CYIL vol. 12 (2021)

jan kuklík CYIL 12 (2021) About the Author : Jan Kuklík (1967), lawyer and historian, professor of legal history, dean of the Faculty of Law, Charles University Prague. His specialisation is Czech and Czechoslovak legal history and the history of international relations. The main topics of his research include Czechoslovak law and diplomacy during WWII, international protection of minorities, restitution of Jewish property after WWII, and development of the Czechoslovak socialist law. The outcome of the Paris Peace Conference was a series of agreements and pacts dealing primarily with peace issues, which, to a certain extent, created a new system of international legal and political arrangements in Europe, although with the important exclusion of Russia and the unresolved situation in the Balkans regarding Turkey. The designation of the Versailles system was used for the arrangements. At their core was the Treaty of Versailles concluded with Germany at Versailles Castle; the Treaty served as the basis for most of the subsequent international legal and political documents. Debates during the meetings dealt with the consequences of the disintegration of the multinational empires of Austro-Hungary, tsarist Russia, and Turkey, modes of their potential solution, and relating to the establishment and recognition of newly emerging states. When solving the issue of new borders and considering the conception of newly established national states, a rather complicated national and religious situation, particularly in Central Europe, the Baltic, area and Balkans gave rise to the question of how to react to situations when a newly constituted state would encompass not only the majority population but also numerous minorities. It should be noted that borders were delineated with regard to the interests of the Powers; arguments and requirements submitted by representatives of newly established states, including their historical, military, geographical, national, and other criteria, led to the conclusion that the establishment of nationally homogeneous states was unrealistic in all debated cases. The establishment of new states and their final international recognition by the Powers were complemented with the obligations of the states in relation to minorities in their territories. What was significant in that respect was a concern over the relationship between new states and Jewish populations forming rather numerous minorities, particularly in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Romania, and defined not only by traditional religious criteria, but also by a newly introduced racial definition. 1 The significant context of international debates in Paris comprised, to a certain extent, worries that minorities, such as German, might become a pretext for armed conflicts or even a war. All these concerns led, after lengthy negotiations, to the establishment of a system of international minority protection under the auspices of newly created League of Nations. 2 1 See materials of the British delegation regarding the Jewish question, The National Archives London, Foreign Office 608/16/11. On the role of the Jewish question for US and British diplomacy see Miller, D.H.: My Diary at the Conference of Peace XIII , New States, Minorities , New York, 1925, (Stanford Hoover Library Microfilms) pp. 15–18 and Dillon, E. J.: The inside story of the Peace Conference, p. 184. 2 Hudson, M.O.: The Protection of Minorities and Natives in Transferred Territories, in: What Really Happened at Paris , New York 1921, p. 210. Gütermann, Ch.: Das Minderheitenschutzverfahren des Völkerbundes , Berlin 1979, pp. 17–19. Temperley, H.W.V.: A History of the Peace Conference of Paris V ., London 1921, p. 123. Peška, Z.: Otázka národnostních menšin na Pařížské mírové konferenci [ The Issue of National Minorities at Paris Peace Conference ], Zahraniční politika [ Foreign Policy ]1930, pp. 218–222.


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