked to gain Allied recognition. When secret talks between the Allies and Austrian emperor Charles I collapsed, the Allies recognized the Czechoslovak National Council in the summer of 1918 as the supreme organ of a future Czechoslovak government. On May 31, 1918, Czech and Slovak representatives in the United States signed the Pittsburgh Agreement endorsing a plan for a unified Czecho-Slovak state in which Slovakia would have its own assembly. In early October 1918, Germany and Austria proposed peace negotiations. On October 18th, while in the United States, Masaryk issued a declaration of Czechoslovak independence. Masaryk insisted that the new Czechoslovak state include the historic Bohemian Kingdom, containing the German-populated borderland. On October 21st, however, German deputies from Bohemia joined other German and Austrian deputies in the Austrian parliament in declaring an independent German-Austrian state. Following the abdication of Charles I on November 11th, Czech troops took control of borderlands. Hungary withdrew from the Habsburg empire on November 1st. The new liberal-democratic government of Hungary under Count Mihaly Karolyi attempted to retain Slovakia. With Allied approval, the Czechs occupied Slovakia, and the Hungarians were forced to withdraw. The Czechs and Allies agreed on the Danube and Ipel rivers as the boundary between Hungary and Slovakia; a large Hungarian minority, occupying the fertile plain of the Danube, would be included in the new state.

The First Republic (1918-1938) Following the Pittsburgh Agreement of May 1918, the Czechoslovak declaration of independence was published by the Czechoslovak National Council, signed by Masaryk, Stefanik and Beneš on October 18th 1918 in Paris, and proclaimed on October 28 in Prague. Towards the end of the First World War which led to the collapse of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, several ethnic groups and territories with different historical, political, and economic traditions were blended into new state structures. In the face of such obstacles, the creation of Czechoslovak democracy was indeed a triumph. The first stamps were issued in October 1918. The Hradcany Castle stamps illustrate the castle in Prague with the sun symbolically rising behind it is synonymous with the birth of the new state though the sun does not actually rise behind the castle. The stamps, designed by graphic designer Alphonse Mucha, an exponent of Art Nouveau living in Prague, was chosen from the more than ten submitted designs. The issue comes in two distinct sets with fifty-three different stamps that can be classified by five different types. The words Posta Cesko-Slovenska are arranged around the two sides and top of the first set while on the second set Cesko-Slovenska is in one line under the main castle design. The different types show slight variations in the design but several errors exist that include plate faults and flaws as well as different printing plates. Fewer variations exist in succeeding issues because the Ministry of Posts' designers, engravers and print mills improved their skills with experience. The first of several stamps illustrate Thomas Masaryk, the country's first president, followed in 1920 with three denominations of 125h, 500h and 1000h designed by Max Svabinsky. That year also saw two allegorical sets issued showing a stylised carrier pigeon in six values and referred to by some as Dove stamps, and the ten denominations of The Chainbreaker, symbolising the country, shows a woman breaking free from the chain of bondage. Both these sets also exist in tete-beche pairs due to a booklet printing plate layout proposed by a private company who were going to use the gutter for advertising as well as pay the printing costs, however, even though the stamps had been printed, the booklet deal never happened. At the same time as the Hradcany Castle stamps were issued in 1918, two newspaper stamps in 2h and 10h denominations, also designed by Alphonse Mucha were released. More values were added over time; 6h, 20h and 30h in 1919 and 5h, 50h and 100h in 1920. A few design variations and varieties exist. The 5h value, first released in September 1920 holds the record for the largest number of stamps printed being 3.6 billion. These stamps were also overprinted for use in East Silesia in 1920 and for a discounted commercial printed matter rate in 1934 and a 2h was overprinted 5h to supplement the supply of that denomination. In 1919 and 1920 the Czechoslovak Army in Siberia issued stamps for military posts and use on the Siberian Railway. In 1920 Czechoslovak stamps were overprinted "SO 1920" for use in Cieszyn Silesia, an area disputed between Czechoslovakia and Poland. Polish stamps were overprinted "SO 1920".

The Second Republic (1918-1938) It existed for 169 days, between September 30th 1938 and March 15th 1939. It was composed of Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia and the autonomous regions of Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia. The Second Republic was the result of the events following the Munich Agreement, where Czechoslovakia was forced to cede the German-populated Sudetenland region to Germany on October 1st 1938, as well as southern parts of Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia to Hungary. After the Munich Agreement and the German government making clear to foreign diplomats that Czechoslovakia was now a German client state, the Czechoslovak government attempted to curry favour with Germany by banning the country's Communist Party, suspending all Jewish teachers in German educational institutes in Czechoslovakia, and enacted a law to allow the state to take over Jewish companies. In addition, the government allowed the country's banks to effectively come under German-Czechoslovak control. The Czechoslovak Republic was dissolved when Germany invaded it on March 15th 1939 and annexed the Czech region into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. On the same day as the German occupation, the President of Czechoslovakia, Emil Hácha was appointed by the German government as the State President of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia which he held throughout the war. The greatly weakened Czechoslovak Republic was forced to grant major concessions to the non-Czechs. Following the Munich Agreement, the Czechoslovak army transferred parts of its units, originally in the Czech lands, to Slovakia, meant to counter the obvious Hungarian attempts to revise the Slovak borders. The Czechoslovak government accepted the Zilina Agreement stipulating the formation of an autonomous Slovak government with all Slovak parties except the Social Democrat on October 6th 1938. Jozef Tiso was nominated as its head. The only common ministries that remained were those of National Defence, Foreign Affairs and Finances. As part of the deal, the country officially adopted the short-form name of Czecho-Slovakia. Disputes continued and, on March 1st 1939, the Ministerial Committee of the Czecho-Slovak government met, where the question of Slovak departure from the state was in focus. There were some disagreement between Tiso and other Slovak politicians, and Karol Sidor (who had represented the Slovak government in the meeting) returned to Bratislava to discuss the matter with Tiso. and on March 6th the Slovak government proclaimed its loyalty to the Czecho-Slovak Republic and its wish to remain a part of the state.

Division of Czechoslovakia (1938-1945) In January 1939, negotiations between Germany and Poland broke down. Hitler scheduled a German invasion of Bohemia and Moravia for the morning of March 15th. In the interim, he negotiated with the Slovak People's Party and with the Kingdom of Hungary and its representatives for the Hungarian minority in Slovakia to prepare the dismemberment of the Second Czechoslovak Republic before the invasion. On 13 March he invited Monsignore Jozef Tiso to Berlin, where he offered Tiso the option of proclaiming the Slovak state and seceding from Czecho-Slovakia. In such a case, Germany would be Slovakia's protector and would not allow the Hungarians to press on Slovakia any additional territorial demands. If the Slovaks declined, Germany would occupy Bohemia and Moravia and disinterest himself in Slovakia's fate—in effect, leaving the Slovaks to the mercies of the Hungarians and the Poles (Poland had claimed the Slovak Spiš territory since the Polish-Czechoslovak War). During the meeting, Joachim von Ribbentrop passed on a false report saying that Hungarian troops were approaching Slovak borders. Tiso refused to make such a decision himself, after which he was allowed by Hitler to organize a meeting of the Slovak parliament ("Diet of the Slovak Land"), which would approve Slovakia's independence. On the morning of March 15th, German troops entered Bohemia and Moravia, meeting no resistance. The Hungarian invasion of Carpatho-Ukraine did encounter resistance but the Hungarian army quickly crushed it. On March 16th, Hitler went to Czechoslovakia and from Prague Castle proclaimed the new Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. A German Protectorate was in force over Bohemia and Moravia, the Czech areas of Czechoslovakia, between March 16th 1939 and May 8th 1945. Over 100 stamps were issued including definitive and commemorative issues, charity stamps, newspaper stamps and official stamps. After May 1945 regular issues of Czechoslovakia resumed. The Slovak Republic otherwise known as the Slovak State was a client state of Nazi Germany which existed between March 14th 1939 and April 4th 1945. It controlled the majority of the territory of present-day Slovakia, but without its current southern and eastern parts, which then formed part of Hungary. The Republic bordered Germany, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Poland - and subsequently the General Government (German-occupied remnant of Poland) - and Hungary.

The Third Republic (1945-1948) The so-called Third Republic came into being in April 1945. Its government, installed at Košice on April 4th and moved to Prague in May, was a National Front coalition in which three socialist parties—KSC, Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party, and Czechoslovak National Social Party—predominated. The Slovak Popular Party was banned as collaborationist with the Nazis. Other conservative yet democratic parties, such as the Republican Party of Farmers and Peasants, were prevented from resuming activities in the postwar period. Certain acceptable nonsocialist parties were included in the coalition; among them were the Catholic People's Party (in Moravia) and the Slovak Democratic Party. During World War II, Czechoslovakia disappeared from the map of Europe. The re-emergence of Czechoslovakia as a sovereign state was not only the result of the policies of the victorious Western allies, France, Britain and the United States, but also an indication of the strength of the Czechoslovak ideal embodied in the First Czechoslovak Republic. However, at the conclusion of World War II, Czechoslovakia fell within the Soviet sphere of influence, and this circumstance dominated any plans or strategies for postwar reconstruction. Consequently, the political and economic organisation of Czechoslovakia became largely a matter of negotiations between Edvard Beneš and Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSC) exiles living in Moscow. In February 1948, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia seized full power in a coup d'etat. Although the country's official name remained the Czechoslovak Republic until 1960, when it was changed to the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, February 1948 is considered the end of the Third Republic.