Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Changing Face of Prague

BC, our man in Prague, sends this story about Prague 6’s plans to erect a Ronald Reagan memorial at a yet to be determined site. Prague 6’s Mayor Tomas Chalupa told the Prague Post:

“Reagan was ‘the most important personality that enabled the fall of communism” and is thus a key figure in Czech history.”

Prague is divided into administrative districts, somewhat like boroughs in the City, which are totally confusing to visitors. Prague 6 happens to border Letna Park the historic site of two notorious monuments. The Czechoslovakian Communists finished a gigantic statue of Stalin in 1955, two years after the dictator’s death. Following Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization campaign, the monument became an embarrassment to the local party, and was ultimately destroyed in 1962, leaving chunks of statue strewn throughout the park for years to come.

Years later, a vanity statue of Michael Jackson was erected on the same pedestal, alongside the giant metronome installed in 1991. The ironic monument was part of the successful efforts to lure Jackson and his ego to kick-off the 1996 HIStory tour in Prague.

Prague is a beautiful city filled with impressive monuments, but its Twentieth Century statuary was a mixed bag. The Stalin monument was conceived to curry favor with a tyrant. The Jackson statue came during the ironic go-go years of the “Wild East.” A Reagan memorial comes after adequate time for reflection, and would age much more gracefully than its predecessors in Letna Park.