The pedestal of the statue of the former President of Czechoslovakia Edvard Beneš in Prague on Loretánské Square was spray-painted with the words “racist” and “mass murderer.” The police posted about it on Twitter on Thursday, adding that they are searching for the perpetrator. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček has already condemned the act.
The statue falls under the administration of the Prague City Gallery. According to the head of its PR department, Michaela Vrchotová, the gallery will have the inscriptions removed. The damage has not yet been quantified.
— Policie ČR (@PolicieCZ) September 3, 2020
“I consider the insult to the statue of Edvard Beneš to be a sign of stupidity. Moreover, on the anniversary of his death. Camera recordings from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ parking lot have already been handed over to the local police department, which has begun to deal with the case,“ said Petříček.
The statue of the second Czechoslovak president has been standing in front of Prague’s Černín Palace since May 2005, where Beneš served as the interwar head of Czechoslovak diplomacy and where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs still resides today. In the recent past, such inscriptions have also appeared on several other statues in Prague.
In June, someone wrote on the pedestal of a statue of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Prague that he was a racist and “Black lives Matter.” The vandals claimed responsibility for the act through an article on the Czech leftist website A2larm. They said they wanted to provoke a debate on the former British Prime Minister’s role in history and to express solidarity with the current American struggle for equality.
Protests against police violence and racism in the United States and other countries were triggered by the death of George Floyd during a police raid in Minneapolis, USA, at the end of May this year. They were accompanied by attacks on statues of politicians and other figures criticized for racism.
One primary target of recent spray-paint attacks was the statue of Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev on Interbrigade Square in Prague 6. The military leader took part in the liberation of Prague from the Nazis but also in the bloody suppression of the anti-communist uprising in Hungary in 1956. The local town hall covered his statue with a tarpaulin last summer and removed the statue from the square at the beginning of April this year. Russian diplomats strongly protested.
Edvard Beneš still arouses heated debate
Edvard Beneš is one of the most important and most discussed Czech statesmen of the last century. The politician and diplomat who contributed to the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1918 and its restoration after the Second World War still arouses passions — above all, his role in the dark period before the German occupation and a decade later in the communist takeover in February 1948.
An associate professor of philosophy and doctor of law, Beneš was a long-time close collaborator of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. Also associated with Beneš’ name are the still-discussed decrees that he issued while in exile in London between 1940 and 1945, as well as after returning to his homeland. The decrees concerned, among other things, property matters and the expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia, the punishment of collaborators, and nationalization.
Beneš’ statue on Loretánské Square was created by casting the original statue by Karel Dvořák, which, in the past, used to be in the main building of the National Museum. It was removed following the direct intervention of the then communist minister Zdeněk Nejedlý.
Originally, the return of the statue from the depository to the museum was considered, but in the end, it was decided to place it outside. The unveiling of the statue in Prague in 2005 was criticized by the head of the Sudeten Germans, Bernd Posselt, and the then Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber from CSU.
Title image: Statue of Edvard Beneš. (Jan Rufer)