LSM: Latvian parliament debating mandatory Soviet monument removal bill

"Getting Rid of Soviet Heritage" rally in Riga, Latvia on May 20, 2022 Source: Helen Wright/ ERR

Latvia is processing a piece of legislation which, if it passes, would make mandatory the removal of monuments which appear to glorify the Soviet regime and occupation of that country, and by extension the current Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Latvian public broadcaster LSM's English-language portal reports that the Saeima, the Latvian parliament, is processing the bill, which pertains only to monuments.

The bill also includes specific provisions for the dismantling of condemned objects, including a provision that the relevant local government will be entitled to propose dismantling regardless of the sites ownership and without co-ordination with the legal owner of the object or the land on which it is located.

Around 300 monuments, memorial plates, and memorial sites dedicated to the Soviet occupation regime and military exist in Latvia, according to the bill's text.

A large memorial in Uzvaras park in Riga was recently the scene of a major protest against the current aggression in Ukraine and calling for the monument's removal and, as in Estonia, other such monuments are under scrutiny.

Latvian authorities have also renamed the street on which the Russian embassy in Riga is situated to  "Ukrainian Independence Street", and, more recently, renamed a park to the south of the city center Latgale Gardens. The park had previously been called Moscow Gardens; Latgale is a region of eastern Latvia.

It is planned that dismantling will be financed primarily by donations from natural and legal persons (individuals and organizations, including businesses) for this purpose.

Other necessary funds could come from the budget resources of the State and the relevant local government, the Saeima press service said.

The bill will see its initial reading at the Saeima this week with a view to passing into force in mid-June, while the deadline for the condemned monuments to be removed would be November 15 this year, LSM reports.

War graves and cemeteries are not covered by the bill, and many of the removed monuments or their parts will be held in museums rather than destroyed.

In Estonia, following a government edict, memorial sites which contain human remains in their vicinity are the responsibility of the national government in their removal or relocation; sites without human remains are a matter for local government.

Lithuania has long had a museum in Dzukija, the southernmost province of that country, called Gruto Parkas, owned by a businessman and which is home to an array of Soviet-era statues, and is open to the public.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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