Stefanik, Milan Rastislav
Details of banknote
- Country of issue: Czechoslovakia
- Denomination: 50 Korun
- Year Issued: 1948
Details of person
Milan Rastislav Štefánik (born 1880 in Košariská (Kosaras), Kingdom of Hungary, died 1919 in Ivanka pri Dunaji, Czechoslovakia) was a Slovak politician, diplomat, and astronomer. During World War I, he was General of the French army, at the same time Czechoslovak Minister of War, one of the leading members of the Czechoslovak National Council (i.e. resistance government), and he contributed decisively to the cause of Czechoslovak sovereignty.
He studied endineering and astronomy in Prague, where he followed philosphy courses taught by Tomáš Masaryk. In 1904, he went to Paris and found employment at the Observatory of Paris-Meudon. Between 1906 and 1908, he was co-director of Mont Blanc observatories. He travelled widely for his astronomical and meteorological messions, which allowed him to establish a wide diplomatic network. In 1912, he received French citizenship.
Štefánik took military service as an airman, flying thirty missions over Serbia in 1914-15. Upon his return to Paris, he became acquainted with Edvard Beneš and reconnected with Masaryk. In 1916, these three men founded the Czechoslovak National Council (a provisional government-in-exile). Štefánik organized Masaryk’s meeting with Aristide Briand.
In 1916, Štefánik and the Czecho-Slovak resistance started to create Czechoslovak troops (legions) that would fight against Austria-Hungary and Germany. For this purpose, he went to Russia and then (in February 1917) to the USA. He also organized legions in France and Italy. It was largely due to his personal diplomatic skills and contacts that the Allies (Entente) recognized the Czechoslovak National Council as a government-de-facto and the Czechoslovak troops as allied forces in the summer and autumn 1918. However, during the Paris Peace negotiations of 1918-1919, a rift arose over the position of Slovakia in the new country. Štefánik died in a plane crash near Bratislava en route to his native town.