Travel, Teach, Live in Europe and Middle East
This week fifteen years ago, Latvia declared independence from the Soviet Union, after a series of occupations by both Soviet and German forces since 1940. If you visit Latvia's capital city, Riga, then the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia 1940-1991 will powerfully explain to you this country's tumultuous history.
Inside the Museum of Occupation
Housed in a startling dark grey, box-shaped building in the middle of Riga's Town Hall Square, the Occupation Museum includes exhibitions of documents leading to Latvia's occupation, events of the two Soviet occupations and the intervening Nazi occupation, and the struggle that resulted in Latvian independence on 21 August 1991. Displays range from listening bugs that were found built in to hotels around Riga, through letters home from prisoner-of-war camps, to stunning photos of the protests and celebrations at the time of independence.
The History of the Museum of Occupation
Like many buildings in the former eastern bloc, the architecturally interesting box housing the Museum of Occupation has its own special history. It was originally the Latvian Red Rifleman's Museum, opened on Lenin's 100th birthday in 1970 and its main goal was to encourage young Latvians to follow the communist route. As a result, it was quickly closed when Latvia gained independence, and re-opened as the Museum of Occupation in 1993.
Visiting the Museum of Occupation
A nice bonus when planning your sightseeing in Riga is that there is no entry fee to visit the Museum of Occupation: you can give a donation instead, and you probably will after all the deep impressions its contents will make on you. It's easy to find, located as it is very centrally in Riga on its Town Hall Square, and not far from the banks of the Daugava River. Opening times vary according to season, and outside of the summer peak, it's closed on Mondays.