Czech Legion

A large number of people living in the Austro-Hungarian Empire living in the provinces of Bohemia and Slovakia, wanted their own national state. On the outbreak of the First World War, some men from this region joined a brigade attached to the Russian Army.

In 1917 the Czech Nationalist leader, Tomas Masaryk, visited Russia and helped increased the size of the Czech Legion. He did not by recriuting Czechs from Russian prisoner of war camps.

After the November Revolution it became clear to Tomas Masaryk that Vladimir Lenin wanted to make a separate peace with the Central Powers. He therefore decided to move the Czech Legion to France to rejoin the fighting. The state of the Russian Railway made this a slow process.

In May, 1918, a group of soldiers in the Czech Legion were falsely accused of killing a man in Chelyabinsk, in Siberia. The rest of the Czech unit marched into town and freed their comrades being held by local Red Guards.

When Leon Trotsky heard the news he gave orders for the Czech Legion to be disarmed. The 100,000 strong Czech Legion responded by joining in the war against the Red Army. Over the next four months the Czechs took a vast area of land east of the Volga.

By June, 1918, most of the Czechs had fought their way through to Vladivostok, where a small Japanese force landed to cover their retreat. Another group remained and supported Alexander Kolchak in Omsk during 1919 before leaving the country in the spring of 1920.