IV Sovietų okupacija

Military heritage along the Iron Curtain Route by car from Tallinn to Liepāja

Estonian War Museum - General Laidoner museum

This museum, which has been housed in the mid-19th century historicist Viimsi Manor since 2001, conducts research into and both preserves and displays Estonian military history. Its predecessors were the Estonian War of Liberation Museum (founded on 19 January 1919) and a museum dedicated to General Laidoner established at the manor by decree of Viimsi Municipal Government in 1993. During the Soviet occupation, the manor was used by a naval intelligence unit: after the withdrawal of the Soviet Army, the building was in a dire state. The museum was founded by decree of Minister of Defence Jüri Luik on 26 February 2001. Since then, the museum has operated under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence. Its main exhibition showcases wars fought in Estonia and abroad in which Estonians have participated. Part of the exhibition is dedicated to Commander-in-Chief Johan Laidoner, who owned the manor from 1923-1940. The military equipment hangar near the main building displays a variety of artillery pieces and vehicles.

Seaplane Harbour

The Seaplane Harbour is situated on the water’s edge in the Kalamaja district of Tallinn.

It was commissioned during World War I by Russian Emperor Nicholas II as part of Peter the Great's Naval Fortress. The museum, based in the historic seaplane hangar, has around 200 original exhibits on display: the submarine Lembit, the 100-year-old icebreaker Suur Tõll, the seaplane Short 184, the oldest Estonian shipwreck, mines, cannons and more. Temporary exhibitions complement the main exhibition. The seaplane hangar is architecturally unique: its domed roof was one of the first thin concrete shell structures of its kind.

The museum’s programmes and materials for individual visits are fun and educational for adults and children alike.

Hotel Viru and KGB museum

Hotel Viru in Tallinn was built in 1972. The hotel for foreigners also had to suit to the national security body, i.e KGB. The museum tells the story of more than just one hotel and the KGB. It is a treasure trove of stories of two different worlds - one which existed mostly on paper, of happy Soviet citizens living in friendship and never wanting for anything, led by a wise, all-powerful group of men in a place where there were never any accidents or catastrophes; and the other real world, which was a very different and a much tougher place to live in.
Please book in advance to visit the museum.

KGB Prison Cells

This museum is located in the cellar of the former NKVD and KGB headquarters in the centre of Tallinn.

The building at 1 Pagari Street was home to one of the most infamous and feared pre-trial detention centres of the Soviet era, where many Estonian politicians, state officials, intellectuals, War of Independence veterans and even commoners were tortured and sentenced to death or prison. The unmodified cells are the epitome of the Red Terror and are now open to visitors. The museum consists of two corridors, six prison cells and one solitary confinement cell. The main exhibition, entitled ‘History of the KGB House’, recalls the atrocities committed there.

This address has had an interesting past. The residential building constructed here in 1912 was the headquarters of the Provisional Government of Estonia and the military high command during the War of Independence. Then, until 1940, the building housed the Ministry of War of the Republic of Estonia. In March 1991 the building became the head office of the Estonian Police. Today, 1 Pagari Street has regained its former residential use.

Patarei sea fortress

A former naval fortress located in the Kalamaja district of Tallinn.

Designed by military engineers Étienne-Louis Boullée and Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, Patarei was commissioned in 1829 by Russian Emperor Nicholas I. The complex was opened in 1840, but this did not mean that construction work was complete. The fortress underwent renovations: there were fears that the British and French would attack from the Baltic Sea after the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1853. This did indeed come to pass, but it did not escalate into large-scale warfare. Only a few shots were fired from Patarei. As a result of the adoption of explosive projectile, Patarei was decommissioned as a fortress in 1858 and was thereafter used as barracks. During the era of Estonia’s independence, Patarei was turned into a prison, which operated until 2002. It had also been used as a prison during the German and Soviet occupations. The atrocities committed there by those regimes made the place infamous among the population. The architecturally prominent building, which covers four hectares, is now home to an exhibition entitled ‘Communism is Prison’, which shines the spotlight on communist ideology, communist crimes and the history of the building. Renovations of this remarkable architectural wonder covering four hectares began in 2020. By 2026 Patarei shall be an integrated urban landscape complete with commercial space, living quarters and leisure options. The original prison interior and exercise yards shall be preserved in the eastern wing of the building. Already there's an exhibition on the communist ideology and atrocities and the history of the building covering close to 1200 square metres.

Vabamu Museum of Occupations and Freedom

Vabamu museum is situated in the centre of Tallinn.

A private museum, it opened in 2003 to showcase Estonian history from 1940-1991. The museum recalls stories from recent history highlighting both the value and fragility of freedom.

The main exhibition and the films shown at the museum provide an overview of the Soviet occupation, oppression, national resistance and the Singing Revolution.

The main exhibition, ‘Freedom Has No Limits’, is divided into five topics: ‘Inhumanity’, ‘In Exile’, ‘Soviet Estonia’, ‘Restoration’ and ‘Freedom’. Museum visitors can take an audio tour (in Estonian, Russian, English, Finnish, German, French or Spanish) to guide them on this immersive and retrospective journey through history. There are also activities for children, offering an unforgettable experience for the whole family.


Paldiski - Soviet-era closed city

The town of Paldiski (historically known as Rågervik) is located on the north coast of Estonia on the Pakri peninsula.

It has been an important port since the Great Northern War. In 1718, Russian Emperor Peter the Great ordered the construction of a fortified seaport and other military facilities here, turning the town into one of the most important naval bases in the empire.

In summers during the interwar period of Estonian independence, Paldiski was a training site for armoured trains. As a result of the Mutual Assistance Pact forced upon the Republic of Estonia by the Soviet Union in 1939, Paldiski fell under the control of the Red Army. Paldiski Naval Base was formed and further fortifications were constructed. The Paldiski region was of significant importance in the coastal defence system of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet. In the 1960s, one of only three nuclear submarine training centres in the Soviet Union (equipped with a mock-up of a nuclear submarine) was opened in Paldiski. The town and the Pakri islands were closed to the public and kept secret. Paldiski had two nuclear reactors, which have since been encased in concrete.

Soviet-era buildings have become a rare sight in Paldiski. The bastions of Peter the Great's Naval Fortress are open to tourists: https://visitharju.ee/et/node/9682.

Spitham Radar Station

This military outpost is situated in the village of Spitham in Lääne-Nigula municipality on the Gulf of Finland.

Construction of the outpost began in 1958. It is assumed that the military unit from Osmussaar was relocated here. Tents were used prior to the completion of the barracks, with senior officers accommodated on local farms. Barracks, a canteen and technical facilities were built. Its diesel power generator also provided electricity to the village. In 1993 the military unit was relocated to Leningrad oblast in Russia. 

Two large radar mounds, a command centre, multiple technical bunkers, a garage for transporting equipment, a couple of pillboxes and some ruins remain of the radar station. Only the crumbling canteen remains of its residential quarters.

Railway and Communications Museum in Haapsalu

This museum is housed in a train station built in the early 20th century to service the railway line connecting to the resort in Haapsalu.

Opened in 1997, the museum showcases the one-and-a-half centuries of development of Estonian railways and mediums of communication. Besides decommissioned locomotives, the museum displays an affable station master and an Ericsson Skeleton Type telephone and invites visitors to the station's post office.

The outdoor exhibition also displays a World War II steam locomotive 52 3368. 

The steam locomotive 52 3368, initially numbered 16494, was completed in April 1943 in Munich at the Krauss-Maffei Works and then transported to Austria, the Bruck an der Mur depot of the Villach division. The Hungarian State Railways (MAV) rented the locomotive and on  June 7, 1945, it was captured by the Red Army. When the Hungarian-Romanian border was altered, locomotive 52 3368 was given to the Romanian railway (CFR). In August 1950, at the CFR Iași Works the locomotive was converted to broad gauge (5 ft) and given to the Soviet Union, where it operated at the Kotovsk and Vapnyarka depot of the Odessa Railway from October 1950 to 1956. After that, the Ministry of Transportation of the USSR kept it in the strategic reserve. On  August 26, 1957, the locomotive TE-3368 (ТЭ-3368, the class 52 was renamed as TE in 1952) arrived at the Valga locomotive base. There the loco got another tender (so-called Wannentender), built in 1943 by Borsig Works in Berlin and formerly belonging to locomotive TE-450. It could carry 32 m3 of water and 10 tonnes of fuel. The locomotive stayed in Valga (from 1961 to 1968 shortly in Tartu) until the base was closed in 1997. From 1950 to 1985, its kilometrage as a broad-gauge locomotive was 463,216 kms. On  May 8, 1998, the steam locomotive was delivered to Haapsalu to be exhibited at the Railway Museum.

The class 52 war locomotive was designed in a hurry in June 1942 on request of the Reich´s Ministry of Armaments and War Production in the example of the class 50 locomotive. The 2-10-0 type engine had a power of about 1,500 hp and a maximum speed of 80 km/h. It had a simplified and light design (15-ton axle load) with an intended life-span of 5 years. From 1942 to 1945, a total of 6,295 locomotives of that class were built in 14 factories across Europe. After World War II, the class 52 locomotives had spread all over Europe, from Norway to Turkey and from Belgium to the Soviet Union. There were over 2,000 locomotives in the USSR – the exact number remains unknown, as the locomotives were subject to different authorities, including security authorities. In Estonia, the class 52 steam locomotives ran first on standard-gauge (1,435 mm) lines in 1943–44. Since 1953, when they replaced the American class ShA war locomotives (the Shariks) in Estonian freight traffic, 138 class TE (52) regauged locos have been here. By 1991, only one remained in Estonia – the TE-3368.

Hullo border outpost

This outpost is situated in Hullo on the island of Vormsi. It was the last outpost to be built on Vormsi, completed in spring 1985. Characteristic of the confusion that reigned during the Soviet era, the Far North Outpost was constructed using stock building plans: most of the complex is under one roof. It was built by soon-to-be-demobbed conscripts, who were commonly put to such use. The completed building was home to the 17th Border Outpost of the 106th Red Banner Border Guard Squad. They did not have the use of it for long, however, as it was taken over by the Estonian Border Guard in late 1992. The outpost includes a full-sized basketball court and a cinema with balconies. It is also unique for having its sentry post on top of its heating plant chimney, with a staircase winding around it. The property was divided up and privatised by the Ministry of the Interior in 2008. Part of the former outpost site has since been turned into residential land. 



Monument to the War of Independence in Vormsi

This monument is a granite boulder standing 2.5 metres high whose front side is polished. It is situated by the western gate of the church yard in Hullo, under some pine trees. The monument was unveiled in 1929, with the date engraved into the rock. This is one of the few monuments to the War of Independence to have survived the Soviet occupation. The fact that the monument is in Swedish and does not have the years 1918-1920 inscribed on it may have helped in this regard. The monument reads: "The inhabitants of the island erected this rock in 1929 in honour of freedom fighters". It is mounted on a stone base. The monument is fenced in by stone bollards with chains.


Monument to those who fled across the sea to Sweden in 1944

This monument is situated on the water’s edge on Cape Puise. In 1944, around 80,000 people fled westward from the advancing Red Army, many of them by sea. This monument, commemorating that mass flight, was designed by Aivar Simson. The idea originated from Heidi Ivask, who, held in her mother's arms, was one of many who waited for a boat on the beach in Puise. Construction of the monument was led by the Estonian Memento Union.


Põgari House of Prayer

This house of prayer in situated in the village of Põgari-Sassi near the 1 km marker on the Tuuru-Puise road. On 18 September 1944, the day after the Germans began their retreat, Prime Minister Jüri Uluots, serving as the head of state, swore in the new Government of the Republic of Estonia. The Government adopted a resolution on the restoration of the independence of Estonia and on remaining neutral in the war. The inauguration of the government meant that the Red Army did not ‘liberate’ Estonia from the German occupying forces, but rather occupied an independent nation. The cabinet of Otto Tief held their last meeting at the Põgari Baptist house of prayer on 22 September 1944. This historic meeting is commemorated by a memorial tablet there, unveiled by Prime Minister Mart Laar in 1999. Tief's cabinet members were waiting at the house of prayer for the promised motorboat to be evacuated to Sweden. However, the boat was delayed, arriving on 29 September, and only State Secretary Helmut Maandi fled, carrying a copy of Riigi Teataja confirming the continuity of the Republic of Estonia.



Estonian Museum Railway in Lavassaare

The Estonian Museum Railway is situated on the old peat industry site in Lavassaare, 17 km north-east of Pärnu.

The museum is the only narrow-gauge railway museum in the country, displaying, among other exhibits, a functioning steam locomotive. It has in its collection over 80 railroad cars, including five locomotives and a variety of technical apparatus, most of it on display outdoors. The peat workers’ residential building on the museum premises houses an indoor exhibition displaying over 700 historical photos, items and documents related to narrow-gauge railways in Estonia.

The narrow-gauge network in the Governorates of Estonia and Livonia was established during the 19th and 20th centuries for the development of regional industry.

Monument to the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Estonia

This monument is situated on Independence Square in the centre of Pärnu.

Made from granite and designed by Kaarel Eelma, Mart Aas and Mikk Mutso, it was unveiled in 2008 near the former site of the Endla Theatre.

On 23 February 1918 the Manifesto to the Peoples of Estonia was publicly declared for the first time from the balcony of said theatre, which was badly damaged in World War II and later demolished.

The monument depicts the balcony of the historical theatre in its original size. It displays the text from the manifesto in both the original blackletter typeface and Antiqua, as well as in Braille.

The manifesto was published and the Republic of Estonia declared in the capital Tallinn on 24 February, transferring all authority to the Estonian Salvation Committee, later followed by the Provisional Government. 24 February 1918 is celebrated to this day as the anniversary of the Republic of Estonia.


Exposition of military bikes in the Bicycle museum in Saulkrasti

The Bicycle Museum is located in Saulkrasti not far from the A1 highway and the railway station Pabaži, near the White Dune. Museum’s collection is made up of technically the most interesting examples of bicycle development history in Latvia. It is the largest bicycle collection in the Baltics with about 60 bicycles made and used in Latvia, including army-type bicycles. In the beginning of the 20th century many armies started to widely utilise the availability and benefits of bicycles. Special bicycle units were formed because of their mobility. Bicycle units were able to gather intelligence and launch unexpected attacks more easily, and were more mobile than regular infantry when it came to operations over a wide area. After World War I the Latvian Army also had bicycle units who used Latvian-made army bicycles. Any soldier who was in such a bicycle unit had to meet strict requirements. Good stamina, eyesight and hearing, as well as a healthy heart and lungs were a must. They could not weigh less than 80 kg and their height had to be 165-180 cm. The standard in the Latvian Army was that a well-trained cyclist should be able to cover 80-100 km in day, and up to 150 km in forced conditions. In winter, when bicycles could not be used, skis were used. A soldier from a bicycle unit had to be able to ski 50-60 km per day. Many soldiers from bicycle units would later become professional athletes.

We have about 5000 visitors every year.

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.

Mangaļsala fortifications

Coastal fortifications are located in Riga, Mangaļsala, at the mouth of the Daugava across from Daugavgrīva. Fortifications built by different armies (Russian, Latvian, German and Soviet) can be seen here. The fortifications of Mangaļsala were built to defend the city of Riga from hostile navies. This area was strategically important for a long period of time. After World War I the Latvian Army did not yet have a strong navy. The maritime border was long and coastal defence was becoming an increasingly difficult task. The Latvian Army took over the fortifications built by the Russian Empire in the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century and expanded the defence system. The artillery of Daugavgrīva and Mangaļsala would open fire on enemy ships trying to enter the mouth of Daugava, while support points at the mouth of Lielupe (Jūrmala) and mouth of Gauja (Carnikava) would stop enemy landing parties. There was also a specially equipped armoured coastal defence train that could provide artillery fire and support in the direction of Saulkrasti or Jūrmala. The aim of fortifying strategic sites was to maximise the use of weapons through special constructions and terrain advantages. Coastal defence fortifications were spread out over a large area to counter enemy efforts in the event of war.

Audio guide https://izi.travel/en/edbf-mangalsala-fortifications/en

Exhibition in the KGB Building "History of KGB Operations in Latvia"

The former USSR State Security Committee (commonly known as Cheka) building is open for visitors. Here chekists imprisoned, interrogated and murdered Latvian citizens who were considered opponents by the occupation regime. There is also an exhibit from the Latvian Occupation Museum on the activities of Cheka in Latvia. Guided tours of the prison cells, corridors, basement and courtyard are available. The house was built in 1911 and it is one of the most beautiful buildings in Riga. Called the ‘Corner House’ by the people, it was the scariest symbol of the Soviet occupation regime in Latvia, and also one of the pillars of power of the USSR. Cheka operated from the Corner House during the occupation from 1940 to 1941 and then again from 1945 to 1991. Tens of thousands of Latvians were affected by direct political persecution. The fight against enemies of Soviet rule continued also after World War II. Cheka’s approach towards its operation slightly changed after Stalin’s death. Physical torture was replaced by psychological terror. The majority of Cheka agents were Latvians (52%). Russians were the second largest group – 23.7%. 60.3% of the agents were not members of the Communist Party. 26.9% of the agents had higher education. The system was designed in a way to involve local people and thus have greater control over the society. Staff documents and service records are located in Russia. And these materials have not been made available to Latvian authorities and researchers.

Museum of the Occupation of Latvia

The museum exhibits the history of Latvia from 1940 to 1991, under the occupation of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. ‘House of the Future’ is a reconstruction and expansion project of the Occupation Museum designed by the well-known American Latvian architect Gunārs Birkerts as well as the new exhibit of the museum. The exhibit ‘History of Cheka in Latvia’ was created by the Occupation Museum and it is located in the ‘Corner House’, which is the former USSR State Security Committee (KGB) building. Latvian Occupation Museum was founded in 1993. It tells the long-hidden story of the fate of the Latvian state, nation and land under the occupation of two foreign totalitarian powers from 1940 to 1991. At the end of 2020 the museum had more than 70,000 different historical items (documents, photographs, written, oral and material evidence, objects and memorabilia). Museum specialists have recorded more than 2,400 video testimonials, making it one of the largest collections on occupation in Europe. The events that unfolded in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia clearly show us what the nations had to endure under the two totalitarian regimes.

Latvian War Museum

The Latvian War Museum is located in the Old Town not far from the Freedom Monument in a historic defence building called the ‘Powder Tower’. There are 11 exhibits in the museum. There are various weapons, documents, uniforms, awards, badges and other items detailing the everyday life of a soldier in war. The Latvian War Museum is one of the oldest museums in Latvia. Its origins can be found in World War I. Museum’s collection was made up mainly of personal items of soldiers or items found on battlefields. After Latvia gained its independence the main goal of the museum became to create an exposition on the military history of Latvia and the active role of the population in protecting their land. In 1937 the museum was expanded and was technically one of the most modern museums in Europe at that time. The Powder Tower was one of the fortification towers of Riga. Some evidence dates back to 1330 where it has been mentioned as the ‘Sand Tower’. The tower was destroyed in 1621 when Riga was besieged by the Swedish Army. But in 1650 a new tower for storing gunpowder and weapons was built. After the city’s fortifications were taken down, the Powder Tower remains as one of the most important pieces of evidence of the Riga defence system.

1991 Barricades Museum

The museum is located in Old Riga near the Riga Cathedral. It was founded in 2001 to preserve historical evidence of the events of 1991 in Latvia. A virtual tour of the museum is also available. In January 1991, in Lithuania the Soviet Army opened fire on people who had gathered at the Vilnius TV tower and drove into the crowd with tanks. In response to these events a demonstration of about 500,000 people was organised in Riga to show support to Lithuanians and the readiness of the Latvian people to continue their struggles towards Latvia’s independence. In order to prevent similar events from happening in Latvia, residents began to build barricades in the narrow streets of Old Riga in order to prevent possible attacks of the Soviet Army on the defenders of the barricades. These barricades were also created at various strategic objects not only in Riga, but throughout all of Latvia. Around 50,000 people from all over Latvia participated in defending the barricades. Barricades was a popular movement that helped to regain Latvia’s independence. This is a great example of non-violent resistance in the history of the whole world.

Victims of Communist Terror Memorial in Torņakalns

The memorial site is located in the Torņakalns railway station in Riga. It is dedicated to those deported in June 1941. Initially it was planned to create a memorial in Esplanāde park, but later it was decided to place it at the Torņakalns station. The memorial consists of five torn stone sculptures symbolising the ruined families and three generations of deportees. The sculptor of this memorial is Pauls Jaunzems and the architect is Juris Poga. It was unveiled on 14 June 2001 by the then President of Latvia, Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga. Next to the station there is a freight waggon and a commemorative stone dedicated to the deported Latvians. The commemorative stone with the inscription “1941” is a 1.2 m high crude boulder. The author of the memorial stand is the sculptor Ojārs Feldbergs.

Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum

The Riga Ghetto and the Latvian Holocaust Museum is located in Riga close to the Riga Central Market and the Riga Central Station. The museum was opened in 2010 on the site where the city's warehouses once were. It is located in the historical part of the city, next to the border of the former Jewish ghetto. The territory of the ghetto is unique, because in terms of architecture it has not changed since World War II. It is a memorial dedicated to the tragedy suffered by the Jewish people. The German policy regarding the Jewish population in Latvia until the end of 1939 was for the German diplomats and politicians to try and pressure the Latvian government to take action against the Jews by restricting their freedom. After the emigration of the Baltic Germans in 1939, the German embassy no longer had as good an access to information on the mood of the population and the events happening in Latvia as before. When the Red Army occupied Latvia, they manipulated the society to gain some support of the Jewish population for the new occupying power. However, after the regime started a crackdown on the society as a whole, the support fell rapidly. As a result of all this, a deep divide had formed between the people. And later on, the next regime – Germany – tried to exploit it. They hoped that the local population would harass and attack the Jews, but that did not happen. So, Germany adjusted their approach and devised a new plan to initially establish a Jewish ghetto and later destroy its inhabitants.

Riga Airmuseum (Riga Aviation museum)

The Riga Air Museum is located in Skulte village, Marupe municipality, in the territory of Riga Airport, next to the aircraft observation area. It is a privately made tourist attraction that opened in 1997. It has taken more than 50 years to create this collection. Aviation equipment has been gathered from Latvia, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and the USA. It is one of the largest and most valuable collections in Europe. The idea of a Latvian Aviation Museum was conceived at least 80 years ago. The history of Latvian aviation dates back to the time when the world's first aircraft were being developed. Latvian pilots were among those who participated in achieving many world records. After World War I and the Latvian War of Independence the Latvian Army started to form an air force, and there was a need to preserve historical evidence. In the 1930s, there was an opportunity to start work on creating a museum. It already had acquired some particularly valuable historical items in its collection. World War II thwarted this project and the collection was lost. Nowadays there are about 40 aircraft objects, mainly manufactured in the Soviet Union. And the exposition gives an insight into the history of Soviet aviation.

Memorial to Finnish Jaegers in Klapkalnciems

The memorial site is located in Tukums municipality near the Sloka-Talsi highway between Ragaciems and Klapkalnciems in the coastal dunes of the Gulf of Riga. The memorial was unveiled in 1997 on the site where the Finnish Jägers were stationed during World War I. The Finnish Jägers were a German Army unit formed during World War I, consisting mainly of nationalist Finnish volunteers who had left the territory of Finland occupied by the Russian Empire. The unit was formed in secret as the 27th Royal Prussian Reserve Battalion of the German Army. In the German Army Jägers made up traditional and elite combat units. Their training focused on unit mobility, combat capabilities and refined and versatile skills. The overall goal of these soldiers was to gain Finland's independence from Russia. The unit was made of almost 2,000 men who were involved in military operations in the territory of Latvia. The Finnish Jägers did a lot in forming the Finnish state and army. Today in this place you can see trenches in a beautiful seaside forest overlooking the sea. The memorial is located next to the trenches. It is made of granite – a type of stone that was used in the fortifications of the Mannerheim Line of Defence in Finland during the Winter War (1939-1940).

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.

Rebuilt German army dugouts in Melnsils Campsite

Campsite Melnsils is located next to the sea 10 km from Kolka. Here German Army type dugouts have been built that can be used as lodging for the night. This is a nod to the history of this region when during World War II the German Army had a border guard post and a camp site here and soldiers built dugouts for themselves using materials that could be found nearby. Trenches can still be found in the dunes along the coast.

‘Bunker Nr. 13’ is the largest of the two dugouts, with three bunk beds. The ‘Small Bunker’ is smaller and has two bunk beds. Campsite ‘Melnsils’ is a great choice for active recreation and sporting events for up to 300 people. It is located near the Slitere National Park, coastal bluffs and forest hiking trails. There are marked cycling trails that wind through the natural surroundings in the area. There are designated places for tents and campfires by the sea, as well as barrel-type guest houses for two or four people. A bathhouse with different types of whisks is also available.

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.

Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Centre

Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Centre, also known as the Irbene Radio Telescope, is located in the former Soviet Army town of Irbene. The Space Intelligence Station ‘Zvaigznīte’ (Little Star) was once the army unit No. 51429. The total area of ​the object was 200 ha, but information about the object became publicly available only in 1993. Initially there were three antennas here, which the army used to intercept and listen-in on phone calls of the “hostile West”.

The radio astronomy centre in Irbene is currently the eighth largest in the world. It has a 32 m rotating parabolic antenna RT-32, which is the largest in Northern Europe and the eighth largest in the world, as well as a second 16 m antenna RTs-16. The centre studies space signals, and it has received a signal from as far as the Cygnus constellation. The tour includes a walk around the territory of the former army town of Irbene and a visit to an underground tunnel and the memorial place of the rocket designer Friedrich Zander in the building called ‘Kristāls’ (Cristal).

Oviši Lighthouse and Soviet border guard

Oviši Lighthouse is located in the Tārgale parish in a village called Oviši on the coast of Kurzeme. It was built in 1814 and it is the oldest lighthouse in Latvia. The height of Oviši Lighthouse tower is 37 m. The lighthouse has a double-cylinder design: its diameter is 11.5 m, but within the stone wall there is a second tower with a diameter of 3.5 m. Such double-cylinder lighthouses were used also as defensive structures in the 18th-19th century Europe in case of enemy attacks. The Oviši Lighthouse Museum is considered to have the largest collection of lighthouse equipment and maritime navigation items among all Latvian lighthouse museums. When the weather is right the Irbe Lighthouse can be seen from Oviši Lighthouse.

At the end of World War II, the headquarters of the Beminger Battalion of the German Army was located near the Oviši Lighthouse along with the 4th Battery of the 530th Naval Artillery Division with several anti-aircraft guns. It is said that there was a radio direction finder and an infrared ray detection station Donau Gerät located at the foot of the lighthouse. A Soviet border guard post was once located near the lighthouse, but none of the Soviet-era buildings have survived. The Oviši station building is still located in the territory of the lighthouse.

Narrow gauge railway train “Mazbānītis” in Ventspils Seaside Open-air museum

In the Seaside Open-Air Museum in Ventspils you can take a ride on two narrow-gauge railway lines with the train ‘Mazbānītis’. The Circle line is 1.4 km and the Mountain line is 3 km. ‘Mazbānītis’ is the locomotive that transported passengers and cargo on 600 mm narrow-gauge railway tracks between 1916 and 1963. It is a legacy of military history from World War I that once played an important role in the cultural and economic development of northern Kurzeme by connecting settlements and providing new jobs.

Construction of a large 600 mm narrow-gauge railway network is largely associated with World War I, when the German Army in 1916 started the construction of several so-called military field railways (Heeresfeldbahn in German) in the occupied territory of Latvia. These railways could be quickly constructed, deconstructed and moved to another front line. The Latvian narrow-gauge railway network was used also during World War II. For almost 60 years the narrow-gauge railway was the only safe way of transporting passengers, various agricultural products and timber to cities in both winter and summer.

Fire correction tower of the Ventspils 46th Coastal Defence Battery

The restored fire control tower of the 46th Coast Guard Battery in Ventspils is located on Saulrieta street and is available to visitors in the form of an observation tower. There are four artillery gun positions near the tower and it is the only World War II coastal defence battery in Latvia in such a good condition. Visitors can take the tower stairs to an outdoor viewing platform overlooking the sea. An information stand with a QR code is available next to the tower. You can use the QR to watch an animation about historical events. There is a new street leading to the tower, a large parking lot and a wooden footbridge that crosses the protected nature area next to the tower.

This military complex was built in 1939, marking the start of construction of USSR military bases in Latvia. The 46th Coast Guard Battery had four positions for the gun type Б-13. This battery had its first military engagement on 24 June 1941, when Ventspils harbour was attacked by German torpedo boats that were driven away from the shores of the Baltic Sea by battery fire. On June 28 the Soviet Army blew up the guns and left.

Užava Lighthouse

Užava Lighthouse is located in an uninhabited area 3 km from the village of Užava on a 28 m high dune. The lighthouse was built in 1879.

In 1910, the lighthouse was reinforced with 7-8 cm thick planks and a stone burial mound in front, as the gentle drift caused the sea waves to erode the foot of the dune. During the First World War, Užava Lighthouse was badly damaged: the upper cylindrical part of the lighthouse tower was destroyed, as well as the auxiliary buildings, which were destroyed by artillery shelling. Only the octagonal base of the tower remained intact, on which the new tower of Užava Lighthouse was completed in 1925. The new tower was identical in external appearance to the previous tower. Throughout its existence, the lighthouse has continued to strengthen the adjacent hillside.

The tower is 19 m high, 44 m above sea level and the lighthouse can be seen 15 nautical miles away.

During the Second World War, at the end of 1944, the headquarters of the German 113th Guards Regiment with several coastal defence batteries were located in the vicinity of the Užava Lighthouse. A forward artillery observation post with observation searchlights was located just outside the lighthouse. At the end of World War II, the 7th battery of the 530th Naval Artillery Division with five anti-aircraft guns was located in the vicinity of Užava Lighthouse.

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.

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.

Memorial to the victims of holocaust in Liepāja

The largest memorial to Holocaust victims in Latvia is located in Liepāja, in the Šķēde dunes. The memorial is dedicated to the memory of more than 3,000 Liepāja Jews killed during World War II. It is in the form of the Israeli national symbol, a seven-branched candelabra known as the menorah. The contours of the memorial, which are clearly visible from a bird’s eye view, are made of split boulders and granite blocks. The ‘lights’ of the menorah are made of granite pillars with inscriptions of verses from the Lamentations of Jeremiah in Hebrew, English, Latvian and Russian.

Liepāja Northern Fort and Battery Nr.1 in Karosta

The Northern Forts are the best known and visually most impressive part of the Liepāja Fortress. Built by the Russian tsarist army in the late 19th century, their historical name is Fortress Battery No 1.

In November 1908, less than 10 years after its construction, the Liepāja Fortress ceased to operate, because its construction was acknowledged as a strategic mistake. Some of the cannons were dismantled and taken to the Kaunas Fortress in Lithuania, while others were remelted. Fortification structures were detonated twice in an attempt to destroy the fortifications. Elements surviving to the present day include artillery batteries not fully destroyed in the explosions and underground structures. Just like the Karosta, the Northern Forts were a closed military territory during the Soviet occupation. Visitors to the Northern Forts should be very careful. As in other places on the Latvian coast, the steep shore of the Baltic Sea in the Karosta is dangerous due to potential coastal landslides. Therefore, it is not allowed to walk under the ruins of the forts.

In the northern part of the fortress was located one of the four coastal defence batteries, Battery No.1. The battery was to house six 6-inch (152 mm) guns of the 1892 model of the Canet system, six 11-inch (280 mm) guns of the 1887 model and two 57 mm Nordenfeld anti-ship guns. Only the guns of the Canet system had a long enough firing range to withstand possible shelling by the German Navy. Thus, at the time of the liquidation of the fortress, the armament was only partially installed.

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.

Karosta, the Military port of Liepāja (tour)

The Karosta is the largest historical military territory in the Baltics and occupies almost one third of the entire territory of Liepāja. The Karosta is a unique compound of military and fortification buildings on the shores of the Baltic Sea with a special meaning in the history and architecture of Latvia and the world. The Karosta features such military heritage sites as the North Pier and forts, the Redan, Karosta Prison, Karosta Water Tower, St. Nicholas Orthodox Maritime Cathedral, Oskars Kalpaks Bridge and others.