Sokol Movement

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The Sokol movement began in 1862 in the Czech region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Leading figures of the movement were Miroslav Tyrš and Jindřich Fügner. The first meeting of what was to become Sokol, was held on February 16, 1862, with 75 participants present. Tyrš greatly admired the Greek “kalokagathia” (an ideal physical and moral beauty) and applied its principles of harmony of body and mind in the organization. He outlined the Sokol principles – strength, fortitude, love of freedom, love of homeland; and drafted the physical fitness program, the Tyrš System. Tyrš also coined the credo ” tužit se” (loosely translating as “let’s aspire to be strong, proficient, and vigorous”). Emanuel Tonner suggested the name Sokol (falcon) – a swift, powerful bird, viewed as courageous and heroic – a fitting symbol for the new organization’s vision of the ideal individual. Fügner introduced the idea to address each other as “brothers” and “sisters”. Josef Barák suggested that the members greet each other with “Nazdar”. Josef Manes created the flag with a soaring falcon as well as the first uniforms, which, as with the name Sokol, were inspired by the nationalist revolutionaries of Montenegro, Poland and Italy. At the christening of the Sokol flag, later in the year 1862, writer Karolína Světlá evoked the ancient Greek concept “A Sound Mind in a Sound Body”:

The credos ” tužit se ” and “A Sound Mind in a Sound Body” became guiding principles of the movement, the objective of which was to prepare individuals for life through physical, moral, and intellectual training, and to strengthen their national conscience. Sokol offered fitness training, as well as educational and cultural programs, and group outings. Within its first year, the Sokol movement expanded beyond Prague to Moravia and soon to other regions of Europe populated by Slavs. Though officially non-political, the Sokol movement played a significant part in the development of Slavic nationalism. Mass gatherings called Slety (Slet in singular) – the Czech word for “a flocking of birds” – were opportunities not only to demonstrate physical fitness and mental discipline through elaborate mass calisthenics displays and individual competitions, but also forums for the exchange of ideas. The first Sokol Slet was held in Prague in 1882.