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Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk

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Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk

Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk
1st President of Czechoslovakia
In office
14 November 1918 – 14 December 1935
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Edvard Beneš
Personal details
Born (1850-03-07)7 March 1850
Hodonín, Austrian Empire
(now Czech Republic)
Died 14 September 1937(1937-09-14) (aged 87)
Lány, Czechoslovakia
(now Czech Republic)
Spouse(s) Charlotte Garrigue
Children Alice (1879-1966)
Herbert (1880-1915)
Jan (1886-1948)
Olga (1891-1978)
Profession Philosopher
Religion Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren

Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (Czech: ), sometimes called Thomas Masaryk in English (7 March 1850 – 14 September 1937), was a Czechoslovak politician, sociologist and philosopher, who as an eager advocate of Czechoslovak independence during World War I became the founder and first President of Czechoslovakia.[1] He originally wished to reform the Austro-Hungarian monarchy into a democratic federal state, but during the First World War he began to favour the abolition of the monarchy and, with the help of the Allied Powers, eventually succeeded.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Early career 2
    • World War One and the creation of the Czech Legion 2.1
  • Leader of Czechoslovakia; later years 3
  • Personal life and philosophy 4
  • Legacy and recognition 5
  • Works 6
  • Family tree 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11

Early life and education

Masaryk was born to a poor working-class family in the predominantly Catholic city of Hodonín, Moravia (in the region of Moravian Slovakia, today in the Czech Republic).[2] He grew up in the village of Čejkovice, in South Moravia, later moving to Brno to study.[3]

His father Jozef Masaryk (Masárik), an illiterate carter (later steward), was a Slovak from the Hungarian part of Austria-Hungary (after 1918 became the eastern province of Slovakia in Czechoslovakia), his mother Teresie Masaryková (née Kropáčková) was a Moravian of Slavic origin but with German education. They married on 15 August 1849.

"After grammar school in Brno and Vienna," from 1872-1876 Masaryk attended the University of Vienna, where he was a student of Franz Brentano.[4] He received his Ph.D. at the University of Vienna in 1876, and completed his habilitation thesis at the same university in 1879. The thesis was entitled, Der Selbstmord als sociale Massenerscheinung der modernen Civilisation ("Suicide as a Social Mass Phenomenon of Modern Civilization").[4] Between 1876 and 1879, he studied in Leipzig (with Wilhelm Wundt).

Meanwhile, on the 15th March 1878, he married Charlotte Garrigue in Brooklyn.

In 1882, he was appointed Professor of Philosophy in the Czech part of Charles University of Prague. The following year he founded Athenaeum, a magazine devoted to Czech culture and science. Athenaeum issued in October 15, 1883 (editor was Jan Otto).

He challenged the validity of the epic poems Rukopisy královedvorský a zelenohorský, supposedly dating from the early Middle Ages, and providing a false nationalistic basis of Czech chauvinism to which he was continuously opposed. Further enraging Czech sentiment, he fought against the old superstition of Jewish blood libel during the Hilsner Trial of 1899.

Early career

Masaryk served in the Reichsrat (Austrian Parliament) from 1891 to 1893 in the Young Czech Party and again from 1907 to 1914 in the Realist Party (which he founded in 1900), but he did not campaign for the independence of Czechs and Slovaks from Austria-Hungary. In 1909 he helped Hinko Hinković in Vienna in the defense during the fabricated trial against members of the Croato-Serb Coalition (such as Frano Supilo and Svetozar Pribićević), and others, who were sentenced to more than 150 years and a number of death penalties.

When the First World War broke out in 1914, Masaryk concluded that the best course was to seek an independent country for Czechs and Slovaks, and that this could only be done from outside Austria-Hungary. He went into exile with his daughter Olga in December 1914, first to Rome, then to Czechoslovak Legions as an effective fighting force on the side of the Allies in World War I. During the war he held a Serbian passport. [5]

In 1915 he was one of the first members of staff of the newly formed School of Slavonic and East European Studies, which is now part of University College London, and where the Student Society and Senior Common Room are named after him. He became Professor of Slavic Research at King's College in London lecturing on "The problem of small nations".

World War One and the creation of the Czech Legion

During the war, Masaryk's intelligence network of Czech revolutionaries provided important and critical intelligence to the Allies. Masaryk's European network worked with an American counter-espionage network of nearly 80 members headed by Czechoslovak Legion.

On 5 August 1914 the Russian High Command had authorized the formation of a battalion recruited from Czechs and Slovaks in Russia. This unit went to the front in October 1914 where it was attached to the Russian Third Army.

From its start, Masaryk desired to grow the Družina from a battalion into a formidable military formation. To achieve this goal, however, he recognized that they would need to recruit from Czech and Slovak prisoners of war (POWs) in Russian camps. In late 1914, Russian military authorities permitted the Družina to enlist Czech and Slovak POWs from the Austro-Hungarian Army, but this order was rescinded only after a few weeks due to opposition in other areas of the Russian government. Despite continuous efforts to persuade the Russian authorities to change their mind, the Czechs and Slovaks were officially barred from recruiting POWs until the summer of 1917.

Under these conditions the Czechoslovak armed unit in Russia grew very slowly from 1914–1917. In early 1916 the Družina was reorganized as the 1st Czecho-Slovak Rifle Regiment. Following the Czechoslovak soldiers’ stellar performance in July 1917 at the Battle of Zborov,when the Czecho-Slovak troops overran Austrian trenches, the Russian Provisional Government finally granted Masaryk and the Czechoslovak National Council permission recruit and mobilize Czech and Slovak volunteers from the POW camps. Later that summer, a fourth regiment was added to the brigade, which was renamed the First Division of the Czechoslovak Corps in Russia (Československý sbor na Rusi), also known as the Czechoslovak Legion (Československá legie) in Russia. A second division consisting of four regiments was added to the legion in October 1917, raising its strength to about 40,000 troops by 1918.

In 1918 he traveled to the United States (starting from Moscow 7 March to Vladivostok, Fusan and Tokyo, and then to Vancouver by steam liner, and from Canada to Chicago ), where he convinced President Woodrow Wilson of the righteousness of his cause. Speaking on 26 October 1918 from the steps of Independence Hall in Philadelphia as head of the Mid-European Union, Masaryk called for the independence of the Czechoslovaks and other oppressed peoples of Central Europe. On May 5, 1918 more than 150,000 Chicagoans filled the streets to give a triumphant welcome to the future President of Czechoslovakia. Chicago was then the center of Czechoslovak immigration to the United States and the city gave Masaryk an enthusiastic reception, echoing Masaryk's earlier visits to the city and his visiting professorship at the University of Chicago in 1902. Prior to 1918 T. G. Masaryk had lectured at the University of Chicago in 1902 and 1907. He also had strong personal links with the U.S. since 1878 through his marriage with an American citizen, Charlotte Garrigue, and friendship with Charles R. Crane. Thanks to Crane, a Chicago industrialist, Masaryk was invited to the University of Chicago and introduced into the highest political circles, including to Woodrow Wilson.

Leader of Czechoslovakia; later years

Masaryk in 1918

With the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, the Allies recognized Masaryk as head of the Provisional Czechoslovak government (on October 14th), and on November 14, 1918, he was elected President of the Czechoslovak Republic by the National Assembly in Prague (Masaryk was in New York at this time). He came back to Prague Castle on December 21, 1918.

Masaryk was re-elected as president three times: in May 1920, 1927, and 1934. A provision in the 1920 constitution exempted him from the two-term limit. He visited England, Egypt and the Mandate for Palestine (and other countries as well) in 1923 and 1927. After the rise of Hitler, he was one of the first political figures in Europe to voice concern. He resigned from office on December 14, 1935 on the grounds of old age and poor health, and Edvard Beneš succeeded him.

On paper, Masaryk's powers as president were limited; the framers of the constitution intended for the Prime Minister and Cabinet to hold the real power. He did, however, provide a considerable measure of stability in the face of frequent changes of government (there were ten cabinets headed by nine Prime Ministers during his tenure). Due to this stability as well as his great prestige inside and outside the country, Masaryk enjoyed almost legendary authority among the Czechoslovak people. He used this authority to create an extensive informal political network called Hrad (the Castle). Under his watch, Czechoslovakia became the strongest democracy in central Europe.

Masaryk in 1932

Masaryk died less than two years after leaving office ("hoar Tuesday", September 14), at the age of 87, in Lány, Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic. Dying when he did, he was spared witnessing the Munich Agreement and the Nazi occupation of his country. He was known as "The Great Old Man of Europe". Commemorations of Masaryk, state institutions, and democratic societies have taken place annually in Lány cemetery on March 7 and September 14, since 1989.

Masaryk wrote several books, including The Czech Question(1895), The Problems of Small Nations in the European Crisis (1915), The New Europe (1917) and The World Revolution (1925), in Czech, published in English as The Making of a State (1927), and the two following Volumes). The writer Karel Čapek wrote a series of articles entitled 'Hovory s T.G.M.' (Conversations with T.G.M.) which were later collected as a form of autobiography.

Personal life and philosophy

Masaryk's life motto was "Do not fear and do not steal" (Czech: Nebát se a nekrást). He was a philosopher and an outspoken rationalist and humanist, he emphasised practical ethics, reflecting the influence of Anglo-Saxon philosophers, French philosophy, and especially the work of 18th Century German philosopher, Johann Gottfried Herder, who is considered the founder of nationalism. He was critical of German idealistic philosophy and Marxism.

Masaryk married Charlotte Garrigue in 1878, and took her family name as his middle name. They met in Leipzig, Germany and were engaged in 1877. Mrs. Masaryk was born in Brooklyn in a Protestant family with French Huguenots among their ancestors. She came to learn Czech perfectly and published studies on Bedřich Smetana in a Czech magazine. Hardships experienced during the war took their toll on her and she died in 1923, from an unspecified illness. Their son, Jan Masaryk, served as Foreign Minister in the Czechoslovak government-in-exile (1940–1945) and in the governments of 1945 to 1948. Charlotte gave birth to four other children, Herbert, Alice, Eleanor (Anna, or Hana), and Olga.

Although born Catholic, Masaryk eventually became a non-practising Protestant, influenced in part by the declaration of Papal Infallibility in 1870 and his wife, Charlotte, who was raised Unitarian.

Legacy and recognition

Masaryk monument in Prague

As the principal George Washington is regarded in the United States. Even to this day, Czechs and Slovaks alike regard him as a symbol of democracy.

The Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk is a state decoration established in 1990 that is awarded to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to humanity, democracy and human rights.

Masaryk University in Brno, founded in 1919 as the second university of Czechoslovakia, is named after him.

Numerous statues, busts and plaques commemorate Masaryk. Most of these are located in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, although some exist in other countries; notably the Masaryk Statue on Embassy Row in Washington, D.C., as well as in Chicago on the Midway, and in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park rose garden. A plaque with a portrait of Masaryk is set on a wall of Rachiv, Ukraine, on the site of a hotel where he reportedly resided for a time (1917 to 1918). There is also a bust of Masaryk, erected in 2002, at Druzhba Narodiv Square (Friendship of Nations Square) in Uzhhorod, in the far-western corner of Ukraine.

Avenida Presidente Masaryk (President Masaryk Avenue), a main avenue in Mexico City, takes its name from him, as does Masaryktown, Florida.[10] So too does the Kfar Masryk kibbutz near Haifa, Israel, founded largely by Czechoslovak immigrants. Also Tel Aviv has a Masaryk Square - Masaryk had visited Tel Aviv in 1927. There is a Street in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, named Masarykova ulica, as well in many other Croatian towns such as Dubrovnik, Daruvar, Varaždin and Split. Masarikova ulica in Belgrade, Serbia, although one of the smallest in the city, has the address of the tallest building in Belgrade, the Beograđanka palace. One of the streets in the centre of Novi Sad, Serbia is named Masarikova ulica. One of the biggest streets in the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, is also named after Masaryk. There is "Rue Thomas Masaryk" in Geneva as well, as well as in downtown Bucharest, Romania.

A United Nations Expeditionary Force starship in Joe Haldeman's 1974 science fiction novel The Forever War is named Masaryk.

A photograph of Masaryk leaning out of a train window, waving to and shaking hands with supporters, is the front cover for Alternative Metal band, Faith No More's 1997 album, "Album Of The Year". The liner notes for the album jacket depicts the funeral of an old man, with the words "pravda vítězí" (truth prevails) adorning the coffin. The statement is the motto of the Czech Republic and is seen as a symbol of democracy.


  • (1885) Základové konkretné logiky [Foundations of concrete logic]. Prague. (German translation: Versuch einer concreten Logik, Vienna, 1887)
  • (1898) Otázka sociální [The social question]. Prague. (German translation: Die philosophischen und sociologischen Grundlagen des Marxismus, Vienna, 1899)
  • (1913) Russland und Europa [Russia and Europe]. Jena, Germany. (English translation: The Spirit of Russia, tr. Eden and Cedar Paul, London, 1919)
  • (1925) Světová revoluce [World revolution]. Prague. (English translations: The Making of a State, tr. H. W. Steed, London, 1927; Making of a State, tr. Howard Fertig, 1970.)

Family tree

Tomáš Masaryk
Charlotte Garrigue


  1. ^
  2. ^ Then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now in the Czech Republic.
  3. ^ Čapek, Karel. 1995 [1935-1938]. Talks with T.G. Masaryk, tr. Michael Henry Heim. North Haven, CT: Catbird Press, p. 77.
  4. ^ a b Zumr, Joseph. 1998. "Masaryk, Tomáš Garrigue (1850-1937)". Pp. 165-166 in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward Craig. London: Routledge.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Popplewell 1995, p. 237
  7. ^ a b Masaryk 1970, p. 50,221,242
  8. ^ Voska & Irwin 1940, p. 98,108,120,122,123
  9. ^ Bose 1971, p. 233,233
  10. ^


  • Thomas G. Masaryk Papers [1] (Thomas G. Masaryk Papers, 1918-1919, SC.1983.01, Special Collections Department, University of Pittsburgh)

Further reading

  • Čapek, Karel. (1931–35). Hovory s T. G. Masarykem [Conversations with T. G. Masaryk]. Prague. (English translations: President Masaryk Tells His Story, tr. M. and R. Weatherall, London, 1934; and Masaryk on Thought and Life, London, 1938)
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External links

  • Who's Who: Tomas Masaryk
  • Works by or about Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
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