Monument to the Liberators at the Victory Park in Riga. (Photo: via Wikipedia)
Left-wing sections in Latvia have condemned the government’s drive to demolish Soviet era monuments in the country. Under the order of the right-wing government, the Monument to the Liberators of Riga at the Victory Park in the national capital was demolished on August 25, despite opposition from leftist and anti-fascist sections. The Latvian Socialist Party (LSP) and the Social Democratic Party – Harmony denounced the demolition and warned that such actions by the government will lead to polarization and destruction of the civil society.
Several right-wing governments in Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet Republics, including in Poland and Ukraine, have been carrying out decommunization drives with bans on communist symbols and demolition of Soviet era and Red Army memorials. The European Parliament itself passed a controversial resolution in 2019 equating communism to Nazism and calling for the erasure of its memory from the public sphere.
Even as progressive and left-wing sections in Europe denounced the resolution, right-wing governments took it as an opportunity to intensify their decommunization drives, while allowing a free run to neo-Nazi groups to consolidate and carry out brazen acts of violence. With the onset of the Russia-Ukraine war in February 2022, Russophobia reached its peak across Europe. Right-wing governments started imposing more sanctions on Russia, banned Soviet symbols, and called for the destruction of Soviet era monuments. Neo-Nazi-led vandalization of partisan memorials and Red Army monuments are also under way in many parts of Eastern Europe.
The right-wing dominated parliament in Latvia voted in favor of the demolition of Soviet monuments in May this year, in the backdrop of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. According to reports, the government has ordered the demolition of all Soviet monuments (69 buildings) throughout the country by the end of this year. Latvia is a post-Soviet Republic in the Baltic region with a sizable Russian minority, amounting to 25% of the population. Political observers have expressed concern that the Russophobic anti-Soviet campaign by the right-wing government is likely to polarize Latvian society.
Perspective Communiste reported that neo-Nazi groups in Latvia have long been calling for the destruction of communist monuments across the county. The Monument to the Liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga was erected in 1985 to commemorate the liberation of Riga and Latvia from Nazi Germany by the Red Army in 1944 during World War II.
Jānis Urbanovičs, president of the Social Democrat Party – Harmony, denounced the actions of the government and stated that “the government has lost track of its priorities, which no longer addresses the people and deals only with the destruction of monuments.”
“You can demolish monuments, but you can’t erase memories. Generations of people will remember what is dear to them. And now they will have in them anger and bitterness, perhaps even hatred. It won’t help us build and defend our Latvia,” he said.
The Socialist Party of Latvia stated on August 25 that “the Latvian government has chosen the path of surrendering the country’s sovereignty in favor of blind submission to external interests, the politicians in power have literally stripped, weakened and depopulated our country for thirty years.”
The statement continued: “The time of common joys, achievements has been replaced by the will to cause trouble. The desire for cooperation and mutual aid has been supplanted by mutual indifference and fierce competition within society, between social groups and workers in different industries. For the masters, a cleverly divided society can be tightly controlled to avoid mass protests.”