The Freedom Monument
It is undoubtedly the symbol of Latvia! 42 m high, the Freedom Monument with the inscription „For the Fatherland and Freedom” stands in the very heart of Riga.
Unveiled in 1935, it is the masterpiece of the famous Latvian sculptor Karlis Zale. The sculpture of Latvian girl is lifting three gilded stars symbolizing the Latvian regions – Kurzeme, Vidzeme and Latgale. 13 sculptures and bas-reliefs of the Monument depict the history of Latvia – invasion of crusaders, revival of the Latvian national self-confidence in the 19th century, battles for Freedom.
After the World War II the soviet power considered the Monument for demolition, but the world famous soviet sculptor Vera Mukhina managed to dissuade the soviet leaders from such a barbarism.
In late 80’s first demonstrations for the freedom of Latvia and against the soviet regime were held at the Freedom Monument. At present the guards of honour of the Monument change every hour, leaders of the Latvian state and also prominent foreign guests bring flowers to the Monument on public holidays and commemoration days.
The Brothers’ Cemetery memorial in Riga, unveiled in 1936, is the most prominent and biggest monument from the times of the first Latvian state. Its main author is Karlis Zale. The memorial is devoted to the soldiers killed during the World War I and Latvian War of Independence (1915-1920). The cemetery contains about 2000 burials of heroes and about 200 unknown soldiers.
The memorial consists of the 205 m long Road of Thoughts, Heroes Terrace with the altar of eternal fire encircled by an oak grove, burial ground with the Latvian Wall at the end and the sculpture of the Mother Latvia with its killed sons. The memorial of the Brothers’ Cemetery with its striking artistic expression is the Latvian national pride, moreover, it is the first such memorial in Europe. Thousands of people visit the memorial on commemoration days in order to remember the heroes killed in their fight for independence of Latvia, as well as to draw inspiration for the future.
In Esplanade, near Elizabete Street, in front of the Ministry of Defence, one can see a modern monument devoted to the Colonel Oskars Kalpaks, the first Commander-in-Chief of the Latvian Armed Forces, killed in a battle.
Monuments of artists and the Mayor of Riga
Slowly walking around Riga, one can notice many other not so monumental, however quite interesting monuments. In Esplanade you will see the most famous Latvian poet Rainis, immersed in reflections, but in Kronvalda Park – the statue of the great writer Andrejs Upitis.
In Merkela Street opposite the Riga Latvian Society House, a famous Latvian painter of his time, graphic artist and bohemian Karlis Padegs (1911-1940) has assumed the pose of a distracted dandy. His works are still of top value at international exhibitions.
In Brivibas street there is a funny barefooted man leaning against the Dailes Theatre– this is a monument of a peculiar Latvian artist Voldemars Irbite (1893-1944).
In the gardens opposite to the National Opera House there is a respectable gentleman with a lady cast in bronze, walking their dog. This is the monument of the Riga Mayor of British origin George Armitsted and his wife. Armitsted was the head of Riga from 1902 to 1912, under his leadership the city flourished, becoming the centre of the Baltic region. The monument was unveiled in 2006 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Heritage of the soviet times
A wide range of monuments have still preserved from the soviet times. In Riga, Pardaugava, rises an obelisk with soldiers at its foot, erected to commemorate the victory of the USSR in the World War II. Each year on 9 May thousands of people gather there.
The Salaspils Memorial Ensemble is of high artistic value, erected in remembrance of the victims of Nazis concentration camp. It is one of the biggest ensembles of the kind in Europe.
On the embankment of the river Daugava in Riga you will find the monument in memory of the participants of the1905 Revolution, but in Town Square (Rātslaukums) next to the Museum of the Occupation one can still see three stone sculptures – the Latvian Red Riflemen.
In some places in Latvia one can still see the monuments which were mandatory in almost every town – Lenin, the proletariat leader, cast in bronze or forged in granite. After Latvia regained its independence these „Leniments” were removed, however in some places you will still find them. For instance, a huge sculpture of the head of Lenin, which formerly was placed in the central square of Aluksne, is now moved to the former base of nuclear missiles in Zeltini, which itself is an exciting place of interest. However, we would recommend visiting this place together with an experienced guide, enquiries at Aluksne Tourist Information Centre.
Some former monuments of Lenin can be seen in the farm „Pilskalni”, near Ivande, Kuldiga region. Monuments Lenin have been moved there from Kuldiga and Bauska. But the former Lenin of the town Cesis is moved to the Castle Park of Cesis.
Pedvale and Hill of Folk-songs (Dainu Kalns)
The most impressive sculptural ensemble outside Riga is in Pedvale (www.pedvale.lv) – on the bank of the river Abava, opposite the town of Sabile. Here the famous Latvian sculptor Ojars Feldbergs has created 100 hectares large Pedvale Open-Air Art Museum, which is a cultural monument of national importance.
Pedvale is a place where artists can draw inspiration from the beauty of nature. The permanent collection of the Museum has more than 150 pieces of art – unique open-air objects. Each year Pedvale chooses a theme for creative works, for instance, from 2001 to 2004 it run the project called "Prime Elements of the World – Fire, Water, Air, Earth".
Latvian folklore and its most famous collector Krisjanis Barons is honoured in the Hill of Folk-songs (Dainu Kalns) in Sigulda. Love, virtue, attitude towards nature, other people and nation is depicted by 25 stone sculptures created by sculptor Indulis Ranka.
Karalkalns rises on the other side of the lake, opposite the famous Aglona Basilica, where God’s Garden - a park full of wooden sculptures has been created. It was arranged by the landlord Janis Stupans and sculptor Eriks Delpers (a pilot by profession).
In 2006, the first two wooden sculptures were erected – the sculpture of Jesus and Angel holding the Book of Life, a year later sculptural ensemble was added: 12 tribes bringing the Cross to Jesus. Later two more sculptures were erected – the Virgin Mary with child and Lotus flower. When the oak for carving the sculpture was sawed, it broke and divided. The sculptor created a lotus flower from the base, it is said that a human can stand in the middle of this sculpture and enjoy special sensations.
Families with children will find interesting to walk around Spridisi Nature Park in Tervete, where they can enjoy wooden sculptures depicting characters such as Lutausis and Spriditis from the fairy-tales by Anna Brigadere.
Vienkoci Park promoting wooden crafts is situated on the bank of the river Ligatne. Wooden sculptures rise in the park – animals, characters from fairy-tales, other objects created according to historical sources. There you can also see a miniature watermill and models of historic buildings.
Latvia is abundant in very peculiar monuments. Ventspils is still decorated by seven of 26 cows, which were created for the international "Cow Show" in 2002.