Saturday, January 3, 2015

Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk

Czechs feel the same way about Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk as Americans do about George Washington.  He was the founding father and first president of Czechoslovakia.

He was born in in 1850, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Specifically in Hodonín, Moravia to a Czech mother and a Slovak father.  He went to grammar school in Brno and went on to earn his Ph.D. from the University of Vienna.

Masaryk wanted to reform the Austro-Hungarian Empire into a democratic federal state but eventually favored establishing an independent country for Czechs and Slovaks.

During World War I, he went into exile where he gave lectures and lobbied for an independent state.  He organized Czechoslovak Legions in Russia which fought for the Allies.

Masaryk statue in Praha
He obtained support from President Woodrow Wilson and when the Austro-Hungarian Empire fell in 1918, the Allied Powers recognized Masaryk as the head of the Provisional Czechoslovak government.  He was then elected as the first president of an independent Czechoslovakia.  He was reelected three times.  He resigned in 1935 due to old age and poor health and he passed away on 14 September 1937.

Masaryk University
Under his leadership Czechoslovakia was not only a functioning democracy but it was one of the world's 10 most industrialized states.

To this day, Masaryk is regarded as a symbol of democracy.  Almost every Czech town has either a Masaryk street or Masaryk Square dedicated to him.  Brno is home to Masaryk University, which is the second largest university in Czechland, and the country's best oncology centre.

He is on the 5000 Kč banknote.  I've never even seen a 5000 Kč banknote before.

Here's a short video I found out on YouTube.

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