deadline: 2 novembre 2018
The implementation of France’s commitment
in Central and Eastern Europe in the interwar period, 1917-1939
While the fate of war remains uncertain on the battlefields of the Great War, many French political and military decision-makers already have ambitious plans for post-war France, particularly in the East. Whether in the framework of the Franco-Russian alliance, its support for the Serbian kingdom or the attentive ear to independence demands within the Double-Monarchy, France intends to project its diplomatic, military and economic influence in Central and Eastern Europe, and reap the rewards in the event of victory. These ambitions are fulfilled first and foremost by political and military missions. One thinks of Albert Thomas’s mission with the Russian Provisional Government, then with the Berthelot mission in Romania, with the French military missions in Poland or with the young Czechoslovak army. The first bridges between France and the new states of central Europe are thus built very early.
Parallel to these reflections, as early as August 14th 1920, Czechoslovakia, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (SHS) and Romania promised each other armed assistance in case of aggression from Hungary. The two failed attempts to restore the former Emperor Charles in Budapest in March and October 1921 prompted the three countries to strengthen their ties. Several bilateral agreements are thus concluded: between Romania and Czechoslovakia on April 23rd 1921, between Romania and the SHS Kingdom on June 7th, 1921, finally between Czechoslovakia and the SHS Kingdom on August 31st, 1922. Nonetheless, this dynamic of mutual aid is relative, because the alliance is openly and exclusively against Hungarian and, to a lesser extent, Bulgarian revisionism. Therefore, the SHS Kingdom is not protected against Italian claims and Romania cannot count on any help against the Soviet Union, which still actively claims Bessarabia. Finally, the Little Entente is weakened by the absence of Warsaw, who maintains good relations with Budapest and a heavy dispute with Prague over the territory of Teschen (Cieszyn). These states are all beneficiaries of the status quo post bellum. However, due to their severe differences, these new regional powers had an interest in associating themselves with the major continental military power that was France in order to prevent the revisionist powers from questioning the regulation of the peace.
After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, France can no longer count on the Russian ally of the first hours of the Great War. It is therefore seeking to establish an effective alliance in Eastern Europe in order to guarantee its security in the event of a German recovery. After some hesitation, especially concerning the policy to be followed with regard to Hungary in particular and the Danubian zone in general, it accompanies the movement initiated by the Little Entente and thus contributes to the development of diplomatic, economic, and strong military ties with the new powers that emerged in the wake of the peace treaties. Already linked to Poland since February 19, 1921, France joined forces with Czechoslovakia on January 25, 1924. By the Locarno Accords of October 16th 1925, Germany recognizes its western borders. On the other hand, with regard to its eastern borders, it only agrees to sign an arbitration treaty with Poland and Czechoslovakia. This situation prompts France to become more involved. A military alliance between Paris and Prague was signed on October 16th 1925, the very day of the signing of the Locarno Treaties. On June 10th, 1926 France initialed a similar protocol with Romania before doing the same with the SHS Kingdom on November 11th 1927.
Nevertheless, the alliances concluded between France, the States of Little Entente, and Poland are of very general scope and concretely inefficient. In this context marked by an undeniable reluctance to write tangible commitments in stone, how did the leaders of these countries seek to implement these diplomatic agreements? Though this theme has already been the subject of a vast literature during the past decades, the issue has been examined mainly in terms of bilateral relations between Western European countries and one or the other regional player, or in terms of the diplomatic dilemmas that powers like France or Great Britain could be facing. The political transition of the late 1980s and the prospect of enlargement of the European Union in the early 2000s strongly contributed to a renewal of these issues in the early 1990s. Since then, interest in this moment in European history has declined somewhat. The commemorations announced around the centenary of the end of the Great War offer the opportunity to reinvest this field of study, especially as a new generation of European researchers, multilingual has to explore and confront many kinds of national archives corpus and to analyse decision-making at the intermediate levels of the State hierarchy.
The aim of this conference is to shed light on joint initiatives between France and all the partner countries of Central Europe during the inter-war period, as it is their combination that forms a system of alliances. Proposals for papers should therefore focus on:
The crossed or transnational logics at work in the constitution of this system of alliances;
The military aspects of this system of alliances: armies’ joint maneuvers and the elaboration of common tactical schemes; officer training via military schools; personnel exchanges; interactions between staffs; doctrinal circulation and reception; circulation of military publications; the role of national languages and the French language as vectors of communication;
The political and diplomatic aspects of this alliance system: the development of joint strategic plans, the exchange of information and intelligence;
The industrial and financial aspects of this alliance system: the sale or loan of equipment, the terms of their financing, the formation of joint ventures or the acquisition of participations;
The technical aspects of this alliance system: the development of expertise in decision-making, the regulatory, normative and institutional reconfiguration of young states after the 1920s;
The role of actors and networks as animators of this system of alliance: diplomats, military, industrial and financial, experts and intellectuals, political parties …;
The « alliance culture » that countries of central Europe and France reciprocally seek to build in their public opinions ;
The memories of the alliance maintained during the Cold War and as part of the construction of the European political project.
France’s collaboration with the member states of the Little Entente (Czechoslovakia, Romania, Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes) — and of these powers amongst themselves — will be emphasized, but communications on the ties with the other Allied Powers or partners from the region (Poland, the Baltic States and Finland, Greece, Turkey), and even with the revisionist powers (Soviet Russia, Hungary, Bulgaria) are welcome.
Proposals, one page long, are to be sent with a one-page academic CV in PDF format, before 2 November 2018, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Languages of the contributions: French and English.
Conference organization will cover transport costs up to a fixed limit to be determined; the remaining balance can be covered by the participant’s home laboratory or university.
Accommodation will be provided as well as part of the catering (lunches and dinner).