- Hans Weber
- December 6, 2023
Controversy Arises Over Proposal to Erect Mustafa Kemal Ataturk Statue in Prague
A proposal to install a statue of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, in a park in Prague 6 has ignited a contentious debate. While Ataturk is lauded as the visionary behind contemporary Turkey and its inaugural president, his legacy remains shrouded in controversy due to his association with ethnic cleansing during the 1920s. As a result, the intended statue has spurred protests and discussions about the ethical implications of honoring individuals with complex histories.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk played a significant role in the creation of the Turkish state and served as its first president, garnering reverence within Turkey. However, his involvement in the ethnic cleansing of Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks during the 1920s has cast a shadow over his legacy. Some residents of Prague 6, where the statue is proposed to be placed, are opposing the statue’s installation, citing Ataturk’s actions and comparing the potential approval to honoring other controversial figures.
The statue, standing approximately three meters tall, would be located in a park adjacent to Ankarská and Na Větrníku streets. Armenians and other residents are planning public protests, expressing concerns about honoring a figure associated with grave historical injustices. A similar uproar in 2013 by Armenians in Karlovy Vary led to the cancellation of an attempt to erect an Ataturk statue.
The debate brings to the fore the complex nature of Ataturk’s legacy and the ethical considerations surrounding public statues. Although Ataturk is venerated as a national hero in Turkey, his direct involvement in the Armenian genocide of 1922, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 1.5 million Armenians, has drawn condemnation from historians. The precise extent of his culpability remains a subject of dispute.
The controversy also underscores the weighty responsibility of local governments in choosing who to honor with public statues. The mayor of Prague 6, Jakub Starek, has expressed plans to consult the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before making a final decision on the statue’s placement. The local planning department is currently evaluating the Turkish ambassador’s request.
Prague 6’s verdict on the Ataturk statue has broader implications beyond the district, influencing discussions on how societies reckon with historical figures whose legacies are complex and multifaceted. The decision will be closely monitored by individuals who advocate for a nuanced approach to honoring figures from history, considering both their accomplishments and their actions.
Article by Prague Forum