The Destinies of Artworks in the ‘Legal’ Plunder of Riga’s Apartments (1944–1948) Cover Image
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Mākslas darbu likteņi Rīgas dzīvokļu „likumīgajā” izlaupīšanā (1944–1948)
The Destinies of Artworks in the ‘Legal’ Plunder of Riga’s Apartments (1944–1948)

Author(s): Jānis Kalnačs
Subject(s): Fine Arts / Performing Arts
Published by: Mākslas vēstures pētījumu atbalsta fonds
Keywords: Art collections; Soviet occupation; legal plunder

Summary/Abstract: Interest in the events which began in Riga in autumn 1944 still before the end of World War II emerged because the information on some artwork from a private collection many times had come to an end abruptly with the return of the Soviet occupation. As the Red Army approached Latvia in 1944, about one to two hundred thousands of inhabitants left their homeland; they fled both voluntarily, reasonably fearing Soviet repressions, and influenced by the propaganda and coercion of Nazi Germany. Residents left their properties and possessions, ranging from estates and houses to personal belongings, taking only the dearest valuables – children, documents, jewellery and sometimes also artworks. Many would have heard a sad story about great grandparents or more distant relatives who had their apartment in Riga, a house in some Latvian town or a farmstead in the countryside which had been abandoned as the frontline approached; when they returned after some time, most valuable things were missing or the property had been badly looted. A separate story concerns the plundering by discharged Soviet soldiers, former partisans and runaways in Riga who looted the ‘socialist property’ and damaged ‘the Soviet authority’; in some cases they got sentenced. But this article is focused on what happened on a perfectly legal basis in Latvia under the Soviet occupation to belongings, including artworks, left in Riga’s apartments in the last war months and first post-war years. It is an attempt to understand how the Soviet authorities took over Rigans’ apartments and to follow the destinies of belongings from some residences. Laws and regulations of the USSR strictly determined what should be done in the reoccupied Latvia and in what manner. Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic arrested the possessions of 11 300 persons as unclaimed property worth of 30 millions of roubles; Rigans’ property was assessed at 24 millions. There were about fifteen thousands of apartments arrested as unclaimed property in Riga alone. The process of its ‘realisation’, whose deadlines in 1945 and 1946 were postponed mostly because of the large amount of work, dragged on till 1948, actually merging with the confiscation and realisation of the properties whose owners were deported to Syberia in spring 1949.

  • Issue Year: 2014
  • Issue No: 17
  • Page Range: 27-35
  • Page Count: 5
  • Language: Latvian