The Museum of Occupation (Muzeul Ocupatiei)

The Museum of Occupation is dedicated to remembrance. The items on display are meant to recall the visitors how Latvia presented itself under the Nazi and Soviet occupations. The exhibitions are sectioned so as to pinpoint the totalitarian ideologies which were inflicted on the Latvians by the Soviets and the Nazis, the factors which contributed to the annihilation of the country’s economy, and the political framework on which these events occurred.

But the museum also contains valuable items which reflect the population’s struggle to overturn the totalitarian regimes, as well as their efforts to attain their freedom, which they managed to do in 1991.

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In the exhibition halls where official documents are on display, one can notice papers which tell the story of Latvia’s occupation. Among these, one can read the pact that the Soviets and the Nazis signed on the 23th of August 1939 and which divided Eastern Europe into spheres of influence.

Latvia has been under foreign occupation three times: the first occupation lasted from 1940 until 1941, time in which the Latvians were under Soviet domination; the second occupation (Nazi) took place from 1941 up until 1944/45, after which the Soviets reentered the country and ruled over it until 1991.

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Each of these historical events is followed through documentary evidence so visitors can partially re-enact, so to speak, that troubled historical period. Another section of the Museum of Occupation is dedicated to the fight for independence and the regain of autonomy, which occurred in 1991.

The museum’s purpose is to collect and preserve any type of written or oral material evidence, official papers, photographs, or items which in any way reflect the Latvian experience during the aforementioned timeframe.

The collection is in a constant expansion in the sense that if individuals or organizations who are in possession of any materials relevant to Latvia’s history are willing to donate them to the museum, then these will be included in the collection, in the appropriate section.

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More so, if there are witnesses to special events which occurred back in the day and they are willing to share their story with the posterity, the museum will videotape the account. All of the items encountered in the museum are accessible to the public mainly because the museum is interested in allowing the public to gain insight into that specific historical period.

There is a special department, the Audio-Visual Archive which contains the narratives of the people which were directly impacted by the Nazi or Soviet occupation. This includes not only eyewitnesses, but also expatriates or refugees who can give authentic testimonials about those historical events.

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The Museum of Occupation has a Research Program which was initiated back in 1999 with the scope of shedding light on the period in which Latvia was under occupation. The researchers engaged in this program are both of Latvian origin and foreigners: Russians, Americans, English, etc., all contributing to portraying an objective account of that period. The discoveries are included not only in the annual publications issued by the Museum, but also in scientific journals and newspapers.

The museum is opened for visitations all year long, with the exception of national holidays. There are also specific days in which the museum is closed, but the program can be learnt from the official website of the Museum of Occupation. Depending on the time of the year in which you decide to make a visit, the museum is opened from 11:00 until 17:00 or 18:00.