Controversy as Latvia tears down Soviet-era monuments

Controversy as Latvia tears down Soviet-era monuments

What should be the fate of monuments that glorify the Soviet regime located in Latvia? That's the big debate currently gripping the Baltic nation.

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Latvia has adopted laws to dismantle these Soviet monuments.

But memorials in graveyards that contain human remains or are considered cultural landmarks will remain protected.

The city of Daugavpils near the Belarus border has multiple Soviet landmarks and a sizeable ethnic Russian community.

For many Russian speakers, tearing down these monuments equates to rewriting history.

"A soldier is a soldier," Igor Prelatov, a member of the Daugavpils City Council told Euronews. "The war makes things clear. What happened, happened. The monument was built in gratitude for someone.

"If we go back in history, whose territory this used to be... We can continue debating endlessly. In my opinion, by taking down the monuments we erase history,"

But the situation is different in Riga, the country’s capital. Local authorities have not hesitated to dismantle the remaining Soviet monuments.

A massive obelisk commemorating the Soviet army's victory over the Nazis became a contentious spot in the capital before being torn down.

Authorities claim that the memorial turned into a meeting ground for those pining for Latvia's Soviet past and Russian war sympathisers.

According to Riga's mayor, the city doesn´t want any more symbols of totalitarianism, especially following Russia´s invasion of Ukraine.

"We first thought of renaming the monument. But this was not accepted by the population. After this proposal, people started to donate to have this monument taken down. These donations covered the expenses to demolish it," explained Martins Stakis, mayor of Riga in an interview with Euronews.

Some landmarks that are considered important could end up at the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.

There, these historic artefacts will be preserved and exhibited - a reminder of a traumatic chapter in Latvia's history.

Watch the full Euronews Witness episode at 21.45 CET on Thursday 10 November.