Gallery: Demolition of massive Soviet monument underway in Riga park
The demolition of a large Soviet monument complex in Riga's Victory Park (Uzvaras parks) began Tuesday following the arrival of large excavators at the site; by Tuesday night, part of the sculptures had already been taken down. Latvian authorities are taking Estonia's experiences into consideration during the process as well.
On Tuesday, authorities opted to further expand the restricted area surrounding the complex for security reasons. The roads immediately surrounding the site will now be closed to pedestrians through mid-September, making it difficult for passersby to see what exactly is being done there.
Compared with the previous day, police presence in the area had increased on Tuesday as well. By evening, a pedestal and the sculpture of three Soviet soldiers had been taken down, part of which had already been stowed in crates brought to the site.
Riga city government is in charge of the removal of the Victory Memorial, which is located in a park on the left bank of the Daugava River in Riga's Agenskalns District.
"Of course we keep track of events in Estonia, and they've been a good experience for us, first and foremost for our Latvian State Security Service (VDD)," Janis Lange, executive director of the City of Riga, told ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Tuesday.
"But you have to consider that in Latvia's case, this is a different situation," Lange continued. "This is a huge monumental complex that was built in the mid-1980s; it took six years to complete. All of the structures are distinctive. It can even be said that should Riga have been hit by nuclear war, the city would have been destroyed, and the only thing left standing would have been that obelisk. This is a very particular structure that is typical of its time."
Riga city government said that work during the first couple of days has been going as planned, but the city nonetheless won't reveal any details regarding when demolition of the bigger elements of the Soviet monument complex will begin.
It is already certain, however, that the monument in its entirety will be destroyed, and no elements thereof will be kept and sent to the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia as initially planned.
"The above ground portion must be taken down by November 15," the city official said. "Everything left below ground needs to be removed and maintenance work completed by June 30 next year. This is a very mighty complex for Riga — the biggest in Latvia. It takes up 3 hectares. It includes an 80-meter-tall obelisk, several sculptures, cellars and a huge pool with a capacity of 50,000 liters."
As on the previous night, dozens of people gathered near the complex on Tuesday, and while some objected to the demolition of the monument, most were just curious passersby, LSM reported on Tuesday afternoon.
Some social media groups had encouraged their members to show up at the site of the monument on Tuesday, but activity was limited beyond oral conflicts promptly resolved by law enforcement officers at the scene.
Known colloquially simply as the Victory Memorial, the "Monument to the Liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga from the German Fascist Invaders" was erected in Riga's Victory Park in 1985.
Designed by Levs Bukovskis and Aivars Gulbis, the 3-hectare (7.4-acre) memorial complex consists of a 79 meter obelisk, two sculptures and a large pool.
A day after receiving the greenlight from the Saeima, Riga City Council on May 13 ordered demolition of the Soviet monument to move forward.
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Editor: Aili Vahtla