Milan Rastislav Štefánik

Slovak astronomer and politician. Born 1880, died 1919.

As a young man, Štefánik moved to Paris (1904), and in 1912 became a French citizen. During World War I, he made a name for himself in the French military, as a pilot.

In 1915, Štefánik joined the struggle for an independent Czechoslovakia, forming (with Tomas Garrigue Masaryk and the Edvard Beneš) "The Czechoslovak National Council", a movement which demanded the dissolution of Austria-Hungary and the creation of an independent Czechoslovakia. With his military experience and contacts, he became a central figure in the independence movement, and as a pro-Czech Slovak, he helped to add legitimacy to the political ideal of a joint Czech and Slovak state.

After the war, Štefánik clashed repeatedly with Edvard Beneš over foreign policy issues, and was slowly but surely marginalised in the politics of the fledgling state.

Štefánik was killed in 1919 in a plane crash.

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