Gallery: Riga anti-Soviet monument march attracts 5,000 protesters
A rally in Riga on Friday evening saw an estimated 5,000 people arch through the streets of the Latvian capital, in support of a drive to purge the country of its Soviet heritage, public broadcaster LSM reports.
Monitored by several hundred Latvian state police officers, the march, entitled "Getting Rid of Soviet Heritage", covered around a kilometer, starting at 6 p.m. at the Freedom Monument on Brivibas street in the city center, to the Soviet victory monument in the Pardaugava district, on Riga's left-bank, LSM reported on its English-language portal.
Speeches and singing followed the march, LSM reports, while both Latvian and Ukrainian flags were much in evidence (see gallery above).
The main focus of the march was expressing support for the proposed demolition of the victory monument.
Eight people were detained including one who had tried single-handedly to block the march going ahead and another individual who had been engaged in vandalism and making obscene gestures at passing public transport, LSM reports, but otherwise the protest passed off peaceably.
The Saeima, the Latvian parliament, and the Riga city government, have in principle approved the monument's removal, though not without controversy. At the beginning of the week, the country's interior minister, Marija Golubeva, resigned, not over the removal in principle but over its handling, while the Russian embassy in Riga has issued protests.
Soviet-era monuments in Estonia which are also the site of buried human remains, usually supposed to be those of the fallen in World War Two, may now be removed, following a government decision, while it is up to local governments to decide in the case of those monuments which do not have buried remains.
Examples of the former include a monument in the Raadi park in Tartu, while of the latter, a dummy T-34 tank just outside the eastern border town of Narva will be left in situ, following a decision by the city's mayor, Katri Raik, who has argued that the unrest that removing the edifice would spark is the deciding factor.
In the Pärnu County municipality of Lääneranna meanwhile, a Soviet-era memorial was last weekend spirited away overnight, leaving part of a concrete plinth and a patch of freshly dug earth.
Similarly, a bridge in Tartu has been more suitably renamed, while back in Riga a park in the south of the city has been renamed Latgale gardens (previously Moscow gardens).
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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Helen Wright