Sculpture signifies will to survive

  • 2000-01-27
  • By Elina Cerpa
Society's viewpoints about a monument representing victims of Communist terror, to be erected on the Esplanade in downtown Riga, have been diverse and contradictory. Report by Elina Cerpa.

At 3.5 metres high, symbolizing a family torn apart in Siberia, a monument will be dedicated to victims of the Soviets.

When completed, "Puteni," meaning "In the Snowstorm," will be placed on a raised platform 2,500 square meters across in Riga's Esplanade.

Debates about building the monument started three years ago in 1997, when the first tenders had undergone selection. After two sittings, no real decision was made. In 1998 another nomination by candidates was put forward to build the monument. Four projects were nominated, and among them was a bid from Jaunzems and Poga.

Making a final choice was a long and laborious process. In response to rising negative reaction, because of a conflict over the abstraction of the design and its location, sculptor Pauls Jaunzems and architect Juris Poga quit working on the monument.

A model of the sculpture was made for public viewing. Those interested could make their opinions known as well as giving special consideration to the monument's political significance. A commission of six people, the Support Council for Occupation Victims, was then selected to make a decision about the most acceptable design.

The idea for the monument was advanced by members of Parliament. Support from the state for the project totals 163,000 lats ($278,632), of which 127,000 lats is intended to secure the selected site. This project has been carefully discussed more than once by the monument council, as well as by the organization for the politically repressed, other architects and sculptors. The council accepted Jaunzems and Poga's project, but suggested some rather important changes, such as moving the monument to a different location. This required changes to the model. This version no longer satisfied the professionals or the organization of the politically repressed. The place seemed inappropriate, the monument too big and robust and did not reflect the desires of the age.

Lately different media have shown a critical attitude. Latvia's largest daily newspaperDiena was carefully following the monument's progress and published several letters in which the repressed and professional artists criticized the development of monument.

All parties were convinced that negative publications in press created a negative attitude in society before those differences had been resolved.

The monument has a strong national, historical and human meaning. It signifies a protest against one little nation's destruction and this nation's strong wish to exist.

Despite all the banter, the monument to victims of Communist terror should be standing on the Esplanade by June this year.