Saturday, October 4, 2014

Private guided tours in Prague

Tomas Garrigue Masaryk ( 1850 1937)

Czech philosopher, teacher, politician and journalist, founder of a modern Czechoslovak state, Czechoslovak president

Early life and education

T.G. Masaryk was born in Hodonin as the eldest son of Josef Masaryk's family living in poor circumstances. He enjoyed a close relationship with his mother Terezie. His parents sent him to a junior secondary school only after the local dean, who drew attention to the boy's exceptional aptitude and talent, appealed to the family. It was therefore decided that after graduating from the school in Hustopece the young man should embark on a career as a teacher. There was, however, a two-year interval when he was briefly apprenticed in Vienna as a mechanic, from which he absconded. He then served as an apprentice in the smithy of a manor house in Cejc. Finally he managed to attend a German grammar school in Brno.
As of November 1869 Masaryk attended the Academic Grammar School. He devoted all his time to intensive learning, in particular languages and philosophy. He passed his graduation exams in 1872 and enrolled at the Philosophical Faculty in Vienna as a student of Philology. A year later his patron died. However, Masaryk immediately found another and even more advantageous post in the service of the General Counsellor of the Anglo-Austrian Bank, R. Schlesinger. In 1876 he graduated from University and went on tour (Italy, Germany). He spent one year in Germany at the Leipzig University. This not only provided Masaryk with an opportunity to broaden his education, but above all it was here in June 1877 that he first met his future lifelong partner Charlotte Garrigue, the daughter of a wealthy American businessman from New York. In August before they each left for their respective homes they got engaged.

Charlotte Garrigue

He set out for America where the engaged couple married on March 15, 1878. The newly weds returned to Vienna and Masaryk submitted his advanced doctoral thesis dealing with the problem of suicide. At the time it was published (1881) it met with considerable response. In May 1879 their eldest daughter Alice was born, a year later their son Herbert and in 1886 their son Jan.

Jan Masaryk

University teacher
He arrived in Prague with his family in 1882 just at a time when the University was being divided into a Czech and German one.
His personality differed absolutely from prevailing conventions in his opinions and attitude toward his students. He took the conservative environment by surprise with his lectures concerned with themes which hitherto had been taboo (social problems, prostitution etc.). Similarly, this applied to his wife, a fully emancipated American woman. In spite of these differences and some conflicts Czech society accepted and respected him from the very start.
He proved to be particularly creative and made a considerable contribution in the nineties. He published a number of works - "Czech Question" (1895), "Our Current Crisis" (1895), "John Huss" and "Karel Havlicek" (1895, 1896), "Modern Man and Religion" (1896), "Social Question"(1896).
In 1897 he was appointed Professor at Charles University.
At the end of 1914 Masaryk left for Italy and having received warnings from his friends he did not return to his homeland. He spent some time in Switzerland (1915) and later that year moved to France where he was joined by E. Benes. During the entire war he took upon himself the biggest burden and responsibility for the future of the entire Czech and Slovak nation in the course of negotiations in England (1916), Russia (1917 - April 1918) and then in America until he signed the Pittsburgh Agreement and Washington Declaration. And while the European allies were undecided for a long time with regard to the breaking up the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Masaryk succeeded in gaining the support of American President Woodrow Wilson for the establishment of a new state. Following the war years dedicated to organizing, agitating and diplomacy together with his closest associates M.R. Stefanik and E. Benes, he became chairman of an interim Czechoslovak government on October 14, 1918, and 4 days later he announced in the Washington Declaration an independent Czechoslovak nation and on November 14 the Revolutionary National Assembly elected him in absentia President of the Republic. What a change from the situation before the War when Masaryk's party was considered to be almost a sect!

On December 21, 1918 Masaryk made a triumphant return to Prague and on the following day he delivered his first declaration to the National Assembly at the Castle
All and sundry considered this to be a renewal of the Czech state of yore, in actual fact, though, a completely new state came into being, also including Slovakia and CarpathianRuthenia, and the Czech people did not only speak Czech, but also Slovak, Ruthenian, Polish, Hungarian and above all German. Identifying the state with the nation was far too indebted to the ideology of the 19th century and moreover not even all Slovaks advocated the idea of a state of a Czechoslovak nation. Moreover Masaryk's opinion that the World War was waged between democracy and theocracy and that the outcome was "a victory for idealists, a victory of a spirit over matter, rights over force, truth over cunningness", was actually more wishful thinking than a fact, just as the opinion that a democratic victory spawns humanity and that free states will spawn an "all-embracing friendly whole", that this is the end of an era of "absolutistic rule in Europe by one power or an association of great powers". He expressed his opinions regarding a post-war system in Europe in"New Europe" (1920) in which the predominant idea was "Jesus - not Caesar".
Following his first two-year term in office he was re-elected President in 1920, 1927 and 1934 and a law was adopted to mark his 80th birthday saying "T. G. Masaryk merited for the State."
Tomas Masaryk and his wife Charlotte Garrigue

To a major degree … we are grateful to the West for our political independence" he wrote and he was also rightfully convinced that the new state belongs to the west due to its historic development. He therefore supported in his foreign and defence policy the Benes orientation towards France and back in his first message he declared that "our Republic will always remain loyal to our allies". However, after the World War "a friendly all-embracing entity" did not come into being. Communist, fascist and Nazi dictatorships, which were to become fateful to the world in general and to the republic, ruled significant states, since for many reasons the allies did not reciprocate fidelity. After Hitler came to power Masaryk in 1934 again accepted the presidential candidacy - the Communists at the time put forward K. Gottwald as their candidate - but the following year in December Masaryk abdicated. As a result of old age, ill health and also the inability of a democrat and humanist to fully understand something as repulsive as a totalitarian dictatorship, he did not consider the possibility of heading a state at a time of a dangerous threat.

Edvard Benes

Masaryk died at the end of the summer of 1937 at the Castle in Lany.
Masaryk adhered to the principle that "democracy is the opposite of aristocratism", and he was therefore a convinced supporter of a republic. Following thousands of years of monarchy it was the good fortune of the new republic that it was he who became president. His extensive erudition in philosophy, history and sociology, his knowledge of foreign countries and languages, his significant activities as a scholar and teacher, his long years of experience as a politician in party matters and as a member of parliament, his distaste for "a vast majority of people engaged in politics who are unable to rise above themselves, are incapable of extracting themselves from the grip of uncritical egocentrism", lofty personal morality, a temperate life and last but not least also dignified, indeed a sublime appearance and performance - in all this he established a tradition to be pursued by Czech statesmen, which for his successors has been and has remained for long an unachievable model.

Masaryk´s favorite sport

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  1. Please, there is a mistake in text of one of photos. TGM is walking with his daugter Alice, this is not Charlotte Garrigue Masaryk.

  2. Please, there is a mistake in text of one of photos. TGM is walking with his daugter Alice, this is not Charlotte Garrigue Masaryk.