5 Reasons to Visit the Occupation Museum of Latvia

5 Reasons to Visit the Occupation Museum of Latvia
05 June 2023

1. The Occupation Museum is in the center of Riga

The Occupation Museum of Latvia is located in Townhall Square, right in the middle of Old Riga. As you approach the museum, you cannot help but notice its striking contrast with the surrounding buildings. The distinct dark, minimalist structure stands out amidst the soft curves and bright exteriors of Old Riga. However, once you step inside, you’ll be greeted by a modern interior, setting the stage for a journey through contemporary Latvian history. Given its convenient location, there’s no excuse to not include a visit to the museum any day as you wander along the cobblestone paths of Old Riga!  

 

A section on the Soviet occupation of Latvia

A section on the Soviet occupation of Latvia

2. Content is presented clearly in a digestible manner 

Personally, as someone with limited exposure to European history, I was unsure of what to expect. However, the museum was very insightful and accessible even for someone with minimal knowledge of history like me. Being there felt like I was within the pages of a history textbook. The Occupation Museum takes you on a chronological exploration of Latvia’s place in the events surrounding World War II, culminating in its independence from the USSR in 1991. The layout neatly breaks down Latvia’s history into a comprehensive narrative with chronological sections that made the information easily digestible. The museum went into extreme detail with the events of the occupations, though the names of political players and institutions could get confusing at some points. The exhibits artfully transition focus from external political powers to Latvia and its people, redirecting focus to the nation itself. Everyone will walk away from the museum having learnt something new.  

 

3. Impactful stories as told by the exhibits

It was incredibly humbling to think that the everyday items on display like shoes or knives that I was standing in front of were made by desperate prisoners in the gulag’s work camps, or that the objects kept those people alive in unimaginable conditions. The testimonial videos by survivors of the gulag and occupations were really powerful in shedding light on the firsthand experience of the horrors of war. Additionally, learning the staggering numbers of victims killed and sent to labor camps brought the scale of the tragedy into perspective. 

Tags of individuals identified only by a number in labor camps

Tags of individuals identified only by a number in labor camps

 

4. Understand Latvia as it is today

The museum goes beyond exploring the past and sheds light on historical factors that continue to influence modern Latvian society. The final exhibit on Latvia after the occupations is particularly relevant for both Riga and Latvia today. By explaining the long-term impacts of the occupation, it uncovers the intricate connections between historical events and modern dynamics. It’s an eye-opening experience to realize that what is displayed in the exhibit cases still resonates with reality for many people today. A visit to the Occupation Museum is highly recommended not just for the sake of history, but also to understand the country’s present-day circumstances. 

 

5. History and language learning 

It’s impossible to learn more than a century’s worth of history in just a few hours, but the Occupation Museum does a great job of conveying the impact of historical events in the last century on modern-day Latvia. For us learners of the Russian language, it’s important to understand the historical context of the language that we are learning in the country that we are in. Ultimately, an appreciation of the heritage of the language we are learning allows us to connect better with the people around us who speak the language and forge meaningful connections with it. 

 

Yeap, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz Riga

(All photo credits to the author of this article)

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