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Residents of Riga demand demolition of monument to Soviet troops | News from Germany about Europe | DW

About 5,000 people came out in Riga on Friday, May 20, for a rally for demolition of the so-called “Monument to the Liberators of Soviet Latvia”. Participants in the demonstration – the largest in recent years – marched from the capital’s Freedom Square to Victory Park. A week before, the Latvian authorities suspended their obligation to protect Soviet military monuments, and it is possible that the monument to the “liberators” could be demolished this summer.

Eurovision participant among the organizers

The value of Soviet monuments in Latvia has been debated since independence from the USSR in 1990. Until recently, supporters of a radical measure – demolition – were refused by the authorities. This was not possible due to an agreement between Latvia and Russia obliging the parties to take care of each other’s war memorials and graves in their respective countries.

The authorities of Riga received an application for a procession for the demolition of Soviet monuments on May 11 – just a day before Latvia suspended the agreement on the preservation of monuments. One of the organizers of the rally was 28-year-old singer and TV presenter Ralfs Eislands. In 2013, he went from Latvia to the Eurovision Song Contest, but did not qualify for the final.

Meeting-concert at the end of the route

The procession to the Victory Park began from the Freedom Square in the center of Riga. Rigans came there not only with the flags of Latvia and Ukraine. The procession participants were holding posters with the words “Stand with Ukraine” and “Stop Rashism”. According to Delfi, among the participants in the rally were Minister of Justice Janis Bordans and ex-Minister of Economics Janis Vitenbergs.

Before the start of the movement, those who came sang the anthem of their country. The path to the Victory Park took the participants about an hour. The city authorities did not completely block traffic along the route, although the procession was moving along the roadway. A rally-concert was expected at the end of the procession route. In addition to the organizer, Ralfs Eislands, other well-known performers and groups in Latvia performed there – Dzelzs vilks, Pērkons and Rodrigo Fomins. The audience knew almost all of their songs by heart.

“Why should we save this monument?”

“I think that this monument should be demolished,” a young man named Janis explains his participation in the procession. “This is not a monument for Latvians. It is a monument for the occupiers. It is a symbol of our deportation to Siberia and occupation. It does not give us anything good” . According to him, Latvians should stop being afraid of the division of society, which could cause the demolition of the monument.

“You can’t be afraid of separation, we have already endured for too long, because we were afraid that someone would think badly of us or be offended,” Janis continues. “Now my opinion is radical – it must be demolished.” At the same time, he does not consider Russia a threat, but notes that “you have to be more careful with her.”

Riga resident Linda, participant of the action for the demolition of all Soviet monuments

Linda from Riga came to the rally to advocate the demolition of all Soviet monuments

Linda from Riga came to the rally with her friend to advocate the demolition of all Soviet monuments and support Ukraine. She says that she knows Russian, but she will answer the correspondent’s questions in English. “We have gathered here as patriots,” she said. “And this huge monument is a reminder of the times of the occupation. We want to get rid of it and just continue to live happily.”

Linda does not believe that the demolition of Soviet memorials will cause a division of society. “Society is already divided anyway,” the woman is sure. “It has been divided for thirty years, and nothing can unite us. With or without a monument, society will be divided. Why should we preserve it?”

Scandal on Victory Day

Disputes about the fate of Soviet monuments in Latvia this year resumed with renewed vigor. They were given impetus by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The city authorities banned celebrations on the occasion of Victory Day on May 9 and declared it a day of remembrance for those killed in Ukraine.

Nevertheless, on May 9, hundreds of people traditionally came to the Monument to the Liberators of Soviet Riga to lay flowers. In the early morning of May 10, city services cleared the square near the monument of flowers with bulldozers. This caused a negative reaction from a part of society both in the capital and throughout the country, where Russians make up a quarter of the population.

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