Tomas Garrigue Masaryk
(7/3/1850 - 14/9/1937)

150 years ago, on March 7, 1850, the first Czechoslovak president, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, was born in Hodonin. In the following passage we'll try to answer the question, what was the founder of modern Czechoslovakia like?

Tomas Garrigue Masaryk didn't come from a family of means. After finishing his studies there, he chose to pursue an academic career at the University of Vienna, from 1878 to 1882, and then as a professor of philosophy in Prague.

He gained wide recognition in Czech society in a dispute over the authenticity of manuscripts meant to be old Czech chronicles which he exposed in 1886 as fakes. Another highly public case was his series of articles written concerning Leopold Hilsner, a Jew arrested for the murder of a young girl on the basis of anti-Semitic superstition in 1899, who Masaryk defended as the victim of racist and religious myths.

In his scientific work he devoted himself primarily to the areas of philosophy, sociology, pedagology and religious studies.

In the international scientific world, he was well-known as an expert in Slavic matters. He travelled often to Russia in his studies, and wrote a monumental work, The Spirit of Russia (1913). He also entered the European public eye through his involvement in exposing and criticising the machinations of Austro-Hungarian diplomacy against the Serbs and Croats in the years leading up to WWI.

Masaryk was involved in politics from 1890, as a deputy in the Imperial Council from 1891 to 1893 and from 1907 to 1914, and founded his own party in 1900. After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, with the worldly outlook he'd acquired in his travels, he considered the possibilities of the warring blocks and decided to work for the Czech nation in exile. He undertok extensive political and diplomatic activity, organized resistence institutions, press, even an army - the Czechoslovak legion.

In his promotion of an independent state for the Czechs and Slovaks, he visited France, Italy, Great Britain, Russia, and the United States and won over the governments and representatives of the Allied powers to his idea. He summarized his opinions in his work The New Europe (1918): the Czech question and its solution are only possible within the setting of the "new Europe", unifying Europe with democracy, freedom and peace between nations. In October 1918 he became the representative of the recognized Czechoslovak government to the Allied nations.

In the new Czechoslovakia he was elected president four times: in November 1918, in 1920, 1927 and 1935. He published his memoirs in 1925 - The Making of a State.

More information about T.G. Masaryk:
T.G. Masaryk's biography

More information

The life and career of the T. G. Masaryk by Nick Carey

Masaryk's legacy debated at three-day conference by Jana Kotalik

Czech-born Albright pays tribute to TGM by Rob Cameron

Photo Gallery of T. G. Masaryk