Moving Latvian victory monument "would be very thoughtless"

  • 2007-05-17
  • From wire reports
RIGA - Estonia's recent decision to move the Bronze Soldier has prompted a certain amount of debate in Latvia as to the fate of a similar monument, the victory monument, located in the Pardaugava area of Riga.

Latvian Nationalists have argued that the monument should be dismantled and moved, while the Russian ambassador has said that it should be restored. Politicians' have urged caution with regards to the debate surrounding the monument.Janis Lagzdins, a lawmaker from the ruling People's Party, told BNS that the issue is not even "on the agenda" and discussions on the subject are out of question.
He added that the recent developments in Estonia showed that extreme caution was needed in dealing with these questions and such decisions must not be taken hastily.
Augusts Brigmanis, chairman of the Greens and Farmer Union faction in the parliament, also said that discussions on moving or changing the monument would be impossible at the moment. "Let us leave these questions," said Brigmanis.
Andris Berzins, the leader of Latvia's First Party and Latvia's Way (LPP/LC) faction, said speculations about the removal or reconstruction of the Victory Monument "are not serious."

He added that those who talk about moving of the monument do so in order to gain publicity. "They do not even have an idea of how such relocation of the monument could be accomplished and how much it would cost... We might suggest, if they wish, to collect signatures for the initiation of the referendum on this question," added Berzins.
Riga mayor Janis Birks, who represents the nationalist alliance For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (TB/LNNK), admitted the Victory Monument on the left side of the Daugava River is associated with the occupation of Latvia, but the mayor does not think discussions of moving the monument would be appropriate at the moment.
"Discussion on the issue, considering Estonia's experience, would be very thoughtless and even harmful to Latvia," said Birks.
"We have to speak about history, we have to speak about the experience after the World War II. We have to educate the public, the issues must be discussed publicly, and only then we would be able to address these issues again," said Birks.
Latvian nationalist organization All For Latvia has called on TB/LNNK and Birks to organize a public discussion on the future of the Victory Monument.

All For Latvia chairman Raivis Dzintars said it is important for all the Baltic states to take simultaneous the steps like Estonia did when it removed the Victory Monument, known as the Bronze Soldier from the center of Tallinn -- as the symbol of occupation.
"The presence of the monument to the "liberators from fascism" (as it is written on the plate) contradicts our state's official explanation of the events of the World War II," said Dzintars.
Riga's Monument Council at its next session is due to discuss Russian ambassador to Latvia Victor Kalyzhny's proposals regarding the Victory Monument.

Kalyzhny proposed to the Latvian government and the Riga mayor to restore the original inscriptions on the monument that have disappeared as well as to add the names of 105 Soviet soldiers who "died while liberating Latvia from Zilupe to Liepaja".