Authorities in the northwestern Bubeneč district announced that they can no longer keep cleaning the monument to Marshal Ivan Konev after continuous acts of vandalism against it, so they decided to cover it with a tarpaulin.
The move, announced by the mayor of Prague 6, Ondrej Kolar, caused an immediate backlash. Several dozen people protested against the decision on Monday at the statue’s location, including the Czech president’s spokesman Jiri Ovčaček.
“We have different opinions and we choose different political parties, but one thing connects us, we reject the rewriting of history and we reject people who trample on the values of democracy,” Ovčaček said in a speech.
He was one of the multiple Czechs protesting the covering-up as it happened. He posted a photo of him bowing his head before Konev’s statue on his Twitter account, calling him “liberator of the Czech Republic and of the Auschwitz death camp.”
The Russian Embassy condemned the timing of Kolar’s decision, made “in the run-up to the 80th anniversary of the most horrific military conflict in human history.” The embassy claimed it has received numerous letters from Czech citizens denouncing this move, with some “wondering which side would the incumbent municipal government of Prague 6 district support during World War Two.”
While the embassy did not provide specific examples of the letters, denunciation of the act from the Czech general public was evident. A man named Jiri Cernohorsky, described as “anti-immigration activist and supporter of the Russian Federation” removed the cover in protest on Friday and again during the Monday protest, and was reportedly apprehended by police for that.
In response to criticism, district boss Ondrej Kolar said the Konev statue is targeted for vandalism at least twice a year. He believes this illustrates the district population’s negative attitude towards Konev and called those gathered for Monday’s protest “extremists united by… a blind love for Russia.”
The monument to Konev was unveiled on May 9, 1980, the 35th anniversary of the liberation of Prague by the troops of the 1st Ukranian Front, commanded by Konev. While hailed as a WWII liberator, Konev’s post-war actions still spark controversy because of his role in the suppression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and the so-called Prague Spring of 1968.