National Library deletes Soviet monument from photo background

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The Latvian National Library (LNB) has expressed its position on the future of the controversial Soviet monument in Uzvaras Park by photoshopping it out of publicity materials where it shows in the background, Latvian Radio reported May 17.

The LNB published a tweet on May 12 saying that they are hoping to photoshop all publicity photos soon, and invited to donate to the demolition of the 'occupation pole'.


The views of experts differ about whether it is right for an institution that should be politically neutral to do so.

Library spokesman Augusts Zilberts believes it is right. This shows the attitude and solidarity of the institution, he said.

“Also, as a library, we hope and support that the monument will be demolished. And the photographs – yes, we will really be retouching some to delete the object that is redundant in the panorama of Rīga. It is symbolically linked to enormous human suffering and a power incompatible with an independent European democracy. And it is not unusual for the institutions, or its libraries, museums or archives, in Europe, that they also express their position on what is happening in society and in the country,” the library representative said.

Communication expert, researcher and lecturer at the University of Latvia Līva Kalnača said that one image like this on social media would not be outrageous, but changing all photos would not be advisable. 

“If we are now talking about altering publicity materials before anything has happened, I think it's a categorical “no.” Because it's really changing history, and it would be totally unfair for them, as an institution responsible for preserving history, to do so. I see it as a joke, as a way to communicate about the event in the spotlight, but that real actions would follow right now, I think that should not happen,” the researcher said.

On the other hand, Vita Zelče, professor of communication sciences at the University of Latvia, calls the approach a 'modeling of the future that you want'. This signal is particularly serious by an institution which is an important cultural heritage institution.

“There has always been such an ideological contradiction here, because the national library for us is the symbol of the Castle of Light – many intellectual and cultural values. And next to them is a monument that symbolizes occupation, violence. Well, these are two symbols that are difficult to match,” the professor said.

Zelče believes that the monument in Pardaugava should also leave the library landscape in reality, but it would not be right to pass it on to the Russian Federation or destroy it, because whatever it is, it is part of the cultural history. However, monuments that do not embody or conflict with the values of Latvia's sovereignty and Europe do not have to be held in public exposure. Therefore, it would be very important to find a suitable storage site.


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