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Purpose of erecting SNP monument in Bratislava

In 1974, only 6 years after the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, the monument commemorating the Slovak National Uprising was erected by the Communist regime in the center of the biggest Slovak city, Bratislava. The monument is composed of three main parts: giant statue of a guerrilla soldier with a submachine gun, two frightened women standing behind him and also big wall with a poem remembering the uprising appealing on us not to forget about those who died there “for our mother” and at the end with mentioning the Battle of Stalingrad as the trigger for this uprising. The Statue of the Slovak National Uprising was build by regime to support position of USSR and its army by showing only a piece of the whole story of National Uprising against World War II Slovak State.
Slovak National Uprising was a two months long armed insurrection of Slovaks against Nazis and the client state of Germany, Slovak State, in 1944. It was led by generals of the official Slovak army, almost 80 thousand people of many nationalities, including Bulgarians, Czechs, American and British special troops and Soviets, were involved and although they were members of almost all political parties from communists to liberals, they all stood against fascism. The Uprising started sooner than the Slovak army officers expected and wanted, because some of the partisans attacked German soldiers across Slovakia and therefore Germany decided to invade the whole state, which worked as a trigger for the Slovak army to fight against them. Despite the fact that uprising was crushed by Nazis before Red Army reached the area occupied by insurgents, it was very important event for the postwar situation of Slovakia, while it was no longer counted as Germany's collaborator.
After the communists took the power over Czechoslovakia in 1948, they used the fact of communists and Soviets involved in the Uprising to support their regime and the position of Soviet Union. As Slovak historian Ksinan states “Celebrations under the aegis of state socialism were mainly held in the spirit of friendship between Czechoslovakia and USSR, celebrations of the heroic struggle of the Communist Movement”. Communist propaganda changed the view of history. Regime overrated the importance of communist partisans, who were often not cooperating with other resistance groups. It also put the whole Slovak army, major power of the Uprising, into shadow and not only that they forgot about some of the soldiers which had fighted also on the Western front, but they also, like in case of the pilot Frantisek Fajtl, put them into jail. Slovak National Uprising had been presented to public as heroic battle of communist partisans against the Germans and it is easily visible that the monument in the centre of Bratislava corresponds to this interpretation perfectly as the partisan, for example, holds not so usual machine gun made in the Soviet Union.
Because the opinion on the history is usually created in the early age of life, communist regime didn’t forget to take care of how has the Slovak National Uprising been presented in schools. As the historian Rajlich points out about the official documents describing the Uprising: “The interpreting mantinels were exhibited in Sviedectvo o Slovenském národním povstání (the Book of the Testimony of the Slovak National Uprising) and its author was none other than Gustáv Husák, later President of the Czechoslovak Republic”, it was one of the most important pieces of Slovak history for the communist regime. This agrees with the information from my parents, who studied during the last decade of communist era, that ‘Slovak National Uprising was emphasized a lot’ and ‘It was work just of a communist resistance’. Interesting fact was mentioned that Slovak collaboration with Germany at the beginning of the war was just forgotten and Slovaks were represented as opponents to fascism through the whole war.
One can argue that the whole point of erecting the statue in the year 1974 was just a part of 30 years anniversary celebration of the Uprising and although the statue represents only one group of anti-fascist fighters, this group really existed and it was very important one. This might be true if there would be statues celebrating also other groups of resilience erected by the communist regime and if the statue would have been be erected on a place more connected to the Uprising. The fact it was erected in the center of the capital, just on sight of all passing people, in the 70’s, when the regime was experiencing another wave of dissatisfaction by ordinary people, mostly because of the 1968 invasion of Warsaw Pact militaries, shows that the statue had also supportive function for communist decisions other than just commemorative one.
This way of remembering only the specific positive parts of nation’s history as it is presented by the monument and especially when it comes to the World War II. and national uprisings by previous regime is in my point of view very dangerous even until today. Because as my parents mentioned the forgetting of the dark side of Slovak history, Slovak State, and celebrating Slovak National Uprising as the primarily work of communist partisans is strongly rooted in the Slovak society even a quarter century after the fall of communism, many Slovak nationalists can argue that the Uprising was negative anti-national communist attempt to coup d'etat and we should rather celebrate the Slovak State, the centre of peace and prosperity. Such view can be seen for example on the strongly criticised website created few years ago, where the authors are celebrating the Slovak State leader Tiso and are condemning the whole uprising as “the death”. This is the main reason why we should care about our past, how is it described to us and if we have the possibility to look at it in critical way, admit our mistakes and learn from them. That’s why, while looking at the monument of SNP, we shouldn't see only a hero defending women in the name of his country, but also the propagandistic purpose of erecting it, the complexity behind the Uprising and the possible problems stemming from seeing the history only from one of its perspectives.

Monuments | stály odkaz


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