The Corner House in Riga

The Corner House in Riga
25 June 2015

The Corner House is an art Nouveau building in the centre of Riga which actually has quite terrible stories to tell since during his life witnessed too many atrocities and nonsense. Therefore it’s now the symbol of the soviet totalitarian regime that lasted in Latvia for about fifty years.
Stūra māja at Brīvības iela 61, on the corner of Brīvības and Stabu streets, was built by the Latvian architect Aleksandrs Vanags in 1912.
In 1919 the Bolshevik forces took control of Riga, established in the Corner House and, consequently many people were captured and imprisoned in that building. They were arrested as ‘class enemies’ but the main reason was because they were the wealthiest citizens, clergymen or had Baltic German origin. Among them the same architect had to suffer in the building he designed. Some years after the Bolshevik left, the building was taken over by Latvia’s Interior Ministry in 1930s.
On June 17, 1940 the year of terror, Soviet armed forces entered the country and established in the building the headquarter of Cheka, the Soviet secret police. Political prisoners were taken to the Corner House to be interrogated, tortured or executed. All citizens suffered from a strong psychological pressure: neighbours had to spy on they neighbours, family members had to report upon other family members.
From December 1941 to September 1944 the National Guard, a patriotic youth organization, worked in the building to document the evidence of Cheka repression during the Year of Terror. Later in 1944 the KGB took over the building and left only in 1991 when Latvia regained its independence.
Eventually in 2012 they turned the building into the Museum of the Occupation.
The museum entrance is free, but to see all the exhibitions there is a 5 euro ticket that includes a guided tour as well. You will have the opportunity to see the cells, the interrogation and execution rooms. It is really recommended to go on the English or Russian speaking tour since it will add much more to your experience and you will be able to understand part of the horror and oppression generated by that system.

For more information visit the website of Museum of the Occupation in Latvia

Photo by Edgars Košovojs /  CC BY

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