Disinfo: Removal of Soviet Marshal Konev’s statue in Prague is immoral and illegal

Summary
The monument to the Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev, whose troops liberated the Czech capital from the Nazis in 1945, was dismantled in Prague.

The Marshal was not defeated in Prague, but he was stabbed in the back 75 years later – dismantled during an epidemic when it is forbidden to gather in groups of more than two, and everyone who could protest is at home.
The main message is here: in 1968, Konev allegedly participated in the preparation of the invasion of Czechoslovakia. This myth has been repeatedly debunked by Russian historians and representatives of the Ministry of Defense.

The agreement on cooperation between Russia and the Czech Republic contains a clause on obligations to protect and care for military monuments. Russian diplomats demanded that their Czech colleagues comply with this agreement and now the Czech Foreign Ministry is obliged to provide explanations.
Disproof

This is a recurring disinformation narrative about the statue of Marshall Konev in Prague. It is also consistent with common pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives about Russophobia and the supposedly hostile anti-Russian intentions of the West, based on which Russia can cast itself as the victim.

In the dispute over the statue, Russia has argued that under the Czech-Russian mutual agreement of 1993, the Czech Republic is obliged to leave the statue in place on Prague's Interbrigade Square. However, this is an intentionally false and misleading interpretation of the terms of the agreement (full text available here). The monument is municipal property, belonging to city district Prague 6, and the 1993 agreement therefore does not apply to this case. The statue of Konev, erected in 1980, is not a military grave or memorial and therefore it was not protected by international treaties.

The democratically elected municipal council of Prague 6 voted for the removal of the statue. Basing on the protocol of the Politbureau's assembly, Czech historians established that on 8-14 May 1968, Konev chaired the Soviet military delegation sent to Prague to prepare the military invasion of Czechoslovakia. Konev was also chief of the Soviet troops in East Germany during the Berlin wall crisis in 1961. In other words, the Red Army brought not only liberation but also terror to Czech Republic, as the mayor of Prague 6, Ondřej Kolář reminded.

Kolář said that he respects the role of Konev-led forces in liberating Prague, and the sacrifice of Soviet armies liberating Europe from Nazism. "We will strive for an art competition for a memorial to the liberators of Prague at the end of World War Two instead of the marshal Konev statue," he said before the vote. "At the same time we will secure a dignified - and let me stress that, dignified - placement of this art piece (Konev) in a memorial institution. I think this is a consensual solution we have called for a number of years.". The removal of the statue was planned for April 2020 in advance and is not due to coronavirus quarantine.

The monument to Marshall Konev was erected in 1980 during the "normalisation" period in communist Czechoslovakia. The leadership of Prague's Municipal District 6, which retains legal ownership of the statue, has voted to move the monument to a museum and replace it with a memorial commemorating Soviet sacrifices in the fight against Hitler in general, and the liberation of Prague in particular. More information available here.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 191
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 05/04/2020
  • Language/target audience: Russian
  • Country: Czech Republic, Russia
  • Keywords: World War 2, Eastern Europe

Disclaimer

Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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