KGB building, Riga

   
 ( ?)  - darkometer rating:  7 -
  
This could well be Riga's answer to the “KGB Museum” in Vilnius, Lithuania, or that in Tartu, Estonia, i.e. a major dark-tourism attraction.
 
For many years since the demise of the Soviet Union and the departure of the KGB, this notorious corner house had just been left lying abandoned and empty. But from May 2014 it was finally made accessible to the public.
 
Unfortunately I had bad luck with my timing when I was in the Baltics in the spring of 2014: I missed the initial opening of the Riga KGB building by just a couple of days. I walked past it and had a look at the memorial on its side, but the doors were all still firmly locked.
 
(Somewhat disturbingly, however, there was a drone hovering over the building probably doing some present-day surveillance – but when I aimed by own zoom lens at it, it suddenly disappeared out of view. Spooky!)
   
As far as I could make out from the brochures and magazine announcements that were plentiful all over town already at the time, the plan had initially been rather to have a succession of temporary exhibitions in the former KGB rooms – instead of a permanent museum. But this has meanwhile changed.
 
The whole project is run under the auspices of the Occupation Museum, which also covers the KGB building on its website. There is now an excellent English-language virtual tour (external link – opens in a new window). 
 
Easily the grimmest part of the whole thing are the cells in the basement. These seem every bit as scary as those in the Vilnius equivalent. In contrast to these, however, very little has been altered here in Riga, or even refurbished (paint is still peeling off the walls). So there appears to be a very raw, chilling atmosphere about.
 
But I am only going by the indirect clues gathered online. Next time I make to Riga, though, it will be my top priority to pay this intriguing addition to Riga's dark-tourism portfolio a visit in person so that I can report back here from first-hand experience.
 
There is free admission to the exhibition part, but the cell tract, basement, hallways and courtyard have to be visited by guided tour, for which a fee of 5 EUR is charged. 
 
Opening times of the exhibition: Mondays, Tuesday, Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Wednesdays from 12 noon to 7 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
 
Guided tours in English take place at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, except on Wednesday when the English tours are at 12 noon, 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., and at weekends when they run at 10:30 a.m., 122 noon and 1;30 p.m. 
 
 
Location: virtually bang in the city centre on the corner of Stabu and Brīvības iela, just a couple of blocks north of Riga's Old Town.
 
Google maps locator: [56.958, 24.124]
 
 
 
  • Riga KGB building 1 - long abandonedRiga KGB building 1 - long abandoned
  • Riga KGB building 2 - something is hovering aboveRiga KGB building 2 - something is hovering above
  • Riga KGB building 3 - yes, a surveillance droneRiga KGB building 3 - yes, a surveillance drone
  • Riga KGB building 4 - on the cornerRiga KGB building 4 - on the corner
  • Riga KGB building 5 - even the faces on the facade are grimRiga KGB building 5 - even the faces on the facade are grim
  • Riga KGB building 6 - relief at the topRiga KGB building 6 - relief at the top
  • Riga KGB building 7 - memorial at the bottomRiga KGB building 7 - memorial at the bottom
  • Riga KGB building 8 - dedicated to the victimsRiga KGB building 8 - dedicated to the victims
  
    

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