Czech leaders commemorate TG Masaryk's birth

Tomas Garrigue Masaryk

March 7th marked a very important day in Czech history as it was the 154th anniversary of the birth of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the founder and first president of an independent Czechoslovakia following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. To commemorate the occasion the current Czech President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla paid a visit to his grave. Both consider his legacy to be the most significant in recent Czech history.

On Sunday morning, President Vaclav Klaus and his wife Livie set out on a symbolic journey to the presidential Lany Chateau, where Tomas Garrigue Masaryk died in 1937. The couple left from Prague's Masaryk train station in what once was Masaryk's own presidential salon. The journey has become part of a commemorative tradition in the Czech Republic for the past 10 years, which was initiated by former president Vaclav Havel. President Klaus spoke to Czech Radio while waiting at the Masaryk Train Station.

"It is understandable that he is recognized as a figure who has made a great contribution to the formation of the Czechoslovak state and I believe that this is the sentiment of all generations since 1918. In this respect, his position is unique and embedded in the mentality of Czechs today."

Prior to Tomas Garrigue Masaryk's political career he was a professor of philosophy and was extensively involved in literary activities. But it was his political achievement that forged his everlasting place in Central European history. As of 1891 in Vienna he headed the Realist Party, and was its only representative in the Viennese parliament. He continued to work toward achieving equality within the Hapsburg Empire. But it wasn't till the beginning of the First World War, when the politician was forced into exile, that he became a leading opposition figure fighting from abroad for the liberation of the Czech and Slovak peoples. At the end of the war and the collapse of the empire, in return for his efforts he became President of the first independent state of Czechs and Slovaks where he served till 1935.

Vaclav Klaus at Lany Chateau,  photo: CTK
But on Sunday it was the Czech leaders of today who paid homage to the political shoulders upon which they stand. President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla laid wreaths on the TG Masaryk's grave in a ceremony attended by 300 people. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla.

"Tomas Garrigue Masaryk is actually the most significant figure in our modern history and the founder of our democracy in the full sense of the word. Today I have realized again that there are very few presidents, even in other nations, that have such a significant status."