What Is the True Meaning of the Freedom Monument in Riga?

What Is the True Meaning of the Freedom Monument in Riga?
26 November 2014

The Freedom Monument in Riga is a symbol of independence and liberty. This impressive monument was built to honour the soldiers who had died during the Latvian War of Independence between 1918-1920, fought between the Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic and the provision government of the Republic of Latvia, supported by a combination of the Western Allies, Estonia and Poland.  It is situated at the end of Freedom Boulevard in the centre of Riga and is considered an incredibly important and iconic symbol of the freedom, independence and sovereignty of Latvia!

The Unveiling

The statue was unveiled in 1935 and stands at 42 metres high, often serving as a focal point for public gatherings and official ceremonies. The history of the statue is very interesting as even throughout Soviet times it was seen by the public as a symbol of the independence of the Latvian state, despite being part of the Soviet Union. It was commissioned in 1920 by the Prime Minister, Zigfrids Anna Meierovics, who set up a competition for the design of the monument dedicated to remembering the War of Independence. Eventually, the image of Lady Liberty holding up three bronze stars was chosen as the symbol. The column is decorated with adornments and scenes from Latvian history and celebrations of its culture. After the 1940 occupation of Latvia by the Soviet Union, the authorities considered destroying the Monument, but decided to let it remain and change the symbolic meaning of it.

The Freedom Monument significance

Nowadays, the Freedom Monument stands next to the German and French embassies and the monument itself is, as is quite obvious, a useful meeting point right next to the entrance to the Old Town of Riga, on the exact spot where there used to be a bronze equestrian statue dedicated to Peter the Great! The Freedom Monument’s symbolic existence was made incredibly clear in 1987, when the Soviet Republics slowly started turning towards independence. The act of laying flowers to commemorate the dead soldiers of the Latvian War of Independence had been prohibited by the Soviet authorities, but this ban was ignored by the Latvian people, who gathered en masse to remember the war of 1918-20. From then on, public gatherings around the Freedom Monument grew larger and larger until the fall of the Soviet Union and the re-establishment of an independent Latvia!

Due to its age and susceptibility to the harsh climate in Latvia, the statue has undergone several restorations due to the cracking of the concrete core, and the most recent major restoration was in 2001, and now undergoes minor restorations every two years.  Just walking past the monument and seeing Lady Liberty and her three bronze stars will be enough for you to respect and admire the beauty of the statue, and the iconic and historical importance of such a grand monument!

This post was brought to you by Alexander, currently studying Russian at Liden and Denz

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