Žižkov street honoring controversial Soviet marshal won't be renamed

Renaming the street would be too complicated say Prague 3 officials, who have placed an explanatory plaque under the street sign.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 22.06.2021 12:20:00 (updated on 22.06.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

The Prague 3 district has addressed the controversial legacy of Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev by adding an explanatory plaque on Koněvova Street, a major thoroughfare in lower Žižkov. The move comes a year after the Prague 6 district removed a statue of Konev, sparking a dispute with Russia.

The blue plaque with white letters says:  “One of the most famous Soviet commanders in World War II. Marshal of the Soviet Union, commander of the 1st Ukrainian Front, whose troops were the first to enter Prague on May 9, 1945. In the autumn of 1956 he directed the suppression of the Hungarian uprising by the Soviet army. In 1961, at the time of the so-called Second Berlin Crisis, ending with the construction of the Berlin Wall, he headed the Group of Soviet Troops in Germany. In the spring of 1968, he led a military delegation whose members conducted intelligence reconnaissance in Czechoslovakia before the August invasion by Warsaw Pact troops. Older names of the street were Díeňská, Poděbradova, Brněnská. It has been named Koněva since 1947.”

The text of the plaque was based on similar information plaques that used to be next to the statue in Prague 6. The wording is intended to be neutral, and was made with input from the Military History Institute (VHÚ) and the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (ÚSTR).

On Facebook, the Prague 3 district described the placement of the plaque as routine.

“We always associate the installation of additional plaques with a current anniversary. Exactly 30 years ago, on June 21, 1991, the last transport with Soviet soldiers and equipment left our territory. That is why a sign on Koněvova Street was ceremoniously unveiled today. Last year, we placed 14 of them focused on important personalities of the Hussite movement and the Czech Reformation.” Prague 3 Mayor Jiří Ptáček said on Facebook.

Koněvova Street. (Photo: Raymond Johnston)
Koněvova Street. (Photo: Raymond Johnston)

There have long been calls to rename the street, but that would mean approximately 7,000 of people would need to update the address on their ID cards, businesses would have to be updated in databases. City zoning registries would need to be updated, in addition to other red tape.

Should Koněvova Street be renamed?

No. The name has been there for three-quarters of a century. 53 %
Yes. Switch back to one of the older names. 38 %
Yes. Name it after a local Žižkov or Czech hero or artist. 6 %
Yes. Name it after an international person or event. 1 %
Yes. Name it something neutral. 3 %
152 readers voted on this poll. Voting is closed

“This is why we have decided to describe Konev's role in modern European history at least in the form of an additional sign," Prague 3 Councilor Pavel Křeček said.

"For all the effort to be as unbiased as possible, I expect a contradictory reaction to the content of the sign," he added.

Konev statue surrounded by scaffolding.
Konev statue surrounded by scaffolding. (photo: Raymond Johnston)

The Prague 6 district removed the statue of Marshal Konev from from náměstí Interbrigády in April 2020, after it had repeatedly been vandalized. It has stood there since 1980.

The statue, valued at CZK 13 million, is now in storage and will likely go to the planned Museum of 20th Century Memory, though other locations have been suggested.

“Konev is down, let Konev stand! But in a museum. Today’s removal of the bronze statue of Marshal Konev from the pedestal on the náměstí Interbrigády is the imaginary last note in the etude that took place in 1980 in Bubenec,” Prague 6 Mayor Ondřej Kolář said at the time of the removal.

Explanatory plaque at the base of the Konev memorial. (photo: Raymond Johnston)
Explanatory plaque at the base of the Konev memorial. (photo: Raymond Johnston)

In 2018, the Prague 6 Town Hall had plaques installed on the monument to remind people of Konev’s role in events after World War II, but it was not enough to stop the intermittent vandalism or quell the negative reaction to the statue.

The Russian Embassy in Prague objected to the removal of the statue, and there were protests at the Czech Embassy in Moscow. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the removal was a crime that would not remain unanswered.

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