Uzvaras (Victory) Park is the biggest green area in Pardaugava (Left Bank). It is located just a couple of tram stops from Old Riga, or a short walk across the Akmens (Stone) Bridge and Uzvaras Boulevard.
Spacious and airy, the landscape park spans over the territory of about 37 hectares, being divided into two parts by the road that leads further into the heart of Agenskalns. Although the name of the park suggests that it was created during the Soviet times, in fact it was laid out in 1909-10, during the flourishing times of George Armitstead, most famous of Riga mayors. Initially called Peter’s Park after Peter the Great, it was created to commemorate 200 years since Riga became part of the Russian Empire.
The park has lived through various changes throughout turbulent years of the first half of the 20th century, but it never lost its original idea of being somewhat a symbol of state power. Well, maybe except for the “force majeure” times of both World Wars, when city dwellers were spontaneously adopting the area for their small vegetable gardens…
First Latvian president Karlis Ulmanis wanted to transform the park into a huge sports complex and a parade square, willing to surpass the Berlin Olympic Complex. As known, he has fell short in time, however it was during his government that the park has got its current name.
In Soviet times the park was reconstructed to its present shape, with large pond, numerous lawns and groups of rare tree species. Although the idea of sports complex floated around again, it was never brought into reality due to lack of funds. In 1985 the Monument to the Liberators of Riga from Fascism was erected. Giant statues of Motherland and War-liberators stand under the 79-metre high obelisk; five stars on top of the obelisk symbolise five years of WWII.
Soviet past turned out to be a very sensitive topic in modern Latvia, and Victory Monument has equally become the subject of controversy. With annual celebration of the V-Day on the 9th May at the foot of the monument and an attempt of blowing it up in 1997 or officially remove it, unity of the nations is still a long way off in Latvia…
A perfect cure from many discords is sport, and here, in Uzvaras Park, it works really well. In summer the park gets crowded with joggers, cyclists, skaters and rollers training their skills on smooth asphalt tracks laid out in smaller and bigger circles. No matter if winter comes with snow, thanks to snow cannon a 1250-metre long track awaits skiers of all ages throughout the season; skies rental is at your disposal too. If the decorative pond around the monument gets frozen – even better, then hockey matches between local teams take place whenever the opportunity presents. Add a stadium and a football field just across the street, and you’ll see that the idea of turning Victory Park into an abode of sports (so cherished by previous regimes) is finally taking shape today. Mens sana in corpore sano!