Foundation of Czechoslovakia

By National Museum, Czech Republic

and Slovak National Museum

Exactly 100 years ago, on October 28, 1918,
Czechoslovakia, a new republic in the centre of Europe, was founded. Today
there are two separate states: the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.

Magazine La Nation Tchégue (1915)National Museum, Czech Republic

Czechoslovak Resistance to Monarchy

From the cooperation of Edvard Beneš with Karel Kramář, Alois Rašín, Přemysl Šámal and others, a secret committee called Maffie, which mediated the transfer of information between the Czechs and the foreign resistance, emerged. In 1915 Maffie members were arrested. After Emperor Charles I entered the throne, it was clear, that political life would be restored in the monarchy. Czech politicians joined in the Czech Union and in the National Committee which was the Prague headquarters of Czech politics. The Czech Union's declaration at the Reich Council on 30 May 1917, which clearly declared the right of Czechs and Slovaks to self-determination, became a fundamental one. The year 1918 carried on in the spirit of national demonstrations, the so-called three-kings declaration declared a requirement for independence, followed by a "national oath" in the Municipal House in April, a theatre festivities in May, etc. 

Commemorative postcard, 1917/1918, From the collection of: National Museum, Czech Republic
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A postcard that commemorates two major events of the domestic resistance: a declaration of the Czech Union at the Reich Council on May 30, 1917 and a so-called Twelfth Night Declaration of January 6, 1918.

Postcard Ema Destinnová, 1918, From the collection of: National Museum, Czech Republic
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Postcard with portrait of opera singer Ema Destinnová, who mediated contacts between domestic resistance and exile during World War I.

Photograph Vavro Šrobár (1920/1929)National Museum, Czech Republic

Situation in Slovakia

Similarly, in Slovakia after the outbreak of the World War I, national and social life was significantly restricted. The leadership of the Slovak National Party declared passivity and loyalty to the Hungarian government. Actually, until the spring of 1918 Slovak politics did not produce any activity. Nevertheless, several political centres were formed: Vienna, Bratislava, Martin, Prague, Ružomberok and Budapest, which kept close contacts with each other. From the beginning of 1918, voices were raised in Slovakia, which did not agree with the political passivity. Besides the May Day convention in Liptovský Sv. Mikuláš, a confidential meeting of the members of the Slovak National Party in Martin on 24 May 1918 became a strong activation element of Slovak politics. Both events called for formation of a common state of Czechs and Slovaks.

Postcard The struggle of the Slovaks for freedom, 1918, From the collection of: National Museum, Czech Republic
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Foreign resistance already declared joining of Czechs and Slovaks from the beginning. The author of the postcard cycle was the well-known graphic artist and painter Vojtěch Preissig.

Photograph T. G. Masaryk (in the middle) (1917)National Museum, Czech Republic

Legionnaires

In December 1914, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, later the first Czechoslovak president, left for exile. From Switzerland, he moved to Paris and then to London. Later Edvard Beneš and Milan Rastislav Štefánik joined him; together in 1916 they founded the Czechoslovak National Council in Paris. Support of the independence and joining Czechs and Slovaks in one state by exile organizations was also important. As early as October 1915, the so-called Cleveland Agreement was signed, and three years later in May 1918 the so-called Pittsburgh Agreement. Both documents declared joining of Czechs and Slovaks in a common state and dealt with the status of the Slovaks in a common state. Similarly important was an agreement between the Czechs and Slovaks in Russia - the so-called Kyiv Agreement of August 1916. Establishing the Czechoslovak legions in France, Italy, the Balkans and Russia had a crucial influence on the recognition of Czechoslovak foreign resistance. The Washington Declaration of 18 October 1918, which was a declaration of Czechoslovak independence, signed by T.G. Masaryk, E. Benes and M. R. Štefánik, represented the culmination of foreign resistance. 

Photograph M. R. Štefánik (1914/1918)National Museum, Czech Republic

Photo portrait of Milan Rastislav Štefánik, the most significant Slovak representative in exile during World War I.

Jacket of Milan Rastislav Štefánik (1919)Slovak National Museum

The tragic death of Milan Rastislav Štefánik (1880 - 1919) still raises many speculations. General Štefánik's flight was on May 4, 1919, from Udine, Italy, to Vajnor near Bratislava. The crew consisted of two Italian airmen - Lieutenant Giotto Mancinelli-Scotti and Sergeant Umberto Merlini - and mechanic Gabrielle Aggiusti. M.R. Štefánik died after a downturn fall of their machine near Bratislava.

Commemorative pen (1918)National Museum, Czech Republic

The pen, by which T. G. Masaryk signed the Declaration of the Common Interests of Independent Central European Nations on October 26, 1918 in Philadelphia.

Photograph T. G. Masaryk signs the declaration (1918)National Museum, Czech Republic

T. G. Masaryk signs Declaration of the Common Interests of Independent Central European Nations in Philadelphia.

The first Czechoslovak law (1918)National Museum, Czech Republic

Czechoslovakia was founded on
October 28, 1918

On Monday, October 28, 1918 in the morning, the leadership of the National Committee met in Antonín Švehla's apartment. Subsequently, A. Švehla and F. Soukup went to take over the Military Corn Institute, and A. Rašín met with the Mayor of physical education organization Sokol, J. Scheiner. Meanwhile, the text of the note of the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister arrived in Prague, by which the Empire accepted all the conditions of US President W. Wilson for solving the national problems of the Habsburg monarchy in the fall of the World War I. The inhabitants perceived the note as the surrender of Austria-Hungarian Empire and the centre of Prague became crowded with people. Representatives of the National Committee took over the power from the civilian and military authorities of the Habsburg monarchy. After 12 o'clock, Jiří Stříbrný announced the foundation of Czechoslovakia on the crowded Wenceslas Square in Prague. After lunch, the first Czechoslovak law came into being as well.

Banner of American Czechs, 1885/1918, From the collection of: National Museum, Czech Republic
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A banner accompanied American Czechs to Prague in 1885. The director of the National Theatre, Jaroslav Kvapil, hanged it and so greeted the procession of citizens leaving the Municipal House, where the declaration took place, to the National Theatre.

Photograph Prague 28th October, 1918, From the collection of: National Museum, Czech Republic
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Photography from the Wenceslas Square in Prague on October 28, 1918, when an independent state was proclaimed.

Proclamation "Czechoslovak People"' (1918)National Museum, Czech Republic

Call of the National Committee of October 28, 1918 "Czechoslovak People", signed by František Soukup, Antonín Švehla, Jiří Stříbrný, Vavro Šrobár and Alois Rašín. It meant the official declaration of Czechoslovakia.

Photograph Geneva meeting (1918)National Museum, Czech Republic

Photo from the meeting in Geneva between representatives of domestic and foreign resistance.

Credits: Story

Marek Junek, Národní muzeum

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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