Starting in October, the area around Prague‘s metronome will house a large exhibition detailing the key moments in Czech totalitarian history. The project, which was instigated by a joint effort of the Prague City Hall and a grouping of historical institutes, seeks to finally unlock the previously closed network of spaces underneath what used to be Stalin’s giant statue. Yet questions remain about how the spaces are to be used in the long term.
The top of Prague’s Letná hill used to be the sight of what was the Czechoslovak Communist Party’s most ambitious memorial construction programme, a 50 meter high marble statue of the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
While most of the capital’s inhabitants are easily able to point out where the statue used to stand, fewer are aware that it was accompanied by a large museum built into the hill directly below.
The demolition of the memorial in 1962 left the museum’s spaces in poor condition and sealed off to the public.
This is to change in October, when the reconstructed spaces will house the centre of a largescale exhibition reflecting key moments in Czechoslovak totalitarian history.
Mikuláš Kroupa, the Director of a Czech history focused NGO called Post Bellum, was one of the initiators of the project.
“This is a massive underground space, probably the largest in the whole of Prague. It’s about the size of a football field, containing rows of pillars and five meter high ceilings. By using new technologies such as video mapping and sound installations, we want to use it to make visitors become witnesses to key moments in Czech 20th century history.”
In order to make the neglected structure accessible, an 11m Crown reconstruction, funded by willing members of the public and the City Hall, was initiated in 2017.
The budget was also spent on building other installations of the exhibition around the Letná area.
“The most visible installation will be a 5 meter high and 50 meter long wall replica of the Berlin Wall, a symbol of totalitarian rule. Built across the horizon of Letná hill, it will be easily visible by anyone living in or visiting the capital.”
For now it remains unclear whether the exhibition will last beyond Christmas, by when the agreement between Post Bellum and the City Hall runs out. Kroupa fears ongoing speculation among City Hall representatives, some of whom believe the underground spaces should be further converted after the exhibition ends.
Prominent Czech architecture historian, Zdeněk Lukeš, is certain that cancelling the museum is unnecessary.
“If the city demands it, then of course something else can be there. For example an aquarium or an exhibit gallery, of which there are more than enough in Prague already. I believe there is no need to make any great interventions in this area, but rather use the atmosphere that is already there.”
Whether Kroupa gets his way and the spaces end up becoming a long term museum of totalitarianism or not, is likely to remain unclear until later this year, when the Prague City Hall elections, will take place.