Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk sometimes called Thomas Masaryk in English, (March 7, 1850 – September 14, 1937) was an Austro-Hungarian and Czechoslovak statesman, sociologist and philosopher, who as the keenest advocate of Czechoslovak independence during World War I became the first President and founder of Czechoslovakia.
The identity of Masaryk's father is still being disputed by the historians. There are rumours that Masaryk's father could have been Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph I, but the strongest possible evidence is pointing towards Nathan Redlich, german speaking Jew from Hodonín and Masaryk's mother's employer.
As a youth he worked as a blacksmith. He studied in Brno, Vienna (1872-1876 philosophy with Franz Brentano) and Leipzig (with Wilhelm Wundt). In 1882, he was appointed Professor of Philosophy in the Czech part of the University of Prague. The following year he founded Athenaeum, a magazine devoted to Czech culture and science. He challenged the validity of the epic poems Rukopisy královedvorský a zelenohorský, supposedly dating from the early Middle Ages, and providing a false nationalistic basis of Czech chauvinism to which he was continuously opposed. Further enraging Czech sentiment, he fought against the old superstition of Jewish blood libel during the Hilsner Trial of 1899. The topic of his doctoral thesis was the phenomenon of suicide.
Masaryk served in the Reichsrat (Austrian Parliament) from 1891 to 1893 in the Young Czech Party and again from 1907 to 1914 in the Realist Party, but he did not campaign for the independence of Czechs and Slovaks from Austria-Hungary. When the First World War broke out, he had to flee the country, with a Serbian passport, to avoid arrest for treason, going to Geneva, to Italy, and then to England, where he started to agitate for Czechoslovak independence. In 1915 he was one of the first members of staff of the newly formed School of Slavonic and East European Studies, which was initially a department of King's College London, and is now a part of University College London, and where the Student Society and Junior Common Room are named after him. He became Professor of Slav Research at King's College in London lecturing on "The problem of small nations".
During the war, Masaryk's intelligence network of Czech revolutionaries provided important and critical intelligence to the Allies. Masaryk's European network worked with an American counter-espionage network of nearly 80 members headed by E.V. Voska who, as Habsburg subjects, were presumed to be German supporters but were involved in spying on German and Austrian diplomats. Among others, the intelligence from these networks were critical in uncovering the Hindu-German Conspiracy in San Francisco. In 1916, Masaryk went to France to convince the French government of the necessity of disintegrating Austria-Hungary. After the February Revolution in 1917 he proceeded to Russia to help organize Slavic resistance to the Austrians, so-called Czechoslovak Legions. In 1918 he travelled to the United States, where he convinced President Woodrow Wilson of the rightness of his cause. On October 26, 1918, Masaryk, standing on the steps of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, proclaimed Czechoslovakia's independence.
With the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, the Allies recognized Masaryk as head of the Provisional Czechoslovak government, and in 1920 he was elected the first President of Czechoslovakia. He won re-election twice subsequently, and held office until December 14, 1935, when he resigned owing to bad health and Edvard Beneš succeeded him. Masaryk enjoyed almost legendary authority among the Czech and Slovak people.
Masaryk married Charlotte Garrigue, a Protestant American, from whom he took his middle name, who died near Prague in 1923 from an unspecified illness. His son, Jan Masaryk, served as Foreign Minister in the Czechoslovak government-in-exile (1940-1945) and in the governments of 1945 to 1948. Charlotte gave birth to four other children, Herbert, Alice, Anna and Olga.
Masaryk died from natural causes in 1937 at the age of 87, in Lány, Czechoslovakia, now Czech Republic. His funeral is pictured in the art sleeve for the American band Faith No More's final LP, Album of the Year, to portray the end of a golden age.
Masaryk wrote several books, including The Problems of Small Nations in the European Crisis (1915). The writer Karel Čapek wrote a series of articles entitled 'Hovory s TGM'(=Conversations with TGM) which were later collected as a form of autobiography.
About how was T. G. Masaryk recognized witness this sentence: "As long as Masaryk will live, Hitler won't start war."
Avenida Presidente Masaryk ("President Masaryk Avenue"), Mexico City's equivalent of Fifth Avenue in New York City, takes its name from him, as do Masaryktown, Florida and kibbutz Kfar Masaryk in Israel (near Haifa). This kibbutz was founded largely by Czechoslovak immigrants.