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The Czechoslovak Legions in Russia


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A superb coloured picture postcard sent from Egypt to Czechoslovakia, franked 1920 1r Lion Czechoslovak Military Post in Siberia with “1920” overprint (Michel 80) cancelled with scarce violet “Polni Posta Ceskoslovenskych Vojsk/President Grant” maritime cancel.

In 1914, Czechoslovakia was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at war with its German ally against the Allied Forces of France, Britain, Serbia and Russia. At the same time as many patriots in Czechoslovakia strived for independence, those living outside the country formed national units to fight with the Allies.

Transport towards the allied war zones was made impossible by the extensive line of trenches that divided Europe from North to South, effectively the only exit were to the south to the Middle East or to the east along the route of the Trans-Siberian Railway to the port of Vladivostok where ships departed bound for European Ports. Once in Vladivostock many of the Legionnaires found their plans overtaken by events and The Russian Revolution of 1917 lead to a civil war within the country, including Siberia. Whilst the Bolsheviks controlled Moscow, there was fierce resistance and those loyal to Tsar Nicholas II and the Romanov dynasty continued to fight Red Army troops.

The Czechoslovak Legions were drawn into this conflict and fought alongside the White Army and other Allied troops, having specific responsibility for guarding the Trans-Siberian railway line.

During a period of three years their numbers reached 70,000 but following a rapid deterioration in relations caused in part by political intrigue and deception, the Legions became disillusioned. Many asked why, following the establishment of an independent Czechoslovak Republic that was proclaimed on the 28th October 1918, they needed to stay and fight for a cause that they no longer supported.

The Legionnaires started to leave Siberia in late 1919 many conveyed on board The “President Grant” which had been impounded at the beginning of the War and was transferred to the US Army in early October 1919. The vessel made two voyages carrying the Czechoslovak Legions from Vladivostok calling at Port Said and then to Italy between January and November 1920.


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