Czech cities stripping Soviet-era “heroes” of their honorary citizenship

Marshal Konev’s statue

Prague councillors have voted in favour of stripping the late Soviet military commander Ivan Konev, who led the Red Army’s liberation of Prague, of his honorary citizenship. Among the reasons for the move is his repressive role within the Communist bloc in the years that followed. Others, who were honoured in the past, have suffered a similar fate.

In recent years, Czech politicians have been taking steps to remove symbols connected with the Soviet era and Russia’s war on Ukraine has only strengthened that resolve.

On Monday, Prague city councillors approved a document proposing that the Soviet military commander Ivan Konev be stripped of his honorary citizenship.

Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib explained the move, which still needs to be endorsed by the Prague City Assembly, to Czech Radio:

“Over time, facts have come to light proving that Konev wasn’t an upstanding man, therefore he cannot be an honorary citizen. For example after the end of the Second World War he decided to bomb Mladá Boleslav, murdering 150 civilians, including children.”

The document also mentions other controversial steps of the Red Army commander, including his part in the violent suppression of the Hungarian Uprising in 1956, and the building of the Berlin Wall.

According to some historians he also personally participated in  preparations for the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 which resulted in more than two decades of occupation of the country by Soviet troops.

In April 2020, Marshal Konev’s statue was removed from its place in Prague’s Bubeneč district 6 for the same reasons, following mounting criticism from the public. There have also been calls to rename a street in Prague’s Žižkov district that bears his name.

The Red Army commander is not the only controversial figure in the spotlight.

On Monday, councillors of the South Bohemian town of České Budějovice voted to strip Soviet astronaut Valentina Tereshkova of her honorary citizenship.

The 85-year-old politician, who is now a member of the Russian parliament’s lower chamber, is one of the most devoted supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin and publicly backed Russia's invasion of Ukraine at the end of February.

Valentina Tereshkova | Photo: Mikhail Klimentev, Commons,  CC BY 3.0

The decision to strip her of her honorary citizenship was backed by all members of the city council, with the exception of Communist Party representatives.

Jan Hošek is the town’s councillor for the Pirate Party:

“Although Valentina Těreškovová has a positive role as an international symbol of gender equality, in recent years she has been a strong supporter of Putin’s totalitarian regime.

“The matter was discussed even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but following the events there, the proposal received overwhelming support.

“There were only a few voices against her removal, which came from the Communist party councillors.”

Last year, České Budějovice councillors annulled the honorary citizenship of the Czechoslovak communist politicians Antonín Zápotocký, Václav Nosek, Zdeněk Nejedlý and Zdeněk Fierlinger.

In 2017, they also revoked the honorary citizenship of the first Czechoslovak communist president Klement Gottwald and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.