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.
On Wednesday evening, thousands of people attended a protest march in
Prague initiated by Million Moments for Democracy, the organization behind
the largest demonstration in the Czech Republic since the Velvet Revolution
in 1989, which brought an estimated quarter of a million demonstrators to
Prague’s Letná plain in June. Organisers say the event was attended by
10,000 people and served as a reminder of the events of the Soviet invasion
in 1968, the brutal Communist crackdown on protesters in 1969 and as a
protest against the current prime minister and president.
Attendees met on Prague's Wenceslas Square in the evening hours before heading to Hradčany Square in front of Prague Castle.
The march was part of a wider string of demonstrations organized by the group this Wednesday. These were held in 93 sites across the country, including all of the Czech Republic’s major cities.
The Czech Radio building in Prague saw the most intense violence during the Soviet-led invasion of August 21, 1968 and, as every year, hundreds of people marked the anniversary at the station on Thursday. Among them were leading politicians – and one old lady who broadcast news of the occupation to the outside world.
Events are being held in the Czech Republic marking the anniversary of
August 21 in both 1968 and 1969. Czechoslovakia was invaded by Soviet-led
troops on that date in 1968, while the following year a number of
participants in demonstrations on the first anniversary were killed in
clashes with Czechoslovak security forces.
The main memorial event on Wednesday will take place in front of Czech Radio, which was a focal point of defiance and violence in August 1968. Senior elected representatives and people who lived through that time are expected to attend.
The events of August 1969 are to be marked by a march from Wenceslas Square to Prague Castle organised by the group Million Moments for Democracy.
Dozens of other memorial events are also being held around the Czech Republic.
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 Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes has launched an
interactive map showing where victims of the 1968 invasion met their
deaths. It details the victims’ names and where, when and how they died
in connection with the Soviet-led invasion between August 1968 and August
The map’s co-creator, historian Milan Bárta, said that while people initially died in big cities, later victims met their deaths on country roads as the result of traffic accidents as soldiers were barred from entering cities and withdrew to the regions.
Link to map (in Czech): https://obetiokupace.dejepis21.cz/
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.
The Australian broadcaster and writer Richard Fidler is author of two bestsellers Ghost Empire, a fascinating reconstruction of the history of ancient Byzantium, and Saga Land, a very personal journey into Icelandic history. His writing is lively and engaged, but he is also meticulous in his research. Earlier this year Richard spent two months in Prague on a residency made possible through the UNESCO City of Literature programme. He is writing a book that will look at a thousand years of Prague history, each episode told through the story of an
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.
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