General Staff in 1919 - 2004
One of the necessary steps that had to be taken immediately after the formation of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918 in order to protect it, was the build-up or, to state it better, completion of the Czechoslovak Armed Forces’ overall organisation. Even though it might seem as a paradox, Czechoslovakia had its own military much earlier than it was formally constituted.
On 15 October 1919, the Main Staff of the Czechoslovak Defence Force was officially formed. This event directly relates to activities connected with the birth of independent Czechoslovak state and its armed forces.
Prerequisites for the build-up of unified armed forces and their command have originated during 1918 and 1919 in an atmosphere of unconsolidated internal and international situations immediately following World War I. Disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the birth of its successor countries combined with other circumstances led the Czechs and Slovaks to follow their western allies – especially France - which largely influenced the whole of the European political situation at that time.
On 4 July 1919, after the nation's military failure in its war with the Hungarian Republic of Councils, Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue MASARYK decided to appoint the Chief of the French Military Mission, General Maurice PELLÉ, as the supreme military commander of the Czechoslovak Armed Forces. French officers were installed at that time also to positions of territorial commanders and commanders of some divisions. Over the course of some time, various command level posts were filled with some 200 French non-commissioned officers, with more than 100 commissioned officers and 19 Generals. Generals Maurice PELLÉ and later Eugéne MITTELHAUSER were the first chiefs of the Main Staff of the Czechoslovak Defence Force.
Czechoslovak president T. G. MASARYK, as the supreme commander of the defence force, greatly influenced the build-up of modern forces of this country, not only by his philosophical work but also by his organisational efforts. He had defined a number of theses that are not only still valid but of utmost importance to this day. He had insisted that “the matter of nation is being fought out and kept by coordination both of weapons and ideas, including the efforts of working”.
In the course of time, the Czechoslovak interests became increasingly pronounced and prevailed also into operational planning. This led to the downsizing of French personnel in the Main Staff and units of the Czechoslovak Army. The installation of the Czech General J. SYROVÝ into the post of the Chief of the Main Staff represented the milestone of this development.
Since that time, the Main Staff (from 1950 called the "General Staff") experienced a number of significant transitions that followed the political evolution of this country and the world.
As of the 1 January 1993, following the division of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic were formed according to law No. 15/1993 Dig., passed by the Czech National Council, the nation’s legislative assembly of that time. The General Staff was engaged in tasks related to the division of former federal armed forces into two separate formations of national armed forces, and it created the military that can ensure the defence and sovereignty of newly formed Czech Republic.
The General Staff, as the body for direct control and command of troops, had developed and controlled a deep reorganisation of the military, which commenced on 1 July 1993. The reorganisation was based on the Concept of the Build-up of ACR until 1996. During the reorganisation and restructuring, the military was downsized in personnel, units and equipment, and it was proportionally located on the whole territory of the Czech Republic. To a significant level, the General Staff’s personnel contributed to preparing and deploying Czech peacekeeping contingents.
Following accession of the Czech Republic to NATO in 1999, the General Staff fulfilled tasks related to integration of the Czech military into NATO structures. The Czech military units were incorporated into joint multinational forces of immediate and rapid response. At the same time, a fully NATO-interoperable command and control system was developed within the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic to meet the Alliance's standards. Also NATO standards for training had been introduced into the Czech military.
Since 1 April 2004, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic has been integrated into the structure of the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic.
Published: July 2005