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Soviet War Memorials in Eastern Europe Continue to Strain Relations with Russia.

(MENAFN - The Conversation) Decades after the fall of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe, Soviet World War II monuments continue to arouse significant controversy in many former Eastern Bloc countries where they are either being dismantled by law or vandalised by activists.

While many Soviet war monuments in Eastern Europe were demolished or relocated in the 1990s, in certain countries the past few years have seen a spike in these activities. The Ukrainian ' decommunisation law ' which passed on April 9, 2015 opened the way for the removal of public art bearing communist symbolism. While war monuments were officially exempt, the political climate has encouraged sporadic destruction and vandalism (particularly in the western regions of Ukraine -- Lviv's Memorial of Glory to Heroes Fallen in World War II, for instance, was vandalised less than two months ago).

In Poland, the process of dismantling Soviet war monuments was accelerated by an amended 'decommunisation' law , which came into force in October 2017. It allows for the removal of up to 230 Soviet war monuments by local authorities within the year (after which remaining decisions will be made at the regional level).

In the Czech Republic, the inscription on a monument honouring Marshal Ivan Konev, who was twice designated a Hero of the Soviet Union by Stalin, has been rewritten to highlight the marshal's prominent role in suppressing the Prague Spring in 1968.

In other East European countries, including those in which Soviet war monuments are protected by law, they remain targets of sporadic defacement and vandalism. The Monument to the Soviet Army in Sofia, Bulgaria, is a good example. It was painted over (as in the main image above) on the night of February 24, 2014 by unknown activists, in solidarity with the Euromaidan Revolution against Ukraine's pro-Russian regime. This is the most famous instance of defacement, but the monument has been the subject of several similar actions over the years, which show no signs of abating.

At the root of these developments are conflicting interpretations of the aftermath of World War II. Soviet-era war monuments tend to refer to liberation from the Nazis and the defence of the freedom and independence of Eastern European states. But for many people in Eastern Europe, this liberation was followed by the imposition of pro-Soviet communist regimes and the long-term presence of the Soviet military in Eastern Europe, something experienced more as an occupation.

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Publication:Sofia News Agency
Geographic Code:4E0EE
Date:Aug 20, 2018
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