Prague to consider moving statue of Soviet WWII commander

Other News Materials 8 October 2007 22:58 (UTC +04:00)

( RIA Novosti ) - Czech authorities may relocate a statue in Prague of Soviet military commander Ivan Konev, who played a central role in liberating Eastern Europe from the Nazis, a Russian Defense Ministry official said.

"The prospect is looming of Konev's statue, in the 6th district of Prague, being moved on the pretext of some kind of reconstruction work in the area. They also plan to reduce the height of the pedestal," Major General Alexander Kirilin, head of the Military Memorial Center of the Russian Defense Ministry, said on Monday.

Soviet war memorials in ex-communist states have proved a contentious issue in Russia's relations with its former Eastern Bloc allies.

Estonian authorities decided in April to relocate the Bronze Soldier monument in Tallinn to a military cemetery on the capital's outskirts, and to exhume the remains of 12 Soviet soldiers. In the protests that followed, over 1,000 people were detained, dozens injured, and one killed.

Kirilin said that in considering the issue of Konev's statue in Prague, the opinion of the Russian side should be taken into consideration, as in June Russian-Czech and Russian-Slovakian intergovernmental commissions signed protocols on the status of war memorials, which stated that the conservation of monuments would help improve ties between the three nations.

The number of acts of vandalism against Russian memorials in the Czech Republic has increased in recent years. In early June, unknown vandals removed copper details from 48 headstones at a military cemetery, and in late May, bronze plaques were removed from 12 gravestones. Czech authorities ruled that the thefts had no political motivation.

Marshal Ivan Konev, born in 1897 in Russia's Vologda Region, led Red Army forces on the Eastern Front during World War II, and was instrumental in the capture of Berlin.

The commander awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, but his reputation in Central Europe is tainted by the events of 1956, when he led the violent Soviet suppression of the Hungarian anti-communist revolution.