Monument to the Liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga from the German Fascist Invaders, or as it is known by locals as “Victory Memorial” is a semi-abandoned memorial complex situated in Victory Park, Riga.
This memorial complex was commissioned in 1985 and designed by sculptors Ļevs Bukovskis and Aivars Gulbis to commemorate the Soviet Army’s victory over Nazi Germany and her allies in World War 2. It comprises of a 249 foot / 76 meters tall obelisk, decorated with 5 golden stars and on either side of the obelisk are a bronze statue of 3 soldiers and a statue of Mother Motherland. The obelisk is decorated with five stars as each star symbolises a year in the war.
The park which houses the memorial complex, was created and opened in 1909 by Tsar Nicholas II as Latvia was then part of the Russian Empire. In 1917, Latvia declared independence from the Russian Empire, but this wasn’t formally recognized until 1919 when Latvia defeated the West Russian Volunteer Army. In honour of this defeat and liberation, the park was renamed to Victory Park in 1923.
This memorial complex is quite controversial in Latvia as many Latvians view it as not only as a symbol of Soviet Victory in World War 2 but also as a symbol of the Soviet re-occupation of Latvia. The monument’s obelisk is known as “Moscows Finger” amongst many Latvians.
In 1997, 2 members of the Latvian ultra-nationalist group, Pērkoņkrust, died when bombing the memorial complex. The memorial suffered minor damage and 6 people were arrested and sentenced for up to three years in prison for their involvement.
During 2013, 11,000 signatures where collected online via ManaBalss.lv petitioning to remove the monuments and to redesign Victory Park to commemorate the victory in 1919 over the West Russian Volunteer Army instead.
In 2019 a similar petition had more than 10,000 signatures calling for its removal. A counter petition by the Latvian Russian Union headed by Tatjana Ždanoka called for the protection of all monuments against Nazism including Victory Memorial. This petition garnered more than 22,000 signatures.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Latvian Prime Minister, Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš, went on to say that the removal of the monument was “inevitable”. On May 12th, the Latvian Parliament voted to remove the legal protections preventing its demolition. The following day, Riga City Council voted to remove it.
We visited in June 2022 and the monument was cordoned off and under heavy police protection. Riga City Council had a target completion date of November 2022 for it to be removed. It was demolished on the 25th August 2022.
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