Confrontation with History
On July 6, 1915, 500 years to the day after the martyrdom of Jan Hus, Thomas Garrigue Masaryk spoke in Zurich (but, in fact, to the world) with a vision and sense of mission that were as prophetic as the date was appropriate. He spoke of the new values that would emerge from the war--a conflict that he saw as far more revolutionary in nature than traditional power struggles. He spoke of international ethics, of the equality of nations, and of the right of self-determination on the part of oppressed peoples. Although his voice would become influential in world affairs, it was, on that day, a lonely voice, for the vision of World War I in those terms (terms which involved the inescapable dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) was not to be found in the thinking of either the political leaders of the Allied powers or, indeed, in that of the Czechs and Slovaks themselves.
The Czechs and Slovaks were by no means prepared for a confrontation with history when the war engulfed the European