In less than one month, the Czech Republic will mark an historic anniversary: 90 years since the founding of Czechoslovakia. To commemorate this day, the Czech Senate has put the original of the Pittsburgh Agreement, a document that created the basis for the new state, on display. On Monday, the US ambassadors to the Czech Republic and Slovakia presented the document to the head of the Czech Senate, Přemysl Sobotka. Ruth Fraňková has the details.
It is the first time in history that the Pittsburgh Agreement is on display in the Czech Republic. The document, which was exhibited in Slovakia over the summer, was loaned to the Czech Senate by the Historical Museum in Pittsburgh. It is displayed as part of the exhibition Path to Independence about the building of the Czechoslovak state. The head of the Military History Institute in Prague, Aleš Knížek, explains its significance:
“The Pittsburgh Agreement is one of the most significant documents for the independence of Czechoslovakia and its separation from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In this document our exile representatives, Masaryk, Beneš and other representatives of Czechoslovakia sealed the foundation of the new state with their signatures. It was signed in the US where the borders of the future state were outlined.”
The agreement was signed in Pittsburgh on May 30, 1918. It helped Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the future president of Czechoslovakia, prove that Slovaks wished to form a joint state with Czechs. The US Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Richard Graber, explains the role of the United States in this event:
“The United States provided a place to have these discussions and create the framework for the future Czechoslovakia. At that time the US was a haven, a place of safety, and I think the agreement is very symbolic of the great trust and friendship that exists between our countries, the United States and Czechoslovakia at that time, and today between the US and the Czech Republic and Slovakia.”
“I said to myself ‘this is serious, and if this is possible for Germans, then sooner or later this thing is going to affect us all’. And I noticed something interesting at this time; that my fellow Czechs were sympathetic towards the German refugees escaping to the West. This was a time when people here were no longer ruled by fear, and when Czechs were willing to help others in difficulty, regardless of the political risks.” Even though Czechoslovakia eventually split into two independent states, the US ambassador says this fact doesn’t diminish the importance of the Pittsburgh agreement.
“I think it is important to remind ourselves of the friendship and partnership that exists between the US and those two countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. They are both great allies and friends and they are both important partners in the difficult world in which we live today. So I think it is important to remember the successes of the past.”
The Pittsburgh Agreement will be on display in the exhibition grounds of the Czech Senate until the end of October.
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