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Historical contacts

The oldest remarks about a “far-away” African Ethiopia (Empire of legendary King John) entered into the Czech conscience through the Holy Bible and also through the map by Cosmas Indikopleust, a monk from Sinai monastery native of Alexandria (around 535 AD). Later also through reports by Italian and Portugese explorers and missionaries.

Further reports on Abyssinia (as Ethiopia used to be called), were introduced to Czech population through the intermediary of pilgrims to the Holy land namely Martin KABÁTNÍK (1428-1503), Jan HASIŠTEJNSKÝ of Lobkovice (1450-1517), Oldřich PREFÁT of Vlkanov (1523-1565) a Kryštof HARANT of Polžice a Bezdružice (1564-1621) with the Ethiopian version of legend on the Queen of Sheba.

In 18th Century a Franciscan missionary Jakub ŘÍMAŘ from Kroměříž (in Moravia) residing at that time in Egypt ventured a trip to Abyssinia. Though he reached the Somali Coast, he did not enter the Ethiopian interior. More successful was only the physician and a Franciscan missionary Václav Remedius PRUTKÝ, who stayed at Imperial Court between 1751-53 and who described the trip in his tract "Descriptio a Ethiopiae". He was the one, who compiled the very first Amharic Dictionary.

Between 1880-83 a Czech explorer Antonín STECKER stayed at Imperial Court of YOHANNIS II. He met here other neguses (monarchs) namely King of Shewa (later Emperor) MINILIK and King of Gojjam Tekle HAYMANOT. His successor, Czech explorer Vilém NĚMEC, described his expedition to Abyssinia (1889-90) in his travelogue printed in 1920.

Mutual official contacts between the Empire of Abyssinia and the Czechoslovak Republic were established shortly after the latter's creation on October 28, 1918. Between 1920-25 a Moravia born Rudolf KLÍMA (originally demobilized Austro-Hungarian sailor) performed very successfully while in different very significant positions at the Imperial Court of Empress ZEWDITA (Director in charge of all construction works in the capital, later as the Imperial trustee at Imperial Coffee plantations in Siddam). In the early 1920's Czechoslovakia already exported to Abyssinia textiles, glassware, furniture, porcelain and sugar, it supplied its first ammunition factory as well. The imports were hides and skins. The first 30 Czechoslovak settlers arrived to Abyssinia in 1924 and they settled down mainly in Addis Ababa and in Dire Dawa. They were soon several hundreds.

Between 1926-39 the interests of the then Czechoslovak Republic in Abyssinia were promoted through the Legation of the French Republic. But already in the early 1930's, in connection with first supplies of Czechoslovak arms and military equipment, but also with investment intentions of the then Czechoslovak industry the first serious thoughts by the Czechoslovak Government on establishment of a Consulate (Consulate General) in Addis Ababa emerged. The trustee of the then Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czechoslovak Republic Mr. Jan KALVODA of Kalvoda Bros. Co., acting between 1931-37 within the French Legation (who already at that time processed the Consular and Passport agenda and mediated in trade relations) coped with honour and tact as mediator between the Legation and the Czechoslovak settler community. In 1931 the editor of the Czech weekly "Venkov" Viktor MUŽÍK visited Abyssinia.

The first ever Trade Treaty between the Czechoslovak Republic and the Abyssinia Empire was signed in Paris on December 19, 1934. It anticipated the establishment of mutual Diplomatic an Consular Relations and that of the effective Diplomatic Missions on the level of Embassies (the Treaty was however ratified by the Abyssinian side only, the ratification on the Czechoslovak side - following the Italian annexation of Abyssinia - unfortunately never came into being).

The then Foreign Minister and later the President of the Czechoslovak Republic Dr. Edvard BENEŠ (as Chairman of the League of Nations in 1935) supported significantly, yet well before the Italian aggression, the international policy line of the Emperor HAILE Selassie I. The Czechoslovak Republic under the personal lead of Dr. BENEŠ very actively engaged itself on the international scene in unfortunately unsuccessful struggle for preserving the Abyssinia's independence.

After the conflict between Abyssinia and Italy finally erupted, the Czech born Eng. Adolf PARLESÁK (author of a book "Abyssinian Odyssey"), performed together with some Czech friends in the imperial service as a military advisor to King (Ras) KASSA. They actively took part in combat in Northern Abyssinia (conflict was also observed by the Czechoslovak war correspondents). After the fall of Addis Ababa in May 1936 he left along with the Emperor to the exile in Jerusalem and after the World War II. returned to Czechoslovakia.

The Czechoslovak explorers Dr. Jiří BAUM (1900-44) and František Vladimír FOJT (1900-79) travelled around Abyssinia in their Tatra 12 truck in 1937.

His Imperial Highness HAILE Selassie I. visited presumably the Czechoslovak Republic privately when already in exile - most probably yet before the Munich agreement in 1937 or 1938.

By granting the agreement to the Czechoslovak Envoy Jaroslav ŠEJNOHA based in Cairo on February 11, 1944 the Diplomatic Relations between the Government of the Czechoslovak Republic in exile (London) and the Empire of Abyssinia have been established. The Czechoslovak Envoy handed over his Credentials to Imperial Highness HAILE Selassie I. in Addis Ababa on June 15, 1944.

The Czechoslovak Republic started to build up the first industrial ventures in Ethiopia already shortly after the war, in 1945. On call appeal for foreign professionals by the Emperor a Czech born Josef TUSTÍRA (demobilized US ARMY soldier) arrives to Ethiopia to stay here, as very successful entrepreneur, for the rest of his life.

The Czechoslovak explorers Eng. Jiří HANZELKA and Eng. Miroslav ZIKMUND crossed Ethiopia from Eritrean border in the North to Somalia in South-East in then the world's most modern, aerodynamically shaped, air cooled silver metallic Tatra 87 passenger car. They advertised the products of Czechoslovak industry. During their stay on Bishioftu airfield they met with the then Air force cadet and devoted promoter of everything new (aviation in particular) former president of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Ato GIRMA Woldegiorgis. Between 1947-50 yet another ammunition factory has been built up under the supervision of Czechoslovak experts in the country - Ethiopia served also as a cover destination for the then Czechoslovak arms deliveries to Israel.

As a consequence of the communist putsch in February 1948, Czechoslovak pilot Colonel Bohuslav TOBYŠKA, together with his friend Colonel Vítězslav J. ROSÍK, became an advisor to the Emperor HAILE Selassie I. for development and organization of the new-born Ethiopian aviation.

After February 1948, consequently to the adverse view by the Emperor onto the internal political developments in Czechoslovakia, the mutual relations between the two Countries cooled down significantly. But already in 1953, Ethiopia was once again categorized amongst the top non European Czechoslovak Foreign policy priorities. The Legation of the than Czechoslovak Republic has been established in Addis Ababa on January 26, 1955, further promoted to the full Embassy later on July 17, 1959.

Following the continued normalization in mutual relations, the first ever official State visit by His Imperial Highness HAILE Selassie I. in the Czechoslovak Republic took place in 1958. The Emperor on this occasion visited Karlovy Vary, the thermal spa town in Western Bohemia.

The mutual relations started to develop rather speedily by the end of 1950's, mainly in the economic cooperation. Czechoslovakia supplied full hospital equipment including professional medical staff to Harer in 1958. Consequently following year an oil extraction plant was built up in Čaffa and within next two years a tyre production factory "ADDIS TYRE" has been built in Addis Ababa (today operated by Slovak private company MATADOR).

The Treaty on Friendship and Co-operation and the Agreement on Cultural, Scientific and Technical Co-operation were signed on December 5, 1959. On their base the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic started to send to Ethiopia, within the so called " intervened technical assistance scheme" hundreds, if not thousands of experts to Ethiopian agriculture, forestry, food (mainly butchers and brewers) and tanning and leather industries, to the health sector (physicians and medical personnel were in hospitals all around the country), to the education sector (lecturers at University of Addis Ababa), in geological survey, energy sector etc. Hundreds of Ethiopian students have been admitted to study in the CSSR both on government, and party scholarships.

The reciprocal State visit by the President Antonín NOVOTNÝ to Ethiopia took place in 1960. On that occasion further bilateral agreements were signed.

Student expedition "Lambaréné" crosses through Ethiopia in 1968 advertising the products of the Czechoslovak industry.

The Co-operation in defence sector continues with Ethiopia from 1970 -G yet another new ammunition factory (extension) has been built in Addis Ababa, continuing deliveries of light arms and weapons as well as the first delivery of 10 pcs of Czechoslovak produced L-39 Albatros subsonic jet trainer aircraft take place.

Following the raise to power of a Marxist military regime (DERG) in 1974 and its subsequent swing towards the Soviet bloc the spectrum of mutual relations between the two Countries broadened (in positive, as well as negative sense) - CSSR now granted to the Socialist Ethiopia its assistance in the form of soft government loans and yet more intensive sending of experts, admissions of students etc.

The deliveries of investment projects also intensified starting from 1977 - so the ETHIOPIAN TANNERY, metal pressing factory ADDIS METAL PRESSING ENTERPRISE, footwear factory ETHIOPIAN RUBBER & CANVAS SHOE FACTORY, breweries HARAR and BEDELE took place as well as subdelivery for textile factory in KOMBOLCHA, supply of grain mills to AWASSA and KOKEBU, textile factory to ARBA MINCH and of particular importance, the supply of equipment to hydro power plant MALKA WAKANA (Francis turbines and generators) on Wabi Shebelle river. The Czechoslovak Government soft loan amounting to USD 50 mil . (for 15 years on 2,5% p.a.) has been granted to Ethiopia as well.

The State visit by the Ethiopian Head of State MENGISTU Haile Mariam to the CSSR took place in January 1978 (the Agreement on Economic Co-operation as well as the Loan Agreement were signed). Reciprocal State visit by President Dr. Gustáv HUSÁK to Ethiopia took place in September 1981. On this occasion the Consular Agreement has been signed.

Consequently to the than ongoing expansion in mutual relations the Embassy of the Republic of Ethiopia was established in 1984 at Prague. The second State visit by the Ethiopian Head of State MENGISTU Haile Mariam to Prague took place in 1987. On that occasion yet another Agreement on Co-operation in the field of Health and Medical Science has been signed.

As a result of ongoing political as well as socio-economic changes in the Central and Eastern Europe after 1989 and nearly simultaneous similar changes under way in Ethiopia the intensity of mutual relations slightly decreased. Regular contact between the two Foreign Ministries was, however preserved - a visit of the then Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the CSFR RNDr. Martin PALOUŠ took place in 1991, followed by another international policy consultations during the visit of the then Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the CSFR Vojtěch WAGNER in April 1992.

The then Federal Government of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic (CSFR) adopted the decision to close the Embassy in Addis Ababa on grounds of financial constraint in October 1992 (that is shortly before the split of the CSFR). The practically immediate response was the closure of the Embassy of Ethiopia in Prague by the Government of Ethiopia in early 1993. For completeness' sake it is necessary to mention here that the new Government of the Czech Republic revoked the decision of the Government of CSFR and the closure of the Embassy in Addis Abebě cancelled.

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) recognized the new Czech Republic as on January 1, 1993 and established diplomatic relations accordingly.