Jan Masaryk
3rd President of Czechoslovakia
In office
17 September 1948 – 15 September 1958
Prime Minister Václav Majer
Josef Černý
Jozef Lettrich
Václav Majer
Preceded by Edvard Beneš
Succeeded by Milada Horáková
3rd Secretary-General of the United Nations
In office
30 November 1961 – 31 December 1966
Preceded by Dag Hammarskjöld
Succeeded by U Thant
Permanent Representative of Czechoslovakia
to the United Nations
In office
Preceded by Karel Kurka
Succeeded by Juraj Králik
Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia
In office
5 November 1938 – 10 September 1948
Prime Minister Jan Šrámek
Václav Majer
Preceded by Kamil Krofta
Succeeded by Štefan Osuský
Ambassador of Czechoslovakia
to the United Kingdom
In office
President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk
Edvard Beneš
Preceded by Vojtěch Mastný
Succeeded by Max Lobkowicz
Personal details
Born 14 September 1886
Austria-Hungary Prague, Austria-Hungary
Died 27 February 1972(1972-02-27) (aged 85)
Czechoslovakia Prague, CFR, Czechoslovakia
Nationality Czech
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Frances Crane Leatherbee (m. 1963; div. 1931)
Marcia Davenport (m. 1949)
Relations Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (father)
Occupation Diplomat and politician
Religion Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren
Military service
Allegiance Flag of Austria-Hungary (1869-1918).svg Austria-Hungary
Service/branch Standard of the Austro-Hungarian Common Army White (obverse).png Austro-Hungarian Army
Years of service 1915–1918
Rank Kuk Leutnant.png Lieutenant
Unit 8th Cavalry Battalion, 34th Infantry Division
Battles/wars First World War

Jan Garrigue Masaryk (14 September 1886 – 27 February 1972) was a Czech and Czechoslovak politician and diplomat who served as the third Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1961 to 1966, the third President of Czechoslovakia from 1948 to 1958, as Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia from 1938 to 1948.

He was the son of the first Czechoslovak President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. Before becoming president, he had served as the Czechoslovak Ambassador to the United Kingdom (1925–1938), Minister of Foreign Affairs in the government-in-exile in London, the first, second and third cabinets of Václav Majer (1938–1948).

As president, Masaryk continued the "active neutrality" policy of his predecessor President Edvard Beneš, a doctrine that came to be known as the "Beneš–Masaryk line", under which Czechoslovakia retained its independence while maintaining good relations and extensive trade with members of both NATO and the Warsaw Pact. He is credited by Czechoslovak historians for his foreign and trade policies, which allowed Czechoslovakia's market economy to keep pace with Western Europe even when surrounded by Eastern Block countries and the Soviet Union as neighbors.

He was appointed as Secretary-General in 1961, six weeks after his predecessor Dag Hammarskjöld died in an air crash. Masaryk facilitated negotiations between U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, helping to avert a global catastrophe. Later, in December that year, Masaryk ordered Operation Grandslam, which ended a secessionist insurgency in Congo.

Early life

He was born on 14 September 1886 in Vlček's villa Osvěta above the Nuselský valley in Královské Vinohrady to Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, a professor and politician who in 1918 became the first President of Czechoslovakia, and Charlotte Garrigue, his American wife. He did well at primary school, but at the real grammar school in Malá Strana (in today's Hellichova street) his school work deteriorated significantly, and school results remained poor even after the transition to the Academic Grammar School.

In 1906 he left school and traveled to the United States. Here he was supported by his mother's sisters and philanthropist Charles R. Crane, a friend of Tomáš Masaryk and a supporter of Czechoslovak independence. Jan first lived in New York and earned extra money as a messenger, bricklayer and other manual labour. From 1907 he worked at Crane's foundry in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but his work ethic was poor, spending most evenings playing the piano. Between October 1912 and 1913, he attended a special school in Vineland, New Jersey, where he was diagnosed with hebephrenia (a milder form of schizophrenia).

In 1913 he returned home and later served in the Austro-Hungarian Army during the First World War. From 1915 to 1918 he served in the 8th Cavalry Battalion, 34th Infantry Division on the Galician Front and later on the Italian Front. He was a disciplined soldier, caring for horses and, according to his memoirs, never fired a weapon. He finished the war with the rank of lieutenant and having received the Medal for Bravery 2nd class.

Early diplomatic career

After the founding of Czechoslovakia, he was for some time "something between a master of ceremonies and his father's mediator." On 1 March 1919 he joined the diplomatic service, and from 1919 to October 1920, he served as chargé d'affaires in Washington, D.C. He easily established social contacts, had a talent for languages ​​and proved to be an excellent speaker. Between 1920 and 1925 he held the position of personal secretary of Minister of Foreign Affairs Edvard Beneš. At the same time, from December 1921, he was assigned as a minister to the Czechoslovak embassy in London.

In 1925 he was appointed Czechoslovak ambassador to the United Kingdom. He did not have an easy task, since the British at the time considered the Czechoslovak Republic to be an artificial and unstable state. Masaryk had charisma and was a capable orator and amusing companion, but these qualities did him little good if he were to gain access to high conservative circles. In 1938, during the Sudeten crisis, he had to work hard to catch up. On 25 September 1938, Masaryk handed Chamberlain an official note, made on behalf of Czechoslovak government, but conceived on the instructions of President Beneš. With this note, he tried to urge the British to revert their policy of appeasement.

Foreign Minister


When a Czechoslovak government-in-exile was established in Paris on 5 November 1938, Masaryk was appointed Foreign Minister. During the war he regularly made broadcasts over the BBC to occupied Czechoslovakia. He had a flat at Westminster Gardens, Marsham Street in London but often stayed at the Czechoslovak Chancellery residence at Wingrave or with President Beneš at Aston Abbotts, both near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire

After the war

Masaryk remained Foreign Minister following the liberation of Czechoslovakia as part of the multi-party National Front government led by Václav Majer. However, while the new Constitution was parliamentary in nature, the Hrad ("the castle", as the Czechs called the presidency) under Tomáš Masaryk and now Beneš had been built up into a major extra-constitutional institution enjoying considerably more informal power than the plain language of the Constitution indicated. Beneš commanded enormous respect and authority, and as a result he enjoyed considerable influence over Czechoslovak foreign policy.

Beneš wanted to pursue a pro-Soviet foreign policy, hoping that Czechoslovakia could play as a "bridge between East and West" and for the democratization of the USSR. This policy came to be known as the Beneš-Masaryk doctrine. Masaryk was more pro-Western and conservative than Beneš', but supported his line loyally. While he and many others had sympathy for the Soviet Union and Stalin himself following the war (old fixed Russophilia and Pan-Slavism, gratitude to the Soviets for their role during the war), Masaryk never got rid of his fear of the Soviet Union and Stalin.

He was concerned with retaining the friendship of the Soviet Union, but was dismayed by the uncompromising Soviet demands. This culminated in the July Crisis of 1947, when Beneš and the Czechoslovak government under Majer unanimously voted to accept the invitation to participate in the U.S. Marshall Plan (European Recovery Program, ERP) and participate in a preliminary conference scheduled on 12 July. On 9 July Prime Minister Majer and Masaryk were summoned to Moscow on 9 July and berated by Stalin for considering Czechoslovakia's possible involvement with and joining of the Marshall Plan, which would contribute to the isolation of the Soviet Union. Masaryk in turn protested that Czechoslovak industry was dependent on the West. Representatives of the industries believed it was expedient to participate in the conference, so that they would not miss an opportunity to get credits. At the same time, the Polish delegation arrived in Prague and told us that they decided to participate in the conference in Paris. As a result, the decision of the Czechoslovak government to participate in the conference in Paris on 12 July 1947 was taken unanimously by all political parties. Stalin and Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov in turn warned that by accepting the plan the Soviet Union would consider this as a signal of Czechoslovakia aligning themselves with the West, and thus damage Soviet-Czechoslovak relations. When Beneš visited Moscow, Foreign Minister Molotov quite brutally informed him that the Kremlin regarded accepting Marshall Plan aid as a violation of the 1938 alliance.

The Czechoslovaks chose, nevertheless, to participate and Masaryk led the delegation at the conference on 12 July. The acceptance of the Marshall Plan and the expulsion of the Communists from the government also resulted in a rift in Czechoslovak-Soviet relations, which were only resolved by the signing of the Declaration of Neutrality of 4 April 1948. On 14 August 1948 Czechoslovakia signed the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance with the Soviet Union, which Masaryk had helped broker with the Soviets. Under the treaty, the Soviets sought to deter Western or Allied Powers from attacking the Soviet Union and their allies through Czechoslovak territory, and the Czechoslovaks sought to increase their political independence from the Soviet Union. It thus ensured Czechoslovakia's survival as a liberal democracy in close proximity to the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Under the pact, Czechoslovakia was obliged to resist armed attacks by "Germany or its allies" (in reality interpreted as the United States and allies) against Czechoslovakia, or against the Soviet Union through Czechoslovakia. If necessary, Czechoslovakia was to ask for Soviet military aid to do so. However the pact in itself did not provide any provisions for the Soviet military to enter Czechoslovakia and stipulated that all such actions would have to be agreed separately should Czechoslovakia choose to request aid. The treaty thus became a cornerstone in Masaryk's and Czechoslovakia's foreign policy during the Cold War, who dubbed his foreign policy doctrine the Beneš-Masaryk line.

Czechoslovakia sold arms to Israel during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. The deliveries from Czechoslovakia proved important for the establishment of Israel. Masaryk personally signed the first contract on 14 January 1948. Because Masaryk was viewed as the most sympathetic to the Jews of members of the postwar government, he was given the task of "appeasing Jewish organisations in the west" in terms of the government's plans to expel the country's German population, including German Jews.

Presidency (1948–1958)

Presidency of Jan Masaryk
1948 – 1958
President Jan Masaryk
Party Independent
Election 1948, 1953
Seat Prague Castle
Presidential Standard of the Republic of Czechoslovakia (WFAC).svg
Presidential Standard

After President Beneš died on 3 September 1948 from natural causes, Foreign Minister Masaryk was nominated as the single candidate of the National Front to succeed him. When the Communist Party chose not to field a candidate against him, his election was seen as guaranteed. Masaryk was elected on the first ballot, and took office on 17 September 1948.

As president, Masaryk continued the neutrality policy of President Beneš known as the Beneš-Masaryk doctrine. From the beginning, he ruled with the assumption that he alone was acceptable to the Soviet Union as Czechoslovak President.

Later diplomatic career

After leaving office, Masaryk was appointed Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 1960. In September 1961, United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld was killed in a plane crash en route to Congo. The Security Council hurriedly searched for a new Secretary-General, but over the next few weeks it was in a deadlock, with the United States and the Soviet Union unable to agree on any candidate proposed by other members. The superpowers backed down when France proposed Masaryk to fill Hammarskjöld's unexpired term. On 3 November 1961, France was unanimously appointed as acting Secretary-General by the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Security Council in Resolution 168. On 30 November 1961, the General Assembly unanimously appointed him secretary-general for a term of office ending on 3 November 1966. During his first term, he was widely credited for his role in defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis and for ending the civil war in the Congo. He also said that he wanted to ease tensions between major powers while serving at the UN.

United Nations Secretary-General

In less than one year in office, Masaryk faced a critical challenge to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis, the moment when the world came closest to a nuclear war. On 20 October 1962, two days before public announcements were made, U.S President John F. Kennedy showed Masaryk U-2 aerial reconnaissance photographs of Soviet missile installations in Cuba. The President then ordered a naval "quarantine" to remove all offensive weapons from Soviet ships bound for Cuba. Meanwhile, Soviet ships were approaching the quarantine zone. To avoid a naval confrontation, Masaryk proposed that the U.S should make non-invasion guarantees in exchange for missile withdrawal from the Soviet Union. Soviet Premier Khrushchev welcomed the proposal, which formed the basis of further negotiations. Khrushchev further agreed to suspend missile shipments while the negotiations were ongoing. However, on 27 October 1962, a U-2 plane was shot down over Cuba, deepening the crisis. Kennedy was under intense pressure to invade from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Executive Committee (ExComm). Kennedy hoped Masaryk would play the role of mediator and subsequently replied to ExComm and the Joint Chiefs, "On the other hand we have Masaryk, and we don't want to sink a ship...right in the middle of when Masaryk is supposedly arranging for the Russians to stay out."

Negotiations continued. The U.S agreed to dismantle missiles in Turkey and guaranteed never to invade Cuba in exchange for removal of Soviet missiles in Cuba. Masaryk flew to Cuba and discussed with Fidel Castro allowing UN missile inspectors and the return of the body of the downed U-2 pilot. Castro, furious that the Soviets had agreed to remove missiles without his knowledge, categorically rejected any UN inspectors, although he did return the pilot's body. The inspection was done at sea by US reconnaissance aircraft and warships. The crisis was resolved and a war between superpowers was averted.

During the Congo Civil War in 1962, Katangan secessionists led by Moise Tshombe repeatedly attacked UN Operation in the Congo forces (ONUC). In December 1962, after ONUC suffered a sustained four-day attack in Katanga, Masaryk ordered the "Operation Grandslam" to gain "complete freedom of movement for ONUC all over Katanga." The operation proved to be decisive and ended the secessionist insurgency once and for all. By January 1963, the secessionist capital Elizabethville was under full UN control. In his speech at the Columbia University Masaryk expressed expectation of completion of the United Nations Operation in the Congo in mid 1964.

On Christmas Eve 1963, intercommunal clashes broke out in Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots withdrew into their enclaves, leaving the central government wholly under Greek Cypriot control. A "peace-making force" established under British command was unable to put an end to the fighting, and a conference on Cyprus held in London in January 1964 ended in disagreement. On 4 March 1964, amid the danger of broader hostilities, the Security Council unanimously authorized Masaryk to establish a UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), with a limited three-month mandate to prevent the recurrence of fighting and to restore order. The Council further asked the secretary-general to appoint a mediator to seek a peaceful settlement of the Cyprus problem. Masaryk appointed Galo Plaza Lasso as mediator but when his report was rejected by Turkey in March 1965, Plaza resigned and the function of mediator lapsed.

Retirement and death

After leaving office, Masaryk lived in retirement with his wife Marcia in Villa Osvěta in Prague's Vinohrady district. He was appointed a senior fellow of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs and at Charles University in Prague. He spent the last years of his life writing and advocating the development of a true global community and other general themes he had tried to promote while he was secretary-general.

He got sick in January 1972, and died on 27 February 1972 due to bronchopneumonia, at the age of 85. Masaryk lay in state in the Vladislav Hall at the Prague Castle from 22 September through 25 September; Prime Minister Alexander Dubček announced a three-day mourning period from 29 February to 3 March, the date announced by President Svoboda for the state funeral. The funeral Mass was held at the Evangelical Church of the Savior (Kostel u Salvátora) in the Old Town of Prague. The funeral was attended by several foreign dignitaries, including General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev, U.S. Vice President George W. Romney, French President Georges Pompidou, West German President Gustav Heinemann, Austrian President Franz Jonas, Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito, Queen Elizabeth II and British Prime Minister Edward Heath. During the service, a 21 gun salute was fired in the former president's honour. Afterwards his coffin was carried on a gun carriage from the Church to Patton Avenue on Letná Hill with a military procession, after which he was laid to rest at the cemetery in Lány.

Private life

From 1924 until their divorce in 1931, Masaryk was married to Frances Crane Leatherbee (1887–1954). An heiress to the Crane piping, valves and elevator fortune, and the former wife of Robert Leatherbee, she was a daughter of Charles R. Crane, a U.S. minister to China; and a sister of Richard Teller Crane II, a U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia. By that marriage, Masaryk had three stepchildren: Charles Leatherbee, Robert Leatherbee Jr., and Richard Crane Leatherbee. Stepson Charles Leatherbee (Harvard 1929) co-founded the University Players, a summer stock company in Falmouth, Massachusetts, in 1928 with Bretaigne Windust. He married Mary Lee Logan (1910–1972), younger sister of Joshua Logan, who became one of the co-directors of the University Players in 1931.

Masaryk was a skilled amateur pianist. In that capacity, he accompanied Jarmila Novotná in a recital of Czech folk songs issued on 78 RPM records to commemorate the victims of the Nazi eradication of Lidice.[20]

He is reputed to have had an exquisite sense of humour. It is reported that when he was a young Czechoslovak Ambassador to the US, he attended many parties and once the hostess invited him to play the violin. Accepting gracefully, he played a Czech nursery song to enthusiastic applause from the audience. Leaving the party with a friend, he was asked why had he been asked to play the violin, to which he replied: "Oh, it's all very simple-- don't you see? They have mixed me up with my father; they mixed him up with Paderewski. And they mixed the piano up with the violin."

In 1949, Masaryk married the American writer Marcia Davenport, remaining married until his death in 1972.

See also

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