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ACTIONS OF RIGA CITY AUTHORITIES JEOPARDISE THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MUSEUM OF THE OCCUPATION OF LATVIA

ACTIONS OF RIGA CITY AUTHORITIES JEOPARDISE THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MUSEUM OF THE OCCUPATION OF LATVIA

2015. gada 28. septembris

The approval of a building permit to build the long-planned Building for the Future of the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia has been put on hold by the Riga City Development Department. It has granted the Building Board an extension until May 2016 to decide whether a building permit will be issued. It seems that a last-minute protest against the long-approved project by a group of Latvian architects is at the root of the delay. Such an extension is highly unusual, and the Museum considers the vague reasons named to be a deliberate attempt to keep the Museum from fulfilling its mission and to jeopardise its existence. 

The Museum's building, the former Soviet-era Museum of the Latvian Red Riflemen, belongs to the Latvian state. By a special law it is exclusively dedicated for the use of the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. The planned construction – actually a most necessary renovation and expansion project designed by the renowned Latvian-American architect Gunnar Birkerts – is financed by the state. After many delays in the planning process, it is slated to be finished by 1 July 2017. The delay means that the building now cannot be finished by the 100th anniversary of the Latvian state in 2018, and the Museum will not be able to celebrate it with its new, modern exhibition, if at all.

The Museum is owned and administered by the Occupation Museum Association of Latvia. Besides maintaining the building, the Latvian state pays an annual subsidy to the Museum to fulfil important state functions, including protocol visits by high state guests. However, the subsidy currently covers only ¼ of the actual costs of running the Museum. While waiting for the building to proceed, the Museum has been housed in temporary quarters for three years, where its exhibition attracts only ¼ of the more than 100,000 annual visitors that came to the old building. Income from visitors has declined dramatically. The Museum's financial reserves are dwindling, and further delays will defray them to the point of no return.

But worst of all, the Museum is faced with a serious threat to its mission: to remember and commemorate the crimes committed by both the Soviet and Nazi-German regimes against the Latvian state and its people, to remind the world of these crimes and the Latvian nation's struggle to regain freedom. We have no proof that the obstructive tactics employed by Riga City authorities are directly part of Russia's information war; we are convinced, however, that they effectively support it. Subduing or eventually silencing the Museum is a real danger.

The top leadership of the Republic of Latvia, from the President down, has declared its unequivocal approval; the Mayor of the City of Riga, Nils Ušakovs, has also publically declared his support for the prompt conclusion of the Museum's building project. It seems that only his own bureaucracy is in the way. We are calling on him to resolve the matter without any further delay.

If you want to lend your voice to our struggle against this threat to the Museum's mission and existence, we suggest you to write the Mayor of the City of Riga: Nils Ušakovs, Ratslaukums 1, Riga LV–1539, Latvia;nils.usakovs@riga.lv. For informative purposes, send a copy to the Minister of Culture, under whose aegis we operate and who is very supportive of our project: Dace Melbārde, K.Valdemāra iela 11-a, Rīga, LV-1364, Latvia; dace.melbarde@km.gov.lv and to us.

 

 

Valters Nollendorfs

Chairman of the Board                                                               Riga, 22 September 2015

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