The Memorial to the victims of Communism is a collection of statues in Prague built to commemorate the victims of the country’s Communist era. From 1948 to 1989 the Czech Republic, then part of Czechoslovakia, was ruled over by a USSR backed Communist regime. A regime of terrible brutality which visited widespread political persecution and repression on the citizens of the country. The memorial can be found at the base of Petřín hill, which is on Újezd street in the district of Malá Strana.
The memorial was unveiled on the 22 May 2002, around twelve years after the fall of Communism in the Eastern Bloc. It is the combined work of the Czech sculptor Olbram Zoubek and two architects, Jan Kerel and Zdeněk Holzel.
The team attempted to represent and depict the pain and suffering of the many victims of the Communist regime. Seven bronze figures, all naked, can be seen descending a long staircase with looks of terror and despair upon their faces. As you ascend the staircase passing each statue you notice that each one appears in a state of increased “decay”.
While the first is whole, the second has a large gash in his upper body, the third is missing limbs and a part of his face. As you continue each successive figure looses more and more of his vital anatomy. Flesh torn away in an attempt to symbolise the conditions which political prisoners were subjected to under the Communist regime by the secret police. The final figure of the seven is reduced to little more than a pair of feet.
To accompany the figures a bronze strip runs along the centre of the memorial. It shows estimates of the number of victims in the country whose lives were effected by Communism. 205,486 arrested, 170,938 forced into exile, 4,500 died in prison, 327 shot trying to escape and 248 executed. Another bronze plaque nearby reads “The memorial to the victims of Communism is dedicated to all victims not only those who were jailed or executed but also those whose lives were ruined by totalitarian despotism”.
The memorial has not received universal acceptance from the locals because for many people the subject of Communism is still a hotly debated and controversial topic. The critiques range from the lack of female representation to the perceived low brow tackiness of the statues. An failed attempt was made by an unnamed group to destroy the memorial with two bombs in 2003 but the statues soldiered on. One has to make up their own mind of such a fiercely potent political topic.