Stalin returns to Letná

Part of the famous statue will be re-created for a TV movie

Before there was a metronome and a bunch of skateboarders on top of the oddly empty stone base at Prague's Letná Park, there was a giant granite statue of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin with a line of workers and scientists behind him.

The statue lasted only a few years, from May 1, 1955, until it was destroyed at the end of 1962. The story behind the statue and the people who made it is now the subject of a made-for-TV movie called Monstrum, which is currently under production.

Part of a replica is now on the stone plinth in Letná and is visible all the way from Old Town Square down Pařížská Street during filming.

And like the original, which was the largest group statue in Europe, it will eventually be spectacularly blown up.

Stalin's sculpted head and shoulders have been remade in the Czech Television workshop in Prague's Kavčí hory district.

“We are at almost six meters high for the bust of Stalin, which will be underpinned by a further six meters of scaffolding. The rest of the monument, which originally measured about fifteen meters tall, will be re-created using digital tricks. During the shooting it will be unmissable to Praguers,” executive producer Martin Lubomirski said in a press release.

“No technical documentation for the original sculpture was preserved, so we had to rely on literature, photographs and films,” he said, adding that the 1950s were one of the worst periods in Czechoslovak history.

The story does not deal with Stalin directly, but focuses on sculptor Otakar Švec, played by Jan Novotný, and his family.

“The theme of the film is the evocative relationship between the Švec family with the huge, ruthless mass of granite that is becoming an absurd symbol of extinction not only for themselves but also for the whole of society,” creative producer Jan Lekeš said.

Director and screenwriter Viktor Polesný also stressed the personal nature of the story. “We will build the monster over Prague and later detonate it. But it is not the most important thing. We want to tell the story of … a great artist who is tempted and shakes hands with the devil. The path to self-destruction opens up before him without him being aware,” Polesný said.

Filming will also take place in Mladá Boleslav, the Ledeburské Gardens, Střelecký Island and the National Monument on Vítkov Hill.

The statue weighed 17,000 tons and was made of 235 granite blocks.

Work on the original statue began in 1950. Stalin died in 1953, and by the time the statue was finished, the cult around him was already falling apart and the monument was a source of some embarrassment until it was destroyed.

Authorities at the time forbid people from filming the destruction of the original and only a few pictures were clandestinely shot capturing the massive explosion propelled by 800 kilograms of explosives.

The base of the monument was built as a bomb shelter, and in the 1990 was home to a pirate radio station called Radio Stalin and was later a rock club and a venue for fights.

The metronome by Vratislav Karel Novák was installed in 1991. A statue of Michael Jackson stood there briefly in 1996 for the launch of the HIStory tour.

A cultural center and outdoor bar called Stalin has recently been holding events at the base of the plinth, and will be open until the fall.

There have been movements to rebuild several statues in Prague including a Victory Column with the Virgin Mary in Old Town Square and a statue of Field Marshall Radetzky in Malostranské náměstí. In 2003, a Hapsburg-era statue dedicated to Emperor Francis I was replaced on Smetanovo nábřeží in Old Town, as apparently it was time to come to terms with that time period.

So far, nobody has seriously proposed permanently replacing the Stalin monument, and it is unlikely that anybody will in the foreseeable future.

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