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About the museum

The Museum's Mission

Remember what happened to Latvia, to the people and land of Latvia during the Soviet and German National Socialist regimes, from 1940-1991;


Commemorate those who were unjustly convicted and murdered, who died in foreign wars, those who suffered and died during the repressions and deportations, those who fled the occupation forces, and those scattered throughout the world;


Remind the powers of the other states of the world of the offences carried out against the Latvian state, its land and people. 

Society of the Latvian Occupation Museum

The Occupation Museum Association of Latvia (OMB) is the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia’s legal owner and manager. The association is a registered on the registry of Latvian state associations and foundations, and operates in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Latvia and the statute of the OMB. The OMB is the successor to the Occupation Museum Foundation (OMF), which operated from 1993 until 2006, when it was re-registered according to the Law on Public Organisations in the Republic of Latvia. The OMB was defined in the statute as “a charitable, non-profit association whose aim is to manage and provide structure for the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia and its related research and educational activities.” The OMB’s highest executive decision occurs at the members meeting, when the OMB board is elected as the executive body of the association. 

The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, as a branch of the OMB, works on the basis of the OMB charter and on regulations approved in board meetings, which defines “the museum’s mission, objectives, tasks, structures, the functions of officials and other employees, financial security, rights and obligations”

The OMB charter (in Latvian).

THE OCCUPATION MUSEUM ASSOCIATION OF LATVIA'S BOARD MEMBERS

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History of the museum and formation of the collection

  • Collection of the museum

    The museum collection was started in 1993 alongside the creation of the museum. At the start of 2017 the museum archive had registered almost 60,000 items. Wishing to preserve the memory of the occupation period, people have donated personal items and shared their stories. Museum specialists have recorded more than 2,300 video testimonies, one of the largest collections dedicated to this topic in Europe. These testimonies and the donated artefacts add personal experience to the history, through the life story of each person. These memories do not talk only of suffering, but of endurance, selflessness and resistance.

    Donating artefacts to the museum
    If you have any documents, photos or other objects, relating to the occupation periods, which you would like to donate to the museum please contact the museum collection: tk@omf.lv

  • Audio-visual archive

    Part of the collection is stored in the museum’s audio-visual archive. These are the testimonials of the period of the occupation of Latvia in film, audio and video format. The richest section is the video archive which began to be formed in autumn 1996. Video testimonies are the life stories of those who witnessed the occupation period (for example those repressed, deported, refugees etc.). The number of entries already goes beyond 2,300 testimonies, equally over 4000 hours of footage.

    The audio-visual archive specialist have created 10 documentary films. They can be purchased at the museum bookshop or on the museum’s online shop.

    Donating to the museum and arranging witness interviews
    If you have any film, audio or video material, relating to the occupation period, which you would like to donate to the museum, or you know someone who could share their story about the occupation years please contact our audio-visual archive department: +371 66 116 757lelde.neimane@omf.lv

  • History of the museum

    The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia is a state accredited private museum, founded in 1993. It is maintained and managed by the public charitable organisation the Occupation Museum Association of Latvia (LOMB).
    In 2006 the Latvian Parliament approved the Law of the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, which established relations with LOMB, provides state financial support for the museum and strengthens the museum’s right to use the building and adherent land. In 2010, 2011 and 2012 the museum received only 10% of its yearly operational budget from the state, the other funds were donations from visitors and supporters. The largest support for the museum comes from the international Latvian community – both organisations and individual donors.
    A visit to the museum is part of the diplomatic protocol of Latvia and the museum is visited by many foreign leaders, diplomats and other representatives on official visits.

  • 1993

    • In February1993, history professor Paulis Lazda of the University of Wis¬consin-Eau Claire (USA) submitted a proposal to the Latvi¬an Ministry of Culture. He proposed to establish a museum in Riga that would present the history of occupied Latvia, 1940 to 1991, as precisely as possible. He also stipulated that the new museum would not encumber the Latvian State budget – funds would come from voluntary donations. The proposal was formally accept¬ed, and the already vacated Latvian Red Riflemen Museum in the centre of Riga was made avail¬able for the first exhibition. To implement the proposal, 11 persons (Paulis Lazda, Rūsiņš Albertiņš, Andris Kolbergs, Gun¬dega Michele, Vija Muzikante, Ivars Muzikants, Richards Pētersons, Gunārs Priedītis, Jānis Stradiņš, Leons Taivāns, Anna Zoldnere) established a non-profit organisation – “Latvia during 50 Years of Occupation” Museum Foundation (OMF); it was registered in May. The mission of the Foundation was to establish, maintain, and administer the Museum.
    • Intense preparation followed, involving Latvians who had recently returned to Latvia from the USA and Australia, and others who had lived through the occupation period in Latvia. The arrangement of the exhibition was planned by the interior designer Anna Zoldnere. Texts, docu-ment copies, and photos were provided by volunteers. The Museum received its first financial donations from Latvians living overseas.

    • The exhibition was opened on 1 July. After a short introduction about Latvia at the end of 1930s, it described the year that followed the oc¬cupation of the Republic of Latvia by the Soviet Union on 17 June 1940, when Soviet tanks entered Riga.

    • Anna Zoldnere became the Museum’s first employee and under her guidance as the director, the exhibition remained open until September. Then work started on the preparation of exhibits describing the next occupation period – occupation by National Socialist Germany including the Holocaust. A second employee, Brigita Radziņa, joined Zoldnere as archivist at the end of the year.

  • 1994

    • On 14 June, the president of Latvia, Guntis Ulmanis, opened the exhibition presenting the period of National Socialist German oc¬cupation of Latvia from mid-1941 to 1944/45, including the Holocaust. In the exhibition hall, a Gulag barracks repro¬duction was constructed and exhib¬it stands filled about a third of the available space. At the end of the year, an IT spe¬cialist, Ralfs Berzinskis, joined the Muse¬um and the first computer was purchased.
    • The Museum was closed during the winter while stands and showcases were constructed according to the design of Anna Zoldnere. They nearly filled the 600-m2 hall. A three-metre-tall bas-re¬lief of Lenin was removed from the end wall.

    • The Museum welcomed 3039 visitors during the three months that it was open.

     

  • 1995

    • At the beginning of May, a clean water pipe broke in the Museum’s deep base¬ment and totally filled it with water. Bri¬gita Radziņa persuaded fire-fighters to pump the water out and repair the damage.

    • On 14 June, the president of Latvia, Guntis Ulmanis, opened the new segment of the exhibi¬tion that presented the occupation period during Stalin’s reign, 1945–1953.

    • Due to reconstruction of the adjoining Black Heads House, the Museum lost 45 m2 from its vestibule and the introduction to the exhibition had to be restructured.

    • In September, the director of the Museum Anna Zoldnere, administrator Ralfs Ber¬zinskis, and historian Richards Pētersons visited various museums in the USA in¬cluding the newly opened Holocaust Mu¬seum in Washington. They also met with Museum support¬ers in Cleveland, who were planning fund raising activities.

    • By the end of the year, the Museum had five employees including poet Anda Līce, who became the editor of the Muse¬um’s Newsletter.

    • This year the Museum was open for seven months and recorded 4426 visitors.

  • 1996

    • To commemorate 55 years since the first mass deportation on 14 June 1941, the Museum organised an extensive program in Riga. It included the opening of a reconstructed railway car in the Torņakalna Railway station to show the type used to trans¬port more than 15 000 deportees to distant Siberian regions, an ecumenical church service, and a procession from the Museum to the Freedom Monument.

    • The Museum continued its expansion. At the opening of its third segment – depicting 1954–1964 –  the main speaker was Eduards Berklāvs who had actively opposed Russification policies in the 1950s.

    • A grant from the Soros Foundation made the purchase of a video camera pos¬sible and under the leadership of Andrejs Feldmanis the Museum started collecting audio-visual personal testimonies from eyewitnesses of historic events. In No¬vember, Gundega Michele travelled to Australia to share news about the devel¬opment of the Museum and encourage financial support.

    • The Museum published its first two newsletters that included grateful ac¬knowledgement of financial support. A Museum’s support group – the Latvian 50 Year Occupation Museum Fund Support Group (OMFA) was established in Cleveland under the leadership of Ilze Schwartz. Dagnija Staško started work in the Museum and established an innovative Education Pro¬gramme.

    • The Museum was open for 11 months and welcomed 7122 visitors.

  • 1997

    • On 14 June, President Guntis Ulmanis opened the part of the exhibition about the 1964–1984 period of Brezhnev’s so-called stagnation. The main speaker was Lidija Doroņina-Las¬mane who had been severely persecuted for her peaceful opposition to the Soviet regime.

    • In September, Matthew Kott started work as the Museum’s administrator. The staff of the Museum increased to five full-time and several part-time employees.

    • The Museum received its first financial grant from the Latvian government – specifically for the up¬keep of the building – and a grant from the Latvian Foundation (USA) to purchase a second computer.

    • The first book was published: Through the Eyes of a Child (in Latvian and English) – a collection of drawings by an eleven-year-old girl of her journey to – and seven years spent in – Siberia.

    • During the summer, the Museum started to offer selected books for sale. The Education Programme organised teacher seminars, distributed teaching aids to history teachers, published a newsletter, and conducted monthly public discussions.

    • For the first time, the Museum’s yearly at¬tendance exceeded 10 000.

  • 1998

    • In January, members of the “Latvia during 50 Years of Occupation” Museum Foundation (OMF – the administrator of the Museum) approved new stat¬utes that clarified how the Foundation supports and administers the Museum. OMF also passed a re¬solution that the present building is the very best location for the Museum in Riga.

    • The concluding segment of the exhibition was completed. It was opened by President Guntis Ulmanis on 14 June. The Latvi¬an government transferred the ownership of the Museum building to the Riga City Coun¬cil. The Museum had to prove that it does not duplicate the exhibition of the War Museum of Latvia by providing a detailed comparison of the activities of both museums. The State Administration of Museums evaluated the situation and gave our Museum its support.

    • The Education programme prepared the first travelling exhibition (in Latvian and Russian) about the Soviet mil¬itary aviation bomber training centre that had existed for 40 years at Zvārde. The exhibition travelled to numerous schools.

    • State funds were received to prepare a travel¬ling exhibition entitled Latvia Returns to Europe about the whole occupa¬tion period with texts in Latvian, English, German, and French. In November, 24 large exhibition posters were shown in the Europe¬an Parliament in Brussels. Subsequently several versions of the exhibition trav¬elled to other cities of Europe, the USA, Australia, and Canada.

    • A grant from the State enabled the Museum to launch a Research Pro¬gramme led by Dr. habil. Heinrihs Strods. At the end of the year, the Museum pub¬lished a book: Latvijas Okupācijas muzejs 1940–1991 in Latvian and German. Its ed¬itors and authors were Valters Nollendorfs and Matthias Knoll. It was financed by the Landtag of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The copiously illustrated book presented the essential content of the Museum. Valters Nollendorfs and Heinihs Strods became members of the newly founded Presidential Commission of the Historians of Latvia.

    • The Latvian Sate Protocol started to offer a visit to the Museum to its guests. The first State visitors were the pres¬idents of Iceland, Poland, and the king of Norway.

    • At the end of the year, Anna Zoldnere resigned, and Matthew Kott became the temporary director.

    • The yearly attendance, 24 687, was more than double that of the previous year.

  • 1999

    • One of the architects of the Museum building, G. Lūsis-Grīnbergs, presented to the Riga City Council a plan for basic renovations and enlargement of the Museum building. The Council did not consider the project, but in February decided to demolish the building and move the Museum’s exhibition to "another suitable location". Several locations were viewed, but a “suitable” one was not found. Museum supporters flooded the City Council with protest letters from Latvia and abroad.

    • The Museum introduced tempo¬rary thematic exhibitions. The first ones were 1949 Deportation, To Live with Art, and a retrospective of sculptor Eduards Sidrabs. The Museum also provided space for the presentation of books related to the occupation period. Quite frequently journalists held TV and radio interviews at the Museum.

    • In June, Gundega Feld¬mane-Zāns became the acting director of the Museum. Dagnija Staško took over Pub¬lic Relations and Ieva Gundare led the Education Programme.

    • Among the official visitors were the President of Germany, eight ministers, and 20 ambassadors. The annual number of visitors was 23 298.

  • 2000

    • In January, the Museum published The Documents Testify – a collection of historic document copies compiled by the Education Programme staff for history teachers in Latvian schools. A special donation ensured that sets of 10 or 20 books were sent free of charge to about 400 schools.

    • In March, the Museum published its first Yearbook. A book by Andrejs Feldman¬is about the Soviet attack on Latvia’s border post at Masļenki on 15 June 1940 was opened in July. Later, a special do¬nation made it possible to publish two four-page in¬serts in one of Latvia’s most popular newspapers about the Museum and its outreach work.

    • The thematic exhibitions focused on the Popular Front of late 1980s, the attack at Masļenki, the successful journey of Latvian refugees in 1946 to the USA by motorboat, and homemade Latvian flags that had been treasured by refugees, deportees, and Soviet prisoners.

    • A program to identify commemorative sites in Latvia was initiated under the leader¬ship of Richards Pētersons. Two summer scholarships were funded by the Ameri¬can Latvian Youth Association for students from the USA to work as guides in the Museum.

    •  Among the 35 424 visitors to the Museum were the presidents of Slovenia and Greece, 11 ministers, and 12 ambassadors.

  • 2001

    • On 14 June, President Vaira Vīķe-Frei¬berga opened an exhibition to commemorate the first mass deportation 60 years ago. During the year, the Museum presented five smaller thematic exhibitions.

    • The Education Programme staff prepared a new travelling exhibition that described the whole occupation period in Latvian, English, and Russian. Staff members always accompanied the exhibition as it travelled to schools throughout Latvia.

    • On the 800th anniversary of Riga, the internationally recognised architect Gunnar Birkerts presented his vision of the reconstruction and enlargement of the Museum building as a gift to the Riga City Council. In Oc¬tober, the Council suspended the plan to demolish the Museum building.

    • Research work was emphasised in the Museum. The second Yearbook pub¬lished historical research studies and document copies. Heinrihs Strods and Valters No¬llendorfs of the Museum staff continued their active participation in the Commission of the Historians of Latvia.

    • To commemorate the victims of the KGB in Riga, the Museum completed its plans to erect a memorial, created by sculptor Gļebs Panteļejevs and architect Andris Veidemanis, next to the building that housed the KGB un¬til 1991.

    • The annual attendance was 40 185, including HRH Prince Charles, six presidents, 10 ministers, six ambassadors, and 3362 schoolchildren.

  • 2002

    • Due to serious health problems, Gundega Feldmane-Zāns could not continue her work in the Museum and in January the OMF Board appointed Gundega Michele as the director of the Museum.

    • The most important achievement of this year was Accreditation of our Museum by the Ministry of Culture. Accreditation meant that after rigorous assessment by pro¬fessionals, the Museum was judged to have met proper museum standards in all aspects of its work. It also opened the possibility to receiv¬e some regular State funding.

    • Of the seven thematic exhibits prepar¬ed this year, Soviet propaganda posters and everyday commerce of the 1970s attracted the most attention.

    • The Museum published three books: the third Yearbook; Latvijas Okupācijas muzejs, 1940–1991, Museum of the occupation of Latvia, Editor & author V. Nollendorfs, in Latvian and English; Masļenki 2nd ed., author Andrejs Feld¬manis.

    • The travelling exhibition “Latvia Returns to Europe” was shown in  number of European and USA cit¬ies including Washington, Helsinki, and London. The Education Programme’s exhibition was presented in 18 schools. Ieva Gundare, Director of the Edu¬cation Programme, received an award from the Ministry of Culture for her highly effective work with Lat¬vian history teachers.

    • For the second year in succession, the number of visitors exceeded 40 000. Among prominent guests were the presidents of Turkey, Austria, Armenia, and Lithuania, 16 ministers, and 22 ambassadors.