From the early 18th century Latvia little by little became incorporated in the Russian Empire. After the First World War Latvia declared independence but in 1940, because of the Secret Additional Protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact the Soviet Union occupied Latvia again until 1941. Nazi Germany occupied Latvia from 1941 to 1944 and after this the Soviet Union occupied this Baltic country and it's neighbors for the next 45 years.
Years of Soviet occupation left it's traces. Parts of history, most want to forget. Many buildings are still there, but have been given a different function. There are also buildings that are empty because they are way too neglected. We made a short trip in and around Riga to have a look around. We've seen loads of things, buildings, streets, abandoned areas, nice neighborhoods. Here are some highlights of our trip.
The Academy of Sciences Building
Finished in 1961, this one is very similar to the 'Seven sisters' (opens in a new window), the skyscrapers which Stalin ordered to build in the capital of the Soviet Union. Similar buildings were constructed in Prague, Bucharest, Warsaw and here in Riga.
The building of the Latvian Academy of Sciences is located in the very center of Riga, close to the popular Riga's tourist attractions, for example, the Old Town of Riga is only 1.5 km away, the Riga Central Market is 600 meters away, while the Riga Ghetto and the Latvian Holocaust Museum are only 300 meters away.
Address: Akadēmijas iela 1
The Soviet Victory Monument
This monument is controversial to a lot of Latvians as it reminds of the Soviet occupation of Latvia until 1991. Opinions about the future of this monument are divided. While visiting, my friend Arturs pointed me at a tower in the back. See the picture below. In the center is the old radio tower. The whole monument is bigger then pictured, below we only show the three soldiers.
Address: Uzvaras parks
The Riga Television Tower, located on Zakusala, is the highest TV tower in the European Union (368.5 meters high). Currently, the tower is under renovation. It will become the centre of science and innovations in the telecommunications industry. Hopefully open to visitors from 2025. Zakusala Island is worth the visit!
Address: Zakusalas krastmala 1
At Tornakalns station you'll find the Memorial of Victims of Communist Terror. During the Soviet occupation of Latvia, thousands of Latvians were sent to slave labour camps. Most people were taken on June 14, 1941 (15,000 people) and March 25, 1949 (42,000 people). From the train stations into cattle cars for a long trip to Siberia. One of the train stations was Tornaklns station. Pay this station a visit to view the iconic railway car which is still there and the monument itself of course. Picture below: in the distance you'll see the National Library of Latvia.
Address: Vilkaines iela at Tornakalns station
Old Spilve Airport
Spilve Airport is a few kilometers from Riga. Since 1915 the Latvian Air Force, Russians, Germans and later on the Soviet Union used it for military purposes.
As one of the few Stalinist-era buildings, the terminal building (from 1954) is still there. Spilve Airport also served as an international passenger airport, named Riga Central Airport (1975). Nowadays there are some little planes and ultralights there but no big planes and definitely no passengers. Even your taxi will be gone once you're done investigating the place if you don't ask the driver to wait! Below a picture of the terminal building, with the Soviet coat of arms still in place. Sneak around the back to have a look at the name "Riga" in Cyrillic on top of the building.
Address: Daugavgrīvas iela 140, Kurzemes rajons, Rīga
Check out a work safety poster we've found in Riga on our last trip.