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Distributed for Karolinum Press, Charles University

Radio and the Performance of Government

Broadcasting by the Czechoslovaks in Exile in London, 1939–1945

An original study of radio propaganda in Czechoslovakia.

Between 1939 and 1945, Czechoslovakia disappeared from the maps, existing only as an imagined ‘free republic’ on the radio waves. Following the German invasion and annexation of Bohemia and Moravia and the declaration of independence by Slovakia on 15 March 1939, the Czechoslovak Republic was gone. From their position in exile in wartime London, former Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš and the government that formed around him depended on radio to communicate with the public they strove to represent. The broadcasts made by government figures in London enabled a performance of authority to impress their hosts, allies, occupying enemies, and claimed constituents.

This book examines this government program for the first time, making use of previously unstudied archival sources to examine how the exiles understood their mission and how their propaganda work was shaped by both British and Soviet influences. This study assesses the strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of the government’s radio propaganda as they navigated the complexities of exile, with chapters examining how they used the radio to establish their authority, how they understood the past and future of the Czechoslovak nation, and how they struggled to include Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia within it.

385 pages | 5 3/4 x 8 | © 2023

History: European History, Military History


“The book makes an important contribution to our understanding of those who recreated Czechoslovakia in 1945. It reveals, via the broadcasts, what can be learnt about the exiles’ mentality and the major obstacles which confronted them from both enemies and allies… It will certainly be used as a starting point for new research about radio propaganda in wartime Central Europe.”

Mark Cornwall, University of Southampton

Table of Contents

1. List of Abbreviations
2. Introduction
2.1 Czechoslovakia: ‘The Child of Propaganda’
2.2 Radio: The Ideal Medium for Exile
2.3 Less Trouble than the Rest: The Czechoslovak Government within the British Propaganda Structure
2.4 Scope and Sources
3. ‘Legal, Loyal, and Internationally Recognised’: Legitimacy and the Performance of Government
3.1 ‘In the Name of the Czechoslovak Republic’: The Authority of Legality
3.2 ‘We Are the Masaryk Nation’: The Authority of Tradition
3.3 ‘We Are Close Together at Heart’: The Authority of Charisma
3.4 Exercising Authority: The Odsun and ‘Rabble-rousing’ from London
4. Populating the ‘Free Republic’: Performing Nationhood over the Radio, Radio as a Medium for Nation Building
4.1 ‘Faithful to the Spirit of our History’: Reading the War into the National Narrative
4.2 ‘Anything That is Dear to Their Hearts’: The Mobilisation of Culture
5. Idiots and Traitors? Addressing Slovakia from London
5. 1 ‘The Admirable and Loyal Czechoslovak Nation’
5.2 ‘Do Not Betray Yourselves’: A Policy of Negative Propaganda
5.3 ‘There Is No Free Slovakia’: Political Arguments
5.4 ‘The Most Blatant Ingratitude’: The Slovak State and the USA
5.5 ‘Your Catholic, Christian, and Slovak Conscience Compels You’: Religious Arguments
5.6 Russians, not Monsters: Tackling the Bolshevik Bogey
6. ‘We Will Manage Our Own Affairs’: The Soviet Union and Broadcasting the Future of Czechoslovakia
6.1 Neither Hell nor Paradise: 1940–June 1941
6.2 ‘Our Brother Slavs’: June 1941–1943
6.3 When Propaganda Diverges from Policy: Mid-1943 Onwards
6.4 ‘If It Doesn’t Work, It Will Not Be Our Fault’: The Changing Representation of Poland and the Central-European Confederation
6.5 ‘Subcarpathian Ruthenia Is Czechoslovak’: Broadcasting to a Lost Territory
7. Conclusions
8. Bibliography of Sources

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