Prague 1 to hold local referendum on Sigmund Freud statue

Last year the Prague city hall came up with the idea of commemorating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sigmund Freud by erecting a statue of the Moravian-born Viennese psychiatrist in the centre of Prague. The sculpture was to be unveiled in May this year in a little square just outside the old Prague Jewish quarter. However, the proposal caused so much controversy in the area - partly because Freud never set foot in that part of Prague - that the Prague 1 district has decided to hold a referendum on whether the founding father of psychoanalysis should have a monument there.

Kozi placek - or "Goat square" is in fact a crossroads of five streets just outside the limits of Prague's former Jewish town. It has preserved a hint of the atmosphere of 19th-century Prague - it is one of only few places in the city centre that survived the extensive demolition and modernisation projects at the turn of the 19th century. Now a large bronze statue of Sigmund Freud sitting behind a desk is intended to turn the somewhat hidden place into a touristy location. But not everyone agrees. Last year a group of locals initiated a petition in protest of the city hall's idea. The result is a local referendum to be held in two weeks time. One of the protesters, Stanislav Penc, says the protest is in no way targeted against Sigmund Freud himself.

"Our protest is calling for common sense to be preserved in Prague. Not only had Freud never been to Kozi placek, but the Prague city hall announced the idea without first consulting the necessary authorities, such as monument preservationists. It's a pity that it concerns Sigmund Freud of all people because he does merit a monument."

Stanislav Penc, photo: CTK
Some 2,500 local inhabitants are entitled to take part in the so-called "street referendum" on April 13th. They will be asked one simple question based on the petition signed by 160 people. The question is: "Do you want a statue of Sigmund Freud on Kozi placek?" Freud is known to have come to Prague only once. He gave a lecture at the psychiatric hospital in Katerinska street and played pool at the Flora Hotel. Activist Stanislav Penc says he can think of more suitable locations for a Freud monument.

"We will be glad if the statue is built in Katerinska street or in Freud's native town of Pribor for that matter. We just wish that Kozi placek remain a quiet place. We don't want a tourist monument to attract stalls with souvenirs and we don't want the local grocery replaced by a porcelain shop. A statue of Freud on Kozi placek is a historic lie. We might just as well erect statues to Madonna or Bill Gates who spent more time in Prague than Freud - if there are no rules regulating the placing of monuments in Prague."

If at least half of the authorised voters take part in the referendum the Prague 1 town hall will start negotiations with Prague city hall based on the result. The coming weeks will show where the statue will finally be placed. The bronze sculpture has already been made by Czech artist Michal Gabriel, and is worth some 5 million crowns.