SOVIET RIGA FREE TOUR
Soviet occupation in Riga. Voices from the occupation of Latvia.
Weekends at 15:00
Meeting point: Latvian Riflemen Statue
Ends: Central Riga by Dailes theater
2hrs 30mins duration.
During the Second World War Riga first came under Soviet occupation in 1940. From 1944 until the early 90's Riga found itself again under the soviet authoritarian regime. It would deny the Latvian people of their liberties, freedoms and dignity and attempted to break the national spirit that Latvia had struggled to secure so hard in the first half of the 20th Century.
When walking through Riga's centre we can clearly see that it was mostly spared from Soviet architectural scars but the actions and locations used by the Soviet regime left their marks deep in the Latvian psyche.
This is a tour designed to visit a number of Soviet era sites, discuss Communism in the context of the time and implications that Soviet control had over civilian life and to hear about day to day life of the people in Riga during the Soviet occupation.
We will visit many objects across the city center ending towards the KGB headquarter and Soviet Modernist architecture of the Dailes theatre.
Our route is designed to explore the Soviet era of Riga's past but to also show case the Central district of Riga in a way not typically discovered by visitors. The Soviet tour route is different from our other tour routes through Riga. We aim to create a range of tours to uncover various periods of Riga's history.
In order to understand the Latvia of today we need to look back to the Riga of the past.
In Riga, Latvia, like the other Baltic states, the society experienced a tragic and complex historical period during the Soviet era. Below is a brief timeline of events related to Latvia and it's capital Riga during the Soviet period:
1940 Soviet Occupation:
In June 1940, the Soviet Union occupied Latvia following the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.The Latvian government was replaced by a pro-Soviet administration.
Following the Soviet occupation in 1940, the authorities initiated mass arrests and deportations of individuals deemed as anti-Soviet elements. This included political figures, military officers, and other perceived threats to the Soviet regime.
1941 Nazi German Occupation:
Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and Latvia fell under German occupation. Many Latvians were initially hopeful that the Germans would bring independence, but their hopes were quickly dashed as the Nazis established a brutal occupation.
1944 Soviet Reoccupation:
The Red Army reclaimed Latvia from the Germans in 1944. Latvia was reintegrated into the Soviet Union as one of the Soviet Socialist Republics (SSRs).
The post-war period saw significant changes in Latvian society. Large-scale deportations, purges, and repressions were carried out by the Soviet authorities to eliminate perceived opposition.
After the Soviet Union regained control of Latvia in 1944, large-scale deportations continued. The targets included not only political figures but also farmers, businesspeople, and anyone perceived as a threat to Soviet rule.
The deportations were often carried out in the middle of the night, with families being separated and sent to various parts of the Soviet Union.
1953 Death of Stalin:
The death of Joseph Stalin in 1953 marked a change in Soviet policy. The following years saw some liberalization in cultural and intellectual spheres, known as the Khrushchev Thaw.
1968 Prague Spring and Suppression:
In 1968, Soviet forces crushed the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia, and this event had a chilling effect on dissent within the Eastern Bloc, including Latvia.
1980s National Awakening:
During the 1980s, as the Soviet Union began to experience economic and political difficulties, a national awakening occurred in Latvia.
The Latvian people started demanding greater autonomy and recognition of their national identity.
1988 Singing Revolution:
The "Singing Revolution" in the Baltic states, including Latvia, involved mass demonstrations and singing events, becoming a peaceful expression of national identity and a call for independence.
1989 Baltic Way:
On August 23, 1989, two million people formed a human chain across the three Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) to protest against Soviet rule.
1990 Declaration of Independence:
In 1990, Latvia declared the restoration of its independence, following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The declaration led to a period of intense negotiations and tensions with the Soviet authorities. In the January of 1991 a number of civilians were killed in the Bastion hill shootings by Soviet forces right besides the Latvian Freedom Monument.
1991 Independence Restored:
Latvia's independence was fully restored on August 21, 1991, following the failed coup attempt in Moscow. The Soviet Union officially recognized Latvia's independence shortly afterward.
These events represent a condensed overview of Latvia's history during the Soviet era. The country has since become a member of the European Union and NATO, solidifying its place in the community of independent nations.