Vavro Šrobár


Vavro Šrobár 9 August 1867 – 6 December 1950 was a Slovak doctor and politician who was a major figure in Slovak politics in the interwar period He played an important role in the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and served in a variety of ministerial roles between the wars He also served for many years as a representative in the Czechoslovak parliament and was a tenured professor in the history of medicine He retired from public life before the outbreak of the Second World War, but following the war he resumed a ministerial career in the re-established Czechoslovak government in the five years before his death

Contents

  • 1 Early life and education
  • 2 Political emergence
  • 3 Career in inter-war Czechoslovakia
  • 4 Second World War and post-war career
  • 5 Further reading
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links

Early life and educationedit

Born in Lisková then part of the Kingdom of Hungary, he was educated between 1878–82 at the gymnasium in Ružomberok where only the Hungarian language – which he did not speak – was used as the language of education He moved to the German-speaking gymnasium at Levoča between 1882–83 before moving on, between 1883–86, to the gymnasia at Banská Bystrica and Přerov in Moravia, from which he ultimately graduated As he was a Slovak he was not permitted to graduate from gymnasia in Upper Hungary corresponding mostly to present-day Slovakia From 1888 to 1898 Šrobár studied medicine at Charles University in Prague, where he chaired the student organisation Detvan1

Political emergenceedit

After graduating he returned to Ružomberok and became the founder and chief editor of the journal Hlas The Voice, published by and in support of progressive young Slovak intellectuals who opposed the Slovak National Party's conservative approach to politics He was a supporter and acquaintance of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the sociologist and philosopher who went on to be the founder and first President of Czechoslovakia1 After unsuccessfully running for a seat in the Diet of Hungary, his agitation on behalf of Slovak causes led to him being imprisoned for a year in 1906 along with Andrej Hlinka, on the grounds of "instigation against the Magyar nationality"2 He had continued to work as a doctor and in 1909 he published Ľudová obrázková zdravoveda Illustrated Guide to Public Health1

Slovak aspirations towards independence continued to simmer during the First World War, accompanied by the rise of an agrarian movement with which Šrobár was involved Along with Anton Štefánek and Pavol Blaho, he visited Slovak villages to promote the course of Czech and Slovak unity and to provide both a political and a cultural education to the peasants3 He also involved himself with the Czechoslovak National Council CNR, an émigré organisation led by Edvard Beneš that campaigned abroad for an independent Czechoslovak state He acted as a representative for the Maffie, the CNR's underground operation in the Czech lands and Slovakia By the end of the war the Austro-Hungarian Empire was beginning to disintegrate and on 1 May 1918 Šrobár proclaimed the Slovak people's right to self-determination and to create a common state with the Czechs He was arrested by the Hungarian authorities and imprisoned until October 1918 when the empire collapsed1

Career in inter-war Czechoslovakiaedit

Šrobár was appointed the Slovak chairman of the CNR1 and signed the new Czechoslovak state's proclamation of independence, which was read out in Prague on 28 October He was the only Slovak involved4 He was not by any means a major political figure in Slovakia at the time and his involvement only a few days after his release from prison was quite fortuitous, as he later recalled:

Around 24 October an unclear and vague unrest caught hold of me On Monday 28 October I got off the train I made my way to the editorial office of the Nat Listy, where I met Štefánek 'We have been waiting for you for three days' In front of the Obecny dom town hall there was a huge crowd Through the whole night and the following days we put down the institutional requirements of the state5

The CNR had not, in fact, given any thought to issuing an official invitation to the Slovaks whose own Slovak National Council would issue its own declaration of independence two days later, unaware of the CNR's actions but as Šrobár was well known to Masaryk and the other Czech leaders he was accepted as a representative of Slovakia The oversight was indicative of the Czech leaders' drive to create a Czech-led Czechoslovakia, with the Slovaks relegated to a subordinate role6

Over the following two months Šrobár founded the provisional government of Slovakia and became both the Czechoslovak minister of health and the minister for the administration of Slovakia He retained both posts until 1920 and contributed significantly to the establishment of Czechoslovak rule in Slovakia, exercising virtually dictatorial powers on behalf of the Prague government16 It was Šrobár's decision to make the former Austrian city of Pressburg – now Bratislava – the administrative capital of Slovakia, despite only 15% of its pre-war population being Slovaks He also chose who would represent Slovakia on the newly established Revolutionary National Assembly Only 54 of its 256 members were from Slovakia, and of those only 41 were ethnic Slovaks Lutherans outnumbered Catholics – the majority denomination in Slovakia – by three to one, reflecting Šrobár's pro-Lutheran leanings but angering the Slovak Catholic clergy and increasing ethnic and religious tensions in the new state7 He dissolved the Slovak National Council on 8 January 1919 as part of a centralising drive, for which he was widely criticised,8 and a year later Slovakia itself was abolished as an administrative unit under the new constitution6

Šrobár served as a member of the Czechoslovak parliament between 1918–25, representing the Slovak National Republican and Peasant Party initially and subsequently the Republican Party of Farmers and Peasants after a merger with another party in the early 1920s Šrobár's ministerial career continued between 1920–23 with appointments as the minister for public health and physical education, minister for the unification of laws and organisation of information, and minister of education and national enlightenment1

In 1923 Šrobár submitted his post-doctoral thesis in social medicine at Bratislava's Comenius University He was elected to the Czechoslovak Senate in 1925 and acted the chair of the Agrarian Club in the Senate between 1925–29 He published a two-volume work, Oslobodené Slovensko Liberated Slovakia between 1928–32 and in 1935 he was appointed by Comenius University as a tenured professor for the history of medicine Two years later, in 1937, he retired from academic and political life1

Second World War and post-war careeredit

Memorial plaque on Šrobár's house

During the Second World War, when Slovakia was a nominally independent pro-Nazi puppet state, Šrobár was discreetly active as a supporter of the anti-fascist Czechoslovak opposition He became co-chairman of the revived Slovak National Council in 1944,1 representing the non-Communist elements of the anti-fascist movement, and wrote the text of a statement read by Jozef Styk on 30 August 1944 that launched the Slovak National Uprising against the pro-Nazi government2

After the war he was appointed minister of finance in the restored Czechoslovakia and served in this role until 19472 Šrobár also founded the pro-Communist Freedom Party in 1946, which later merged into the Czechoslovak National Front and published an autobiography, Z môjho života From My Life in the same year He subsequently served as minister for the unification of laws2 He continued in this role in the Communist government of Klement Gottwald that came to power in the Czechoslovak coup d'etat of 1948 On 6 December 1950, Šrobár died in Olomouc in Moravia and was initially buried there His body was later reinterred in St Martin's Cemetery in Bratislava1

Further readingedit

  • Baer, Josette 2014 A Life Dedicated to the Republic: Vavro Šrobár's Slovak Czechoslovakism Columbia University Press ISBN 978-3-8382-6346-5 

Referencesedit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Baer, Josette 2014 Revolution, Modus Vivendi, or Sovereignty: The Political Thought of the Slovak National Movement from 1861 to 1914 Columbia University Press pp 221–3 ISBN 978-3-8382-6146-1 
  2. ^ a b c d Kirschbaum, Stanislav J 2010 The A to Z of Slovakia Rowman & Littlefield pp 282–3 ISBN 978-0-8108-7215-8 
  3. ^ Miller, Daniel 1999 Forging Political Compromise: Antonín Svehla and the Czechoslovak Republican Party, 1918–1933 University of Pittsburgh Press p 34 ISBN 978-0-8229-7728-5 
  4. ^ Maxwell, Alexander 2009 Choosing Slovakia: Slavic Hungary, the Czechoslovak Language and Accidental Nationalism IBTauris p 175 ISBN 978-0-85771-133-5 
  5. ^ Baer, Josette 2014 Simons, William B, ed East European Faces of Law and Society: Values and Practices Martinus Nijhoff Publishers p 338 ISBN 978-90-04-28522-4 
  6. ^ a b c Coakley, John 2003 The Territorial Management of Ethnic Conflict Psychology Press p 232-33 ISBN 978-0-7146-4988-7 
  7. ^ Frucht, Richard C 2004 Eastern Europe: an introduction to the people, lands, and culture Vol 2 ABC-CLIO p 296 ISBN 978-1-57607-800-6 
  8. ^ Miller, p 66

External linksedit

  • Media related to Vavro Šrobár at Wikimedia Commons


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