Tomas Garrigue Masaryk
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Masaryk, Tomáš Garrigue
Born Mar. 7, 1850, in HodonÍn; died Sept. 14, 1937, in Lány, near Prague. Czechoslovak state and political figure. Positivist philosopher.
Masaryk was educated at the universities of Vienna and Leipzig. He became a doctor of philosophy in 1876; between 1882 and 1914 he was a professor of philosophy at the University of Prague. Masaryk was one of the founders (1889) of the Realists, a liberal political group which until 1890 was connected with the Old Czech Party and after that with the Young Czech Party. He also helped found the Czech People’s (Realist) Party (1900; between 1905 and 1918 known as the Czech Progressive Party), which strove for Czech autonomy within Austria-Hungary.
Masaryk’s philosophy was influenced by the English and French positivists and was, on the whole, oriented toward religious and ethical problems. In his first sociological work, “Suicide as a Collective Social Phenomenon of the Present Day” (1881), Masaryk connected the growing number of suicides with the loss of religious faith and, consequentially, the loss of meaning in life. In his philosophical and historical research beginning in the late 1880’s Masaryk searched for a religious meaning of history. He consistently opposed Marxism and the revolutionary workers movement in such works as The Social Problem (1898) and The Philosophical and Sociological Foundation of Marxism (1899).
Before World War, I, Masaryk became popular for his statements against Austrian reactionaries, and against anti-Semitism and clericalism. He was elected several times to the Austrian parliament. He visited Russia in 1887, 1889, and 1910 and met with L. N. Tolstoy. In 1913 he published the book The Spirit of Russia (vols 1-2), which was written in the tradition of the Slavophiles and F. M. Dostoevsky. He left Austria in December 1914, living as an émigré in Geneva, Paris, London, Chicago, Washington, and Boston.
In 1915 in Paris, Masaryk founded the Czech (later Czechoslovak) National Council, which rested its hopes on the Entente for the creation of an independent Czechoslovak nation. Between May 1917 and March 1918, Masaryk was in Russia, where he strove to ally himself with the Constitutional Democratic (Cadet) Party. In his speeches and statements he supported the policies of the Provisional Government. He was hostile to the Great October Socialist Revolution and helped organize the counterrevolutionary anti-Soviet uprising by the Czechoslovak Corps. He also supported Socialist Revolutionary (SR) terrorist groups, including those formed by the counterrevolutionary B. V. Savinkov.
In December 1918, Masaryk arrived in Prague; he had been elected president by the National Assembly of the Czechoslovak Republic in November. He was reelected in 1920, 1927, and 1934. Masaryk and E. Benes were the leading representatives of the liberal bourgeois Hrad group, the directing nucleus of the ruling classes in capitalist Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1938. In foreign policy he supported the Western imperialist powers and followed an anti-Soviet line.