STORIES OF THE MEN
It’s the year 1918 and the four-year exhausting war makes the Austrian troops considerably dependent on food supplying and exports from Bohemia. Provincial Economic Council under the tutelage of Antonín Švehla made use of this situation when trying to conceal the number of stockpiles to the imperial monarchy and keep in the country as much as possible. The general strike was declared by the Socialist council in reaction to this crisis on the 14th of October 1918 and a handbill was spread in Písek city declaring the establishment of the republic. During the coup, the symbols of the monarchy were torn off and tricolor waved in the city. However, the declaration of the republic was postponed the same day, the revolutionary crowd was scattered by Hungarian troops arrived in the city. Some of the Socialist Council leaders were arrested. Owing to these events the dying monarchy resisted 14 more days.
The turbulent action of Czech (Czechoslovakian) public reached the factual peak on the 27th of October 1918. That day, the Austria-Hungary showed a willingness to negotiate the peace terms that would end the World War I. This vigorous concession of the Austrian imperial government was interpreted by people in Prague as the end of monarchy and went in the street.
In the early morning hours of the coup day and revolution, on the 28th of October, Antonín Švehla and František Soukup took over the Cereal Insitute in the name of the National Committee, to prevent the transport of grain to the front. This was followed by the dissemination of information recognizing the Austro-Hungary’s peace conditions. Around 11 a.m., the politician Isidor Zahradník stepped out of the crowd spontaneously at Wenceslas Square at the Wenceslas Monument and delivered a sentence which is the declaration of the independent country: “We are free. Here, at steps of Czech duke saint Wenceslaus’ monument, we swear, that we want to be worthy of this freedom, that we want to defend it with our lives.”
In the evening, the National Committee issued the first law on establishing an independent state. Vavro Šrobár, Alois Rašín, František Soukup, Antonín Švehla and Jiří Stříbrný were elected to the leadership of the National Committee.
In the early evening, the National Committee issued the first law of the new state: On the establishment of an independent Czechoslovakian state. The famous October Five sealed it with signatures and on the grounds of this impulse, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk was preparing to return from involuntary exile.
Antonín Švehla (1873 – 1933)
Farmer and triple Prime Minister. A native of Hostivař, švehla was apprenticed as the miller, but he lived by a farm. He was the provincial deputy and the leader of the Agrarian Party. During World War I, he lead the resistance association Maffia and even the National Committee in the end. He signed the law on the declaration of Czechoslovakia in this post. He was the first interior minister and Prime Minister of three Czechoslovakian governments since 1922. With all due respect to TGM, he refused to be a candidate for president and because of bad health, he withdrew from politics in 1929. It is also said, that after his death whole salary from the time of Prime Minister, was found in his drawer. Švehla, who was lived by a farm, wasn’t solving money and always put them in the drawer.
František Soukup (1871 – 1940)
Lawyer and journalist. At the beginning of the Czechoslovakian state he, held the position of the justice minister. He became one of the important members of the Social Democratic Party, and finally even the deputy of the Imperial Council. During World War I, he was a member of resistance Maffia and due to his carelessness, a considerable part of the resistance net was revealed during the so-called Button Affair. He was held prisoner and became the secretary of the National Committee and one of the organizers of the declaration of Czechoslovakia. He held the position of justice minister there.
Alois Rašín (1867 – 1923)
Baker’s and politician’s son, lawyer and a condemned person to death. During his studies, he was in prison in the Omladina Trial and after the outbreak of World War I he became a member of the resistance movement, so-called Maffia. He was condemned to death and reportedly, he received the sentence with a smile on his face. Eventually, he was saved by amnesty. He is the author of the law on the independence of Czechoslovakia, where he was the first finance minister. He was a tough and intransigent politician, creator of the currency separation. He succumbed to consequences of the assassination of the anarcho-communist Josef Šoupal.
Jiří Stříbrný (1880 – 1955)
Tabloid owner, minister, and nationalist. His political career was fully launched in 1911 when he was elected the deputy of the Imperial Council. During World War I, he became a member of the resistance and the National Committee after all. He helped with organizing the general strike on the 14th of October 1918. After negotiations with the commander of the Austrian military garrison in Prague, he forced the army not to oppose the coup of the 28th of October. He was the post, railway and finally defense minister. He became a great opponent of President Edvard Beneš.
Vavro Šrobár (1867 – 1950)
Doctor and politician. He was expelled from all schools in Hungary for his Proto-Slavonic agitations, so he had to finish his studies in Přerov. Owing to this he got under Masaryk’s influence, whose he was a great supporter. He settled down as a doctor in Slovakia where he gained a political reputation, too. Slovakia signed the law on the declaration of Czechoslovakia by proxy of Vavro Šrobár. He was the minister of administration for Slovakia, later for health and education.