The moving of the reconstruction project of the Museum of Occupation building, Nākotnes nams (Future House) project by architect Gunārs Birkerts and the memorial for the repressed Vēstures taktīla (Touch of History) project out of the imaginary deadlock in early summer has sparked echoes in the Moscow propaganda media, for instance Sputnik, and others. It must be admitted that the Museum of Occupation has never been favoured by the Russian language mass media, but a new surge of activity has been observed recently. Already in October last year Sputnik voiced their satisfaction with the fact that the works had not been commenced and were unlikely to be completed by the centenary of Latvia, as was initially planned. Similarly, referring to the former opposition of the architect Zana Gaile and Riga Construction Board to the construction of the Future House, it has been called “Tastelessness in the heart of Riga”. Meanwhile at the very end of May, the political scientist of Russia Yuriy Svetov, who frequently appears in the media outlets that are completely loyal to the Kremlin - Sputnik, RIA Novosti and RT, said in the programme of the Sputnik radio station: “The creation of museums and monuments of the Soviet occupation of this entire period - it is a cynical game.” Namely, Latvia completely ignores everything “positive” that it received from the USSR at the time. Instead, only losses are calculated and billions of euros worth of claims are raised against Russia, the heir of the Soviet Union. “It is the road to deadlock, but, unfortunately, these are the realities of the contemporary world, where myths occupy the place of the real situation,” the political scientist from Russia says. His words were quickly picked up by the Russian language website of Latvia Vesti, entitling their article Latvia Faces Deadlock. It is curious that Vesti automatically repeated the Moscow source in saying that the construction of the memorial had already started, although no works have really occurred on site.
However, the most colourful article dedicated to the Museum of Occupation proved to be an article by a journalist of the Rubaltic.ru portal published on 18 April, who, judging from what has been written in her article, has not been to the museum herself; she seems to have instead collected the information for her article, including ten-year old photographs, from the vast ocean of Russian language internet sources. The article claims: “The Museum Night is a project aimed at the popularisation of art (as per the text - Author’s remark). However, there are museums, where night and darkness never ends. Such type of “cultural object” started to spring up in the former republics and countries of the socialist block after the breakdown of the Soviet Union. The main objective of these objects - to tell their version of “historical truth” in accordance with which, the USSR was an “occupying power”.” Respectively, “people, who are not too familiar with history, at least the history of this region, frequently accept this in good faith.” The visit to the Museum of Occupation “is mandatory” for all pupils of the schools of Riga, as well as delegations of foreign countries. Mandatory! But entrance to the museum is free of charge! The museums, the existence of which are paid for by “different funds, associations or directly by the government” are usually characterised by “concentrated agitation or even explicit propaganda". The Museum of Occupation is exactly such a type of museum. Even the holocaust is reflected here not as a genocide, but as “just revenge and fighting for freedom” The Soviet Union is also blamed for the deaths of 40 Latvian men in the Afghanistan War in the 1980s and for the arrest of Latvian dissidents! The resentment of the author grew until a question was raised - why has nothing been mentioned about the thousands of Latvian Red Riflemen, who were “elite guards of the Bolshevik power”? “Were they brought up and fed by some other sort of Latvia? If “Soviet terror” was much more heinous than “the brown plague”, why did Latvian riflemen protect the Soviet power with such loyalty when it was being established”
The article Night at the Museum of Occupation by Rubaltic.ru is an accumulation of imprecision, an illogical combination of information fragments “under the gravy” of powerless grudge and even surrealism. This happens, when something “like that” becomes the objective of writing. However, the article lacks facts, arguments and awareness of the historical sequence of events.
Firstly, why should the Museum of Occupation tell the story of Latvian Red Riflemen, if this task is perfectly achieved by the Latvian War Museum? Furthermore, riflemen refer to a different time period. What could the Latvian Riflemen know about the “brown plague” of 1941 or repressions implemented by both Soviet occupations? If we talk about the riflemen, it must be mentioned that it is the “ classical” topic of all Russian mass media - to characterise the Latvian riflemen under the service of the Bolsheviks as if they were part of the army of Latvia and not Tsarist Russia, as if their road to Russia was not really pre-determined by historical conditions (German invasion and occupation of the Baltic region in autumn 1917, trust in the regiment and commanders, the breakdown of the Russian army), but rather by the ideological belief of the riflemen. It is also typical to see the words “Soviet occupation” in quotation marks in this type of publication or it is referred to as the “so-called occupation”.
Līga Strazda, Deputy Director of the Museum of Occupation for Development, indicates that the basis for articles of this sort can be found in the incapacity of the author to accept the fact of the regaining of independence by Latvia and, consequently, the entire message of the museum collection. Furthermore, most probably, the journalist of Rubaltic.ru has not visited the museum either during “Museum Night” or during the day. Strazda reminds us that the museum informs its visitors on the independent and democratic Latvia that was founded in 1918, suffered a political crisis in 1934 and lost its democratic government system, but continued existing as an independent state until it was occupied by the USSR in 1940; its statehood was eliminated, preserving the legal components of the state in functional embassies abroad. In the summer of 1941, when the army of Nazi Germany entered Latvia, the occupation power changed in the territory of Latvia. The military victory of the USSR in the autumn of 1944 enabled the return and stay of the Soviet occupation power in the territory of Latvia up until 4 May 1990, when the renewal of the independence of the State of Latvia was declared and 21 August 1991, when Latvia regained complete sovereignty. “This is the framework of political history that is implemented by means of a museum collection that contains objects, documents, photographs and people’s life stories. The message of the museum arises from the concept of the continuity of Latvian statehood. Therefore, we do not use concepts - “leave the USSR” or “Fascist occupation” in the message of our museum, since it is a part of the Soviet history narrative, which is still in active use in the Russian-speaking post-Soviet environment. However, if visitors come to the museum with open minds and evaluate the materials presented at the museum, their understanding of past events and current political events may change as a result of the thinking process”, the representative of the museum says.
Supported by the Ministry of Culture of Latvia