Soviet military bases in Latvia
IV Soviet occupation

PSRSbruņotiespēki1980ie

A total of around 400 Soviet troops were stationed in Latvia, in about 500 facilities, making for a total of more than 50,000 military personnel. 

More information sources

Book "Latvia - under Soviet rule"

The Latvian Occupation Research Society (LOIB) has published a joint work of three authors - Latvia under Soviet Military, 1939-1999.

The book tells how the occupation of Latvia took place, how Soviet army units were deployed in the territory of Latvia, how Soviet military bases flooded Latvia, and what damage the occupation caused to the Latvian economy and ecology.

The authors explain the legal aspects of the occupation and how the damage caused to Latvia during the Soviet occupation can be calculated. The edition is supplemented with a map of Latvia, which marks the locations of the largest Soviet military bases in the territory of Latvia.

Book "Latvian-USSR military base. 1938-1998: materials and documents on the location of the Soviet army in Latvia and its withdrawal"

The book contains materials and documents on the location and location of the USSR army and armaments in Latvia from 1939 to 1998, when the last military facility of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Latvia, the Skrunda radar station "Dnieper", ceased operations. The authors were closely involved in the process of withdrawing the Soviet army and can therefore provide first-hand information. For example, Ilgonis Upmalis was the head of the Armed Forces Export Control Bureau under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation, a deputy of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Latvia and Minister of State J. Dinevičs headed the Latvian delegation for interstate talks. Giving an insight into the arrival of the Soviet army in Latvia and its stay here, the authors focus in more detail on the process of exiting the Russian army, the heir to the former USSR army. The book contains many documents and their facsimiles, photographs, extensive illustrative material, as well as an index of persons.

Related objects

Soviet army town in Mežgarciems

The former Soviet Army town is located in Mežgarciems, Ādaži municipality, near the P1 highway. It was a small town inhabited by the air defence units of the Soviet Army and used as a military training base. Informative stands have been placed near the town. The former army base area is available to visitors. Mežgarciems did not exist on the maps during the Soviet occupation. And there was nothing to suggest that there was a small town built for the Soviet military with air defence capabilities. Wide-spread construction of Soviet Army stations was rapidly started in the territory of Latvia after World War II. And these army bases were like separate states within the country. There were military units almost in every location in Latvia. An especially privileged part of the society was the retired USSR military personnel and their families, who were entitled to living space as a matter of priority. Many chose Latvian cities, because the standard of living here was higher than elsewhere in the Soviet Union. The presence of the Soviet Army in Latvia was characterised by criminal behaviour, imperialistic attitude and impunity, demonstrating the regime’s indifferent attitude towards Latvia and its people. And the carefully maintained myth of the happy life in Soviet Latvia and the Soviet Army as the liberator was actually like living on a powder keg.

Soviet army military base in Pāvilosta - active recreation centre

During the Soviet era, a border guard unit was located here, other Soviet army units - liaison officers and a surface-to-air missile base were located several kilometres away in the forest. After independence, the Latvian army was stationed there.

The former Soviet army military base is now a recreation, leisure and camping centre - for personal development in interaction with nature and the people around. 

A place for recreation and accommodation for both tourist groups and families. Rooms, showers, WC, fireplaces, spacious area for activities, sounds of nature. Book in advance by calling +371 26314505.

Akmeņrags Lighthouse and the fate of the "Saratov"

The Akmeņrags Lighthouse is located in Saka parish, 10 kilometres southwest of Pāvilosta. The top of the lighthouse can be reached by a spiral staircase and it offers views of the sea and the surrounding forests. Standing at 37 metres high, the current lighthouse tower was built in 1921, while the previous lighthouse was destroyed during World War I.

The Akmeņrags Lighthouse stands out among other lighthouses in Latvia, as it is located in one of the most dangerous places for sailing in the entire Baltic Sea coast. The signal beam of the lighthouse marks a rocky bank, which extends approximately two nautical miles or 3.7 kilometres into the sea in a north-western direction. The depth of the bank is just over two metres. The location of the lighthouse has remained unchanged, but the coastline has been receding over the years. Although a navigation light has been here since 1879, Akmeņrags has seen several shipwrecks. The most notable occurred in September 1923 when a Latvian steamer named Saratow struck the ground. In 1919, Saratow briefly served as the seat of the Latvian Provisional Government. Akmeņrags used to be home to a border guard post, and buildings of the Soviet Army are can be viewed here.

Zvārde shooting range and former Soviet military base "Lapsas"

The landfill's service base is located approximately 2 kilometres east of Striķu Manor, on the Saldus-Auce road. The former Soviet Military Aviation Target Range (military unit No 15439) in Zvārde is located south of Saldus. The territory of the airfield is home to several sights - the ruins of Zvārde and Ķerkliņi churches, the ruined Rīteļi cemetery, the observation post of the airfield, the so-called "Officers' Kurgan" and the former airfield personnel base and shooting range "Lapsas".

The Zvārde air target range required a unit of approximately one company to service the air target range - to install targets, repair damage, guard the air target range and coordinate air flights. It was based on the site of the house called "Lapsas" until the Second World War. With the construction of the airfield, barracks, transport sheds, a flight control tower and a firing range for training personnel were built.

After Latvia regained its independence, the Zvārde Defence Forces Training Centre operated here, but since 2007 the site has been owned by the municipality and leased by several hunting collectives. The former barracks house an exhibition on the history of Zvārde parish.

Olman Battery No.456 (Soviet military base "Krasnoflotska")

The first coastal defence batteries for the defence of the Irbe Strait were built after 1912, when the Baltic Fleet Mine-Artillery Defence Position Plan was approved, which included several coastal defence batteries and sea mine-laying.

The Irbe Strait position was the furthest south, and its task was to block any enemy access to the Gulf of Riga. The main emphasis was on sea mines, tens of thousands of which were laid in the Irbe Strait during WWI by ships of the Baltic Fleet. It was not until 1916 that coastal defence batteries began to be built on the southern tip of the island of Saaremaa, Cape Sorve. Seven batteries were built in total, and Battery 43 was equipped with 305 mm guns. No defence batteries were built on the Latvian coast of the Irbe Strait.

Even after the establishment of the Republic of Latvia, the Latvian army and navy did not establish artillery positions to defend the Irbe Strait.

The situation changed after the mutual assistance pact between the Republic of Latvia and the USSR of 5 October 1939, which provided for a contingent of the Red Army and the Baltic Naval Fleet to be stationed in Kurzeme. Soviet plans also included the establishment of a coastal defence system based on the 1912 plan, with improvements. The plan was to build coastal defence batteries on the site of the Liepaja fortress, with new batteries south of Ventspils (Battery No 46) and two batteries in the narrowest part of the Irbe Strait near Mikeltornis. Already after the occupation and annexation of Latvia, the coastal defence plans of the Baltic Navy were supplemented and by June 1941 the 207th Artillery Division with five batteries was planned to be established in the northern part of Kurzeme. Two batteries were to be set up in the vicinity of Mikeltornis - Battery 40 at Lūžņa with 130 mm B-13 guns in reinforced concrete fortifications, and Battery 117 at Olmani (a place designated on Latvian army maps as Ķesteri) with 152 mm MU-2 guns. As the development of the 152 mm guns was not completed, temporary wooden platforms were built on the reinforced concrete fortifications of the battery and four more 130 mm guns were installed. Both batteries were completed by June 1941, but the batteries could not be traced in the war against the German 291st Infantry Division, and their crews moved to the island of Saaremaa.

At the end of WWII, the German Army Group "Courland" was quite serious about possible Soviet landings in northern Courland, especially after the ice melted in the Gulf of Finland and on the west coast of Estonia. Improvised coastal defence batteries were deployed all along the Kurzeme coast. The Soviet Battery No 40, Gerate Batterie Sommer of the 289th Artillery Division with two 122 mm Soviet howitzers, was stationed in reinforced concrete positions near Luzhne. In the area of Battery 117's position was Battery 2 of the 530th Artillery Division with three 152 mm Soviet trophy guns, three 37 mm zenith drones, one 20 mm four-barrel zenith drones, two 75 mm anti-tank guns and two mortars for illumination.

After the end of active hostilities in May 1945, the USSR began to rebuild the coastal defence system on the Kurzeme coast. In the autumn of 1945, a temporary Battery 456 with 152 mm guns of the Kane system was deployed near the Olmaņi farm, which was renamed "Krasnoflotskaya".

In 1952, the temporary guns of the battery were replaced by the latest 152 mm MU-2 weapon systems. The battery consisted of four reinforced concrete gun emplacements, a reinforced concrete command post with a range-finder turret and technical buildings. The construction of the battery was completed in 1958.

In 1958, after the dismantling of the Lūžņa coastal defence battery, it was replaced by a mobile 130 mm SM-4-1 gun Battery No 343. The mobile guns did not have reinforced concrete gun emplacements, but several log and sand structures were built.

Battery 343 operated until the early 1960s, and Battery 456 until 1975, when it was preserved. The battery positions were used to deploy S-125 air defence missile complexes, as well as the 10th Coastal Defence Artillery-Missile Regiment with CP-2 Sopka missile complexes, and the infrastructure was modified accordingly.

The Soviet Army transferred the infrastructure of the Olmaņi and Lūžņa batteries to the Republic of Latvia in 1993.

Soviet border guard post in Jūrmalciems

After the Second World War, Latvia had various prohibitions in border and coastal areas. From 19 June 1945, fishermen were assigned piers, which were fenced off with barbed wire, guarded by patrols and watchtowers. On 4 September 1946, the prohibited coast guard zones on the Western border of the LSSR were introduced.

In Jūrmalci village there is a former border guard control post, a tower and a tractor proudly rocking on the beach! How it got there is something to ask the local guides!

A fabulously beautiful and interesting place - both with its Soviet-era aura and the charm of the seashore. 

Former Soviet army missile base "Raketnieki"

The former Soviet army base buildings are in a state of disrepair, but there is a motor track on the site. The area can be explored on foot, but good footwear against mud and sand is required.

Aizkraukle museum of History and Art, exposition "Soviet years"

The exhibit is located in the former culture house of Aizkraukle parish. It reflects the everyday social, recreational, professional, educational and cultural life in Soviet times, as well as the history of how Aizkraukle (during Soviet times – Stučka) and the Pļaviņu HPP came to be. Visitors can view the ‘Red Corner’ with its historical propaganda materials, the office of a party functionary and a typical Soviet apartment with a living room, kitchen, bathroom and toilet and their corresponding attributes. Some rooms are dedicated to Soviet medicine, tourism and sports as well as repression tactics. There is a spacious hall in the centre of the exhibit for Soviet-made vehicles. This was started in 2016 by the Aizkraukle History and Art Museum by setting up the exhibit on three floors. Nowadays it is the largest exhibit in the Baltics dedicated to this period of Soviet occupation.

Watch tower of border guards in Salacgrīva

Located in Salacgriva, NE direction, 1 km from the bridge over Salaca.

The Soviet Army military base in Salacgrīva is one of the former sites of the occupation troops. An air defense unit was located in Salacgriva. It was relatively small and became the first military unit to leave Latvia in 1992. During this time, large-scale looting of Latvia took place, when the Latvian state gave in to Russia's demands that the occupying army leave the territory as soon as possible.

After the Second World War, the rapid and large-scale construction of Soviet military facilities continued in the territory of Latvia. The military bases were like a state within a country. It is believed that occupied Latvia became the most militarized place in the world and would be completely destroyed in the event of war. Criminal offenses, imperial attitudes and permissiveness most vividly described the presence of the Soviet army in Latvia. The carefully maintained myth of a "happy life in Soviet Latvia" and the Soviet army as a "liberator" was actually "life on a powder keg". After the restoration of Latvia's independence, it was not until 1994 that a foreign army left Latvia, but tens of thousands of retired Soviet military personnel and their families remained in Latvia.

Nowadays you can see the base area.

 

 
Soviet Army Missile base in Zeltiņi

The former Soviet Army Missile Base is located in Medņukalni, Zeltiņi parish, Alūksne municipality. This nuclear missile base was a particularly secret military facility of the Soviet Army, and it operated in Zeltiņi, Alūksne municipality, from 1961 to 1989. The facility housed P-12 (8K63) and P12Y (8K63Y) surface-to-surface medium-range ballistic missiles with 4 launch pads. Their travel distance was 2,200 kilometres. During this period the army used barbed-wire to secure an area of about 300 ha less than a kilometre from the Sinole-Silakrogs P34 national regional highway. The living and top-secret areas have remained a legacy even today. Concrete roads lead to places hidden from the eye at that time: hangars, launch pads and bomb shelters. Various structures for the maintenance and servicing of nuclear missiles are located on an area of dozens of hectares. Facilities providing the area with the autonomous supply of power, water and heat were destroyed with the withdrawal of the army. After the army left, some of the equipment was handed over to the local municipality. Visitors currently have access to 20 ha of the former territory of the missile base, the south-western part of which is a tourist attraction. Tourists visiting the base can choose between the core exhibit about the history of the missile base, which is located in the Zeltiņi Museum, and a tourist route in the base area. Friends in a group of up to 12 people can enjoy a game of laser tag here.

Secret Soviet Bunker in Līgatne

Located in Līgatne parish, Cēsis municipality, the Soviet Secret Bunker lies 9 metres below the Līgatne Rehabilitation Centre building and its adjacent territory. The bunker is open to visitors and offers guided tours, meals in the bunker canteen, Soviet-style parties and the reality game Object X. The purpose of the bunker was to provide the minimum necessary conditions for long-term work for the Council of Ministers of the Latvian SSR, the leadership of the Communist Council of the LSSR and the management of the LSSR state planning committee in the event of a nuclear war threat. The 2,000-square-metre underground bunker was the strongest autonomous structure with all the required and most state-of-the-art equipment of the time, and also one of the most strategically important sites in Soviet-era Latvia in the event of a nuclear war. The site has a protected underground workspace (shelter), a sanatorium-type sleeping block for 250 people, security facilities and a 24-apartment residential house for service staff. All of the authentic underground equipment and plans have been preserved to this day. Highlights include an autonomous power plant with diesel generators and fuel storage, conditioning equipment for air purification with oxygen reserves, water supply and sewerage equipment operating on the submarine principle, a telecommunications unit capable of providing direct contact with the Kremlin in Moscow and autonomous communications with all major services in the country, a unique map with historical names of collective farms, an authentic canteen with typical Soviet-era meals, as well as various Soviet-era attributes and household items.

Soviet Army Observation Tower (Kurgan of Officers)

The "Officers' Kurgan" is located less than a kilometre from the ruins of Zvārde Church. The Kurgan is made of the ruins and remains of the surrounding houses and manor house, which have been bulldozed together. An observation tower was built on the kurgan. According to the inscription, the present tower was built in 1981. The tower was used to record bomb hits. The training bombs had a reduced explosive content, so their hits had to be watched more carefully. Unexploded bombs were neutralized immediately, but not all could be found.

 The remains of the tower can be seen here today - the brick walls. As the barrage is relatively high, you can even see the Lithuanian oil refinery in Mažeikiai on a clear day.

Collection of Soviet military trucks in Dundaga

Edgars Kārklevalks owns a guest house called Pūpoli in the Dundaga region, and for more than 15 years he has been taking people on historical and educational trips around northern Kurzeme (including to former military areas) with his own renovated Soviet Army truck GAZ-66 (up to 24 persons) and UAZ-3151 (up to 6 persons). Soviet Army trucks and other equipment are showcased in an area around the guest house.

Former Soviet border guard observation tower in Pāvilosta

The Soviet border guard observation tower is located near the South Pier in Pāvilosta. The former Soviet border guard observation tower, which had been out of use since the early 1990s, now serves as a viewing platform with a 360-degree rotating land telescope. It offers beautiful views of the sea and ships and can be used for bird watching. Ascending the tower is only allowed during daylight hours in the summer season. As the stairs in the tower are quite steep, visitors should evaluate their abilities, health and associated risks. The observation tower and the surrounding area has video surveillance. The tower is closed to visitors during the winter season.

Pāvilosta local history museum exposition

Named ‘Pāvilosta, a Closed Area’, the exhibit in the Pāvilosta Local History Museum is about everyday life in the town of Pāvilosta during the Soviet occupation; specifically, about the executive branch, border area, fishermen’s collective farm, and the cultural and social activities. In addition to the permanent exhibit, there is an interactive and emotionally rich digital exhibit in two languages and an audio-visual installation offering a film about Pāvilosta.

The museum also features a new exhibit named ‘The Golden Sand Grains of Pāvilosta’. The digital installation showcases old events, how Pāvilosta was founded and the most important developments from 1918 to the present day. Military heritage is a point of focus in the War of Independence section, which tells a story about the freedom fighters of Latvia and the time of the Soviet occupation.

Adam Steel School

The school building in the city center is located on the left side of Ausekļa Street, next to Valka Jānis Cimze Gymnasium.

The building, named after teacher Adam Steel, originally housed the school and was completed in 1923. In 1946, the military headquarters of the army garrison was located here. Thus, a military center was established in the center of Valka, and Valka became an important nuclear weapons facility for the USSR army. The territory of the building was surrounded by a high fence and it was called a city within a city, because there had its own shop, hospital, boiler house and even a cafe for the needs of the army. The symbol of the Soviet power - the red star - was placed on the roof part of the building. The army left this place in the 20th century. In the late 80's, taking everything you could with you.

Right next to the Adam Steel School and the underground bunkers is the Swedish (Sheremetyevo) fortress. The artificial earthen rampart was built at the beginning of the Great Northern War, around 1702, to protect Valka from the Swedes. The steepest wall of Skansts faces Ērģemi, but the other side faces Ausekļa Street.

Today, the Adam Steel School is only visible from the outside.

Underground Military bunkers in Valka

The Valka bunkers are located in the centre of the city of Valka, on the left side of Ausekļa street, next to the Ādams Tērauds School. Visitors can only view the bunkers from the outside. The Soviet Army bunkers in Valka were among the most secret places in Soviet Latvia only accessible to people with special permits. From 1953 to 1989, they were home to the Soviet Army’s strategic missile communications reserve. Large 16 wheelers were used to deliver massive reinforced concrete blocks for building the bunkers. Once completed, all three bunkers were covered with gravel for additional reinforcement and insulation. The bunkers housed a strategic missile communications reserve subordinated to the Leningrad Communications Centre. Silos with army missiles were controlled from these bunkers. There were 20 such silos in the Valka and Valga area. In October 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, these missiles were combat-ready and aimed at Florida. Legend has it that they were a couple of hours shy from actually being launched. Right next to the Ādams Tērauds School and the underground bunkers is the Swedish (Sheremetyevo) Fortification. The artificial wall of earth was built at the beginning of the Great Northern War, around 1702, to protect Valka against the Swedes. The steepest wall of the fortification faces the village of Ērģeme, while the other side faces Ausekļa street.

North Pier and Battery No.3 in Karosta

The longest pier in Latvia - the Northern Pier - was built at the end of the 19th century as a very important part of the Liepaja Sea Fortress and military port. The length of the pier is 1800 metres, the width - 7.35 metres.

The Northern Pier is one of the first port structures of Emperor Alexander III, built between 1890 and 1892 before the excavation of the Karosta Canal. Together with the North Breakwater, the South Breakwater and the South Pier, the pier formed the outpost of Liepaja.

Liepaja Fortress Battery No 3 was located next to the North Pier of the Karosta and was planned to be the largest in terms of armament. Platforms were built for four 6-inch (152 mm) guns of the 1892 model of the Canet system, five 11-inch (280 mm) guns of the 1887 model and two 57 mm Nordenfeld anti-tank guns, as well as 18 9-inch (229 mm) guns and mortars.

Today, Battery 3 is most affected by the prevailing south-north sea current, which creates a whirlpool effect behind the North Pier, resulting in the washouts of the gun platform foundations.

The North Pier protects the Liepaja harbour area from North Westerly winds. It is a favourite place for residents and visitors to Liepaja to watch sunsets, fish and watch the sea in different weather conditions. Especially spectacular during storms.

There is ample parking at the North Pier. There are also restrooms and a café with a unique sea view.

Pāvilosta local history museum exposition

Named ‘Pāvilosta, a Closed Area’, the exhibit in the Pāvilosta Local History Museum is about everyday life in the town of Pāvilosta during the Soviet occupation; specifically, about the executive branch, border area, fishermen’s collective farm, and the cultural and social activities. In addition to the permanent exhibit, there is an interactive and emotionally rich digital exhibit in two languages and an audio-visual installation offering a film about Pāvilosta.

The museum also features a new exhibit named ‘The Golden Sand Grains of Pāvilosta’. The digital installation showcases old events, how Pāvilosta was founded and the most important developments from 1918 to the present day. Military heritage is a point of focus in the War of Independence section, which tells a story about the freedom fighters of Latvia and the time of the Soviet occupation.

Karosta Military Prison

The Karosta Prison in Liepāja is the only military prison in Europe open to tourists. Constructed around 1900 for the needs of a hospital, the building was never used for its original purpose. The structure was repurposed as a place for serving temporary disciplinary punishment and was used as such up until 1997.

Powers changed but the purpose of the institution remained the same, namely, to house prisoners, including revolutionaries, sailors and non-commissioned officers of the Russian tsarist army, German deserters, enemies of the people of the Stalin era, as well as soldiers of the Soviet and Latvian armies. The Karosta Prison is currently open to visitors and guided tours are available. The tours show the prison and visitors can learn about its history, have a look at the prison and punishment cells and hear interesting and even ghostly tales about life at the prison. Braver souls have the opportunity to play the ‘Behind the Bars’ reality game or try to get out of closed rooms. And those who know no fear can spend the night in a prison cell. The Karosta Prison has a Karosta Visitor Centre, a Soviet-era buffet and a souvenir shop. The services of a guide are available throughout the whole of Karosta.

Private collection of military objects and sewing machines

The only sewing machine collection in Latvia with more than 200 different sewing machines from the pre-war and Soviet periods, which played a direct role in the production of military clothing in the pre-war and war years. Collection creator - Juris Beloivans

Vaiņode air base

Vaiņode airfield still has 16 Soviet-era aircraft hangars and an 1800 m section of the once 2500 m long runway. The airfield can only be visited with a previous booking. Vaiņode airfield was established during the Latvian independence as one of the cradles of Latvian aviation and was later one of the largest military airfields in the Baltic States. In 1916, two hangars for German Army airships were built. Airships were used to gather intelligence and bomb the positions of the Russian Army. Later the city of Riga bought the airship hangars and used their roof structures to build the pavilions of the Riga Central Market. In May 1940, the 31st Fast Bomber Aviation Regiment of the Red Army moved to Vaiņode, and the construction of a standardized concrete slab runway began. At the end of the summer of 1944 the partially completed airfield was used by various German aviation units, however, at the end of World War II, the same airfield was used by the Red Army aviation units fighting the German Army group called ‘Kurzeme’. After World War II the Soviet Air Forces were stationed in Vaiņode until 1992.

Barn of Nygrande Manor

The Nīgrande Local History Repository is located in the Nīgrande village in the manor barn, next to the Nīgrande Primary School, and is accessible by appointment.

The military history section of the repository includes an exhibition on World War II and original objects and parts found in the area after the war and in later years. You can also find out stories and see photographs about Nygrande and its surroundings from the War of Independence, World War II and the post-war period, as well as life on the collective farm in Soviet times. 

The exhibition has a special place for the local writer Jēkab Janševskis and his works, and there is an exhibition presenting traditional manor house life and furnishings. A mammoth tusk found in Nīgrande is also on display in the barn of Nīgrande Manor.

Lokatoru hill

Located in Riga, Spilve, in the highest place of the Nordeķi - Kalnciems dune ridge - in the eastern part of Kleistu forest near Dzirciema Street. During the Soviet era, two (later one) P - 35 radars were operating here, revolving around their axis. Residents of the area at that time called this place "Locator Hill". In the immediate vicinity of the 20th century. In the eighties, sports classes and competitions took place in Riga 58th Secondary School (now - Ilguciems Secondary School). The reinforced concrete foundations on which the locators were installed have survived to this day. To the north of "Lokatoru kalniņa" was a Soviet army pig farm, to the west - Spilve Airport.

 
Skrunda Manor and exposition of Skrunda locator

Skrunda manor has an exhibit about the Skrunda radar (Skrunda radio location station) and the activities of the Latvian Popular Front in Skrunda. The Skrunda radio location station nicknamed ‘Kombināts’ (The Plant) was a USSR missile early warning system in the western sector. Location ‘Skrunda-2’ was a special town (в/ч 18951) created 5 km from Skrunda in the direction of Kuldīga for the needs of the USSR military. The radar station Dņepr operated from here and a new, more modern station Darjal was being built. Construction was stopped and the radar station Darjal was blown up on 4 May 1995. In compliance with an international agreement the radar station Dnieper was shut down on 31 August 1998.

Mērsrags lighthouse and former border guard

Mērsrags Lighthouse is located in the Mērsrags village, about 1 km north of the village centre. The lighthouse was put into commission in 1875. It is an 18.5 m tall freestanding, cylindrical, riveted iron tower, the lower part of which has been fortified with reinforced concrete counterforts. The height of the signal light is 21.3 m. At the top all around the tower there is an iron balcony supported by consoles. The lighthouse tower was made by Sotera, Lemonier & Co in Paris, so this lighthouse is commonly known as the ‘Frenchie’. At the end of 1944, the 1003rd Artillery Division Battery of the German Army with 60 cm spotlights was located right next to the lighthouse. In May 1945, the Nazi Germany high command planned to move the 15th Latvian SS Grenadier Division to the area, but these plans failed, because Latvian soldiers surrendered to the Western Allies. Near the Mērsrags Lighthouse there are still remains of a building where during the USSR times Soviet border guards had a large, extendable spotlight for illuminating the sea. There is a bird-watching tower next to the lighthouse. Tours need to be booked beforehand by contacting the Mērsrags Tourism Information Centre.

Mazirbe border guard tower

The Soviet border defence post was located in the building that used to be a maritime school, and next to it is a well-preserved Soviet border guard watchtower. The second watchtower is located right on the shore next to a parking lot. These watchtowers are a reminder of the Soviet occupation and the times when Mazirbe was a closed border area and civilians were allowed on the shore only in specially designated places and only during the daytime. This border guard watchtower is one of the best-preserved objects of its type on the coast of Latvia. However, it designated is dangerous to climb it.

Oskara Kalpaka Bridge in Karosta

The bridge named after Oskaras Kalpaka is Liepāja's gateway to the Karosta and is located at the meeting point of Oskaras Kalpaka and Atmodas Street - across the Karosta Canal.

The unique swing bridge was opened on 19 August 1906. The bridge was blown up during World War I, but was rebuilt after the war. The bridge was rebuilt again after it was damaged by the steamship Narne in 1926, but it also suffered during World War II when the invading Soviet army shelled the port of Liepaja. Until the restoration of independence of the Republic of Latvia, the Karosta was a closed area of Liepaja, inaccessible even to the inhabitants of Liepaja. The entire Karosta was a military facility, so traffic over the bridge was controlled around the clock by guard posts. Crossing the bridge to the Karosta was only possible with special permits for a few hours a day, the rest of the time the bridge was open to the traffic of Soviet warships. Throughout the years of occupation, the name of the bridge was "Red Army Bridge". In the summer of 2006, the Georgian-flagged tanker "Anna" flew into the northern abutment of the bridge, and after reconstruction, the Oskars Kalpaka Bridge was officially opened in August 2009. 

The bridge weighs 300 tonnes and consists of two parts (North and South sides) made of two identical cantilevers. The bridge carriageway is 7.3 metres wide and its deck is made of wooden planks. The total length of the bridge is 133 metres with a span of 27.55 metres + 77.9 metres + 27.55 metres. The height of the bridge above water level is 8.32 metres. The bridge is cut at the appointed times and, in accordance with the Port Safety Regulations, a vessel shall only commence traffic when the bridge is open to vessel traffic and it is safe to enter or leave the Karosta Channel. The Oskars Kalpaka Bridge is turned back to vessel traffic 5 times a day. The bridge is not cut at the specified times if the wind speed exceeds 10 m/s or if no manoeuvres are planned.

Horseback riding and horse riding tours around Paplaka and Priekule

The thematic horse-drawn carriage tours offered by the owner of the Stiebriņi farm, such as a horse-drawn carriage ride on a railway embankment, listening to a guide talk about the industrial heritage, are a great adventure. A horse-drawn carriage ride through the sites of the former military garrisons/towns around Paplaka will also be unforgettable. We particularly recommend the children's playground of the Soviet army housing estate, known locally as "Disneyland", the Finnish cottages (a Finnish wartime contribution to the Soviet Union), the water towers and the ruins of the former luxurious buildings of Barons fon Korfs. 

Rangefinder No.1 of the 23rd Shore Battery (1941)

The rangefinders (dating from 1941) are located in the pines of the dune, only 10m from the other tower, built in 1954. The 1st and 2nd gun emplacements of the shore battery are located on the seafront and partially eroded, while the 4th gun emplacement is best seen in the dunes.  The reinforced concrete bunker of the personnel who manned the guns is now washed away by the waves and has a washed-out foundation, tilted and leaning seawards.

Liepaja Fortress Battery 2 was planned to be built further from the shoreline and protected by a high rampart. The armament of the battery was to be 16 11-inch (280 mm) mortars of the 1877 model. The mortars used steep trajectories and did not require direct aiming.

Following the 'base agreement' between the Republic of Latvia and the USSR, signed on 5 October 1939, a contingent of nearly 25 000 Red Army and Baltic Navy troops was to be stationed in Kurzeme. By March 1941, Baltic naval bases were established in Latvia in the defence sectors of Irbe Bay, Saaremaa and Liepāja, consisting of coastal defence batteries.

The Liepaja coastal defence sector included the 208th artillery division with two 130 mm B-13 gun batteries (No 23 and No 27) and one 180 mm rail gun battery. Construction of Battery 23 began in November 1939 and was completed on 17 May 1941, partly using the reinforced concrete fortifications of Battery No. 2 of Liepaja Fortress. Battery 23 consisted of four reinforced concrete gun positions on the seafront, a command post and an observation (range-finding) tower in the dune forest. The range-finding positions were located in reinforced concrete towers to ensure better visibility while maintaining concealment in the pine forest.

After the Second World War, Battery 23 was renamed Battery 636, armed with the same 130 mm B-13 guns, and a new range-keeping tower was built for fire control in 1954, adjacent to the 1941 tower. In 1963, all the Liepaja coastal defence guns were dismantled.

After the restoration of Latvia's independence, the area of Battery No 2 is in the use of the Ministry of Defence.
 

Zvārde church ruins

The ruins of Zvārde Church are located on the territory of the former Zvārde air target range, near the so-called "Kurgan of the Officers". After a kilometre and a half, you will pass a T-junction with the Rīteļi cemetery nearby.

The first wooden church and rectory were built here in 1567, and the stone church was built in 1783 at the expense of local peasants, Kurzeme nobles and Duke of Courland Peter Byron. During the Second World War, the church roof and tower were damaged in the fighting. In 1953, when the Soviet Ministry of Defence requested the establishment of an air-target range on the site, Zvārde Church, Ķerkliņi Church and Rīteļi Cemetery were placed in the centre of the air-target range - next to an artificial airfield with access roads and defensive positions, which was used as a target by Soviet pilots. Planes flew here from airfields in Latvia and elsewhere in the Soviet Union. In less than 40 years, the church, the cemetery, the former manor house and dozens of surrounding buildings were reduced to ruins.

Zeltini History Repository

It is located in Zeltiņi parish, Alūksne county.
The visit must be arranged in advance.

Ability to travel through time. The uniforms of different armies, the "red corner", household items tell about the recent Soviet and pre-Soviet life in Latvia. The school class is an eyewitness to the life of students of different times. For those who experienced those times, it is an opportunity to dwell on memories, for the new generation, to see the world in a different light. The Zeltinų Museum was founded in 2007 as a place to store Soviet heritage.
Here you can also get to know the history of the school founded by pastor Ernst Glik, the life stories of the local residents and information about the life of the resident Edgars Liepiņš.

An excursion to the missile base of the Soviet Army is offered.

Viewed expositions:

"Recent past" (uniforms of various armies, "red corner", household items);
"Countrymen's room" (pre-Soviet household),
My school in Zeltinių" (a school class - an eyewitness to the lives of students from different times).
"Northern star - Edgars Liepiņš", which was created thanks to the support of the fans of Latvia's King of Jokers No.1. Zeltiņi is the childhood land of Edgars Liepiņš.

Visit fee:

EUR 2.00; for students, seniors 1.00 EUR;

Please arrange the visit by phone: +371 25745577.

Working time

Monday-Tuesday - closed
Wednesday - 9:00-17:00
Thursday-Friday - closed
Saturday - 9:00-17:00
Sunday - closed

 
Riteli Cemetery

After the airfield was established in this area in 1953 at the request of the USSR Ministry of Defence, the Zvārde Church, the Ķerkliņi Church and the Rīteļi Cemetery were actually located in the centre of the airfield - next to an artificial airfield with access roads and defence positions, which was used as a target by Soviet pilots. Planes flew here from airfields in Latvia and elsewhere in the Soviet Union. In less than 40 years, the church, the cemetery, the former manor house and dozens of surrounding buildings were reduced to ruins. Today, the site is cared for by the Saldus Martin Luther Church. The surrounding area is still contaminated with unexploded ordnance and it can be dangerous to walk off the roads.

Barbarism reached its peak in 1988, when the Rīteļi cemetery with its graves and monuments was bulldozed.

On 21 July 1990, in one of the first actions in which the Latvian population demanded that the USSR army leave the territory of Zvārde, a protest rally was held in Saldus, after which people went to the Rīteļi cemetery. The rally participants were allowed into the landfill site, and they cleaned up the cemetery a bit and dug white crosses.

The landfill continued to be used until 1992 and even as late as March 1992 a plane taking off from Lielvārde crashed in the landfill for unknown reasons. The Latvian Defence Forces started demining the site in May 1993, after the withdrawal of the Russian army.  In 2008, Zvārde residents installed a memorial stone "Forgive us for not saving you" in the Rīteļi cemetery.

Mazbānīš trail in North Kurzeme

Mazbānīti is the name given to a train in North Kurzeme that transported passengers and cargo along 600 mm wide narrow-gauge railway tracks between 1916 and 1963. It is a legacy of military history from the First World War, which once played an important role in the cultural and economic prosperity of the whole of Northern Kurzeme, but especially of the Libyan fishing villages, providing connections between settlements, providing jobs.

The nature trail leads from Mazirbe to Sīkraga along the path of the former Stende - Ventspils narrow-gauge railway, or as the locals say - the path of Mazbānīš. The construction of the railway started in 1916 and it served until 1963. The narrow-gauge railway line connected the port city of Ventspils with the coastal fishing villages of Dundas and the major railway hub of Stande, thus contributing to the region's economic and cultural boom between the First and Second World Wars.

During the times of the Soviet Union, the coast was a "Closed Zone", therefore coastal villages were economically isolated and their population decreased, the presence of newly built secret army facilities also contributed to the fact that in the sixties of the last century, railway traffic was stopped.

The trail has a small loop of 15 km and a large loop of 19 km.

The GPX map is available here:

https://www.kurzemesregions.lv/projekti/turisms/unigreen/dabas-takas/mazbanisa-dabas-taka/

Related stories

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On the occupation of Latvia

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Tukums reserve aerodrome management in the 90s.

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Skulte military bomber

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Soviet aircraft bomb Riteli Cemetery

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Zvārdenieka's childhood in the shadow of bomb explosions - Polygon summers

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Zvārdenieka's childhood in the shadow of bomb explosions - Phosphorus capsules

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Zvārdenieka's childhood in the shadow of bomb explosions - the fallen plane

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The story of a unique military object in Karosta

For years, I have not noticed any sustained interest in the unique places just eight to ten kilometres north of the city centre among the residents of Old Liepaja. But hidden in the thicket of the forest, on the dune bank or on the marsh paths, the historic sites of the Karosta are no less interesting historical facts and stories worthy of long-forgotten legends. One of them - the former 23rd Coastal Artillery Battery of the USSR - will be the subject of this story.

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