My first trip of 2016.
It’s not what I had planned. A long weekend in Rīga in May. At the start of January my son told me his ice hockey team has signed up for a tournament there, and he’ll be going.
I thought about it and looked at costs. That made the decision easier. It was quite easy anyway. I like Rīga.
I was there last year. I was there in 1968. I had several visits to the city in the 1990s doing work for the Ministry of Finance.
Maybe I have an affinity with small, independent countries. In the late 80s and early 90s the Latvians sensed an opportunity and had the courage to take on the USSR to obtain independence.
They wanted to take responsibility for their own future… make their own decisions… face up to the challenges they would encounter and overcome them. They were brave and ambitious.
They don’t have any oil, but they seem to have managed well enough without it.
The struggle for independence was mostly peaceful, but on 20 January 1991 someone in Moscow (maybe Gorbachev and maybe not) sent KGB OMON (or “Black Beret”) troops to the city, and they tried to storm the (Latvian) Ministry of the Interior.
They failed, but 5 Latvians died in the battle. You can see memorials to them where they fell in Bastejkalna parks, within metres of Brīvības piemineklis (Freedom Monument).
One of those who died (Andris Slapiņš) was a cameraman and he kept his video running in spite of his injuries. His footage has been shown posthumously. Not something you forget when you’ve seen it. A dying man’s own memorial.
The park is in the city centre so no doubt I’ll pass by or through in May. I suspect I’ll remember.
ⓒ iain taylor 2016