The notorious former headquarters of the KGB in Riga, Latvia is now open to the public, leaving a reminder of the terror propagated by the agency during the Soviet rule.
The KGB (which translates to Committee for State Security) was the Soviet Union’s secret police, functioning as foreign intelligence and counter-intelligence, as well as combatting dissent and anti-Soviet activities.
The KGB monitored public and private opinion in all of the countries of the Soviet Bloc. The agency was responsible for crushing the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and the Prague Spring in 1968, among others.
In Latvia, the KGB had a wide network of informants reporting on Latvians that condemned Soviet power. Numerous political dissidents, artists, and writers were imprisoned or detained by the KGB, many in the Riga building.
Reuters photographer Ints Kalnins recently visited the newly re-opened headquarters and shared some of the photos here.
The KGB headquarters is popularly known as “the corner house.” It was originally built to house apartments and shops and was later appropriated by the Latvian Interior Ministry, before the KGB took over the building in 1944.
For many Latvians, the building is a symbol of totalitarian power. It has been vacant since 2008.
The building is located in the downtown Centrs neighbourhood of Riga, adjacent to the famous Old Town section of the city.
The ground floor and basement were reconstructed as prison cells and interrogation rooms shortly after the KGB took control of the building.
This is what one of the prison cells looks like. The building held a total of 44 prison cells with 175 beds. When the number of prisoners grew, the cells would become overcrowded. There were sometimes as many as 36 people in a room with 6 beds.
This is what one of the prison cell doors looks like.
The building has two courtyards. There is a large one with massive metal gates and a smaller one where prisoners could walk, “protected” from adjacent residential buildings by overhead barbed wire.
Torture and interrogations were carried out on the sixth floor of the building, while executions were carried out in the basement or the yard.
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