From Soviet Union to European Union

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In 1991 Latvia shook off the shackles of the Soviet Union, ending 51 years of forced occupation and rule of the country by Nazi Germany (1941-44) and the Soviet Union (1940-41 and 1944 -1991).

In 2003 the people of Latvia (or 73% of them) turned out at polling stations to take part in a referendum on joining the European Union. Opponents of membership argued that Latvia should not give up the sovereignty it had so recently gained from the Soviet Union while supporters, among other arguments, put forward to view that membership would actually protect Latvia from any future Russian pressure. Continue reading “From Soviet Union to European Union”

Latvian Riflemen Monument

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Ever since my first (and indeed only) visit to the former Soviet Union about 30 years ago I have had a fascination and liking for the brutalist style monuments and sculptures found there and in other countries of generally socialist leaning. Sadly – with one significant exception, that being North Korea – this style of art is no longer produced, and that which was produced is often decaying, has been moved to monument graveyards or has be deliberately destroyed because of the political nature there-of. My liking for the art form is purely related to its grand and bold scale, its gravitas as it were, rather than the brash and perfunctory political statements it so often makes. Continue reading “Latvian Riflemen Monument”

Museum of the Occupation of Latvia (1940 -1991)

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Thankfully most of us have not lived in situations where we have been oppressed for most of our lives. We have not had our freedom taken away by tyrannical regimes, been incarcerated or exiled for crimes we did not commit, lost our loved ones without trace, been persecuted for our religious convictions or lost everything with no recompense. Continue reading “Museum of the Occupation of Latvia (1940 -1991)”

Town Hall Square (Rātslaukums)

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The Old City of Riga has a collection of small squares, each worthy a visit in its own right.

One of, if not, the oldest of these squares is the cobbled Town Hall Square (Rātslaukums). This has been the administrative/local government centre of the city since it was founded in 1201. Since then markets, festivals and all manner of events have occupied or taken place in this square. For those into it, this used to be the place to go for an afternoon’s merriment at a public execution or two. Continue reading “Town Hall Square (Rātslaukums)”

Pyongyang Railway Station

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Pyongyang Railway Station

Personally I think this is one of the most beautiful buildings in North Korea.

Pyongyang’s first railway station was built in 1920 but was destroyed in the Korean War. While the current three story (plus basement) building, built in 1958, is classified as socialist style architecture it is far from the boxy 1950s Soviet type buildings more commonly built in Pyongyang after the Korean War. Continue reading “Pyongyang Railway Station”

The Tower of the Juche Idea

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Tower of Juche Idea from Kim Il-sung Square

By the end of the Korean War (1953) Kim Il-sung had had enough of foreign imperialist intervention in the affairs of Korea. He had, with more than a little help from the Soviet Union, something, which now seems to have been forgotten about, managed to stem Japanese Imperialism and remove them from Korea in 1945. In 1953 he had defeated the United States in the Fatherland Liberation War (to outsiders the Korean War) though the US continued to occupy the southern part of the country as it does to this day. Continue reading “The Tower of the Juche Idea”