Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The twelve days of Latvija: Day 4, Okupācijas muzejs

The little country of Latvia has seen a tumultuous and wearisome history. During World War II it was occupied by Soviet forces just before the invasion of Nazi Germany. Three years later the USSR once more illegally occupied the nation, and independence was not regained again until 1991. The consequences of fifty years of occupation are still seen everywhere, even after twenty years as a free, democratic country. One of the most visible repercussions was population depletion; between the Nazis and Stalin Latvia lost hundreds of thousands of Latvians to labor and death camps. Besides the damaging demographic changes Latvia saw direct attacks on its language and culture, and the economy is still recovering from years of Soviet policies, the effects of farm collectivization and the Soviet military presence. The cumulative social, psychological and financial damage inflicted on Latvia by the three successive occupations cannot be measured.

The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia (Latvijas okupācijas muzejs)* was established in 1993 to exhibit artifacts from 1940-1991 and to educate the public about the 51-year period when Latvia was successively occupied by the USSR in 1940, by Nazi Germany in 1941, and then again by the USSR in 1944. This year marks the twentieth year the museum has been educating visitors, and we were able to attend the commemorative event marking the occasion.

All four Presidents since independence has been regained were in attendance: Guntis Ulmanis (1993-1999), Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga (1999-2007), Valdis Zatlers (2007-2011) and the current President, Andris Bērziņš.

The boys were not content to sit still, and so in between wanderings around Latviešu strēlnieku laukums we caught bits and pieces of emotional speeches from the President, the original founders of the museum, as well as other familiar faces.

After the official portion of the event we were invited in for a look at the museum, which was my first and hopefully not the last; I would like to return sans children for a closer look at the heartbreaking exhibits. My sister Anna spent a summer abroad working at the museum with a scholarship sponsored by various organizations in the US, and I contemplate whether this might have been the best way to experience the museum; it is regretful that the program did not exist when I was younger.

*The museum's stated mission (from the website) is to:
-Show what happened in Latvia, its land and people under two occupying totalitarian regimes from 1940 to 1991
-Remind the world of the crimes committed by foreign powers against the state and people of Latvia
-Remember the victims of the occupation: those who perished, were persecuted, forcefully deported or fled the terror of the occupation regimes.

1 comment:

  1. Hey! Abi mani krustbeerni! Prieks, ka vareejaat tikties Latvijaa!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...