Writers' reputations revive while graves are overgrown

The cemeteries in Riga are home to a number of important people and recognized writers, such as Rainis and Aspazija, the two classic Latvian wordsmiths whose 150th birthday is being celebrated this year. However, their graves are overrun with weeds, and the sculptures and their concrete surroundings are crumbling for want of restoration, Latvian Radio discovered while visiting them.

The Rainis cemetery (Raiņa kapi), named after the Latvian classic writer, is home to a number of literary achievers, but the case of Rainis and Aspazija is particularly dire as their birthday is an event celebrated throughout this year.

As of now, their grave is still overgrown with weeds, even though activists had plucked some from the grave site earlier and planted flowers instead.

Some 12,000 euros have been allocated from state budget to repair the grave and the memorial sculpture by the writer's birthday on September 11, but that is not enough for a full reconstruction.

"It [the grave] is in an awful state. It should be reconstructed, not repaired, because the plaza and colonade by the monument is in a state of ruin. It needs significant reconstruction work, and serious repairs," sculptor Gļebs Panteļejevs said about the grave of Rainis.

The other people buried in this cemetery include poets like Klāvs Elsbergs and Vizma Belševica, whose graves are maintained by their relatives. The deceased who don't have such luxuries have their graves taken care of by the Riga Municipality cemetery management department. Each autumn, the department identifies the graves no longer cared about, and starts maintaining the ones no longer visited by their relatives.

Riga is the last resting place for the vast majority of people important for the history and culture of Latvia.

It should only be fair if the state helped funding the maintenance of famous people's graves, as there are much more of them in the capital than in other regions, thinks Gints Zēla, deputy of the head of the Riga Municipality cemetery management department.

Even though most graves are cared for by the relatives, most everyone is welcome to weed, freshen up or simply put flowers by the graves whenever they want to.

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