Results 1-4of 4 Reviews
Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, United Kingdom
March 21, 2009
From journal Riga: Museums and Monuments
by Liam Hetherington
Manchester, United Kingdom
October 16, 2007
From journal Riga - The Bad Boy of the Baltics
September 6, 2005
From journal Weekend in Riga
by Owen Lipsett
New York, New York
December 21, 2004
To visit, you ascend the stairs to a large, darkened hall, and pass chronologically through simple powerfully titled displays. Briefly, the first few establish Latvia’s prewar position as one of the world’s richest countries (largely due to the importance of Riga’s port) and the mutual assistance/non-aggression pact Stalin compelled Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to sign. The Soviet Union invaded the three Baltic states in 1940, which the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact had accorded to its sphere of influence and incorporated them within its borders.
The exhibition stresses the brutality of this first period of Soviet rule in panels with powerful titles such as "The Destruction of the Latvian Economy," "The Destruction of Latvian Agriculture," and "The Destruction of the Latvian State." This makes it easier to understand the extent to which most Christian Latvians treated the Nazis, who invaded in 1941 as liberators, and the significant Latvian collaboration with the Nazis in the murder of the local Jewish population. To its great credit, and unlike many other comparable museums, the museum consequently does not shy away from the Holocaust and the apportionment of blame.
The Soviet Union recaptured Latvia in 1944 and recommenced its version of totalitarian brutality thereafter. A particularly compelling exhibition shows dolls and letters produced by children who were sent with their parents to the Siberian gulag. The bulk of the museum presents life in the country under the second Soviet occupation, as well as the program of Russification instituted by the Soviet Union. A final, brief section details Latvia’s successful struggle to regain its independence.
Strikingly, the first thing you see upon stepping back out onto Latviesu strelnieku laukums (Latvian Riflemen Square,) which the museum divides from the more attractive Ratslaukums (Town Hall Square), is the eponymous statue of the Latvian "Red" Riflemen. These sharpshooters composed eight regiments in the Russian Imperial Army during the First World War, after which most supported Lenin, becoming his personal bodyguards. While, in fairness, a minority supported their native country during its war for independence, its presence next to the Occupation Museum is somewhat disturbing.
The museum’s excellent website may be accessed at http://www.occupationmuseum.lv. Admission is free.
From journal Riga: Historic and Vibrant Baltic Metropolis