Edvard Beneš

Czechoslovak statesman. Born 1884, died 1948. President of Czechoslovakia 1935-1938, and again 1940-1948 (presiding over the Czechoslovak government-in-exile 1940-1945, in London).

An exile in France during World War I, Beneš formed (with the Czech Tomas Garrigue Masaryk and the Slovak Milan Rastislav Štefanik) the organisation "The Czechoslovak National Council", a movement which demanded the dissolution of Austria-Hungary and the creation of an independent Czechoslovakia.

Gifted with great skills as a diplomat, Beneš saw his dream come true after the end of the war, and served as the first foreign minister of Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1935, being succeeded in the office by Masaryk.

Beneš' national security policy relied on an alliance with France - so, when the Britain and France signed the Munich agreement of 1938 with Hitler, Beneš agreed to hand over the territory demanded by Germany without a struggle. Shortly thereafter, he resigned and emigrated.

During World War II, Beneš was President of the government-in-exile of Czechoslovakia, based in London. Through his diligent efforts, the Allied powers were prevailed upon to recognise Czechoslovakia's old borders; however, Carpatho-Ukraine (Ruthenia) had to be ceded to the U.S.S.R. in 1945. In 1943, Beneš made a settlement with Stalin and the Czechoslovak Communist party, to avoid a unilateral seizure of power by these following the war.

In 1945, the President-in-exile was finally able to return to Prague/Praha, where he worked to create a meeting of minds between the Western democracies and the East Bloc. His efforts were insufficient to the task, however, and in February 1948, an ill and weak Beneš was forced to accept a Communist takeover as a fait accompli. He resigned in June and died in September, the same year.