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Lonely Planet review
Affectionately known as ‘Milda’, Rīga’s Freedom Monument towers above the city between Old and Central Rīga. Paid for by public donations, the monument was designed by Kārlis Zāle and erected in 1935 where a statue of Russian ruler Peter the Great once stood. At the base of the monument there is an inscription that reads ‘Tēvzemei un Brīvībai’ (For Fatherland and Freedom), accompanied by granite friezes of Latvians singing and fighting for their freedom. A copper female Liberty tops the soaring monument, holding three gold stars in her hands. The three stars represent the three original cultural regions of Latvia: Kurzeme, Vidzeme and Latgale (Latvia’s fourth cultural region, Zemgale, was initially part of Kurzeme).
Surprisingly, during the Soviet years the Freedom Monument was never demolished. The communist government reinterpreted the star-toting Liberty as ‘Mother Russia’ caring for its three newest members of the union: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Milda was strictly off limits, and anyone seen placing flowers at the base was promptly arrested and deported to Siberia. To further decrease the monument’s significance, a large statue of Lenin was erected up the street, facing the other way down Brīvības. It was removed when Latvia regained its independence.
Today, two soldiers stand guard at the monument through the day and perform a modest changing of the guards every hour on the hour from 9am to 6pm.
A second spire, the Laima Clock , sits between Milda and the entrance to Old Rīga. Built in the 1920s as a gentle way to encourage Rīgans not to be late for work, the clock is now used as a meeting place for young Latvians.