Soviet monument dismantled over safety, not ideology

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A monument to Soviet sailors in the northern Latvian town of Limbazi was dismantled due to concerns for safety of the local population, the Latvian Foreign Ministry said September 26.

Answering a question about a diplomatic note that Russia had handed to Latvia protesting the dismantling of the monument, the Foreign Ministry's press secretary, Raimonds Jansons, told the LETA newswire the ministry had contacted the local government of Limbazi.

"We requested information from the local government and, based on this information, sent a reply to Russia," Jansons said.

"The local government acted in the interests of safety of the local population, in particular, considering that there is a school in close vicinity of the monument," he said.

If necessary, the dismantling of the monument and the dangers that the dilapidated structure posed to the local population in Limbazi can be discussed by the experts at the working group on the humanitarian issues at the Latvian-Russian intergovernmental commission, the Latvian Foreign Ministry representative said.

As reported, the monument was in bad condition therefore the Limbazi local government approved its dismantling.

The monument was built in Limbazi during Soviet rule to commemorate Soviet sailors killed during World War II. In summer 1941 those sailors killed several residents of Limbazi and were killed themselves in fierce battles with local partisans.

The monument was dismantled in late August this year by the local branch of the Daugavas Vanagi organization. Gunars Grinbergs, the chairman of the Limbazi branch, said at the time that, according to the information in the archives, the sailors had been marauding in the town and had killed seven innocent civilians.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced on August 31 this year that dismantling of the monument to Soviet sailors in Limbazi was unacceptable and contradictory to bilateral agreements therefore it had handed a note to Latvia over the incident.

The demolition of the Limbazi memorial reignited debate in Saeima about the status of such monuments and memorials left from the 50-year Soviet occupation of Latvia, including the most striking of all, a hulking monument in Victory Park, Riga which is the focus of annual May 9 'Victory Day' celebrations for the Russian minority.

However in Limbazi itself the removal of the monument is viewed as not only a safety issue. The local branch of the National Alliance political party and Daugavas Vanagi is now asking for donations to construct a large flagpole on the former site of the Soviet memorial, which it said was both dangerous and "morally inappropriate".

"Daugavas Vanagi Limbazi Chapter invites Latvian patriots to donate to the concept that by November 18, 2018 [Latvia's centenary] instead of Soviet ghosts, the red-white-red flag of free Latvia will fly over the heads of the people of Limbazi," the appeal says.


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