- Masaryk, Tómaš
- (1850–1937)A Czech philosopher and statesman, Tómaš Masaryk was born on March 7, 1850, in Moravia. He was the son of a Slovak carter who lived with his family in a predominately Catholic city of Hodonín in the Hungarian part of the Habsburg Empire. Between 1872 and 1876, Masaryk studied philosophy at the universities of Brno and Vienna and in 1882 became professor of philosophy at the University of Prague. One year later he founded Athenaeum, a journal devoted to Czech science and culture. During the 1890s, Masaryk wrote several books on Czech history and nationality, such as The Meaning of Czech History in 1895, and Jan Hus along with Karel Havlicek in 1896.For Masaryk, the Czech national revival in the nineteenth century was the continuation of the Czech reformation, and he considered Czech humanism as the basis for a modern Czech democracy. But Masaryk’s opinion on the significance of Czech reformation for Czech modernization was criticized by respected Czech scholars like Josef Kaizl (1854–1901), who thought that the Czech question was a national, not a religious problem. Nevertheless, Masaryk stimulated Czech national discourse from a moralist-philosophical point of view. As a member of the Young Czech Party, Masaryk became a member of the Reichsrat, the Austrian parliament, from 1891 to 1893, and then from 1907 to 1914 as delegate of the Realist Party, but rejected a Czech separation from the Habsburg Empire. His opinion changed with the outbreak of World War I when he had to flee Austria to avoid arrest. In exile in Geneva and then in London, he became a strong advocate of Czech independence in union with the Slovaks. In 1917, Masaryk went to Russia to organize Slavic resistance to the Habsburg Empire, one year later he visited U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to convince him of an independent Czechoslovak state. After World War I, Masaryk became the first president of the Czechoslovak Republic.FURTHER READING:Beld, A. van den. Humanity: The Political and Social Philosophy of Thomas G. Masaryk. The Hague: Mouton, 1976;Novák, Josef, ed. On Masaryk: Texts in English and German. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1988;Soubigou, Alain. Thomas Masaryk. Paris: Fayard, 2002.EVA-MARIA STOLBERG
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.