KGB building, Riga
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.
- Riga KGB building 1 - long abandoned
- Riga KGB building 2 - something is hovering above
- Riga KGB building 3 - yes, a surveillance drone
- Riga KGB building 4 - on the corner
- Riga KGB building 5 - even the faces on the facade are grim
- Riga KGB building 6 - relief at the top
- Riga KGB building 7 - memorial at the bottom
- Riga KGB building 8 - dedicated to the victims