General Milan Rastislav Štefánik was the chief driving force of the idea of forming a Slovak democratic nation for the first time in contemporary history, said Foreign Minister Milan Lajčák at the opening of a two-day international conference on Štefánik’s contributions to Slovakia and Europe, reported the SITA newswire.
The conference is being held to mark the 90th anniversary of the political leader’s tragic death on May 4, 1919. The event hosts historians and diplomats from France, Italy, Russia, Serbia, Romania, the US, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The head of Slovakia’s Military Historical Institute, Miloslav Čaplovič, said that the conference is aimed at initiating a search for new documents and new historical challenges in archives, as he believes they contain volumes of yet unexamined materials. He considers General Štefánik as an exceptional personality in Slovak and European history as he was also a soldier for France.
State Secretary of the French Defence Ministry Jean-Marie Bockel told SITA that Štefánik is not very well-known in France any longer and he considers it his duty to change this. General Štefánik was also a French citizen and general. He was one of the heroes of WWI, who foresaw the rise and establishment of a new Europe.
Slovak Defence Minister Jaroslav Baška told SITA that General Štefánik significantly contributed to the rise of the first Czechoslovak Republic.
Milan Rastislav Štefánik was born on July 21, 1880 in Košariská. He was an astronomer, politician, and a general of the French Army. He was well-known for his work in astrophysics and solar physics. He was Minister of War of the first Czechoslovak government.
His plane crashed for unknown reasons shortly before landing upon his return to Bratislava from Italy in 1919. General Štefánik and three Italian pilots accompanying him died in the crash. According to historians, he ranks among the most noteworthy figures in modern Slovak history. SITA
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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5. May 2009 at 10:00