The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) has launched a campaign calling for a referendum in the city of Prague to decide on whether to rebuild the controversial Marian Column which has been widely viewed as a symbol of Catholic dominance and oppression. The campaign was launched on January 30 in the aftermath of the unpopular decision taken by the Prague City Council on January 23 to rebuild the controversial religious structure in the city’s Old Town Square. The council decided to revoke a 2017 resolution which had rejected the construction of the Marian Column that was removed from the square in 1918 following Czech independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
According to reports, councilors from the United Forces for Prague coalition, Civic Democrats and ANO in the Prague City Hall supported the plea filed by the Association for the Renewal of the Marian Column to install a replica of the structure in the Old Town Square.
The KSCM claims that the majority of the council members did not take into account the long-standing protests by historians, representatives of scientific organizations, some churches and the public, who have pointed out that the Column was consecrated in the presence of the Hapsburg Emperor and was a symbol of the post-White Mountain re-Catholicization and oppression.
Left-wing news portal Halo Noviny also condemned that council’s decision to reinstate the column at a time when Czechs were preparing for the commemoration of the 170th birth anniversary of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of independent Czechoslovakia. Masaryk was instrumental in restructuring the Austro-Hungarian Empire into a federal state. The organization stated that the move to rebuild the Marian Column was a provocation not only for the people of Prague, but also for the entire free-thinking nation. It was also a betrayal of the ideals of Masaryk, who was a great humanist, rationalist and a warrior against obscurantism.
The original Marian Column was built in 1650 by Catholic devotees following the Thirty Year War between the Protestant and Catholic states of Europe between 1618 and 1648. During this period, in the Battle of White Mountain on November 8, 1620, the followers of John Huss – a predecessor of the Protestant Movement- were defeated by the Catholic forces. This brought an end to the Bohemian period, thereby integrating the Czech lands into the Catholic Habsburg empire.
The Marian Column was viewed as a symbol of Catholic dominance and oppression and was immediately removed by the people following Czech independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. The plan to re-build such a monument has evoked widespread discontent and is also likely to reactivate the relatively dormant ethnic fault lines within the city’s populace.
In September last year, a controversial decision taken under the instigation of neo-nazis by the mayor of the municipal division of Prague-6, to relocate the memorial of Soviet General Ivan Stepanovich Konev, had also led to widespread criticism.