The Soviet monument in Victory Park, Riga, shortly after its demolition in August 2022, Source: Valsts policija/ Riga Municipality

Riga is now completely free of Soviet regime monuments

Riga is now completely free of Soviet regime monuments

The promotion of democracy couldn’t have been possible without the lustration of public spaces

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many Eastern European countries woke up to the fact that their urban spaces still feature monuments, names, plaques and reminders of their historical connection to the Soviet Union totalitarian regime.

In response, Latvia was one of the first to adopt a law decreeing that all objects glorifying authoritarian regimes must be destroyed by 15 November. Once that day passed, the Riga City Council was glad to announce that the job had been completed in the capital.

The law aimed to promote democratic ideals by banning the public display and glorification of authoritarian ideologies, such as Nazism and Soviet Communism. The issue, however, was thorny as the city’s most prominent monument in Victory Park commemorated the liberation of Latvia by the Soviet troops from the Nazi German invaders. In a sense, glorifying one brutal ideology over another. What’s more, Latvians considered it a symbol of the occupation of their country by the USSR.

Inclusivity over division

The 79-metre monumental obelisk in Victory Park went down at the end of August and the move was cathartic as it showed that Rigans were finally ready to abandon the ghosts of the past and embrace a more inclusive, open, free and democratic society.

"We first thought of renaming the monument. But this was not accepted by the population. After this proposal, people started to donate to have this monument taken down. These donations covered the expenses to demolish it," explained Martins Stakis, mayor of Riga in an interview with Euronews

In addition, these monuments have continued to serve as a reminder of Russia’s political interference and interests in the now independent and sovereign countries of Eastern Europe. Indeed, only two days ago, The Baltic Times reported that Moscow has now initiated a criminal case and proceedings against the dismantling of the monuments.

The Latvian Foreign Ministry has officially informed Russia that its efforts of exercising extraterritorial criminal jurisdiction must be regarded as an intervention in the domestic affairs of the Baltic country. Those attempts are at variance with the Charter of the United Nations.



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