Petition wants Prague street named for Soviet marshal renamed for comic genius

Previous efforts to rename Koněvova Street in Žižkov have failed but the war has once again put the issue in the spotlight.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 20.04.2022 16:29:00 (updated on 20.04.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

The war in Ukraine has again put a spotlight on Koněvova Street in Prague’s Žižkov district. The street is named for Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev, who is connected to the violent suppression of the anti-Soviet uprising in Hungary and is also connected to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.

A statue of Konev was removed in 2020 from Prague 6, but an effort at that time to rename the street in Prague 3 was unsuccessful. Instead, blue information plaques were placed under some of the red street signs in June 2021. This issue of the name of the street is likely to be discussed at the new meeting of City Hall in June.

One suggestion is to name the street after Karel Hartig, the first mayor of Žižkov, and another is to name it for Empress Maria Theresa, though she is also a controversial figure.

Explanatory plaque on Koněvova Street. Photo: Raymond Johnston
Explanatory plaque on Koněvova Street. Photo: Raymond Johnston

A petition has been launched to promote a third option: renaming the street after the fictional character Jára Cimrman.

“The current topic of renaming Koněvova Street is in full swing, and Czechs have the opportunity to decide on the new face of Žižkov,” the petition states.

It adds that neither Hartig nor Maria Theresa are particular icons in the Czech Republic, while Cimrman is universally loved.

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

“Although he is a fictional character, we find few Czechs who would not know this philosopher, inventor, and omniscient figure,” the petition states, adding that the name would bring joy and optimism to people’s hearts.

Cimrman was introduced as a character in 1966 on a radio show. The fictitious character is also allegedly the author of a series of dry humorous plays, staged in a theater in Žižkov. The plays are usually credited to Ladislav Smoljak, Jiří Šebánek, and Zdeněk Svěrák, though they claim only to be experts on the subject of Cimrman.

The character of Cimrman served as an inspiration to people throughout the 1970s and ’80s. “During a period of severe censorship, Jára Cimrman became a symbol of free-thinking in the difficult moments of our nation … a picture of the potential of Czechs and every human being,” the petition states.

“Cimrman is an image of human goodness, let's remember it forever,” the petition concludes.

What should Koněvova Street be called?

It should stay the same (Koněvova). 9 %
It should be named for Jára Cimrman. 83 %
It should be named for Mayor Karel Hartig. 2 %
It should be named for Empress Maria Theresa. 2 %
It should change, but to something else. 5 %
129 readers voted on this poll. Voting is closed

The main reason that Koněvova Street has not been renamed so far is that thousands of people who live on the street as well as businesses registered there would have to update all of their official documents, which would cause bureaucratic headaches for all involved. Zoning registries would also have to be updated.

An informal poll by Expats.cz in June and July 2021 showed that 53 percent of people favored keeping the Koněvova name, and 38 percent favored switching back to one of the street’s previous names. Only 6 percent wanted to name it after a local Žižkov or Czech hero or artist.

Konev statue with explanatory plaques.
Konev statue in Prague 6 before it was removed. Photo: Raymond Johnston.

Marshal Konev was involved in liberating Prague from German occupation at the end of World War II, which made him a hero during the communist era.

He was also involved in suppressing the 1956 uprising in Budapest, the building of the Berlin Wall, and reportedly was involved in intelligence operations ahead of the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Ruská street sign in Prague. Photo: Raymond Johnston
Ruská street sign in Prague. Photo: Raymond Johnston

His role in Prague at the end of World War II has also been called into question. Some people say he was responsible for the arrest and deportation of Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Russian opponents to the Stalinist regime who had sought refuge in Prague, many of whom had become Czechoslovak citizens. He died in 1973 and is still considered a hero in Russia.

City Hall has already responded to the war in Ukraine by renaming the part of Korunovační Street where the Russian Embassy is located to Ukrajinských hrdinů (Ukrainian Heroes). The square facing the Russian Embassy was renamed for murdered opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in February 2020.

Street artists also unofficially renamed Ruská (Russia) Street to “Russian Warship Go F* Yourself” street by adding stickers over the street signs. 

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more