In the Czech Republic, the statue of WWII Soviet military leader Ivan Konev is set to topple, following a decision by a Prague district assembly.
Marshal Konev led the Red Army into Prague on 9 May 1945, and his role as the ‘liberator’ of what was then Czechoslovakia from Nazi rule was recognised in the erection of the statue in 1980.
Had Konev’s connection with Eastern Europe gone no further, the late Soviet marshal might have avoided the present controversy. However, he played a leading role in smashing the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, as well as in the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. He is also charged with involvement in the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia to crush the ‘Prague Spring’ of 1968.
His statue has therefore been targeted since the fall of Communism in 1989, being repeatedly daubed with paint. On the other hand, pro-Russian activists, backed by the Russian Embassy, have responded by tearing down the tarpaulin placed over the statue to hide it from public view.
Statues of military figures have recently become the focus of protest elsewhere, notably in the southern states of the US, where radical activists have demanded the removal of statues of Confederate generals, and have sometimes been actively opposed by far-right supporters.
This article was published in the December 2019 issue of Military History Matters. To find out more about subscribing to the magazine, click here.