David Černý's iconic Soviet tank painted blue and yellow in support of Ukraine

The artist's Tank Torso, which stands at the location of Prague's former Monument to Soviet Tank Crews, is now sporting the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky Published on 06.03.2022 14:34:00 (updated on 06.03.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

A Soviet tank at Prague's Kinský Square has once again been re-colored to protest Russian aggression. This time, David Černý's Tank Torso has been re-painted in blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, in protest against the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Černý himself posted images of the tank on social media, writing "Russian warship, go to hell!" after the rallying cry by Ukrainian border guards on Snake Island. The artist later told reporters that the tank was re-painted by "friends."

"There is probably not a single man who could consider himself a human being without calling out this brutal and violent occupation," Černý said about the most recent Russian invasion.

The Soviet tank has a long history at Kinský Square. The full version was originally installed in 1945 as a monument to the Russian troops who had liberated Prague from Nazi occupation at the end of World War II, and the Prague 5 square was renamed the Square of Soviet Tank Crews.

But Soviet tanks took on a different meaning in Prague following the Warsaw Pact Invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, which ended the liberating Prague Spring movement and plunged the country into twenty years of communist normalization.

After the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union, Prague residents awoke one morning in 1991 to find the tank monument painted bright pink as a symbol of artistic protest against Czechoslovakia's decades-long oppressors.

It was the work of Černý, a Prague art student at the time, who was promptly arrested for hooliganism. The tank was re-painted green, then pink again to protest Černý's arrest. Černý was released after a few weeks in jail, the tank's status as a national monument was revoked, and it was re-painted a few more times before being removed from the square for good.

Today, the original pink tank rests at the Military Museum in Lešany. Černý, meanwhile, has gone on to become one of the Czech Republic's preeminent modern artists, and has received worldwide recognition.

Černý installed another pink tank sculpture at Kinský Square, called Tank Torso, in 2008. It was quickly removed after opposition from then-Prime Minister (and now President) Miloš Zeman, but re-appeared at the location in 2018 painted in green, where it has stood since.

It now has a new coat of paint, but remains a symbol of artistic protest against Russian occupation. As images of Russian tanks making their way through Ukraine are seen daily in news reports, a Prague version being swallowed by the Earth and now painted in the colors of the Ukrainian flag couldn't be more appropriate.

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