Benes, Eduard

Beneš, Eduard

(ĕ`do͝oärt bĕ`nĕsh), 1884–1948, Czechoslovakian president (1935–38, 1946–48). As a student at Prague Univ. he adopted the political and social philosophy of T. G. MasarykMasaryk, Thomas Garrigue
, 1850–1937, Czechoslovak political leader and philosopher, first president and chief founder of Czechoslovakia. He is revered by most Czechs and was internationally recognized as a great democratic leader.
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. Later he studied in France, taught sociology and economics at Prague, and joined (1915) Masaryk in exile in Paris to work for Czechoslovak independence. After the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy at the end of World War I, he represented Czechoslovakia at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. As foreign minister (1918–35), premier (1921–22), leader of the Czech National Socialist party (a liberal and nationalist party, unlike its German counterpart), and right-hand man of Masaryk, Beneš influenced both national and European politics. The Little EntenteLittle Entente
, loose alliance formed in 1920–21 by Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia. Its specific purposes were the containment of Hungarian revisionism (of the terms of the World War I peace treaty) and the prevention of a restoration of the Hapsburgs.
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 and the Czech alliance with France were essentially his work. He became (1935) president of Czechoslovakia at Masaryk's retirement but resigned (1938) after the dismemberment of his country by the Munich PactMunich Pact,
1938. In the summer of 1938, Chancellor Hitler of Germany began openly to support the demands of Germans living in the Sudetenland (see Sudetes) of Czechoslovakia for an improved status. In September, Hitler demanded self-determination for the Sudetenland.
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 and went into exile. After the outbreak of World War II he resumed (1940) the title president and headed, in London, a provisional government at war with Germany. Returning to Prague in 1945, he was confirmed in office and was reelected (1946) president. After the Communist coup of Feb., 1948, he reluctantly endorsed the new regime, but resigned in June on the ground of illness, refusing to sign the new constitution. He died shortly afterward.


See his two volumes of war memoirs (tr. 1928, repr. 1971 and tr. 1954, repr. 1972). See also K. Kaplan, The Short March: The Communist Take-over of Power in Czechoslovakia (1987).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Beneš, Eduard


Bora May 28, 1884, in Kozlany, Bohemia; died Sept. 3, 1948, in Sezimovo Ústí, Bohemia. Czechoslovak statesman. Son of a wealthy peasant.

Beneš studied at Charles University in Prague and later at the Sorbonne in Paris. He graduated from the faculty of law at the University of Dijon in France. From 1915 to 1918 he was general secretary of the Czechoslovak National Council, founded by Czech bourgeois émigrés in Paris. On Sept. 26, 1918, this body became the provisional government of Czechoslovakia. From September 1918 to December 1935, Bene was the foreign minister of Czechoslovakia; from September 1921 to October 1922 he was the prime minister; and from December 1935 to October 1938 he was the president of the country. He was one of the active leaders of the Little Entente. Beneŝ was a member of the Council of the League of Nations from 1923 to 1927 and chairman of the Security Committee from 1927 to 1938. He was one of those chiefly responsible for the Czechoslovak republic’s refusal of military aid offered by the Soviet Union against the threat of Hitler’s aggression and for the acceptance by the Czechoslovak government of the terms of the Munich Pact of 1938.

In October 1938, Beneŝ retired from the office of president and went to the United States, where he became a professor at the University of Chicago. In 1939 a Czechoslovak national committee was founded in Paris under the leadership of Beneŝ, and in 1940 this committee became the basis for the founding in London of a Czechoslovak government and state council in exile. Beneŝ once again became president of the republic. The exiled Czechoslovak government was recognized by the states participating in the anti-Hitler coalition. In Moscow in December 1943, Beneŝ signed the Soviet-Czechoslovak Pact of Friendship, Mutual Assistance, and Postwar Cooperation. After the liberation of Czechoslovakia, Beneŝ was officially elected president of the republic on June 19, 1946. In February 1948, underpressure from the people, Bene ŝ was forced to accept the resignation of the reactionary ministers and to accept the new government proposed by K. Gottwald. On June 7, 1948, Bene ŝ resigned as president.


Svétová válka a nase revoluce, [parts 1–3]. Prague, 1935.
Pameéti. Prague, 1947.


Kral’, V. O kontrrevoliutsionnoi i antisovetskoi politike Masarika i Benesha. Moscow, 1955.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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