Statue of Ivan Konev in Prague 6 via Wikimedia / ŠJů

Prague to replace statue of Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev with WWII liberation memorial

The Prague 6 Assembly approved today that the monument of Soviet Marshal Konev would be replaced with a memorial to the Prague liberation in 1945

Prague, Sept 12 (CTK) – The Prague 6 Assembly approved today that the monument of Soviet Marshal Konev would be replaced with a memorial to the Prague liberation in 1945 and would like to seek another dignified place for the statue.

The proposal was supported by 33 out of the 45 assembly members present.

The Prague 6 Town Hall will put up a public tender for an artistic design of the new memorial. The competition might be international, Prague 6 Deputy Mayor Jan Lacina (Mayors and Independents, STAN) said.

The assembly members rejected the Pirates’ proposal for a referendum on the Konev statue, which had long caused controversies and had been damaged by vandals.

The situation around the monument has even stirred up international conflicts with Russian authorities.

The Prague 6 Assembly asked the municipality council to find a dignified place for the Konev statue, best at one of the heritage protection institutions and at the same time, to secure the necessary steps for its relocation.

The coalition of TOP 09, the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the STAN submitted the proposal to the Prague 6 Assembly.

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On the basis of the adopted resolution, the town hall will adjust the Interbrigady (International Brigade) Square where the statue stands, deputy mayor Jakub Starek (Civic Democrats, ODS) said. However, first it must find a new place for the Konev statue.

It might be placed in the planned Museum of the 20th Century Memory, Lacina said. Another option being discussed is the Olsany military cemetery in Prague. The town hall is not considering sending the statue abroad, Lacina added.

The Czech capital should participate in the funding of the new memorial to a high extent.

Prague 6 Mayor Ondrej Kolar (TOP 09) has repeatedly suggested that the Konev statue be relocated elsewhere. He mentioned, for instance, the garden of the Russian embassy, situated in the same administrative district. He previously said some museums had expressed interest in the statue.

The Prague 6 Assembly debated the Konev monument for more than four hours today. MPs, citizens as well as representatives of various Prague assembly members’ party groups commented on the issue.

However, the assembly prevented Communist (KSCM) former MP and Prague assembly member Marta Semelova and pro-Russian activist Jiri Cernohorsky from speaking during the debate. None of the two is a Prague 6 inhabitant.

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Cernohorsky was pulling down the canvas from the Konev statue that the town hall installed to protect it against vandals.

At the beginning of the Prague 6 authority’s meeting, dozens of people protested against the veiling of the Konev statue and its planned removal. They demanded Kolar’s dismissal. In reaction, the town hall took security measures at its seat.

The Konev monument, built in Prague 6 in 1980 to remind of Konev’s role in the liberation of the Czech Lands from the Nazis in 1945, has been repeatedly damaged and provoked demonstrations. The Prague 6 authority tried to cover or fence the statue to protect it, against which the Russian embassy and senior officials sharply protested.

Last year, the town hall had an explanatory plaque installed on the monument to remind of Konev’s dark role in the suppression of the Budapest uprising in 1956, the Berlin Wall construction in 1961 and the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact military invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 that crushed the reform movement dubbed as the Prague Spring.

The plans to relocate the Konev statue have provoked sharp reactions by Russian senior officials.

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The Russian Foreign Ministry blamed Czech politicians for waging war against symbols of victory over fascism and called on them to stop ridiculing the Prague monument of Konev.

Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said the Prague events linked with the Konev memorial were “a spit in the face of Czech citizens.” He previously called Kolar “a Gauleiter”, a local Nazi official.

Medinsky also said in an interview released by the RIA Novosti agency today that the Prague 6 leadership was blackening the memory of Soviet soldiers and seriously violated the Czech Republic’s commitments ensuing from the bilateral agreement on care for wartime graves. However, the Defence Ministry dismissed this, explaining that the Konev statue did not have the status of a war grave or a commemorative place.

Russian senator Sergei Tsekov, elected to the Federation Council of the Russian parliament for the annexed Crimea, proposed today that Moscow impose economic sanctions on the Czech Republic over the steps in the case of the Konev monument.

Czech President Milos Zeman told CTK at the end of his state visit to Serbia today that the idea of MEP Jan Zahradil (ODS) to relocate the Konev statue to the Defence Ministry’s premises in Prague had intrigued him.

hol/dr,mr/bas

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