Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk

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Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (Czech pronunciation: [ˈtomaːʃ ˈɡarɪk ˈmasarɪk]), sometimes called Thomas Masaryk in English, (7 March 1850 – 14 September 1937) was an Austro-Hungarian and Czechoslovak politician, sociologist and philosopher, who as an eager advocate of Czechoslovak independence during World War I became the founder and first President of Czechoslovakia. He originally wished to reform the Habsburg monarchy into a democratic federal state, but during the First World War he began to favour the abolition of the monarchy and, with the help of the Allied Powers, eventually succeeded.

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Biography

Masaryk was born to a poor working-class family in the predominantly Catholic city of Hodonín, Moravia.[1] His father Jozef Masaryk (Masárik), an illiterate carter (later steward), was a Slovak from the Hungarian part of Austria-Hungary (after 1918 became the eastern province of Slovakia in Czechoslovakia), his mother Teresie Masaryková (née Kropáčková) was a Moravian of Slavic origin but with German education. They married on 15 August 1849.

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 (Czech magazine), 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.

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