Victory Park in Riga has regained its historical significance and is open for walking and relaxation for its visitors.
A look into history shows that after the end of the Latvian freedom struggle, the park was renamed Victory Square, in honor of the victory over the Bermontians, or the combined army of Russian and German soldiers under the insignia of Tsarist Russia. In 1930, the improvement works of the square were started, the remaining swampy area was drained. During this time, military parades were held on the square, and in 1938 the IX General Latvian Song Festival. For the needs of this celebration, a stage was built according to the project of architect Aleksandar Birznieks.
Victory Square construction project
After the strengthening of authoritarianism in Latvia, Kārlis Ulmanis planned that a monumental stadium would be built in this park, which would symbolize the greatness of the country and would be comparable in size (25,000 seats) to the Berlin Olympic Stadium, where the 1936 Summer Olympic Games were held.
In an open competition, the project of architects Frīdrich Skujiņa and Georg Dauge won, which envisaged the construction of a several dozen-meter-wide Victory Alley with a sixty-meter-high Victory Tower at the end of the square. At the top of the tower, during the ceremonial processions, the Victory fire would be lit, and at the foot there would be a shrine in memory of the heroes of the nation. On the right side of the Victory Alley, it was planned to build a festive area for parades and mass events with grandstands and a permanent stage of the Song Festival (approximately on the site of the current Bellevue Park Hotel Riga).
A velodrome, a sports hall with a capacity of 10,000 people, as well as a port in Āgenskalnas Bay were also planned. People’s donations in the amount of 3 million lats had been collected for the construction and work had begun on the arrangement of the park, but the Second World War interrupted these ambitious plans.
After the end of World War II, on February 3, 1946, the Soviet authorities publicly hanged seven German army and SS officers in the park. It went down in history as the last public execution on the territory of Latvia.
In 1961, the Soviet government renamed the park the XXII Congress Park of the CPSU. This name was chosen because at this congress Nikita Khrushchev announced the construction of communism in the USSR. In 1963, the park was meliorated, a pond was dug and grass was sown, the bed of Mārupīte was transformed, which temporarily stopped the development of the park.
At the beginning of the 1980s, it was decided to create a monumental ensemble in the park celebrating the victory of the Soviet Union in the Second World War (Monument to the liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga from the German fascist invaders), which was opened in 1985. The park was again renamed Victory Park.
Even after the restoration of Latvia’s independence, the park retained the name Victory Park. On the 15th anniversary of the Latvian Popular Front in 2003, members of the Supreme Council, who voted for the restoration of Latvia’s independence, planted 138 trees in the park. Later, a cross-country skiing track with artificial snow was created in the park.
The monument to the liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga from the German fascist invaders became an object of controversy between people of different political views. The monument experienced both a bombing attempt and painting with swastikas and slogans. Demands to demolish the monument and stop the Victory Day celebration at it especially intensified after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. On May 20, a march of several thousand took place with the call to demolish the “occupancy”, here you can see the live video. On August 25, 2022, the obelisk of the monument was dismantled.
In the summer of 2023, the transformation of Uzvara Park began, with the installation of a water body of approximately 0.5 hectares and a ski-skating track one kilometer long, built-in trampolines, swings and sandboxes for children, table tennis and checkers tables, a skateboard track and elements of street gymnastics. The cost of the project reached almost 7.7 million euros. On the square between Slokas Street and Ranķa Dam, the construction of a 65-meter-high Ferris Wheel began.
9 hectares of territory have been restored in Victory Park, 4,000 trees, plants and bushes, 20,000 bulbs have been planted. The park has a water body with a well-maintained shore and constructed bridges; created a ski or skate track of one kilometer in length, which does not intersect with footpaths, creating bridges and tunnels.
Victory Park 18.11.2023 Photo: iAuto.lv
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