KGB building and cells
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.
UPDATE: I've just returned from a re-visit to Riga and I did go on one of those tours. A full report and an updated and expanded image gallery will appear here in due course as soon as I have found the time for this. Please bear with me.
There is free admission to the exhibition part (donations welcome), but the cell tract, basement, hallways and courtyard have to be visited by guided tour, for which a fee of 10 EUR is charged. Tickets for a specific time-slot (see below) should be pre-purchased online at okupacijasmuzeis.lv.
Opening times of the exhibition: daily from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Guided tours in English take place five times daily at 11 a.m., 12 noon, as well as at 1, 3 and 4 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