Our last week in Prague has finally dawned on us. Throughout these 3 months, I have tried my best to continue my Prague Jogs; but as you may have noticed, I didn’t always go running primarily due to laziness and the arrival of cold weather. However, since this is my last week in Prague, I decided to get out of bed and start my morning off with a brisk run next to Vltava River.
As always, I have a special historical tidbit to share with you guys. To get a better view of the Vltava River, I decided to embark on what seemed to be a quite lengthy journey to the Metronome. This ginormous piece of art work serves a significant purpose in the Czech history.
Let me explain:
The Czech Republic was actually under communist rule back when the country was still known as Czechoslovakia. This rule lasted from 1948 until 1989. Czechoslovakia officially gave into communism in February 1948 during the communist coup in Prague. Edvard Beneš, the president at the time, was asked to resign by Klement Gottwald, who was the prime minister of the nation. Beneš feared civil war and Soviet intervention so he capitulated to the communists, who were supported by Joseph Stalin and the Soviets. He accepted the resignations of the non-Communist ministers and appointed a new government with Gottwald continuing as prime minister. Three months after the coup, Gottwald became the first communist president. This was a mostly peaceful transition to communism, but some (like Beneš) were fearful.
The coup of 1948 was significant because it was a clear indication that the world was headed into what later became known as the Cold War. It alarmed several Western countries like the United States, which spurred several historical moments like the adoption of the Marshall Plan (which was an American initiative to restore Western Europe after WWII), the creation of West Germany, and the establishment of NATO.
During this period of communism, some of the people became infatuated with Stalin, so in 1949, it was decided to dedicate an entire statue of him to represent the communist reform. It took 5 and a half years for the monument to be sculpted. If you’re familiar at all with history, you know that communist rule under Stalin was fairly turbulent, and the situation in Czechoslovakia, and specifically Prague, was no different.
The Stalin monument was finally unveiled on May 1, 1955, two years after he died. At the time, the Soviet Union was in pretty bad shape and leaders like Nikita Khrushchev tried to distance themselves from Stalin’s regime, so a process of de-Stalinization around the entire Soviet Union began shortly after the monument in Prague was unveiled. Therefore, the monument became a source of embarrassment to the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia.
In 1962, the Stalin tribute statue was bombed with dynamite and destroyed. The space it occupied sat vacant for almost three decades.
In 1991, a brand new landmark was opened up to the public: the Metronome. It is a symbol of the long struggle the nation faced against Soviet control. For those who don’t know, a metronome is an object often used by musicians to measure time at a specific rate, so the idea behind the landmark was to be a steady reminder of the legacy left by Stalin and communism in Prague. The metronome is still flanked by two unlit torches, which serve as the only remnants of the Stalin statue that once existed there. Today, this spot is a popular tourist attraction, is always filled with skate boarders, and is near a peaceful park and beer garden. It is now a great area to relax and take in a nice view of Prague.
It has been a fantastic experience as well as a life changing opportunity to have studied abroad in Prague. I have learned so much! For those who are curious and want to search for new horizons, please do so and go travel the world. You’ll never know if you’ll find yourself in the process!
Make sure to Czech out my classmates’ final blogs in Prague this week. And make sure you come back next week for reflection posts as we return to the States.