Saeima committee divided on future of Soviet "Victory" monument

Members of the Saeima Mandate, Ethics and Submissions Committee have different opinions about the future of the huge Uzvaras (Victory) Monument in Riga's Pardaugava.

On April 2 some members of the committee supported a proposal to tear the monument down, others opposed the initiative, while still other members believe that the monument should be renamed and a museum built next to it.

The committee began discussing a public petition, signed by more than 10,000 residents, demanding that Uzvaras Monument be torn down. Members of the committee had different opinions about the initiative, and they agreed to hear at the committee's next meeting the views of the Foreign Ministry, Culture Ministry, Riga City Council's council on monuments, Occupation Museum and other parties. The committee will then decide on how to best approach the initiative.

Committee member Artuss Kaiminš (KPV LV) said that a decision to blow up the monument would be wrong because it would divide society and compromise security. This is a "supersensitive" issue, so Saeima should act very smartly, stressed Kaiminš.

Kaiminš proposes renaming the monument, which is also permitted under an existing agreement with Russia. He believes that it could be called a memorial to victims of the Soviet occupation, and part of the monument could be reconstructed.

MP Andris Skride (For Development/For) agreed that the monument should not be demolished. He proposed to not only change the name of the monument, but to also build an underground interactive museum of occupation at the venue.

Politician Raivis Dzintars (National Alliance) said it was very good that there were different alternative proposals being made, but the public initiative offers a concrete proposal - to dismantle the monument. It means that the committee must consider that specific proposal. If the majority of the committee's members oppose it, only then alternatives could be considered, said Dzintars.

Arturs Rubiks (Harmony), on the other hand, emphasized that the monument was protected by an international treaty, and stated that this initiative was divisive.

The committee's chairwoman Janina Kursite-Pakule (National Alliance) stressed that this was a very sensitive issue and proposed to organize a conference to further discuss it. Other members of the committee though said that the issue should be dealt with faster and that no conference was necessary.

Ugis Polis, the author of the initiative, reminded his fellow members that the monument was unveiled in 1985 - at a time when Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union. Polis believes it is unacceptable that one of the symbols that reminds the Latvian nation of the enormous suffering brought by the Soviet occupation still stands in the heart of Latvia, Riga, and it is a large structure that is hard to miss. Today, Uzvaras Monument has become the venue of a highly political event on May 9, sponsored by the Kremlin and organized in the interests of Russia, believes Polis.

Meanwhile Latvian Russian Union leader Tatjana Ždanoka has launched an opposing signature drive to ensure protection of monuments against Nazism. One such monument is Uzvaras Monument in Riga. Over 21,000 people have signed the initiative so far and that too has been submitted to the Saeima for consideration.

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