The History of Sokol in the Czech Lands



Sokol was founded by Miroslav Tyrs and Jindrich Fugner in 1862 as the first physical education organization in the Austro – Hungarian empire at a time of political freedom in the 1860´s. Many significant Czech patriots took part in the foundation of The Prague Gymnastic Association (renamed Prague Sokol). The foundation of the unit in Prague took place on February 16th, 1862. Eight other units were founded in Bohemia and Moravia in the same year.

The first flag of Sokol was painted on silk by the famous Czech painter Josef Manes. It was unfurled on June 1st, 1862 at a grand ceremony in the presence of various dignitaries of the Czech state and Karolina Svetla became the mother of the flag. The leader M. Tyrs invented gymnastic exercises and terminology (The Basis of Gymnastics). In 1869, the Gymnastic Society of Czech Women and Girls was founded, and Klemena Hanusova, a proponent of female physical education and Tyrs´s pupil, became the leader of the

The patriotism of Sokol was to be seen from the very beginning - Sokols made trips in national costumes, were present to national ceremonies, public exercises, etc, and that all encouraged people to show their patriotism. Sokol fulfilled its patriotic role during the World War I. When Czechoslovak legions were founded and during the days of the revolution in October 1918, Sokol members helped to keep peace in towns. Sokols were often called Czech
national army. Sokol leaders Schneider and Vanicek were one of those who started to organize a new Czechoslovak army. Sokol flourished between the two World Wars. During this time, membership grew to over a million. Important statesmen including the first two presidents of the Czechoslovak republic, T. Masaryk and E. Benes, were members of Sokol.

 Sokol gymnasiums were built in even small communities through co-operative effort and became sport and cultural centers. Sokol members successfully represented their country at the Olympics and world championships (Supcik, Vacha, Hudec, Gajdos, Dekanova and others). The program of Sokol has always been versatile, attractive for people of all ages. Besides regular training of all age groups, units organized sporting competitions, cultural events including drama, literature and music, excursions and youth camps. Sokol educators espoused the ideals of the movement to its members and were active in organizing discussions and exhibitions. The CSO published a wide range of magazines and booklets to assist the work of its units, including advice on organizing events and music for cultural performances and festivals. The peak of the Sokol activities were Sokol festivals.

 Sokol was almost liquidated three times. It was banned by all totalitarian regimes in Czechoslovak history. Firstly, Sokol was banned during the World War I., in 1915. Secondly, it happened during the Nazi occupation of Czech lands and finally, Sokol was banned by the communists after 1948. In 1968, struggles for Sokol revival were killed by normalization and so after 42 years of hibernation, Sokol was restored for the fourth time in 1990. The beginnings of new era of Sokol are not easy. Sokol must fight for the recovery of its gymnasiums, sports grounds and other property. Also, Sokol faces generation problems. Today, the CSO unites almost 1100 units and 190 000 members. Almost half of the members attend sporting classes, which means that there are also many young people. More and more young people also become Sokol functionaries.

New forms of presentation. Today, Sokol offers a wide range of modern activities. It organizes untraditional events called "Us today"- for example gymnastic exhibitions, Euroteam competitions, the Terry Fox Run, etc. The Czech Sokol Organization co-operates with organizations whose program includes "Sport for all," at both national and international level (TAFISA, etc.). Sokol sportsmen also represent the Czech Republic on world-wide gymnastic

In formation and photos excerpted from the Sokol website: