Photo: Latvijas Okupācijas muzejs
In 2014, as part of the European Capital of Culture year in Riga, the notorious former headquarters of the Soviet KGB in Riga, also known by locals as the "corner house", will be opened to the public.
The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia has carried out much work on setting up the exhibition, which will tell about the activities and atrocities committed by the Soviet State Security Committee (KGB) in Latvia.
The exhibition is scheduled to be open to the public on April 30 and will go until October 30.A silent reminder of the decades of horrors it witnessed, the massive building on the corner of Brivibas Street and Stabu Street stares blindly at the city with dusty and dark glass eyes, its walls retaining hundreds of terrifying stories and secrets.
After the occupation of Latvia on June 17, 1940, the building became the headquarters of the State Security Committee of the Latvian SSR, commonly known as the "čeka". It did not take long for part of the basement and the ground floor to be reconstructed as prison cells and a place of torture and execution.
The "corner house" has two courtyards, both still there – a large one with massive metal gates and a smaller one, where prisoners could walk, "protected" from the adjacent residential building by overhead barbed wire.
The building used to hold a total of 44 prison cells with about 175 places (beds). Later, when the number of prisoners grew rapidly, the cells were packed and up to 36 people were confined in cells with six beds.
The State Security Committee remained in the building until 1991, when Latvia regained its independence and the State Police moved in. Since 2008, the building has stood empty.In 2014, when Riga becomes European Capital of Culture, this building will undergo true purification by becoming one of the city’s cultural and historical sites and a museum with a distinctive and unique concept. While there is no intention to undertake major renovations, the building will be cleaned up to the extent that it can host a number of "Riga 2014" projects.
The building will be home to several thematic exhibitions interlinked by historical events and the life stories of people affected by them. Six thematic expositions are planned, the development of which has been undertaken by a number of institutions involved in history, art and culture. The intention of the concept’s instigators is to establish a museum with a singular notion, presenting "living" testimonies to what has gone on in this building, characterizing this historical period and environment. Everyone stepping over the threshold of the "corner house" would feel as if returning into a not-too distant past – into the time of Soviet rule, totalitarianism and genocide. This will be an emotionally charged journey into the past, from the cellar to the highest, 6th floor, along the project-route presented by the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.
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