Slovak Leaders Unveil Controversial Svatopluk Statue at Bratislava Castle

Bratislava, June 6, 2010 ( - Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, Head of Parliament Pavol Paska and President Ivan Gasparovic unveiled a statue of man on horse at the Bratislava Castle to commemorate 9th century leader of historic Great Moravian Empire Svatopluk.

The unveiling took place less than a week before the national parliamentary election carried by public STV in prime time.

A group of Slovak artists protested with red flags in front of the VIP entrance to the castle grounds. They complained that the statue was commissioned without public discussion from sculptor Jan Kulich a prominent state-commissioned sculptor under the former communist regime before 1989.

The three top state officials symbolically bound together three wooden rods alluding to the legend that Svatopluk bound rods together in front of his sons to illustrate the strength that comes from unity.

The statue was built using money from a national collection but most came from senior coalition party SMER-SD officials. The collection failed to reach its EUR 270,000 goal by over half.