On Sunday, around 200 people gathered near the Riga Town Hall, protesting against the proposed removal of the Pushkin statue.
Last week, the Monuments Council of the Riga City Council recommended dismantling and relocating several monuments, linking them to the glorification of the Soviet occupation era.
However, to the surprise of some, a relatively modern monument to Russia's most famous writer was also slated for removal. The reasons given were that the great poet has no connection with Latvia, and that the monument was allegedly placed illegally, though that hasn't prevented the bronze statue greeting promenaders in Kronvalda park for the last fourteen years since it arrived as a gift from the city of Moscow in 2009.
"This is a political signal from the residents of Riga to the Riga City Council and to the government in general that the war against monuments should not continue and that the Pushkin monument has a special value," said Riga City Council member Miroslavs Mitrofanovs of the Latvian Russian Union party, who was among the protesters.
Members of the Harmony party also participated in the picket to recite poetry and express their opinion.
"We reasoned that any member of the party can participate in this rally individually. Because we really believe that deciding on the demolition or relocation of the Pushkin monument in Rīga is currently simply a work of madness. We cannot ignore the world's cultural geniuses," said Regina Ločmele, co-chair of the Harmony party.
Other participants argued that Pushkin has no connection with politics and, given that he lived a couple of centuries ago, can hardly be blamed for Russia's current aggression. On the other hand, a passer-by offered the opinion that any examples of Russian cultural influence should be removed from Latvian soil.
Whatever happens, it seems likely Pushkin will remain on his pedestal in the park for a while. Mayor of Rīga Mārtiņš Staķis has said that currently the municipality has other, more important tasks to deal with, such as adopting its budget. Only after that they plan to discuss the removal of monuments.
Pushkin can be found by the footbridge in Kronvalda park, a short stroll away from Uzbek astronomer Mirzo Ulugbek, Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, a Chinese pagoda, a piece of the Berlin Wall and a large statue of Soviet-era Latvian writer Andrejs Upīts – another one of the monuments slated for removal.