Nostalgia of the Russian Federation after the days of the Soviet Union (USSR) has been presented to the general public over the years in various forms. Each time this was done through old films about the Second World War, through the edification of personalities and of course, through Soviet monuments found both in the localities of the Republic of Moldova and in the former Soviet socialist countries. The old monuments of the communist regime have always been the subject of propaganda for the pro-Kremlin press. Thus, Russia’s media representations did not miss a chance to accuse some countries of Russophobia when they decided to uninstall or transfer a monument representing the communist regime.
The Czech Republic, a former communist state, has become a source of propaganda for the Russian Federation for more than half a year. Obviously, it is just one of the many messages that Russian propaganda is carefully “growing”.
Over the past six months, Sputnik’s representation in the Czech Republic and Poland, REN TV, TASS, 5-TV.RU, ROSSIA 24, devoted entire pages and minutes in the reports to this topic.
In the autumn of 2019, the Prague authorities decided to move the monument to military commander Ivan Stepanovich Konev, who was in sector six, to a museum, and make in its place a memorial to commemorate Soviet sacrifices in the fight against Hitler and in particular the liberation of Prague. Konev’s monument was erected in 1980 during the period of “normalization” in communist Czechoslovakia.
Russia attributes the liberation of Prague after the fall of Berlin exclusively to Konev’s army, but forgot to mention that 12,000 Czechoslovak soldiers died as a result of the liberation operation.
In September 2019, the Russian Embassy in Prague said the authorities had launched “a campaign that offends the memory of Red Army soldiers, as well as Czechs and Slovaks who fought for the liberation of Czechoslovakia and its capital from Nazism.”
The subject continued with Mayor Ondrej Kolar’s approach, which was put to the forefront by Russian propaganda. As expected, the mayor’s decision was not overlooked by Russia. The Czech official was labeled by Russia as a Nazi. At the same time, the relocation of the monument sparked several diplomatic discussions between the Czech Republic and Russia. The latter made it clear that the authorities’ decision would have consequences and “will not be left unanswered.” The pro-Kremlin press referred to the eternal hatred of Europeans towards the Russians and writes that Kolar’s hatred of all Russians is enormous.After a break of several months, the pro-Kremlin press returns to the subject of the Konev monument and refers to a 1993 treaty between Russia and the Czech Republic that refers to the destruction of war memorials and tombs. The Kremlin-coordinated media reports that this is due to “political whims that have nothing to do with the historical past.”Russia uses the old instruments and writes that the move of Marshal Konev’s monument is aimed at sowing hatred against Russia as part of a war psychosis aimed at provoking aggression against Russia.However, Russia does not mention that the authorities of Sector Six, where the monument is located, retain stares the legal ownership of the statue, and the monument will not be destroyed, but moved to a museum.
In early April, the Russian press appeals to figures of style and states that “the one who liberated Prague in 1945 and was not defeated then, was stabbed in the back 75 years later”. Propaganda media found a link between the pandemic and the decision to dismantle the monument – “dismembered during an epidemic, when more than two people are banned from group trips, and anyone who might protest stay at home.”
Kolář expressed respect for the role of Konev’s forces in liberating Prague and the sacrifice of the Soviet armies that liberated Europe from Nazism. “We will ensure a dignified location of the monument in a memorial institution. I believe that this is a consensual solution that we have turned to for many years. Removal of the statue was planned for April 2020 in advance and is not caused by quarantine due to coronavirus.”
The Kremlin again refers to the cooperation agreement between Russia and the Czech Republic which contains a clause on obligations to protect and care for military monuments. Russian diplomats have asked Their Czech counterparts to abide by this agreement, and the Czech Foreign Ministry is being asked for explanations.
In the dispute over the statue, Russia argued that, in accordance with the mutually Czech-Russian agreement of 1993, the Czech Republic is obliged to keep the monument in its place. However, this is a intentionally false and misleading interpretation of the terms of the agreement. The monument is municipally owned by Prague. The statue of Konev, erected in 1980, is not a military tomb or a memorial and was therefore not protected by international treaties.
At the same time, based on the protocol of the Assembly of the Political Bureau, Czech historians established that between 8 and 14 May 1968, Konev chaired the Soviet military delegation sent to Prague to prepare for the military invasion of Czechoslovakia. Konev was also the head of Soviet troops in East Germany during the Berlin Wall crisis of 1961. In other words, the Red Army brought not only liberation, but also terror to the Czech Republic.
In the latest articles devoted to this narrative, Russia accuses the Czech central authorities of incapacity to coordinate local authorities that would neglect the country’s international commitments.
“The removal of the monument a month before the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory was intentionally chosen. The new generation of Czechs has different priorities, despite the fact that Marshal Konev’s monument was erected by their parents and grandparents. They’re not rewriting our history, they’re betraying their ancestors,” the pro-Kremlin media wrote.
Of course, in this narrative was found a place and the United States of America. “As long as the Czech Republic follows the geopolitical course of the United States, Marshal Konev’s monument will never be safe in this country. There will always be a few opportunists who will try to satisfy the Americans even more. The replacement of the Konev monument is a signal that The Russian circles in the Czech Republic have become more active.”
Russia announced it had launched an investigation into “public profanity of symbols of Russian military glory” after the statue of Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev was dismantled in Prague. The investigation was launched by Russia’s Investigative Committee following a request by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Sşoigu. He also asked the Czech Republic to hand over the statue to Russia.
It is a recurring disinformation narrative about the statue of Marshal Konev in Prague. It is also consistent with the common pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives about Russophobia and the West’s supposedly hostile anti-Russian intentions.