National Geographic : 1918 Dec
Photograph from Underwood &Underwood THE- SOKOL IN PRAGUE: A GYMNASTIC ASSOCIATION WHIICTI HELPED TO CREATE ANATION These men, eleven thousand in rrmber, were giving a calesthenics exhibition ostensibly; inreality they were training tofight Austria when the opportunity should come. The Sokol, or Gymnastic Association, was organized sixty years ago toprepare secretly for arevolution. Its mem bers were really interested in athletics, but their main purpose was to maintain an organization of men who could fight. At the beginning ofthe great war, Austria put the Czecho-Slovaks into the army with the greatest possible speed and sentthem tothe front-line trenches, sothat they would be the first to be slain. And about 50 per cent of them were killed. Every revolutionary CzechorSlovak inthe Austrian army was areal enemy of Austria-an enemy at heart-and tens of thousands of them surrendered and went over to the Italians and Russians, as well astothe Allies in the Balkans, and took up arms against Austria. Many regiments of Czechs and Slovaks were organized inthe Entente countries and inthe United States to fight Germany and Austria. The Sokol, calling itself an athletic association, was inreality arevolutionary military organization, with a membership of over 300,000 men, at the beginning of the war. It accomplished its purpose. Itwas one ofthe main causes ofAustria's downfall, which in turn led to the downfall of Germany.