The Monument to Soviet Tank Crews

Jun 27, 2023 0 comments

For many decades, a Soviet tank raised on a pedestal in the center of Prague was a monument to the liberation of the city by the Red Army at the end of World War II. But when the Soviet Union invaded the country in 1968 to crush the country’s attempt at freedom and democratization, known as the Prague Spring, public perception of the tank memorial shifted. It was no longer seen as a symbol of liberation and freedom, but a cruel reminder of the communist oppression imposed by the Soviet Union. In 1991, a group of art students painted the Soviet tank bright pink in protest, sparking intense debate and discussion within the Czech society. This was followed by many more acts of vandalism aimed towards the tank, culminating in the removal of the monument from the square.

The tank memorial at its original location, in Prague. Credit: Wikimedia

The Monument to Soviet Tank Crews was erected in the city’s Kinsky Square on 29 July 1945 to commemorate the arrival of the Fourth Tank Army that ended the German occupation of Prague. The tank rested on a massive five-meter stone pedestal, with its barrel pointing westwards. Initially, it was intended to use a T-34-85 medium tank to represent the one that entered Prague in May 1945. However, the monument features an IS-2m heavy tank instead, and its turret was labelled 23 whereas the original tank had borne the tactical marking I-24. After the communist coup in February 1948 the monument became a National cultural monument, and Kinsky Square was renamed Soviet Tank Square.

In 1989, a nation wide protest—known as the Velvet Revolution— began in Czechoslovakia against the communist rule, eventually leading to the fall of the one-party government and start of the democratization process. Following the political upheaval of 1989, hundreds of monuments and statues built to glorify and commemorate the Soviet Union and the Red Army across Europe came toppling down. In Prague too, talks began in earnest about the decision to remove the tank monument and auction it off to the highest bidder.

Also read: The Painted Monument to the Soviet Army in Bulgaria

Then, in the early morning of April 28, the controversial Czech artist David Cerny, then a 24-year-old art student, and some of his friends who called themselves the “Neostunners,” painted the Soviet tank in bright pink. They also affixed a large paper-mache middle finger on the turret. Cerny was arrested for his act, and a few days later, Czech soldiers painted the tank back to green. But on May 16, a group of more than a dozen newly elected Czech Parliament MPs, taking advantage of their official immunity, repainted the tank pink to protest against Cerny’s arrest. This time the government relented, and removed the cultural monument status. After being repeatedly painted green, then pink again, a few more times, the tank was pulled down and sent to Military Museum Lešany near Týnec nad Sázavou, about 20 kilometers south of Prague, where it remains, still sporting a coat of pastel pink. Where the tank originally stood in Kinsky Square is now a fountain.

In 2011, the Pink Tank returned to Prague to participate in the 20th anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet occupation forces. It was placed upon a pontoon and anchored on the Vltava river near Charles' bridge in the Prague center, It was equipped with a brand new pink finger on top.

The defaced memorial in 1991.

The tank at its current location at the Military Museum Lešany. Credit: Hynek Moravec/Wikimedia

The Pink Tank by Černý on the Vltava river, 24 June 2011. Credit: ŠJů/Wikimedia


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