Latvia is a country with an attractive and culturally integrated architectural history. The buildings of the past reflect the true character of the Latvian people, their traditions, and the environment around them. Unfortunately, the continuance of the development of Latvian architecture ran into a major obstacle during most of the twentieth century. During the oppressive Soviet occupation, aesthetics suffered along with the people.
Soviet architecture took over. It was mandated by the government. How something looked and felt was no longer important. Buildings were slapped together, usually without insulation, despite the cold climate. Details that might be pleasing to the eye and soul were promptly omitted. Every cost-saving corner was cut. Hideous, inhuman buildings were “designed” and erected. The people were crammed inside. And while this was happening, the Soviet Union was bragging to the world, though their propaganda outlets, that major progress was being made. They claimed that Communism was making a better, and equal, life for everyone.
There was some perverse truth to their claims. Life was becoming more equal for most of the population. They were rapidly becoming equally impoverished. The struggle to eat and stay warm was the same for most…unless you were a powerful person in the government. Only then did you have luxuries like heat and some fresh food. And if any person were to whisper a word of complaint or express a thought deemed to be against the government, they would be scooped up and sent far away, never to return.
It all sounds like fiction to those of us who are privileged to live in the reasonably free western world. But we need to learn lessons from what has happened in the past in places like Latvia. It disturbs me every time I see us voluntarily vote for laws that limit our personal freedom and place our so-called welfare in the hands of the government with the false impression that this will improve our lives and the lives of our fellow citizens. Just look at the recent past in places like the former Soviet Union and you will see that this is a very bad road to travel.