In classical Stalinist historiography, the entire Russian Civil War was reduced to the Red Army’s successful repulsion of the “three Entente campaigns,” in which the White and other nationalist armies (Poles, Balts, Ukrainians, etc.) were merely puppets of the Allied leaders. That was a gross exaggeration—indeed, there is a case to be made for ranking the Austro-German intervention as the more consequential foreign involvement in the conflict—but the Allied intervention was not insignificant. The British, French, Japanese, Czechoslovak, and other Allied forces that were sent to Russia, and the matériel and logistical support their governments supplied to the Whites and other forces, may not have been sufficient to enable them to defeat the Bolsheviks, but it can be argued that they were sufficient to have driven the Red Army to the point of exhaustion by 1920 and to have denied Soviet Russia victory in the Soviet–Polish War, which would have enabled it to export the revolution into central Europe.
Although it was to assume a counterrevolutionary guise, Allied intervention in the “Russian” Civil Wars had its roots in the various military missions that were dispatched to the Eastern Front during the First World War to offer advice to and to liaise with the tsarist army, as well as to conduct pro-war propaganda. (Attached to Allied missions and embassies, it is worth noting, were men who would play an important role in the intervention, such as Generals Maurice Janin and Alfred Knox. It is also significant that even in July–August 1917, the latter proved very willing to intervene in Russian politics and to offer his support to those who promised to restore “order” in Russia during the Kornilov affair.) One of the least remembered but most effective elements of the intervention, John F. Steven’s Russian Railway Service Corps, was also a product of negotiations that predated the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks. Of interest too is that some of the personnel and armored cars employed by Dunsterforce in 1918 had previously been attached to the British Armored Car Expeditionary Force (or the Russian Armored Car Division), commanded on the Eastern Front by Commander Oliver Locker-Lampson in 1916–1917. Conversely, it is also worth remembering that one of the first post-revolutionary landings of Allied forces in Russia—the disembarkation at Murmansk of British marines on 6–8 March 1918—occurred at the invitation of the local soviet and with the blessing of L. D. Trotsky, the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs. At that point it was far from clear that the Soviet government would sign a separate peace treaty with the Central Powers, and Allied agents such as Robert Bruce Lockhart were hopeful that the Bolsheviks could be persuaded to accept Allied assistance to oppose the Germans and the Austrians (thereby keeping the Eastern Front active and preventing the Central Powers from transferring troops to the Western Front to face the newly arrived American armies), although that did not prevent Lockhart and other Allied agents from simultaneously offering financial support to clandestine anti-Bolshevik organizations such as the Union for the Regeneration of Russia and B. V. Savinkov’s Union for the Defense of Fatherland and Freedom.
At the very least, London and Paris wished to deny the Central Powers (via their White Finnish allies) access to the thousands of tons of military supplies that had built up at Murmansk and Arkhangel′sk, as did the Bolsheviks. Similarly, British and Japanese vessels had been docked at Vladivostok since December 1917, seeking to forestall an anticipated move against the port and its stockpiles from the hundreds of thousands of Austrian and German POWs expected to be released from camps in Siberia if Soviet Russia unilaterally withdrew from the war. Meanwhile, from January 1918 a column of British and Commonwealth soldiers, Dunsterforce, was formed in Persia and then sent to Baku to attempt to deny its oil supplies to the advancing Army of Islam and the German Caucasus Mission. Once the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (3 March 1918) had been ratified, however, there was no doubt that the intervention, though still formally described as being anti-German, was anti-Bolshevik in effect—although some Allied leaders, notably the British prime minister, David Lloyd George (unlike his war minister, Winston Churchill), were never convinced that the Soviet government could be ousted by foreign forces.
As tensions between Moscow and the Allies built up over the course of 1918—over the peace treaty, Sovnarkom’s renunciation of tsarist debts and its confiscation of property within Russia, the execution of the Romanov family, the onset of the Red Terror, and the arrest of Allied citizens (including those diplomats implicated in the Lockhart Plot)—increasing numbers of Allied forces were landed in Russia (at Vladivostok from April and at Arkhangel′sk from August 1918), often on the grounds of providing assistance to the newly established regimes associated with the Democratic Counter-Revolution. Such an intervention had, in fact, been requested by moderate socialist leaders in Russia since the spring of 1918, and the call would be repeated at the Jassy Conference in November of that year. Also cited, notably by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson (who reluctantly agreed to join the intervention on 17 July 1918, after months of fending off requests from the British and the French), was the desire to assist in the evacuation from Russia of the Czechoslovak Legion. Of course, few Allied leaders were motivated solely by altruism—it is notable, for example, that the British and the Canadians both sent extensive economic missions to Siberia in 1918–1919 to survey the postwar opportunities for boosting their trade in northern Asia—but it was only the Japanese who seemed unconcerned with hiding the naked self-interest that led them to flood the Russian Maritime Province and the Russian railway zone through Manchuria with tens of thousands of troops (followed by hundreds of merchants) over the summer of 1918, while deliberately nurturing the atamanshchina (in the shape of G. M. Semenov and I. M. Kalmykov) that was so damaging to the anti-Bolshevik cause. Indeed, a deciding factor in initiating American intervention in Siberia may have been President Wilson’s concern to prevent the Japanese from closing the “Open Door” for trade in China that was so advantageous to the U.S. economy.
The Allied victory in the First World War in November 1918 facilitated access to Russia and, specifically, to centers of anti-Bolshevik activity in the emerging Baltic States, South Russia, and the North Caucasus, as, following the armistice, the previously closed Baltic and Black Seas were reopened. Consequently, a royal naval squadron was immediately sent into the Baltic in November 1918 to assist and supply arms to the nationalist forces in the Estonian War of Independence and the Latvian War of Independence, while on 18 December 1918, French and Greek forces landed at Odessa and began to move into Ukraine. The situation in South Russia was politically complicated for the Allies, however, as some of the major anti-Bolshevik polities had, in the eyes of London, Paris, and Washington, compromised themselves by their previous dealings with the Germans; this included the Ukrainian National Republic, the Don Cossack Host, and the Democratic Republic of Georgia. Consequently, Allied support went primarily to the Whites, in the shape of the Volunteer Army, as it emerged from the Second Kuban March in November 1918.
Not all Allied leaders found the Whites’ politics palatable, but at least General A. I. Denikin (like his predecessors Generals M. V. Alekseev and L. G. Kornilov) had shunned all approaches from Berlin. Moreover, the Allied leaders were not unattracted to the Whites’ commitment to reestablish a “Russia, One and Indivisible,” fearing that if the Russian Empire disintegrated into a group of smaller polities, there would be no counterweight to German influence in eastern Europe. Besides, there seemed to be no viable moderate alternative: center-left and liberal anti-Bolshevik regimes all across Russia were tumbling as right-wing White authorities established themselves in Siberia (the Omsk government), at Arkhangel′sk (the Provisional Government of the Northern Region), and in South Russia (Denikin’s Special Council). (Although critics of the intervention could quite properly point out that British officers had actively encouraged the makers of the Omsk coup that brought Admiral A. V. Kolchak to power on 18 November 1918, just as they had encouraged the coup launched by Captain G. E. Chaplin at Arkhangel′sk in September 1918, which had undermined the moderate regime of N. V. Chaikovskii.)
Consequently, by early 1919 there were approximately 4,500 U.S. and 8,000 British forces in North Russia, together with smaller contingents of British colonial forces (including Australians, New Zealanders, and Canadians), Serbs, Italians, and others, while in Siberia, in addition to 40,000 men of the Czechoslovak Legion, 9,000 men of the American Expeditionary Force (Siberia), commanded by General William S. Graves, were disembarked, together with 4,000 Canadians; 1,500 British and colonial troops; and several thousand diverse French, Polish, Chinese, and other Allied forces (including the Italian Legion), all of them dwarfed by the 70,000-strong Japanese force. In South Russia, nearly 60,000 French forces (most of them Senegalese or Algerian) were based at Odessa, with a smaller contingent of Greeks. British and American forces saw action in North Russia in 1919 in advances down the Northern Dvina and along the Arkhangel′sk–Vologda and Murmansk–St. Petersburg railways, while Franco-Greek forces moving north from Odessa also engaged with elements of the Red Army. In the Baltic, Allied forces did not land in any numbers, but offered important naval and logistical support to anti-Bolshevik forces; Agustus Agar also masterminded two audacious attacks on the Red Baltic Fleet; and Allied military missions sought to curb the ambitions of the Baltische Landeswehr and other Freikorps elements. In Siberia, though, apart from the Czechoslovak Legion (which withdrew to the rear in January 1919, to be replaced by domestic forces of the Russian Army along the Eastern Front), Allied forces remained chiefly in the rear; indeed, the overwhelming majority of them remained in or around Vladivostok, while General Graves was operating under orders from President Wilson to the effect that the AEF should avoid at all cost becoming involved in any military campaign.
As might be expected, the possibility or actuality of having to continue fighting after the armistice was far from universally popular among Allied soldiers sent to Russia, and there were several notable mutinies: among Canadian forces at Victoria on 21 December 1918, on the point of their being dispatched to Vladivostok; among French soldiers on board vessels in the Black Sea in late April 1919; and among British and American units in North Russia on a number of occasions. Military reverses also took their toll: by April 1918, the French had been forced out of Odessa, while in North Russia, after initially pushing the Bolsheviks’ Northern Front south by 70 miles, Anglo-American forces had been forced to withdraw to within 35 miles of Arkhangel′sk. “Hands Off Russia” campaigns, protesting against the intervention, were also organized in Britain, France, and the United States by leftist parties and by the families of those men who had been sent to Russia. All of this, together with growing concerns about the reactionary policies of the Whites—news of the Omsk massacre and other examples of White terror was received with alarm in London, Paris, and Washington—might have been sufficient to persuade Allied leaders that the intervention was unsustainable, even without the fact that from January 1919 they were preoccupied with the refashioning of postwar Europe at the Paris Peace Conference. Thus, as early as 16 February 1919 President Wilson directed his War Department to begin planning the withdrawal of American forces in North Russia. A series of similar decisions was taken over the next few months (beginning with London’s resolution in March 1919 to withdraw its forces from North Russia and Transcaucasia by September of that year), while with the Prinkipo Proposal and the Bullitt Mission the Allies sought a negotiated ending to the conflict in Russia, and the intervention petered out as Allied forces were withdrawn. The Allied blockade of Soviet Russia was lifted from 16 January 1920; prisoners began to be exchanged following the Copenhagen Agreement of 12 February 1920; and the last British and American troops left North Russia on 19 February 1920 and Vladivostok on 1 April 1920 (although most had left months earlier). The Japanese, on the other hand, remained in occupation of northern Sakhalin until 1925.
Far more important than manpower, however, were the supplies of uniforms and weaponry sent to the Whites by the Allies: Britain alone gifted Kolchak and Denikin arms and clothing (worth £100,000,000) to equip forces numbering 200,000 men in 1919, while the numerous tanks and aircraft sent to Russia (as well as the instructors to train their crews and technicians to maintain the machines) were invaluable to the Bolsheviks’ enemies. Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury allowed B. A. Bakhmetev to utilize credits extended to the Provisional Government to send $50,000,000 worth of supplies to White forces in Siberia and South Russia. On the other hand, the presence of “rapacious foreign imperialists” on Russian soil undoubtedly supplied the Soviet government with a propaganda theme that was useful in motivating its own forces and in winning political sympathy, both at home and abroad (and even from elements that would not normally have been attracted to Bolshevism). Finally, it is arguable that in creating a morale-sapping climate of dependency, in deflecting White leaders from the task of building popular support, and in encouraging anti-Bolshevik forces into launching advances (in the hope of securing more assistance and official recognition) before their armies were ready, Allied intervention may have had some negative impacts on the Whites’ efforts.
Just like its similarly alien but pro-Bolshevik counterpart in the Red Army, the Latvian Riflemen, this non-Russian, anti-Bolshevik force played a part in the “Russian” Civil Wars that was very disproportionate to its size. Although generally treated (especially in Soviet histories) as part of the Allied intervention in Russia (and routinely and misleadingly referred to in Soviet-era books as an organization of “White Czechs”), the legion’s history was specific, although it was echoed (on a smaller scale) by the experience of the Polish Legion and smaller units of Serbian and other volunteers from Allied countries who had happened to find themselves stranded in revolutionary Russia. It should also be noted that Czechoslovak volunteer units fought on the Allied side in the First World War not only in Russia but also in France, Italy, and Serbia.
From the opening days of the First World War, émigré Czech and Slovak politicians and soldiers, such as Tomáš Masaryk and Milan Štefánik, propagated the idea that Czechoslovak units should be formed to fight on the Allied side in the name of an independent “Czechoslovakia” to be carved out from lands at that time included in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. These units were initially comprised of émigrés, but their ranks were swelled, as the war progressed, by deserters and prisoners of war taken from the Austrian Army. On the Western Front, in Italy, and in the Balkans, these units were incorporated into their “parent” armies and deployed against the enemy with some fanfare. In the multinational Russian Empire, however, where in previous decades the tsarist regime had embarked upon a doomed effort to homogenize its diverse subjects through a process of Russification, such tactics were regarded with suspicion (in view of the hopes they might arouse among Finns, Poles, Ukrainians, etc.). Thus, although a “Czech Detachment” (Česká družina) was established in Russia on 14 August 1914, with a muster roll of almost 10,000 by early 1917 (approximately 10 percent of the Czechs and Slovaks then resident in Russia, most of them living in Volynia guberniia), its feats were not loudly trumpeted, and its numbers were restricted. It consisted of the 1st (Jan Hus) Rifle Regiment, the 2nd (Jiří z Poděbrad, “George of Poděbrad”) Rifle Regiment, and the 3rd (Jan Žižka) Rifle Regiment, all named after heroes of the Hussite struggles of the 15th century. They marched under a flag that had the Russian tricolor on one side and the crown of St. Wenceslas in the center of the other side, superimposed on fields of white over red. The družina was originally attached to Russia’s 3rd Army, and its men were deployed in demi-platoons as scouts and propagandists, targeting Czech and Slovak regiments in the Austrian Army. They had some success: the 28th (Prague) Infantry Regiment went over to the Russians almost in its entirety on 2 April 1915, followed by the 8th Infantry Regiment in May of that year.
Following the February Revolution of 1917, both Masaryk and Štefánik visited Russia to negotiate with the Provisional Government regarding the possibility of supplementing the force with prisoners of war and having it placed under the control of the Czechoslovak National Council, either as an independent Czechoslovak army or as part of the French Army. (The force was vaguely conceived as being akin to the French Foreign Legion, hence the nomenclature.) Their intervention was successful (not least because the Czechs fought with distinction during the Russian Army’s offensive of June 1917, notably at the Battle of Zborov), and the Czechoslovak Legion in Russia was formally created by order of General N. N. Dukhonin on 26 September 1917. Having absorbed many freed POWs, it expanded to a strength of two divisions (the 1st and 2nd Hussite Rifles), numbering some 45,000 men, by that October and was concentrated in bases across right-bank Ukraine.
Following the October Revolution, the new Soviet government, wary of this potent Allied force in its midst (the legion had been formally designated as part of the French Army on 15 January 1918), agreed on 26 March 1918 to permit it to be evacuated from Russia, via Vladivostok, with the implication that it would then fight on the Western Front. Such a possibility was hardly welcomed by the Bolsheviks’ German and Austro-Hungarian co-signatories of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (3 March 1918), which had stipulated (under its Article VIII) that “the prisoners of war of both parties will be released to return to their homeland.” The Legionnaires, however, certainly did not wish to be repatriated to Austria-Hungary, where they faced execution as traitors, and engaged in rearguard battles against the forces of the Austro-German intervention when the latter entered Ukraine in March–April 1918 (notably at the Battle of Bachmach, 4–13 March 1918). They then moved toward Penza and entrained for the east, but progress on the railways was slow—not least because hundreds of thousands of Austro-Hungarian and German POWs were being shipped westward, having been released from camps in Siberia and Central Asia, thereby monopolizing the railway.
Also during March and April 1918, relations between the legion and the Soviet government became fatally strained. The Legionnaires feared that their progress was being deliberately delayed by the Bolsheviks, as a prelude to their being handed over to the Central Powers; the Bolsheviks (following Allied landings in North Russia and at Vladivostok) were coming to regard the Czechoslovaks as a fifth column of the Entente and viewed with considerable trepidation their passage into regions where Red forces were already engaged in battle with the Orenburg Cossack Host (in the Dutov Uprising) and the Special Manchurian Detachment of Ataman G. M. Semenov. Czechoslovak accounts of this period often add that Soviet war commissar L. D. Trotsky’s decision, in the light of these considerations, to order the partial disarmament of the legion (each train, containing 600 men, was permitted to carry just 168 rifles and one machine gun) was a fulfillment of instructions from Berlin. Soviet sources, on the other hand, made much of the contacts between the Czechoslovak National Council and Allied agents in Moscow (including Robert Bruce Lockhart) and, in the regions traversed by the Czech echelons, around Penza and Samara, between officers of the legion (such as Generals M. K. Diterikhs and Stanislav Čeček) and representatives of the Union for the Regeneration of Russia and other underground anti-Bolshevik organizations.
The actual cause of the final breach between the Soviet government and the legion, however, appears to have been sparked by a spontaneous fight between eastbound Czechs and westbound Magyars in the railway station at Cheliabinsk, in western Siberia, on 14 May 1918, when a Czech was injured by something thrown from a Hungarian train, and in retaliation, the Czechs lynched the man responsible (who, according to some accounts, was not a Hungarian at all but an ethnic Czech called Malik). Red Guards then arrested the Czech executioners, inspiring their brethren to surround the local soviet demanding their release. Matters got out of hand, and soon the legion was in possession of the town. It is more than possible that agents provocateur on both sides took advantage of the “Cheliabinsk incident” to open a final breach between the Legion and Moscow. That breach was formalized on 25 May 1918, when Trotsky ordered: “Every armed Czech found on the [Trans-Siberian] Railway is to be shot on the spot.” The weak local Red forces in western Siberia, however, had no means of enforcing such a decree and were rapidly quashed by the Legionnaires.
Over the following weeks, in what is generally termed the “revolt of the Czechoslovak Legion,” Czechoslovak forces (often in collaboration with anti-Bolshevik organizations of Cossacks and Russian officers who emerged from the underground) captured the entire Trans-Siberian Railway, from the Volga to the Pacific, with Vladivostok invested by units under General Diterikhs on 29 June 1918. (One operation involved a waterborne attack on Baikal station, which has been described as the first and only victory of the Czechoslovak Navy.) In their wake were established the various governments of the Democratic Counter-Revolution in the east: Komuch at Samara, the Provisional Oblast′ Government of the Urals at Ekaterinburg, the Provisional Government of Siberia at Omsk, the Provisional Government of Autonomous Siberia at Vladivostok, etc. Such was the influence of the legion that, in September 1918, the Omsk regime gave serious thought to naming one of the most successful and flamboyant Czech commanders, Radola Gajda, supreme commander of its nascent Siberian Army.
Meanwhile, during June 1918 the legion’s command made the crucial decision to jettison efforts to leave Russia and instead to remain and fight the Red Army (and thereafter the Germans) on a new Eastern Front. (By this point, an inrush of volunteers had facilitated the formation of a 3rd Division of the legion and had swelled the muster roll to nearly 70,000.) The Legionnaires’ leaders viewed the option of remaining in Russia as the best means of proving their worth to the Allies, in the hope that the latter would commit themselves to the establishment of an independent Czechoslovakia, while it suited well the plans of the most pro-interventionist of the Allied leaders. (It was rather odd, then, that in July 1918, President Woodrow Wilson of the United States, who was very skeptical of the efficacy of intervention in Russia, cited the need to assist in extraditing the Czechoslovaks from Siberia as the central plank in his argument for joining the Allied intervention.)
The legion remained in action for the rest of the summer and autumn of 1918, fighting the Bolsheviks alongside the People’s Army on the Volga, where General Jan Syrový was given overall command of the anti-Bolshevik front, and assisting in the capture of Ufa (5 July), Simbirsk (22 July), and Kazan′ (where they captured the Imperial Russian Gold Reserve on 7 August), and alongside the Siberian Army in the northern Urals (entering Ekaterinburg on 25 July 1918). However, the legion’s soldiery were generally socialistic in political leanings and viewed with deep distaste rightward-moving political developments in the autumn of 1918 in Siberia, such as the demise of Komuch, the disbanding of the Siberian Regional Duma, the Novoselsov affair, and the Omsk coup and the Omsk Massacre, while the declaration of Czechoslovak independence on 28 October 1918 and the armistice of 11 November 1918 seemed to obviate their reasons for fighting in Russia at all. Consequently, the Legionnaires began to demand to be withdrawn from the front. (In the words of Winston Churchill, they had “wearied somewhat of their well-doing.”) Thereafter, in January 1919, under the Inter-Allied Railway Agreement, the legion was withdrawn from the Urals and assigned a new task in policing stretches of the Trans-Siberian Railway (chiefly in Eniseisk guberniia). It subsequently played a crucial role in fending off attacks on the line by Red partisans and engaged in the pursuit of the latter deep into the Siberian hinterland. However, its relations with the White regime of Admiral A. V. Kolchak deteriorated rapidly, with open revolts breaking out among some units around Irkutsk by the summer. In September 1919, the Czechoslovak government successfully petitioned the Allies to agree that the legion should be repatriated, but quarrels over who would provide the shipping and who would pay for it meant that most Legionnaires were still in eastern Siberia (west of Lake Baikal) during the winter of 1919–1920, as the White regime collapsed.
Although discontented, the legion remained relatively united and would play an extraordinary role in the fate of Admiral Kolchak. On 7 January 1920, having already (since 10 December 1919) assigned the supreme ruler’s train to the slow line, as anti-Bolshevik forces and a flood of refugees poured east from Omsk, and then (on 27 December 1919) having had Kolchak’s train detained altogether at Nizhneudinsk, the legion’s commander, General Syrový, formally took charge of Kolchak’s echelon, with instructions from the Allies to afford him (and his accompanying gold reserve) safe passage to the Far East. The legion’s 6th Rifle Regiment was assigned to guard the White leader’s train. Meanwhile, however, the coalition-socialist Political Center had seized power at Irkutsk and demanded the surrender of Kolchak and the gold to them, in return for an unhindered passage through Irkutsk for the legion. Fearing that if they did not evacuate immediately they would be trapped—rumors were rife that Ataman Semenov was about to dynamite the tunnels that carried the railway around the southern shore of Lake Baikal—and cognizant of the fact that their nominal supreme commander, the French general Maurice Janin, appeared to be encouraging such a transaction, the legion complied. Thus, on 15 January 1920, the Czechs handed Kolchak, his entourage, and the gold over to the revolutionaries at Innoken′tevskaia Station, near Irkutsk, before establishing a formal truce with the pursuing forces of the 5th Red Army (the Kuitun Agreement) and pushing on for Vladivostok.
By 2 September 1920, when the last member of the legion had been evacuated from Vladivostok, it is reckoned that 67,739 of its complement (swelled by 1,600 Russian women who had married Legionnaires and some 10,000 civilians) had been dispatched from the Pacific port, bound for Trieste, Marseille, Le Havre, Bremen, and other points of entry into Europe. Some 4,112 Legionnaires had died in Russia. Back in the new Czechoslovakia, the returning Legionnaires would form the backbone of the army of the First Republic, while the men’s savings and pensions (supplemented, according to as yet unfounded charges, by gold bullion pilfered from the Russian reserves) helped establish the powerful Legion Bank (Legiobanka) in Prague. The bank’s headquarters building (which is one of the jewels in the crown of Prague’s architecture), situated on Na Poříčí Street, features a glorious art nouveau-cum-folk-Bohemian façade, bearing scenes of the legion’s celebrated “anabasis” through Siberia (although katabasis is the correct term for a march toward the sea), with sculptures of Legionnaires atop its extravagant pillars. Prague’s Legion Bridge (Most Legii) is also named in the legion’s honor, and a large monument to it stands in the capital’s Palacký Square. The highest point in the Carpathians was also for some time renamed Štít Legionárov (Legionnaire Peak), although that did not survive the Communist coup of 1948, and it now retains its title of Gerlachovský Štít. A memorial to the Legionnaires who fell at the Battle of Zborov in July 1917 stands in the Kalinivka cemetery in Ukraine, and another can be seen at Blansko in the Czech Republic. The legion’s exploits were also widely commemorated in Czech fiction, notably in the novels, plays, and poetry of Rudolf Medek and in his screenplay for the feature film Zborov (dir. J. A. Holman and Jirí Slavícek, 1938). The last surviving Legionnaire, Alois Vocasek, died on 9 August 2003 at the age of 107. At the time of his death, Vocasek was attempting to take a case to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that in 1946 he had been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for nine years for collaborating with the Nazis during the Second World War.