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Central monument lacking

WHILE four commemorative plaques recall events from November 1989, Bratislava still lacks a central monument. The first such memorial is under preparation and it should stand on Námestie Slobody (the Freedom Square), Ivo Štassel, historian and the director of the City Institute of Protection of Monuments (MUOP) in Bratislava, told the SITA newswire.

WHILE four commemorative plaques recall events from November 1989, Bratislava still lacks a central monument. The first such memorial is under preparation and it should stand on Námestie Slobody (the Freedom Square), Ivo Štassel, historian and the director of the City Institute of Protection of Monuments (MUOP) in Bratislava, told the SITA newswire.

Two of the existing plaques, at the building of Comenius University at Šafárikovo Square and the building of the Agriculture Ministry at Dobrovičova Street commemorate student protests which took place on November 16, 1989, a foreshadowing of the following revolutionary events. Another plaque, also linked to November 16, hangs on the building of the Umelka gallery at Dostojevského Rad Street. Only one plaque is directly linked to the November 17 events. It hangs on the façade of the Hospital of Merciful Brothers at the SNP Square, where mass demonstrations took place.

According to Štassel, institutions which installed these plaques – the university, the ministry, artists and the city hall – did so because of their need to have a recollection of the November events.

“It can be also taken in the way that these institutions needed to recall these events in a decent way to ensure they are not forgotten, but there still lacks a kind of a central deed,” said Štassel.

During the first decade after the Velvet Revolution there was no memorial recalling the November 1989 events, while the commemorative plaques started to be installed only after 2000. Štassel sees the fact that in the 1990s, former collaborators of the communist-era secret police, the ŠtB, or former communists were in high politics and that these people had no need to remember the events of the Velvet Revolution.

“Only later, when the post-Mečiar generation with precisely set values matured, did they start to push commemorating the Velvet Revolution,” said Štassel.

The insufficient need to recall the November events during the first years after the revolution stems from the fact that “the whole nation did not ache for the change; this was also reflected in that there was no nation-wide need to recall this turn”.

The planned central memorial to be installed on Freedom Square is in a preparatory phase, while the public tender for its artistic formation should be finished in March 2015. The building of the memorial was initiated by the Initiative for the Memorial of Democratic Revolution 1989 whose statutory representative is Ján Budaj, current deputy mayor of Bratislava and a tribune of the Velvet Revolution.

Štassel sees the location of the memorial before the seat of the Slovak cabinet as having symbolic meaning.

“Locating the memorial facing the Government’s Office is to a certain extent symbolic,” he said. “It [Government’s Office] is the institution which represents the executive power of this country and it [the memorial] should be a kind of memento in order that this power never gets misappropriated and diverted against citizens.”

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