On Wednesday, Prague’s statue depicting Marshal of the Soviet Union Ivan Konev was covered in red paint by unnamed vandals. The monument has been similarly abused many times before. However, this time the local district authorities, who have been trying to move the statue to the Russian Embassy, say they will not clean up the damage until the embassy “starts constructive discussions”.
Celebrations marking the liberation of Plzeň by General Patton’s Army on May 6th 1945 took place in the West Bohemian city at the weekend. Despite the cold, thousands of people lined the streets of the city to greet the war veterans who rode at the head of the Convoy of Liberty organized in remembrance of the event.
Leading Czech politicians, war veterans and cultural figures gathered at
Ďáblice Cemetery in Prague on Sunday to pay homage to the soldiers who
had laid down their lives liberating the country from Nazi oppression.
There are some 160 soldiers of different nationalities buried at the
The commemorative ceremony was attended by government and Parliament representatives, Prague City Hall officials and members of the Union of Freedom Fighters.
The Night Wolves, a Russian motorcycle club known for its staunch
nationalism and close ties to Vladimir Putin, is making several appearances
in the Czech Republic in connection with the end-of-war celebrations. They
attended a commemorative ceremony in Silesia on Friday and are expected to
return to the Czech Republic on Sunday.
The Russian bikers’ presence in the country is highly controversial. They claim they are paying homage to Red Army soldiers who died liberating Czechoslovakia, but critics see their rides as politically provocative and Russian propaganda.
Freedom celebrations continue in the West Bohemian town of Plzen, marking
the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of the city by General Patton’s
Army. Thousands of people on Saturday welcomed the Convoy of Liberty, with
its 220 historic military vehicles, which is traditionally one of the
highlights of the celebrations. Seven US and Belgian war veterans who
helped liberate the city are attending the celebrations this year.
The Liberation Festival in the city traditionally lasts for several days and includes street happenings, concerts and the chance to see a reconstructed US military camp from that period. The celebrations continue on Sunday at the town’s memorial to the US army with an event called Thank You, America!
At the beginning of May 1945 fighting was still going on in Prague. The Czech lands were one of the last places in Europe where people were dying even after the official end of hostilities between the German Army and the Allies on May 8. There was a last-minute uprising in the Czech capital and the US 3rd Army was only some 80 kilometers (or about 50 miles) away, near the western city of Plzeň.
Moscow has issued a sharp protest over the vandalizing of a statue of
Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev in Prague which was spray painted with the dates
1956, 1961, 1968 and 2017 earlier this week. The Russian Foreign Ministry
denounced the act as vandalism and an insult to those who had laid down
their lives in the liberation of Czechoslovakia.
The incident happened shortly after an offensive article appeared on a Russian web which said the Czech Republic should be grateful for the 1968 Soviet-led invasion which had brought the country 20 years of peace and stability. On a state visit to Russia, President Zeman protested against the insult to his country and Russian Prime Minister Medvedev publicly distanced himself from the article.
Marshal Konev is perceived as a controversial figure in the Czech Republic. After being present on several fronts in WWII, Konev was involved in the suppression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and was also present in Berlin for the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961.
A convoy of historical U.S. military vehicles set off on its traditional ride through Prague on Friday at the start of celebrations marking the country’s liberation from Nazi rule. The convoy stopped at the US Embassy and in the coming days will ride through South Bohemian towns and villages which were liberated by the 3rd U.S. army under General George Patton´s command. It will culminate with a ceremonial parade through Plzen next weekend, the highlight of the town’s Freedom Celebrations.
A number of memorial events took place on Sunday across the Czech Republic to mark the 71st anniversary of the end of World War II. The main ceremonies were traditionally held in Prague and in the west Bohemian town of Pilsen, which was liberated by US Army. President Miloš Zeman and prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, along with Cardinal Dominik Duka and other politicans and military officials attended a ceremony at Prague's Vítkov memorial and laid wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Two gripen fighter jets flew over the memorial to mark the national holiday.
In this week’s edition of Czech History we look at the situation in Bohemia and Moravia in late April and early May 1945 in the run up to commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. We draw on the recollections of US soldiers Czech resistance fighters, and forced labour and concentration camp workers seeking to return home as the hostilities ended.