Latvian Parliament Building
The Latvian Parliament, or Saeima building, has served various powers in its history. The main building now occupied by the Saeima was constructed between 1863 and 1867 for the needs of the Livonian Knighthood according to the design made by Robert Pflug (1835-1885), a Baltic-German architect, and Jānis Baumanis (1834-1891), the first academically educated Latvian architect.
Both the exterior and interior of the building were designed in the style known as Eclecticism. The Constitutional Assembly took ownership of the building in 1920 – and was the first Latvian parliament from May 1, 1920 to November 7, 1922. The last meeting of the Constitutional Assembly took place in the newly renovated premises on November 3, 1922, and the first sitting of the Saeima was held on November 7 of that year. The subsequent Saeima convocations worked in the building until parliamentary work was interrupted on May 15, 1934. After the coup staged by Kārlis Ulmanis (1877-1942), the former Saeima building housed the president’s administration. After the Soviet occupational regime came to power in 1940, the building passed to the Supreme Council of the Latvian SSR.
During World War II, the building housed the SS (Schutzstaffel) and police headquarters of the Eastern territories. At that time, the interior decoration of the function rooms was destroyed while most of the books, applied art objects and paintings which had been preserved since the time of the Livonian Knighthood and the independence period of the Republic of Latvia were taken away to Germany. More items of the artistic heritage were lost in the post-war period, when the Supreme Council of the Latvian SSR resumed possession of the building.
In May of 1990, the future fate of Latvia was decided in this building. Already on May 2 of that year, a large crowd gathered outside of the building expressing their support for the restoration of Latvia’s independence. The vote took place on May 4. 134 out of 201 votes were necessary. With 138 votes for, zero against, the Supreme Council voted for the restoration of Latvia’s independence, thus renewing the sovereignty of the Republic of Latvia.
On January 20, 2007, at the spot where in January 1991 barricades out of concrete blocks and stones were erected by the people and to protect the entrance to the Saeima building, a memorial to the 1991 Barricades (designed by Sandro Čaidze, Oskars Ruklis and Einārs Kvilis) was erected. It is a concrete pyramid placed on a round plinth, which serves as an altar for the placement of flowers. The memorial contains the names of the patriots who in 1991 lost their lives supporting Latvia’s freedom and independence: Andris Slapiņš, Gvido Zvaigzne, Vladimirs Gomanovičš, Sergejs Konoņenko, Edijs Riekstiņš, Ilgvars Grieziņš, Raimonds Salmiņš and Roberts Mūrnieks.