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Tomas Masaryk

Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (sometimes called Thomas Masaryk in English) (March 7, 1850 - September 14, 1937) was a Czechoslovak independence advocate and first President of Czechoslovakia.

Masaryk was born in Hodonín (then called Gödin in German), Moravia, then part of the Austrian Empire, to a working-class family. As a youth he worked as a blacksmith. He studied in Brno, Leipzig and Vienna, and in 1882 was appointed Professor of Philosophy at the new Czech University in Prague. The following year he started publishing the magazine Athenaeum, devoted to Czech culture and science. He wrote many works on history, exposed as fraudulent supposed history taught before, and opposed racial prejudice.

He served in the Austrian Parliament from 1891 to 1893 in the Young Czech Party and again from 1907 to 1914 in the Realist Party, becoming an ever more vocal proponant of independence of the Slavic peoples from Austria-Hungary. When the First World War broke out he had to flee the country to avoid being arrested for treason, going to Geneva, Italy, and then London, where he continued to agitate for Czech independence. In 1917 he went to Russia to help organize Slavic resistance to the Austrians. In 1918 he went to the United States, where he convinced President Woodrow Wilson of the rightness of his cause.

With the fall of the Austrian Empire, the Allies recognized him as head of the provisional Czech government, and in 1920 he was elected the first president of Czechoslovakia. He was re-elected twice. He officially held the office until his death on September 14, 1937, although he handed over most of his responsibilities to Eduard Beneš in 1935 when his health began to fail.

His son, Jan Masaryk, was a minster in the government of Beneš.

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