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Milan Rastislav Štefánik

Milan Rastislav Štefánik was born in small vilage called Košariská. He had 12 brothers and sisters. His father was a local Lutheran priest. As a strong Slovak patriot, he had troubles at Hungarian schools and had to change the high school several times.

He was a Slovak politician, diplomat, and astronomer. During World War I, he was General of the French army, at the same time the Czechoslovak Minister of War, one of the leading members of the Czechoslovak National Council and he contributed decisively to the cause of Czechoslovak sovereignty. In 1898, he started to study construction engineering in Prague. In 1900 he switched to the Charles University where he was going to lectures of astronomy, physics, optics, mathematics and philosophy. He was also in Zürich for a short time within his studies.

The Prague years had a great impact on Štefánik, because he met many important personalities there: the lectures of philosophy were taught by Tomáš Masaryk, who inspired Štefánik with the idea of cooperation of the Czechs and the Slovaks. Furthermore, Štefánik very actively participated in the work of the Slovak student association Detvan. His studies were largely financed by the Czech associations Czechoslovak Unity, Radhošť etc. - he himself could not afford them. In Prague, he wrote political and artistic texts, in which he tried to inform the Czechs on the disastrous situation of the Slovaks at that time. He graduated in 1904 with a doctor’s degree in philosophy and with thorough knowledge of astronomy.

Finally, Štefánik wanted to return home to see his family. He decided to fly from Italy and to use an Italian military plane. On May 4, 1919 around 11 AM, his plane tried to land in Bratislava, but crashed near Ivánka pri Dunaji. Štefánik died along with two Italian officers. The reason for the plane crash is disputed until today. The official explanation at that time was that the plane was shot down ”accidentally“, because its Italian tricolor was mistaken for the Hungarian tricolor. Štefánik’s sudden death in combination with his preceding quarrels with Beneš contributed to Slovak suspicion towards the Czechs during the First Republic of Czechoslovakia.

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