Wednesday’s Child: Spat on a Plinth

Let us turn to the more lighthearted side of life.  While democracy groans and totalitarianism gloats, there is plenty of comedy out there to enjoy.

The episode I’ve been following is of personal significance to me, as I was born at the precise moment Hungary rose up against the Soviets in October 1956.  Unbeknown to the participants, the uprising – like all glorious revolutions since the death of Stalin – had been a sham, masterminded by Yuri Andropov and fomented on his orders by the Soviet secret police, though this in no way diminishes the valiance of the hapless Hungarians or the solemnity of the tragic event.  The KGB provocation was completed on November 4, when Soviet tanks entered Budapest.

Not very amusing so far, but please bear with me.  The tanks that rolled into Hungary were under the command of Marshal Konev, who in 1945 had competed with Marshal Zhukov in the race to occupy Berlin and in 1956 was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Warsaw Pact.  Twelve years later, in 1968, the same marshal sent the same tanks to restore the same Soviet order in Czechoslovakia following the same provocation masterminded by the same Andropov, who had in the meantime become the head of the same KGB.

Here’s where it gets somewhat more amusing.  In 1980 in Prague, then still the capital of Soviet-held Czechoslovakia, a giant bronze statue was erected to glorify past deeds of the dearly departed marshal, ostensibly in memory of the liberation of Prague from the Nazis, but in actual fact a brazen symbol of the later liberation of Prague from itself.  In recent years, not surprisingly, the monument was persistently vandalized by the unforgiving Czechs – spit was one of the more innocuous substances used – and in the end the city authorities decided to remove it, which earlier this month they did.  It would work better as an exhibit, they announced, in a Museum of the Twentieth Century that was being planned for Prague.

Moscow got wind of what was coming, and immediately a race was on to create a new law, making it a criminal offense “to destroy, damage, or remove, on the territory of the Russian Federation or beyond its borders (my italics), stelae, monuments, obelisks, or other edifices or objects erected to commemorate those fallen in defense of the Fatherland or its interests (my italics).”  As this piece of Jesuitical casuistry was signed into law on April 7, while the Konev statue had been dismantled on April 3, it seemed that there the matter would surely end, as even the Russian Penal Code affirms, in its Article 10, Part 1, that no criminal legislation can have retroactive force.

Unabashed, these pert legal minds seized upon an older article of the Penal Code, Article 454, Part 3, which punishes “desecration of symbols of national military glory,” declaring in an official statement that “demolition of the monument to Marshal Konev is tantamount to rehabilitation of Nazism.”  On April 10 the Russian prosecutors opened a criminal case against Prague’s municipal authorities, and here’s where it gets bewitchingly funny.  Aware that its chances of enforcing whatever its cockamamie courts would decide were not very high, the Kremlin dispatched to Prague a man with a diplomatic passport and a suitcase containing ricin, an agent whose toxicity to humans, when delivered by injection, is approximately 50 millionths of a gram per one kilogram of body weight.  It was the poison used by the KGB in London to kill the Bulgarian defector Georgi Markov in the famous umbrella assassination.

Not deadly polonium, anyway, that did it for Litvinenko, nor the gruesome concoction used on the Skripals, but luckily the Russian diplomat’s baggage was inspected in time and now the snafu is front page stuff in all the Czech newspapers.  The mayor of Prague and the municipal head of the district where the Konev statue had stood are both under round-the-clock police protection.  What is the Kremlin’s next move, the gentle reader may wonder, as the criminal case splutters, the assassination plot fails, and Russia’s coronavirus epidemic reportedly overtakes China’s?

Well, they’re going to change the name of a subway station in Moscow, which is now called Prague Station, to “Marshal Konev Station.”  I promised you this would be a comedy, didn’t I? 

Andrei Navrozov

Andrei Navrozov

7 Responses

  1. Konstantin Solodov says:

    Easter. Coronavirus. Lockdown. The closed borders.
    But a war is not a poker.

    I didn’t read that a man with a diplomatic passport was arrested.
    So, a suitcase containing ricin is in the embassy.

  2. Konstantin Solodov says:

    And a comedy is a comedy.

    The restaurants, museums, libraries will be opened in Switzerland on 11th of May.
    We were not blocked at homes. So, it was not a subject.
    The coiffures are opened from 27th of May. The most strong lobby is working here. Now we know.
    No mask requirements, there is a recommendation only.

    Zoos and botanic gardens are closed until at least 8th of June. The elephants and penguins don’t have a lobby at all.

    and Röstigraben is Röstigraben
    Primary and lower secondary schools will be ALLOWED to open on 11th of May also.

    The supply of WINE was never stopped !!! Sorry, but there are sacred things.

  3. Konstantin Solodov says:

    sorry, the Coiffures were already opened from 27th of April. The same strong lobby as for Garden Centers.

  4. Robert Reavis says:

    “President Donald Trump contradicted a rare on-the-record statement from his own intelligence community by claiming Thursday that he has seen evidence that gives him a “high degree of confidence” the novel coronavirus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, but declined to provide details to back up his assertion.
    The comments undercut a public statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued just hours earlier which stated no such assessment has been made and continues to “rigorously examine” whether the outbreak “began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”
    “Yes, I have,” Trump said when asked whether he’s seen evidence that would suggest the virus originated in the lab. Later, asked why he was confident in that assessment, Trump demurred.
    “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that,” he said.

  5. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    None of us will probably ever know where and how the virus originated. It’s not really that important. We know as a general rule what governments do–ours and theirs–and we should know enough to realize that we are deluding ourselves if we think we have access to details.

    Consider Andrei’s amusing story. Could be true, but what is the source? A magazine in Prague–Respekt–tightly involved in a dominant faction of the Czech regime, known for purveying left-liberal propaganda and pooh-poohing the Islamic threat in Europe. Maybe they have the goods this time, but who knows? In the past it has been less reliable than the New York Times. Even the BBC operative in Prague suggested they had been reading too much John Le Carée.

    Frankly, all authoritarian states have a strong interest in preserving their monuments, just as rivals are interested in tearing them down. Why the Czechs, who filthily persecuted their German, Slovak, and Hungarian minorities when they had the power to do so, should be permitted to get up on their high horse is something I shall never understand. I once spent a week in Prague, and despite the loveliness of the city and the beauty of churches turned into concert halls and museums, I can rest content never to return. With a few exceptions, teh people I met, some of the in positions of influence, were duplicitous and rude. Chesterton, though often invited by Karel Capek, a wonderful Czech writer, refused to go to a country whose liberal-nationalist policies disgusted him.

    I had decided to make no comment on this, but last night we watched a Maigret episode based on a novel i only dimly remembered. A Czech representative is brought in to interview and translate for a women involved in terrible crimes. He opens up by insisting on the dignity of Czech citizens, their rights, etc etc. Then, when he talks to her, he turns away in disgust. “She’s not Czech, she’s Slovakian. Those people are not better than animals.”

    I was in Prague the week before Easter. Churches were empty even on Sunday, In Bratislava I had to wait in line at the “Yellow Church” to get into one of an endless series of masses. The whole city was in church that Easter. Animals, scarcely human.

    I was looking, one evening, for a famous tavern-restaurant in Prague. I was lost and asked people at a bus stop. I started in English, switched to French, German, Serbo-Croatian. No no, no one had ever heard of the place. They never quit staring across the street, and when I followed the direction of their gaze, I saw the big sign of the famous restaurant that everyone in Prague had heard of. That’s Prague.

    A few days later, I got off a train, many hours late, in a snowstorm in Crakow. The streets had been reconfigured and in the darkness and snow I had no prospect of finding the hotel I had booked for my daughter and me. A lady in a fur coat, walking a dog, asked me in Polish something I could not understand. I asked her in Czech how to find the Hotel Pollaner. Nothing. I tried French, Russian, Serbo-Croatian. She smiled, took me by the hand, and walked me through the snowstorm to the hotel. That’s Krakov, that’s Poland. A few days later, after being robbed by demobilized Russian soldiers in Poland, as I was getting on a train, I had to throw myself on the mercy of Slovaks, who were wonderfully trusting and helpful. That’s Bratislava.

    So, to wind up my silly comment, I simply don’t believe anything from the Czech regime or its lapdog media, any more than I believe the Russian, Chinese, or American media.

  6. Robert Reavis says:

    Neither do I or you or evidently the POTUS.

  7. Allen Wilson says:

    A few months ago, I found an article on an English language Czech website. It told of DNA research which revealed that the Czechs, and likely also the Slovaks, are mostly descended from the pre-Slavic inhabitants of those countries, not from the Slavic invaders who appear to have been a relatively small group of warriors who became the ruling class. The article would not come out and say it, but those pre-Slavic peoples would have to be the Marcomanni and the Quadi. That means that the Czechs and Slovaks are just Slavic speaking Germans.