Portrait of Milan Ratislav
by Tavik Frantiek imon, 1918
Milan Rastislav tefánik
was an astronomer and art-connoisseur.
became a general, politician and diplomat
and was one of the founders of Czechoslovakia.
tefánik was befriended with the artist
T.F. imon (1877-1942),
financially supported the young artist during his early career in
"there is no such thing as the impossible"
Memorial in Cleveland, Ohio
With the tragic death of tefánik on 4 May 1919,
the Cleveland Slovaks raised money to remember this national hero with a
monument. The sculptured bronze figure atop a stone base was
commissioned to Slovak sculptor M. Frico Motoska in 1922. The monument
is located in Cleveland Wade Park, at the foot of University Circle. The
Slovak Cultural Garden extending 3 acres along Rockefeller Park began in
1929 as a civic plan to join with other nationalities along this long
parkway extending north from University Circle. There are 24
nationality gardens along this route.
Slovak stamp of 1939
Issued in commemoration of the death of tefánik. Shown is tefánik as a general and his
memorial barrow, a national cultural monument, designed by the architect
Dusan Jurkovic, standing on Bradlo Hill above the town Brezová pod
Bradlom in Slovensko. The comet and the stars remind his profession as an
Stamp issued 5 May 2003 in France in memory of tefánik: value 50 euro-cent.
||Stamp issued 5 May 2003 in
Slovakia in memory of tefánik: value
14 Slovak crowns.
Milan Rastislav tefánik
(1880-1919) was born on July 21, 1880 in the evangelic parish house in
Kosariská, a small village with a population of about 400, in Slovakia
(Slovensko). Then part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.
His father was Pavol tefánik (1844-1913), a Lutheran
priest and patriot;
his mother was Albertína Jurenkova.
In Kosariská he attended the folk school and after that he was accepted
to the evangelical lyceum in Bratislava. After his final examinations 1898 in Szarvas
tefánik chose to study, at first architectural engineering , then mathematics and astronomy, but finally
tefánik applied to the Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague where
in 1904 he graduated with a doctorate from philosophy. From his childhood he
liked astronomy, physics and mathematics and therefore left Austria-Hungary, as
hundreds of Slovak intellectuals, and travelled abroad. He chose Paris with its
science, culture and art and desired to act there as an astronomer.
Besides studying, tefánik also put his energy into club activities. He was a
member, later also chairman of the Slovak student club Detvan in Prague, which
propagated Slovak culture, poetry and folk songs. In Prague he entered its
intellectual society and also met among others Tomás G. Masaryk, the future
drawing of Milan tefánik
by the Czech artist
Hugo Boettinger (*Pilzen
1880 - Prague1934).
Signed HB, dated 1905 and Paris.
Boettinger was a close friend of the Czech artist
imon, who had a good
arrived in 1904 in Paris with just a few things in his suitcase and a
recommendation from his Prague professor. After a long period of poor existence
and waiting for French professor Jansen who was in Italy, tefánik was finally
accepted as an assistant in Jansen's observatory in Meudon.
His first act in
his new job was an ascent from the town of Chamonix to the highest
European peak, the 4810m high Mont Blanc, with an expedition. The main
purpose was to observe the sun and atmosphere on the observatory
constructed by the famous Gustave Eiffel. The weather worsened and the
stay on the top was prolonged from a planned two weeks to the final three.
Already no one believed that members of the expedition were still alive.
On the 21st day the decimated and starving group was discovered in the
streets of Chamonix. The record of a stay on Mont Blanc was broken and it
is unbelievable that the observations themselves took only 20 minutes out
of a three-week stay. tefánik has written an original report about the
expedition. He worked at Meudon Observatory during 1905-1907 and proposed to build a new
observatory on the island of Tahiti. He received the Janssen award in 1907 and
the Wilde award in 1911.
1906. Scientific journey to Turkestan.
1907. During coming back from Russia he
visited L. N. Tolstoj in Jasnaja Poljana.
1909. Meteorological observations in Algeria and tour to Tunis.
1910. He is
observing Halley's comet in Tahiti in Polynesia.
1911. Journeys to New Zealand, island Vavau, Fiji Islands and to Australia for
observing the eclipse of the sun.
1912. Diplomatic and intelligence services and observation of the sun in Brazil.
He got the French nationality.
1913. He visited Kosariska and Slovakia for the last time in case of
funeral. Journeys to Tahiti, USA, Panama, Ecuador and Galapagos Islands.
1914 . He got the Chivalrous decoration of the Honest Legion. He received a message
about the outbreak of the world war in Morocco.
1915. He entered the French army as a pilot and he became founder of the
meteorological service in the air force. He flied on the Serbian front and
began organizing the Czecho-Slovak rebellion abroad.
1916. He founded the Czecho-Slovak National Council in Paris with T.G. Masaryk
and E. Benes. He negotiated in Russia, he organized the intake of
volunteers-countrymen in Roumania.
1917. He took a diplomatic journey to Russia; he tried to create an army from
countrymen in USA. French president H. Poincaré accredited a decree about
creating a Czecho-Slovak army in France.
1918. He tried to create legions from Czech and Slovak captives, previous
Austro-Hungarian troops in Italia. He took up with his coming fiance Giuliane
Benzoni. And he travelled to USA, Japan and Russian Siberia with general Janin.
There were still large Czecho-Slovak troops. He became general and minister of
war of the new Czechoslovak republic.
4 May: tragic death of Milan Rastislav
tefánik in an airplane crash,
near Ivanka pri Dunaji near Bratislava.
1919. He took part in politic and diplomatic negotiation in Paris and Rome.
tefánik as a soldier,
later even general of the French Army, was decorated with the state prize (Légion
dHonneur) and gained many good contacts in high places. He mediated a meeting
between T.G.M. (=Masaryk) as the head of the Czechoslovak government in exile
and French PM Aristide Briand. This meeting is considered to be the beginning of
the fight for establishing the CSR.
From this time the supreme organization of the Czechoslovak foreign resistance
movement the Czechoslovak National Council began its work. Its main aim on
the field of diplomacy was to initiate connections with western governments and
in the military sphere to build foreign legions in the U.S.A., Russia, France
and Italy made up of Czech and Slovak volunteers. In this case tefánik played
the most important role. After the war and establishment of the Czechoslovak
Republic the new state had a good position for negotiations at the Paris peace
conference, mainly thanks to the fact, that volunteer legions fought on the side
of the western countries. His absolutely unexpected and tragic death met him as
a 39-year old man at the height of his career.
He is buried near the place of the disaster. The memorial barrow to General
Milan Rastislav tefánik, a national cultural monument, was designed by the
architect Dusan Jurkovic, and stands on Bradlo Hill above the town Brezová pod
The Death of tefánik - accident or murder?
1919 historians have been arguing over one of the first
and one of the most controversial events in the history of Czechoslovakia - the
death in 1919 of the Slovak general Milan Rastislav
tefánik - along
with Tomas Garrigue Masaryk and Edvard Bene - was one of the three co-founders
of the modern Czechoslovak state. But it was his untimely death - in a plane
crash in May 1919 - that has captivated both Slovak and Czech historians ever
tefánik - war hero, accomplished diplomat and some say
legendary womanizer - the name is revered by both Slovak nationalists and
Czechoslovak federalists alike. His short life was a screenplay of heroic
exploits, diplomatic intrigue and passionate affairs.
When war broke out in 1914, tefánik joined the French Army, and after being
wounded in Serbia he was sent to Paris. There he was heavily involved in the
formation of the Czechoslovak legions, the breakaway army which fought with
Britain and France against Austro-Hungary. It was his diplomatic efforts,
however, that are widely credited with winning French support for the creation
of an independent Czechoslovakia. In May 1919, six months after statehood had
been bestowed on the Czechs and Slovaks, tefánik boarded a four-seater
aero plane to return to Czechoslovakia a national hero.
piloting the plane himself and committed suicide. tefánik was shot by army
officers travelling with him in the plane.
But he never made it. On May the 4th, 1919, his plane crashed as it was
approaching the Slovak capital Bratislava. Myriad conspiracy theories -
regularly dusted off by Slovak nationalists over the decades - have sprung up to
explain the crash: the plane was shot down on
tefánik´s death was rekindled during a visit to Prague by Slovakia´s
president Rudolf Schuster. The Czech president Vaclav Havel handed him a
bundle of secret documents, which were said to contain details of an autopsy on tefánik and his three fellow passengers - which shows that none of them were
found with bullet wounds.
This, however, has not settled the matter. Slovak historian Ivan Kamenec says
the autopsy merely proves the passengers had not died from bullet wounds. It
does not, he says, prove that the plane was not shot down. But Mr Kamenec does
not subscribe to the conspiracy theory. The idea that tefánik was murdered by
his Czech colleagues is absurd and illogical, he says, for a number of reasons.
At the time of the crash Czechoslovakia was fighting a fierce border war with
the Hungarian Red Army, which occupied parts of Southern Slovakia immediately
after the declaration of Czechoslovak independence. Italy was helping Prague in
its efforts to push the Hungarians out of Slovakia. Two of
passengers were senior Italian army officers. The idea that senior Czechoslovak
officials ordered the plane to be shot down just doesn't make sense, says Mr
Kamenec. Besides, Masaryk and Bene
may have disagreed with tefánik on a number
of issues, but ordering his assassination was just not their style, he says.
At the time of his return to Czechoslovakia General tefánik was facing an
uncertain future. Most key posts in Prague had already been filled. There were
even rumours that he had decided to retire from politics and return to his first
love - astronomy.
We will never now exactly how he died. But his memory lives
on, not just in Slovakia but e.g. in Prague, at the observatory on Petrin hill
which today bears his name.
relation between Paul Gauguin, Milan tefánik
and Tavik Frantisek imon:
woodblock cut by Gauguin, taken from Tahiti by
Paul Gauguin was born on June 7, 1848 in Paris; he was one of the
leading painters of the Postimpressionist period.
In 1849 the political activities of his father, a journalist, forced the
family into exile. The Gauguin family set off for Peru. His father died
during the crossing from France. Gauguin's mother, of Peruvian descent on
her mother's side, and her two children moved in with a great grand uncle
and his family in Lima. At the age of 17 Gauguin joined the French
merchant navy, travelling around the world for six years. After the death
of his mother in 1867, he settled down with his wealthy guardian, Gustave
Arosa, who had a large art collection that included works by Delacroix.
This period in time shaped Gauguin's interest in the arts. He started
collecting Impressionist paintings, and became an amateur painter.
In 1883 the bank that employed Gauguin experienced financial difficulties,
and he found himself free to paint full-time. Much of his work during this
period was influenced by the Impressionists, especially Pissarro. In 1884
Gauguin went to paint at the artists haven of Pont-Aven. Influenced during
this period by Van Gogh, Seurat, and Degas, he began to adopt his own
In 1887, Gauguin left France for Panama. For a short time he worked as a
labourer for the Panama Canal Company. He soon left Panama for Martinique,
where he continued his development as an artist. In 1888 he returned to
Brittany. His experience in Martinique broadened his vision and enabled
him to develop original interpretations of scenes in Brittany.
In October, 1888 he travelled to Vincent van Gogh's home in Arles, France.
His stay was both traumatic and fertile for both artists. They learned a
great deal from each other but were often at odds. Gauguin returned to
Paris in December after Van Gogh's "ear incident."
Gauguin's break with the Impressionists came when he painted "Vision
after the Sermon," where he tried to depict the inner feelings of his
subjects. This painting also marked the start of a new painting style that
came to be known as "Symbolism."
Although this period had been highly productive for Gauguin, he was deeply
depressed and in 1891 abandoned his family to seek an idyllic life in the
South Pacific Islands. He stayed briefly in Tahiti's capital, Papeete, and
then relocated to a remote part of the island.
He lived in Tahiti from 1891 to 1893, and again from 1895 until his death.
In Tahiti his painting style evolved to reflect the Pacific Islands'
primitive forms and brilliant colors. His striking images of Polynesian
women rank among the most beautiful paintings of the modern age. In 1904,
Gauguin, dissipated by drug-addiction, died of a heart attack on Hiva Oa
Island in the Marquesas in French Polynesia.
In Tahiti Gauguin made some very interesting woodcuts; after his death
some of the wood blocks he cut were left on the island. Only in 1910
tefánik discovered them, in that way he rescued them. He took them to
Paris, where his friend, the artist Tavik Frantiek
imon, printed the blocks.
Now these blocks are in the collection of the National Gallery in
Paul (1848-1903), "Femmes, animaux et feuillages"
woodcut, 161x334 mm, undated, Prague (1930), unsigned, signed PG in the
bottom centre (legible only on original print). This print belongs to a
series of Gauguin prints created most probably in the years 1895-1903, the
author himself took the blocks to Tahiti where they were discovered by M.
R. tefánik during his trip in 1910 and subsequently brought to Europe.
T. F. imon
printed this series after 1911 in Paris, later they were
printed again in Prague around 1930, wood cut lengthways 20 mm thick
Paul (1848-1903), "Te Farure" (= Ici on fait l'amour).
woodcut, 66x102 mm, undated, Prague (1930), unsigned, signed PGO in the
block. This print belongs to a series of Gauguin prints created most
probably in the years 1895-1903, the author himself took the blocks to
Tahiti where they were discovered by M. R. tefánik during his trip in
1910 and subsequently brought to Europe. T. F. imon
printed this series
after 1911 in Paris, later they were printed again in Prague around 1930,
wood cut lengthways 23 mm thick, torso of the original block 355x205 mm
Paul (1848-1903), "Woman under a tree".
woodcut, 100-135x323 mm, undated, Prague (1930), unsigned. This print
belongs to a series of Gauguin prints created most probably in the years
1895-1903, the author himself took the blocks to Tahiti where they were
discovered by M. R. tefánik during his trip in 1910 and subsequently
brought to Europe. T. F. imon printed this series after 1911 in Paris,
later they were printed again in Prague around 1930, wood cut lengthways
22 mm thick.
In Honour of Milan tefánik:
|Otakar paniel (1881-1955), plaque with a portrait of Milan tefánik, Paris 1905, 47 x
Slovak 5000 crowns banknote honours Milan Rastislav tefánik.
Shown is the front. The elements printed on the left side of his portrait
illustrate the sun and the moon, representing a part of his life which he
dedicated to research and observations in the field of astronomy. Dimensions: 82 x 164 mm
and ± 1,5 mm
Designer: Jozef Bubak
Engraver: Vaclav Fajt
Manufacturer: Giesecke & Devrient
||"Place Général Stéfanik" (Square) in Paris
Maybe the most important
book about tefánik was published in 1929, redactor was Arnost Bares and the
book (420 pages, bound, 27,5x23 cm, 78 photographs) was printed by the Czech
Graphic Union in Prague. It is called "tefánikuv
Memorial", Praha, Památnik Odboje, 1929. Some of the people who
contributed to the book are Arnost Bares, Josef Bartusek, Rudolf Medek (a poem),
Hana Gregorová, Jan Zikmundík, Prof. Dr. Jan Konrád, Alois Kalvoda, F.X.
Svoboda, Fr. Bílý, B. Kafka, Tavik Frantiek
Hugo Boettinger, Stefan Krcméry, Ruzena Svobodová, Vojteska Vanecková, V.
Tille, K.J. Zákoucký, Camille Flammarion, Camille Mauclaire, Jan Havlasa, J.A.
Amédet, A.V. Novák, J. Rivnác, Fedor Houdek, Anatole de Monzie, Marshal
Lyautey, T.G. Masaryk, Dr. Eduard Benes, Marshal Foch, General Weygand, Major
Prat, Major Roger Vitrat, Major Dangelzer, Dr. Svetislav Predic, Josef
Procházka, C. Boas de Jouvenel, Bertrand de Jouvenel (son of C. Boas de
Jouvenel), C. Picard, J. Sauerwein, Aristide Briand, Louise Weiss, Prof.
Hartmann, Camille Barrère, General Girard, General Berthelot, Count Lareinty de
Tholozan, Dr. J. Markovic, V.E. Orlando, General A. Diaz, Arnaldo Agnelli, Gen.
V. Zupelli, Gen. Pietro Badoglio, Count R.A. Galenga Stuart, Rafaela de Vita,
Enrico Scodnik, Admiral Lacaze, Jean Jusserand, Dr. Lev Sychrava, Julien
Luchaire, Josef Rybka, Emil Konrád, Jan Seba, Ferd. Písecký, General Maurice
Janin, Dr. Josef Kudela, Ing. Ant. Pavel, Major Tulasne, Dr. Lev Sychrava, Dr.
Ivan Markovic, General E. Mittelhauser, Adolf Cerný and J.Bohác.