It would be pretty difficult to visit any part of Riga south of the Old City and not notice this massive building to the south/south-east of the Central Market. Buildings do not get any more Soviet than this one and, architecturally, I found it very much to my liking.
Very obviously built (1953-61) when Latvia was part of the Soviet Union, this 108 metres high Socialist Realist style building, the Latvian Academy of Sciences, was modeled on similar buildings in Warsaw (Palace of Culture) and Moscow (University).
It was, when built, a clear demonstration and reminder of Soviet control over Latvia. It was presented as a[n unwanted and unwelcome] gift from the workers and peasants of other Soviet Republics to the Latvian people. It became especially unwelcome when “voluntary donations” had to be deducted from the pays of rural Latvians to complete the building, originally intended to be a farming collective/ centre of agricultural education.
Nicknamed Stalin’s Birthday cake, the building’s exterior still displays a few Soviet symbols if you look carefully. Look up and on one (perhaps more) of the ‘birthday cake’s tiers’ you will see hammer and sickle motifs (picture 4). A wreath and five pointed star were removed from the spire of the building when Latvia regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The people of Riga were, I suspect to their great relief, spared a large picture of Stalin, originally planned for the facade of the building. Stalin had died before the building was completed.
While I didn’t do it, it is possible to take a lift up to an open-air viewing platform on the 17th floor. For the small fee one can imagine great views on a clear day.
This much unloved communist heirloom is a must see, or perhaps a can’t miss, when in Riga.
Opening hours – for viewing platform
Daily (April – October) 08:00 to 20:00
Euro 4 (2016)
Address: Turgeneva iela