Frontier Guard and the Iron Curtain
It is an undoubted and historically proven lesson learnt from experience in many wars and crises that every sovereign state has to guard and protect her frontiers. The protection of state borders is and always will be an integral part of the economic, security and defense system of each free and independent state. Even in ancient times it was a rule that each group of hunters defended their territory. By time, a more precise delimitation of boundaries between dominions became more and more necessary. All present-time borders of our states are backed by agreements concluded at peace conferences and treaties with neighboring countries.
Earlier in the past it was castles and fortresses which secured the protection of state borders, especially at places where trade routes were crossing them. They were built to protect the borders, but also served to collect customs duties and toll, and it was from their watchtowers that the territory was overlooked in order to detect enemies drawing near to their territory as early as possible, so that border crossing points could still be barricaded against hostile attacks.
From historical times we know the system of old Roman fortifications along the Danube.
The settlers of Chodov for instance gained the reputation of legendary protectors of the Western border of Bohemia. They are mentioned in Dalimil's Chronicle of 1040. Other well-known border guards were the "Královci" in the Bohemian Forest, who lived in the territory of the so-called High Forest of Králov. Tradition has it that Prince Břetislav entrusted them in 1041 with this service.
Later, special units were founded to cobat - they were known as the frontier guards, and later on as the Finance Guard.
In the former Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy a so-called Military Cordon was established to protect the border, and then in 1830 the border guard was equipped with modern arms, its members were known as the border patrolmen. Their task now was not just to protect the border against individual intruders, but also to ensure military protection.
In 1842 the imperial and royal Finance Guard was founded, whose job it was to prevent the intrusion of suspects into the country, but also to keep deserters from leaving the state territory and also to participate in the military protection of the frontier.
After the establishment of independent Czechoslovakia, units of the newly established Czechoslovak army were stationed near the borderline. In 1919, a “finance guard” was set up. It was their job to protect the border against smugglers and other "scum".
Soon after fascists had seized power in Germany, first considerations of having border fortifications arose in Czechoslovakia. Already in 1936 the construction of some first parts of such a protection system was taken up, followed in 1937 by systematic fortification of the entire borderline against the threat of Nazi Germany.
It was also in 1936 that from units of the Finance Guard, the gendarmerie, the Police and army units a National Security Guard was set up.
By the Munich Agreement, Czechoslovakia was forced to cede large border areas to Germany. The protection of the new boundaries turned out as an extremely difficult job for gendarmerie and Finance Guard, and they carried it out under extremely adverse conditions. Finally, it was followed by the disintegration of the rest of the Czechoslovak state and its occupation by Germany.
After the liberation of Czechoslovakia in 1945, the refounded Czechoslovak Army occupied the state border and the Finance Guard returned to their original places of activity.
In 1945 a first stand-by regiment for national security was built up, whose role it was to protect the Western frontier. By and by two other regiments were formed, and there was a new force to protect the state border - called the troop for national security (SNB).
So while in a first phase the border was secured the Financial Guard, in the second phase the troops for national security together with stand-by regiments for national security did this job.
On Sep 4th, 1946, the standby regiments were renamed and henceforth were called Border Regiments of the Corps of National Security SNB, and in 1949, the border regiments of the Corps of National Security were merged with the Finance Guard and the Border Guard of the SNB.
On Jan 1st, 1951, the new border guard took at the border to the Federal Republic of Germany was redesigned as a military formation made up of conscripts to a large extent. This border guard was known under the acronym “PS”. On Jan 26th, 1951, the PS was also put in charge of the protection of the border with Austria, and from 11 7 1951 on, the protection of the state border was regulated by the new State Border Protection Act.
On Sep 27th, 1991, the Border Guard was disbanded and the task of protecting the state border was taken over to the frontier police, which fulfilled this duty until its dissolution in consequence of the accession of the Czech Republic to the Schengen Agreement.
In the postwar period, an equipment was used, which the respective border guards had already received upon entry into the military, but also uniforms of the German Army, the police and the gendarmerie were in use.
In the Fifties, the uniforms of the Czechoslovak People's Army were gradually introduced as equipment for the border guard, and later field-camouflage uniforms and dress uniforms made of Tesil (a Czechoslovak Nylon-style polyester material) and jacket shirts. For winter-time, padded jackets and jackets with furs were worn. As headwear, not only the broad "brigadýrka" caps of the Corps of National Security SNB were worn, but also garrison caps, ear muffs, but after the introduction of the PS all of them were replaced by green uniform caps.
At first, all kinds of footwear was used, and soldier wore whatever was available and served the purpose. Later, sheepskin boots, the so-called "půllitráky" (“beer-mugs”) came into use, and finally the guarss wore lace-boots, so-called "Canadians". The rest of the equipment was similar to the what was used by the People's Army.
The post-war border guard troops of the SNB used in the service pistols of various makes and Soviet submachine guns. Later, the Border Guard was equipped with self-loading rifles and machine guns of Czechoslovak provenance.
For the event of an enemy attack on the territory the units were also equipped with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, with anti-tank guns and heavy returnless guns.
After World War II border guards used all kinds of vehicles, among them many were captured from the Wehrmacht but aslo domestically produced one and those donated by the Red Army. Among them there were also armored vehicles, but also bicycles. Motorcycles were particularly useful, and until the early Sixties one could very often meet also mounted patrols.
The increasing mechanization of the armed Czechoslovak forces meant that PS used modern vehicles of Czechoslovak or Soviet origin also for use in the patrol service, where they transported material and had to serve for the purpose of economic and technical troop operation.
The time-tested vehicles of the type Škoda 1101 ATV were in frequent use, and apart from them Praga V3S cars, the Tatra 111 and Tatra 805 (some of them with box bodies), Soviet GAZ 69, UAZ and a whole host of modern TATRA truck types could be found.
At the time when the border guard was under the leadership of the Ministry of National Defense, also the armored transporter type OT-64 was in use.
In 2013, directly at the former customs house at the border crossing Nové Hrady - Pyhrabruck an open-air exhibition on border protection was opened. It belongs to the municipal museum of Gratzen. It was built up with support of the European Union granted within the framework of the European Programme for Regional Development.
The core of the exhibition are objects supplied by the former privately owned open-air museum at Borovany built up by Mr. Radomil Marek and his friends.
The aim of the exhibition is to give an overview on the development of frontier protection from the earliest times to the Republic's accession to the Schengen zone. The majority of the exhibition on border management stems from the period of the so-called Cold War, when the world was split into two contrasting political-economic and military systems.
For information on opening times please call 00420 386 362 195, or consult www.kicnovehrady.cz or http://www.kicnovehrady.cz/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=203%3Askanzen-ochrany-statni-hranice-a-zelezne-opony&catid=2&Itemid=4
(in Czech only).