Activists in Riga already have their hands full finding new life for its disused city center buildings, where over 500 properties are officially designated as “environment degrading objects.” But that’s nothing compared to the task of upgrading the under-maintained Soviet “microrayons” (micro-districts) which currently house most of the city’s population. Convincing the Latvian capital that there are benefits to organized cooperation, with all the Soviet baggage that hangs around that notion, might be an even bigger challenge.
The Soviet Union occupied Latvia from 1940 to 1991, a period remembered for mass deportations, arrests, and executions. Many Russians migrated to Latvia during the occupation, often to work in factories producing military goods and electronics as Riga became an important hub of Soviet manufacturing. The USSR, as it did throughout its occupied territories, built microrayons outside of Riga’s city center. Many of these are still standing long after their intended 50-year life expectancy and now house 68 percent of the city’s population.