Page 3814

3814 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.

make peace until the Czechoslovaks could

be guaranteed their independence.

Following the retirement of the Soviet

Government from the war, there occurred

one of the most dramatic incidents in the

whole great contest. In the Austro-Hungarian armies there had been hundreds of

thousands of drafted men, especially Czechoslovaks, who fought against their will.

Many of these men had deserted or were

taken prisoners by the Russians, and hundreds of thousands declared their willingness

to assist their brother Slavs against the

oppressive House of Hapsburg. This

Czechoslovak force performed good service,

and, in the July offensive of 1917, it was the

only unit which threw itself whole-heartedly

into the battle.

When the Bolshevist Government signed

the treaty of peace, early in March, 1918, the

Czechoslovak army, consisting of about

60,000 men, was in Ukrainia near Kiev. As

already related, the Ukrainian Government,

to escape the Bolsheviki, threw themselves

into the arms of Germany and asked for

Teutonic aid. German and Austrian armies

began to advance into Ukrainia, and the

Czechoslovaks found themselves in a desperate situation. Their Russian comrades had

deserted them, and the prospects for escape

seemed none too good. At this time, Emperor Charles of Austria sent a special envoy

to the Czechoslovaks promising that if they

would surrender they would be given amnesty, and that their country would receive

autonomy. But the Czechoslovaks, undaunted, replied that they would not negotiate with the Austrian Kaiser.

It was clear that the only road to safety

lay to the eastward. The leaders determined to transport their army across Siberia,

the Pacific, America, and the Atlantic to the

Western Front in France. It was a bold

undertaking and one which, in many of its

aspects, recalls the famous episode of the

10,000 Greeks whose retreat from Persia

is so graphically described by Xenophon.

The Teutons were naturally anxious to

capture the Czechoslovaks, and a considerable force succeeded in occupying an important railroad center 100 miles in their

rear, through which the trains of the

Czechoslovaks must pass on their way to

the east. The Czechoslovaks, however, attacked the Germans and, after a battle of

four days, badly defeated them and got their

trains through.

In this way they managed to escape from

Ukrainia into that part of the old Russian

empire which had accepted the Government

of the Bolsheviki. Up to this time, their

relations with the Bolshevist Government

had been fairly good, but German influences

were set to work in Bolshevist centers to

bring about their downfall. At this time, the

retreating army was well equipped with

weapons of all kinds, and could have taken

Moscow, but, though not in sympathy

with the Bolshevist Government, they, as

guests, refrained from all action against their

former comrades. They even consented to

surrender nearly all their weapons, retaining

only 10 rifles to every 100 men. In return

for this concession, the Moscow Government

guaranteed the Czechoslovaks unmolested

passage through Siberia to Vladivostok.

The Germans at first supposed that the

attempted movement was doomed to early

failure, but, when they discovered that the

"impossibility" was in danger of becoming a

reality, they doubled their efforts to embroil

the Czechoslovaks with the Bolsheviki. By

arrangement with the Bolsheviki the German

and Magyar prisoners of war in Siberia were

freed and even armed, and the Czechoslovak

legion presently discovered that it was the

Teutonic plan to use these prisoners to prevent their eastern march.

The great pilgrimage to the east was made

in about 80 trains. Progress was very slow,

and endless negotiations had to be carried

on in the seat of every local Soviet. The

Czechoslovaks were repeatedly threatened

with machine guns and cannon, but they

usually patiently endured it all, though they

could easily have beaten the Bolshevist Red

Guards who interfered with their progress.

Fifty-seven days passed before the first

train arrived at Vladivostok, where the

gallant warriors were enthusiastically received by Allied troops, who had been

landed there to protect supplies and to

prevent the Bolsheviki from gaining control

of that port. During the later stages of the