This Day in the Law
November 14

Tomáš Masaryk Becomes Founder and President of Czechoslovakia (1918)

On November 14, 1918, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk was elected as the first President of Czechoslovakia by the National Assembly in Prague. Czechoslovakia, made up of Czechs and Slovaks, declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire after WW I.

Tomáš Masaryk was born into poverty in 1850 in the region of Moravia, now a part of the Czech Republic. Masaryk worked his way out of poverty through education and became a philosophy professor at the University of Prague. He also served in the Austrian Parliament through two different parties.

When World War I began Masaryk fled to England and became a professor at King’s College in London. During the War, Masaryk built a network of revolutionaries that acted as spies for the Allies against the Germans and Austrians. Masaryk also began to advocate for the overthrow of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the birth of a new country made up of Czech and Slavic people.

Masaryk went to France, Russia, and other areas to promote his ideas. In 1918, Masaryk traveled to the United States and met with President Woodrow Wilson to discuss his belief in democracy for a new country. Masaryk made multiple speeches, including one on the steps of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Masaryk advocated for the independence of the Czech-Slovak people and he got his wish when the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed after WW I.

On this day, November 14, 1918, the Allies recognized Masaryk as head of the new Czechoslovakia government and he was elected as the first President of Czechoslovakia by the National Assembly in Prague. Masaryk won re-election two times and held office until 1935. He became a national hero to the Czech-Slovak people.

The country of Czechoslovakia officially dissolved in 1992 when it peacefully split into the separate countries of the Czech Republic and Slovakia – as independent countries for the Czech and Slovak people.