This is the first scientific biography of Milan Rastislav Štefánik (1880–1919) that is focused on analysing the process of how he became the Slovak national hero.
Although he is relatively unknown internationally, his contemporaries compared him “to Choderlos de Laclos for the use of military tactics in love affairs, to Lawrence of Arabia for vision, to Bonaparte for ambition ... and to one of apostles for conviction”. He played the key role in founding an independent Czechoslovakia in 1918 through his relentless worldwide travels during the First World War in order to create the Czechoslovak Army: he visited Serbia and Romania on the eve of invasion by the Central Powers, Russia before the February revolution, the United States after it declared war on Germany, Italy dealing with the consequences of defeat in the Caporetto battle, and again when Russia plunged into Civil War.
Several historical methods are used to analyse the aforementioned central research question of this biography such as social capital to explain his rise in French society, the charismatic leader to understand how he convinced and won over a relatively large number of people; more traditional political, military, and diplomatic history to show his contribution to the founding of Czechoslovakia, and memory studies to analyse his extraordinary popularity in Slovakia. By mapping his intriguing life, the book will be of interest to scholars in a broad range of areas including history of Central Europe, especially Czechoslovakia, international relations, social history, French society at the beginning of the 20th century and biographical research.
Table of Contents
List of figures viii
1 Slovakia in the long 19th century 1
2 From Slovak hamlets to Parisian salons 13
3 Štefánik the visionary and charismatic leader 72
4 Štefánik and the founding of Czechoslovakia 121
5 Štefánik and Slovak identity 202
6 Conclusion 253
7 Chronology of Štefánik’s life 259
8 Sources 261
Michal Kšiňan is Researcher in the Institute of History at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovakia.