3 Apr, 2020
A monument to Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev, who commanded the forces that liberated Prague from the Nazis in 1945, has been removed and mocked for ‘not having a mask’ by one local official, in what Russia has condemned as an insult.
Konev is one of the most celebrated Red Army generals, who commanded the 1st Ukrainian Front (army group) that liberated the Auschwitz death camp in January 1945 and the Czech capital several months later, putting an end to six years of Nazi occupation.
Yet on Friday, the authorities in Prague’s District Six dismantled his statue, using the fact that stay-at-home orders imposed to combat the spread of Covid-19 prevented any protesters from showing up.
“He didn’t have a mask on. Those rules apply to everybody. You can only be outside if your mouth and nose are covered,” district mayor Ondrej Kolar joked on Facebook, prompting a multitude of angry responses.
Some commenters suggested that Kolar had “his brain affected by the coronavirus” and reminded him that he would have never been born, much less a mayor, had Konev’s troops not liberated the city from the Nazis. The monument actually predates Kolar, who was born in 1984, by four years.
Others pointed out the cowardly act of removing Konev during the coronavirus lockdown to avoid protests, such as had occurred last September when the decision about the monument was made.
The Russian mission to OSCE called it a “dark day” in Prague’s history, and Moscow’s embassy in Prague blasted Kolar for his “cynical” joke, calling the removal of the statue a “provocation” aimed at harming ties between Russia and Czechia.
1/2 Сегодня мрачный день в истории Праги. Власти столицы Чехии демонтировали памятник маршалу И.С.Коневу, который был открыт там в 1980 г. в благодарность Красной Армии за спасение Праги от разрушения нацистами. pic.twitter.com/fmQd9Ob3wi
— Russian Mission OSCE (@RF_OSCE) April 3, 2020
Adding insult to injury, Konev’s statue is slated to become the first exhibit in a museum dedicated to the “totalitarian regimes” present on Czech territory in various periods, thus equating him with Nazi occupiers such as Reinhard Heydrich, the SS official whom the Czech resistance famously assassinated in 1942.
This type of behavior by Kolar and his colleagues is possibly inspired by the example of Czechia’s northern neighbor – and fellow EU and NATO member – Poland, which has been dismantling Soviet monuments as part of a broader campaign of historical revisionism asserting moral equivalence between the USSR and Nazi Germany.