Plaques for Konev statue delayed

A statue in Bubeneč honors a Soviet figure with a very mixed legacy

Most statues with Soviet themes came down shortly after the Velvet Revolution. There has been a controversy about the remaining one to Soviet Marshall Ivan Stepanovich Konev on náměstí Interbrigády in Prague’s Bubeneč district.

The Prague 6 Town Hall has decided to put plaques in three languages to add some context to the historical figure. The plaques were supposed to be up by the end of June, but that has not happened. They should instead be in place by the end of July or start of August, according to the Town Hall.

Konev was a key participant in the liberation of Prague from German forces at the end of World War II, but he also later had a role in the brutal suppression of Hungarian Uprising of 1956, using a tank division. This led to large numbers of casualties. Some 2,500 to 3,000 people died on the Hungarian side and 13,000 were wounded.

“The setting up of the plaques on the monument in Czech, English and Russian has been delayed for two reasons. At the suggestion of the representative of Roman Mejstřík (ANO), the Town Hall looked at whether the plaques could be made of cheaper material than the originally proposed bronze. The second reason is that no one signed up for the public contract,” Prague 6 Deputy Mayor 6 Jan Lacina (STAN), responsible for culture, told daily Pražský deník.

Lacina added that the Town Hall stuck with the bronze option and work was now underway.

The plaques will explain Konev’s role in the liberation of Prague as well as the Hungarian Uprising, the construction of the Berlin wall and the participation Warsaw Pact Troops in the occupation of Czechoslovakia.

There were rumors on social media that the delay was due to politics. “The intervention of the Russian Embassy in this case is a rumor. The embassy in the past has made several attempts to talk about this issue, highlighting the international implications, but we insist on it,” Lacina told the daily.

Adding the plaques to the statue is a compromise. There was an effort in 2015 to remove the statue completely. A petition drive helped to save the statue.

Konev died in 1973, and is considered a hero in Russia.

The statue in Prague has been vandalized several times. Twice it has been covered in pink paint, and once somebody wrote dates on the base referring to the Hungarian Uprising, Berlin Wall and the Soviet-led invasion of Prague, as well as current events.

The statue was put up in 1980 and is the work of sculptors Zdeněk Krybus and Vratislav Růžička. It shows the Russian marshal holding flowers, a gift from the crowds of liberated people. With his other hand he is waving.

Aside from the statue, Konev is also remembered in Prague’s Žižkov district with a street, Koněvova.

A similar statue honoring Konev was taken down in Kraków in 1991.

This is not the first time that Prague has added an explanation to a statue. In 2000, plaques were put on Charles Bridge next to a statue depicting the Crucifixion. There have been Hebrew letters on the statue for some 300 years. The letters were put up when a Jewish man allegedly muttered something as he passed by. The man was forced to pay for the lettering, acknowledging that Jesus Christ is the “Lord of Hosts.”

The plaque was also a compromise as some people were seeking to finally have the letters removed.

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