Remembering President Masaryk, Progressive Politician and First President of Czechoslovakia

On September 14, 2021, as tradition, ceremonies were held throughout the Czech Republic to commemorate Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, founder and first president of Czechoslovakia, on the anniversary of his death on September 14th, 1937. Photo Credit KB / BD.

Czech Rep, Sep (20), Brno (BD) – Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk was a Czech philosopher, sociologist and statesman, and one of the leading intellectuals in Europe during his lifetime, as well as the founding president of newly-independent Czechoslovakia. He was an early advocate for democratic ideals and helped establish Masaryk University in Brno, which is named in his honor.

Many towns and villages in the Czech Republic marked the 84th anniversary of Masaryk’s death last week, with different kinds of ceremonies. 

As tradition, members of the Association of Czechoslovak Legionnaires (ČSOL), along with politicians, public figures, and representatives of various other associations, honoured the memory of the president at the monument to TG Masaryk in Žižkovo náměstí in Olomouc.

The Birth of a Nation

Masaryk came from humble origins, and managed to overcome poverty to excel at school, including some time at grammar school in Brno. After his studies, his academic and political career took off.

After the outbreak of World War One, the Czech leader took refuge first in Italy, then in London, where he began raising political and moral support among the Allies for the creation of an independent and democratic Czechoslovak state including Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia.

He then went to the United States, meeting President Woodrow Wilson and Secretary of State Robert Lansing to discuss the independence of Czechoslovakia. 

Masaryk received great support from Wilson, who subsequently included the liberation of Czechoslovakia in his “Fourteen Points” for the post-World War I peace settlement.

At the end of the war in November 1918, President Masaryk was elected as the first president of Czechoslovakia, and was subsequently re-elected in 1920, 1927 and 1934.

During his stay in the USA in 1918, Masaryk met Edward L. Bernays, the first spin doctor in the history of political communications and one of the most charismatic personalities of that time. Their meeting was crucial for the proclamation of the birth of the nation.

In his work “Propaganda”, Bernays reports how President Masaryk, following their conversation, opted to proclaim the independence of Czechoslovakia on a Monday (October 18th, 1918) rather than a Sunday, as the newspapers would cover the news better and the public would be more interested and receptive

As a philosopher and democrat, Masaryk was among the first to express his strong concerns about the Nazis coming to power in Germany in 1933, a few years before his death.

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