Prague Streets Renamed To Reflect Democratic Changes
PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia (AP) _ Dozens of Prague streets were renamed over the weekend in a move symbolizing the democratic changes sweeping the country after four decades of Communist rule, official media said.
Streets named after Marxist politicians or historical events linked to the Communist movement were renamed. Some streets regained the old names they had before the Communists came to power in 1948; others were given new names.
The reports were carried Sunday and today by the state-run television and official CTK news agency.
President Vaclav Havel attended the ceremony Sunday marking the name changes at Prague’s downtown Palacky Square.
Havel, who still lives in an apartment on a nearby quay, said he welcomed the name changes.
″As a citizen, I do care whether I live on a quay named after a relatively unimportant philosopher of the past century like Friedrich Engels, or on a quay of Alois Rasin, a man who has contributed to this state to an extent equal to (Czechoslovakia’s first president) Tomas Garrigue Masaryk,″ Havel said in a brief speech.
Rasin was considered one of the founding fathers of the Czechoslovak republic after World War I. Engels, a German social philosopher, was a close collaborator of Karl Marx, the founder of communism.
Some streets had to be renamed several times during the decades of Communist one-party rule to keep in line with ideological changes as former Communist heroes fell out of grace with their successors.
A main avenue leading to the capital’s airport was renamed four times in 42 years, beginning with the name of the Soviet War War II hero, Gen. Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov and ending up as Lenin Street.
On Sunday, the avenue was named after Edward Benes, the country’s second president, who resigned after the 1938 Munich Pact left Czechoslovakia open to Nazi occupation and headed the nation after World War II until the Communist takeover.
″I hope the names we give these streets remain permanent even if our republic has not been too permanent so far,″ Prague’s Mayor Jaroslav Koran quipped during the ceremony, alluding to the frequent political changes in this Eastern European country.
A peaceful democratic upheaval last November ousted Czechoslovakia’s hardline Communist leadership from power. The country has scheduled its first free multiparty elections in more than 40 years for June 8-9.