The Birth of Tomáš Garrique Masaryk, 170 Years Ago

Father of Czechoslovakia, the very first Czechoslovak president, philosopher and sociologist, humanist and democrat, the 2nd Greatest Czech according to the national vote in 2005 (the winner was the founder of the university – king Charles IV.) – these things and much more we can mention while remembering the legendary professor Tomáš Garrique Masaryk.

TGM was born on March 7th, 1850 in Hodonín, South Moravia, close to the Slovak border as Tomáš Masárik. He was the oldest of three sons born to Slovak father and Czech mother with roots in Germany.

Educated in Vienna and Leipzig, Masaryk spent decades advocating Czech statehood.

Masaryk’s literary activities were extensive, including being the editor-in-chief for various magazines, an editor for a new Czech encyclopaedia, and translating literary works by such greats as Dostojevsky into Czech.

Masaryk’s priority was obtaining independence before any peace conference would take place. He feared the victors would redraw the map of Europe in a way unfavorable to Czechs and Slovaks.

When the Austrians split with Germany in October 1918 and proposed negotiations to decentralize decision-making within the monarchy, Masaryk turned his independence campaign into overdrive. He was adamant that the Austro-Hungarian empire must be abolished.

That is how it came about that, on October 26, 1918, Masaryk declared Czechoslovak independence in Philadelphia. Its text closely modeled on its American precursor.

Independence was similarly declared two days later in Prague. While still in America awaiting a ship home, Masaryk was elected president by the national assembly in Prague.

During his nearly 17 years as president, Masaryk played the stoic grandfather of the new republic.


Interesting facts:

  • He liked to use a penname – Vlastimil (Countrylover)
  • He changed his original last name Masárik to Masaryk at the age of 22
  • He felt like a Czechoslovakian, but the idea of one Czechoslovakian nation never worked – Slovaks did not want to accept it
  • Because of his activities leading to the reformation of the Austro – Hungarian Empire he was accused of high treason and threatened by a death sentence
  • In the honor of US president, W. Wilson supporting the emancipation of Czechs and Slovaks Francis Josef I. railway station was renamed to W. Wilson station
  • During communism, it was forbidden to teach about the era of Masaryk
  • On March 7th when TGM was born every Czech named Tomáš can celebrate a name day



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