Conflicts & War

Latvia tackles eradication of Soviet relics in national campaign

Riga, Latvia, May 29 (EFE).- Dozens, if not hundreds, of Soviet-era statues and memorial plaques have already been taken down in the three Baltic states over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But in Latvia, the tearing down of all Soviet heritage monuments across the country has become key in its national campaign as the country heads to national elections in October.

The campaign kicked off on May 20 when some 5,000 people in Riga rallied near a controversial monument to demand its demolition.

Seven days later, Latvian lawmakers approved a draft law that includes the demolition of Soviet monuments including the Riga Victory Monument.

Historian Arnis Aboltins has compiled some 313 memorial sites or objects in Latvia.

He told Efe that opinions toward these Soviet-era reminders range from public debate about their removal to their “disappearance,” like what happened with a cannon in the town of Jekabpils, allegedly stolen at night and thrown into a river.

“If you tell the municipalities to remove the Soviet memorials in their territory, they say the objects are abandoned, but the national government should deal with them,” Aboltins said.

But Juris Krievs, a municipal councilor in the Bauska district in south central Latvia, said the focus on Soviet monuments was a waste of time and money.

“I don’t think the issue of these memorials should be number one of our agenda. We have allocated 20, 000 euros to donate to a town in Ukraine, to give them a bus. This is money better spent,” he said.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Estonia, people still remember the riots that broke out 15 years ago when a Soviet monument, the so-called Bronze Soldier, was moved from the center of Tallinn to a cemetery.

Next to another Soviet monument in the Estonian capital, an obelisk in memory of the victims of communism has been erected, as well as a museum with busts and statues of Lenin, as an ironic look at the regime of the Soviet Union.

In Lithuania, which has the lowest Russian population, the issue of Soviet monuments is not at the top of the political agenda.

Lithuanian authorities have gathered Soviet monuments in various squares in the so-called Soviet Sculpture Park near the town of Druskininkai, considered a rather grotesque tourist attraction, mixing artillery pieces with busts of Marx or Engels and huge statues of Soviet soldiers.

In late April, Lithuanian culture minister Simonas Kairys signed an order allowing the country’s municipalities to decide on the fate of the Soviet memorials at their cemeteries.

Under the new rules, gravestones and memorials directly on gravesites are protected while only some nearby memorial structures glorifying the Red Army or Communist Party could be considered for removal.


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