|Hašek enlisted in the Czechoslovak Army,|
1st regiment, 7th company, June 29 1916.
Czech recruiters were active in the camps and their paper Čechoslovák was widely distributed. Still there was no great rush to get out. Very few Czechs let themselves be persuaded to join the volunteers at the front, but many more took the opportunity to work in factories. As soon as the typhus was out of the way they obviously (and understandably) envisaged life in the camp as preferable to life at the front, and a shell factory was also a better deal. The recruitment approach was often heavy-handed and Czechs who refused to join were subjected to harsh treatment (Wurzer, Brändström).
Recruiter and writer
He was based in Kiev and from there he visited nearby camps, trying to persuade prisoners to join the armed struggle against Austria-Hungary and Germany. The transit camp at Darnica which Hašek knew from his ordeal the year before, was an important recruitment post. Here Slav prisoners were separated from Germans and Hungarians and subjected to targeted propaganda. His friend and later biographer František Langer testifies to Hašek's effectiveness as a recruiter. He remarks that Hašek now for the first time seemed to fight FOR something, whereas he before the war he was always fighting AGAINST something. He had in Langer's words turned into a solid Czech patriot.
A most disagreeable tom-cat
On 17 (30) July the famous "Povídka o obráze císaře Františka Josefa" (The story of the picture of emperor Franz Joseph) published. The story alerted Vienna and led to him being charged with high treason in absentia. In this story a tom-cat soils unsellable pictures of the emperor, a theme that reoccurs (somewhat transformed) in the opening chapter of Švejk, and even in Bruck an der Leitha where colonel Schröder puts his finger in the mess that a cat has left on the map of the battlefield.
Supporting the Romanovs
|Jindříšek - his factory produced|
At the front
|Units from the 1st Czechoslovak Rifle Regiment served|
in these places in 1916. Hašek surely visited.
From September 1916 to February 1917 he split his time between the front and Kiev. From the section of the front that was held by his own regiment, he wrote several Letters from the front (Dopisy z fronty), describing life at the front interspersed with propaganda. He also claimed to be writing the history of the 1. rifle regiment, but this document can not be traced. However, after the war, a history of the regiment of the regiment WAS published, edited by František Langer. Apart from that he wrote a number of other items, some of them criticising the Petrograd opposition to the Kiev-based leadership of the "Union of Czechoslovak associations in Russia".
|Васи́лий Гу́рко, head of Stavka from|
November 1916. Incompetent despite
NOT having his hand up his backside?
But Hašek wouldn't have been Hašek if he had kept totally sober and out of trouble. On at least two instances he insulted Russian officers and it was also reported that he was very indiscreet in his talk and was quoted: "even with one hand up my arse I could conduct this war better than the entire Russian staff". In February 1917 he was punished and imprisoned in Borispol (east of Kyiv by the airport). Here he spent a couple of weeks and put the finishing touches on his short novel "The good soldier Švejk in captivity". By his own admission he didn't suffer any great hardships, but still insisted he was there "in the name of truth".
Hašek had at this time put his eggs in one basket, that of the arch-conservative resident Czechs in Russia. Little did they know what was in store, that the Romanov dynasty that had been in power for more than 300 years was about to be toppled. The revolution of March 1917 turned the situation upside down. It still appears that most Czech soldiers welcomed the changes, although most of their political leaders in Kiev now lost their footing. A chapter was closed, and an a new and equally dramatic was to open ...