As the Czech nation celebrates 30 years of freedom and democracy the words of a leading Communist Party official have caused a public outcry. In an interview for Czech Radio, the party’s deputy chair, Stanislav Grospič argued that the 1968 Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia was not an invasion and that the people killed had died mostly in road accidents. While his words evoked widespread condemnation, the Communist Party has not distanced itself from the statement.
Czechoslovak citizens executed in the Soviet Union in the 1930s were
remembered at a ceremony in Prague on Tuesday evening. The event took place
at a monument to the victims of the Communist regime in the Újezd
The names of 85 Czechs and Slovaks put to death in the USSR were read out by representatives of the associations that organised it and others. Similar memorials were held elsewhere in Europe on the eve of Russia’s Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions on October 30.
Deputy Foreign Minister Aleš Chmelař on Friday summoned the Russian
ambassador to Prague, Alexandr Zmejevskij, to voice a strong objection to
the “untrue and insulting” statements of Russian Culture Minister
Vladimir Medinsky directed against the mayor of Prague 6 with regard to the
debate surrounding the controversial statue of Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev.
Medinsky compared the mayor to a leader of the regional branch of the Nazi party NSDAP and slammed the district administration for allegedly being disrespectful to the liberators of Prague in 1945.
Mr.Chmelař stated in no uncertain terms that the fate of the Konev statue is the Czech Republic’s internal affair and reminded the ambassador that the treaty on cooperation and good-neighbourly relations signed by the Czech Republic and Russia is based on mutual respect and equality. He warned the Russian ambassador against abusing history to further the country’s present day political interests.
The Prague 6 authorities decided on Thursday that the controversial statue of Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev will be replaced by a statue commemorating the soldiers who liberated Prague in 1945, and the controversial statue of the Soviet marshal will be moved to a suitable new site in Prague.
Marshal Konev is perceived as a controversial figure in the Czech Republic. Although he helped liberate the country from Nazi oppression, he was also involved in the suppression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961.
Exactly a year after the Prague Spring was crushed by a Warsaw Pact invasion, many thousands of Czechoslovaks went into the streets once more to protest their country’s occupation. The subsequent brutal crackdown on demonstrators, this time by their own countrymen, resulted in hundreds of arrests and even five deaths. It crushed the last vestiges of hope and persuaded the public that “normalisation” was here to stay.
The anti-government protest movement A Million Moments for Democracy plans
a march through Prague on the 50th anniversary of a protest held a year
after the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
Organisers of the march on 21 August say they want both to commemorate past events and draw attention to current political issues that threaten the Czech democracy.
The group has accused Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) of undermining the rule of law while milking Brussels and Czech taxpayers to line his own pockets.
The Czech police have recommended that Mr Babiš be charged with fraud tied to the use of EU funds. He is also accused of having a conflict of interest because many decisions he makes benefit the Agrofert business empire he founded.
In late June, A Million Moments for Democracy organised the biggest public protest since the 1989 Velvet Revolution that overthrew Communism, calling for Mr Babiš to resign.
More than 100 people have petitioned the local authority in Prague 3
seeking to have the name of the street Koněvova changed, the news site
Pražský deník reported. The street, a key artery in the capital, has
been named after Red Army general Ivan Konev since 1946, a year after the
Soviets liberated some parts of the Czech lands, including Prague.
However, Konev was also the supreme commander of Russian forces during the violent suppression of the Hungarian Uprising in 1956.
Some residents of the Žižkov district are against renaming the street, arguing that it would involve excessive bureaucracy, Pražský deník said.
The Czech government has backed a proposal by some 90 MPs to proclaim 21
August, the date of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact
troops, a national holiday – Remembrance Day.
The amendment to the law on national holidays will be put to a vote in the lower house of Parliament in the coming days. It backed by MPs spanning all parties, except the Communists.
According to its authors, the invasion of 20 to 21 August 1968 was among the most tragic dates in contemporary Czechoslovak history, for having crushed the Prague Spring reforms.
Exactly 50 years ago today, the Czechoslovak national ice hockey team beat the Soviets in the world championships for a second time, setting off a series of celebrations – which soon turned into protests, at times violent, against the ongoing Warsaw Pact occupation. Though a moral victory, in a sense it proved a Pyrrhic one.
Tuesday is the 50th anniversary of the approval by the Czechoslovak
government of the presence of Soviet troops on the country’s territory.
The move followed the invasion of the country in August 1968 by Warsaw Pact
soldiers. Previously Czechoslovakia was the only country in the Eastern
Bloc not to possess Soviet troop bases.
The text of the treaty document was drafted in early October 1968, when senior Czechoslovak Communist Party officials Alexander Dubček, Oldřich Černík and Gustav Husák held talks in Moscow on the conditions of the temporary deployment of allied troops. Russian soldiers finally left Czechoslovakia 23 years later.