The Pittsburgh Agreement - May 31, 1918
Czechoslovakian Declaration of Independence

The Pittsburgh Agreement was a document agreed upon on May 31, 1918 by the American representatives of Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, and Czech Silesia declaring the intent to create an independent European state to be known as Czechoslovakia. The agreement was reached during a convention of delegates in the Moose Hall in downtown Pittsburgh and is considered similar in nature to the United States Declaration of Independence.

As World War I was drawing to a close, the Allies looked for solutions to their goal of carving new countries out of the Habsburg Empire after it's capitulation. In the United States, there were three main groups of Czech and Slovak activists seeking to form a united front with the intention of forming an independent country.

Led by Professor Tomas Garrigue-Masaryk, the Slovak League of America, the Czech National Association, and the Union of Czech Catholics came together and negotiations began.

By May of 1918 the time had come for a formal declaration. Because of its large Slovak-American population, the City of Pittsburgh was chosen as the location for delegates to gather and complete the agreement.

The Pittsburgh Agreement - May 1918

On Memorial Day, May 30, 1918, twenty-eight activists (17 Slovaks and 11 Czechs) attended the convention at the Moose Hall on Liberty Avenue, along with Professor Masaryk, who was of both Slovak and Czech descent.

The festivities surrounding his and other activist's arrival were heightened by the fact that it was a national holiday and supporters were able to attend. A flood of some 20,000 Slovak-Americans and Czech-Americans descended upon the city to take part in the celebration.

Professor Masaryk, whose dual-heritage helped bridge ethnic and secular divisions, drafted a preliminary agreement on the 30th. Further negotiations the following day forged the final version of what has become known as the Pittsburgh Agreement.

The document approved the concept of a country set up jointly for the Slovaks and Czechs, and stipulated aspects of its future makeup. It was agreed upon unanimously on May 31, 1918.

On October 18, 1918, Professor Tomas Garrigue-Masaryk, officially declared the independence of Czechoslovakia. He was elected the country's first President in November 1918.

Professor Tomas Garrigue-Masaryk
Professor Tomas Garrigue-Masaryk

Since no official document was actually signed back in May, the Slovak League commissioned a calligraphic lithograph with the text of the Pittsburgh Agreement and collected the participant's signatures on it. Masaryk signed it in Washington, D.C., on November 14, 1918, the day after the new country's Provisional Constitution was adopted in Prague.

Delegates who signed the Pittsburgh Agreement:

Slovaks: Albert Mamatey, Ivan Bielek, Jan Jancek, Jr., Matus Gazdik, Milan Getting, Jan Pankuch, Gejza H. Mika, Michal Bosak, Ignac Gessay, Reverend Jozef Murgas, Jozef Husek, Reverend Jan Kubasek, Andrej Schustek, Reverend L. Jozef Karlovsky, Reverend Pavel Siska, J. A. Feriencik and Ivan Daxner.

Czechs: Professor Tomas G. Masaryk, Karel Pergler, Ludvik Fisher, B. Simek, J. J. Zmrhal, Josef Martinek, Hynek Dostal, Reverend Oldrich Zlamal, Vojta Benes, Reverend Innocent Kestl, Jan Straka and Dr. Joseph P. Pecival.

NOTE: The official document states that the Pittsburgh Agreement was adopted on May 30, 1918. This purposeful mistake was made to commemorate the Memorial Day gathering in Pittsburgh, the day that the Slovak and Czech-Americans came together to celebrate independence. The actual date of the agreement is May 31, 1918.

Map of Czechoslovakia
Map of Czechoslovakia - 1928

Czechoslovakia survived the horrors of World War II, and afterwards was re-established as a sovereign nation in the Soviet Bloc during the period known as the Cold War (1947-1991). In 1989, when communism was failing in several Eastern European countries, the Velvet Revolution led to a non-violent transformation back to democracy.

In 1992, because of growing nationalist tensions, Czechoslovakia was peacefully dissolved by parliament. On January 1, 1993 the nation formally separated into two independent countries: the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.

Plaque commemorating the Pittsburgh Agreement near
the location of the old Moose Lodge in downtown.

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