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Slovak-born Milan Rastislav Štefánik (1880–1919) lived many lives. As an astronomer, he was in charge of the Janssen Observatory on Mont Blanc and participated in scientific expeditions to a number of far-flung places including North Africa, Central Asia, Ecuador, the Galapagos and Tahiti.

As an aviator and soldier, he fought with the French Air Force and was responsible for the creation of the Czecho-Slovak Legion. As a diplomat and leading member of the Czecho-Slovak National Council, he was instrumental in gaining support among the Entente Powers, especially France, for the idea of an independent Czechoslovakia. As a politician, he was one of the three co-founders of Czechoslovakia and became the first Minister of War. It was in this capacity that following the outbreak of the Russian Civil War, the involvement of Czecho-Slovak troops therein, and the creation of Czechoslovakia on 28 October 1918, while en route from Japan to Siberia, Štefánik made a brief sojourn in China in November 1918.


This lecture explores Štefánik's brief visit, drawing on a number of sources from the Czechoslovak Foreign Ministry and military archives, press and various memoirs of first-hand witnesses to provide a detailed account of his stay in Harbin and meetings with Li Chia Ao (Li Jia'ao, 李家鏊, 1859–1926), the daoyin (道尹, often translated as 'intendant') of the three north-eastern provinces and Commissioner for Foreign Affairs for Harbin, who later became Minister of the Embassy of the Republic of China in the Soviet Union. The lecture concludes with a brief overview of the aftermath of the visit, including the presence of Czechoslovak legionnaires, Czechoslovak Consulate, and the wider Czechoslovak community in Harbin.

About the speaker:



Lukáš Gajdoš, RAS Beijing member, covers political and cultural relations at the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Beijing. In his role, he has attempted to highlight historical links between (present-day) Slovakia and China, including events to commemorate Ladislav Hudec ("The Man Who Changed Shanghai") and comprehensive research about the previously unknown visit of Milan Rastislav Štefánik, a co-founder of Czechoslovakia, in China in late 1918 and early 1919 (published in the 2018 RAS China Journal).


His latest project aims to conclude this trilogy by introducing the life and career of Ernst Gottfried Ludwig, who was born in what was then known as Pozsony/Pressburg/Prešporok and became one of the first Chinese graduates at the Konsularakademie in Vienna to become the Austro-Hungarian (vice)consul in Shanghai, Beijing, and Tianjin against the backdrop of the last full decade of the Qing rule over China.

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