Top of Prague's Stalin monument area has reopened, base will remain closed

Testing shows the area used by skateboarders is relatively stable

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 12.10.2019 09:00:37 (updated on 12.10.2019) Reading time: 4 minutes

Stalin is in better shape than was thought, and people are again able to skateboard there again.

Experts from the Klokner Institute of the Czech Technical University (ČVUT) in cooperation with the firm Inset completed the stress tests of the pedestal of the former monument to Soviet dictator Stalin at Letná Plain.

The top surface was found to be relatively stable, and can be used but it will be continually monitored. The underground area remains closed, as testing there is not complete.

stalin sign
Sign at the former Stalin monument. via Raymond Johnston

“I understand the indignation of those who like to spend their free time in the area of the Stalin Monument and now cannot temporarily. However, it is essential to look at the matter from the perspective of the safety and health of Letná visitors. Now the good news is that we can make room on the surface of the Stalin Monument. The interior is still undergoing detailed tests. So I ask all Letna’s friends for patience,” City Councilor Jan Chabr said.

Currently, extensive underground diagnostic and analytical work continues. The reinforced concrete structure needs to be secured in the future. Once the construction work has been completed and all standards are met in terms of the safe use of the building and its surroundings, the space will once again be used for culture. The review should be completed within a few months,City Hall announced.

The city does not want a repeat of the situation that occurred with its long-neglected bridges. “I consider it necessary for Prague to prevent disasters in the future, such as the fall of the Troja footbridge, which caused serious bodily harm to four people. That is why we have to have in our hands a report that will determine how the city should proceed in the case of the building under the former monument of the dictator Stalin. On the basis of this, Prague will decide what construction work will be done on site to make the space safe and how it will use the building in the future,” City Councilor Hana Kordová Marvanová said.

Prague 7 Mayor Jan Čižinský (Praha sobě) was the first to the results of the stress test on Facebook, and he urged immediate action: “‘We recommend not restricting the movement of the population in any way and removing the existing fencing in its entirety.’ This is the conclusion of the stress test of the pedestal of the monument to dictator Stalin. These are the measurement results under a load of 3.5 tons. … The structure behaves quite standardly.”

Due to the poor state of the whole structure, the Prague 7 Building Office closed the premises in the middle of September. A new assessment was then carried out by the Klokner Institute, the same group that has been evaluating Prague’s bridges.

“We measured about 200 points under load. There was no excessive deformation; movements and deflections were small,” Klokner Institute director Jiří Kolísko told Czech Television. He added that the top of the statue plinth was safe.

The plinth is hollow, with two sets of large metal doors. It was used in the communist era as as a bomb shelter. Later it held a pirate radio station and a boxing club.

Renovation of the Metronome can also be safely done. When that happens is up to city firm Prague Property Management (PSN), which owns the pendulum.

Skateboarders claimed the testing caused damage to the monument, and the workers broke stray granite blocks instead of simply moving them. “They destroyed everything they could and refused to listen. People emotionally pleaded with them not to do it, but they started to arrogantly destroy [the blocks],” one person wrote on Facebook. Another recalled the situation with Charles Bridge, where the city hired an inexperienced firm in 2009 that made inappropriate repairs.

stalin sign
Fences closing off the top of Stalin. via Raymond Johnston

Čižinský promised to look into the situation, and apparently called the contractors to ensure no more damage occurred.

The eventual fate of the large space inside the plinth is unclear. It has been proposed as a home for a planned Museum of Memory of the 20th Century, but this has faced opposition. Prague 7 Mayor Čižinský has in the past said he is not in favor, as it would requite roads and a parking lot to be built nearby in the park.

A citizens group plans to present City Hall with a petition opposing the museum, and instead urging that the location be kept for cultural events and as a meeting place for young people ans skateboarders.

The area is popularly called Stalin, after a statue of the Soviet leader that stood on top from 1955 to 1962. After 1962, when the Stalin statue was destroyed, the communist government planned to build another large monument there, but never did so.

The Metronome was built in 1991 by Vratislav Novák. At 23 meters tall, it is visible from Old Town Square and much of the city center.

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