walkscape Riga
The russian outskirts
Posted on December 28, 2017

Once you have crossed the huge hangars of the Central market, behind the former brick warehouse, a tower made of yellow stone blocks stands majestically in front of a little park. It is the Academy of Sciences, cheerfully know as Soviet wedding cake by the people. The younger sister of the ones in Moscow and Warsaw, it was a gift from the Mother Russia to the city. This is one of the reasons why the neighborhood is called Moscow District. In fact, the real name of the district is Maskavas Forstate, which in Latvian means Moscow suburb.

The tower looms on the humble district, marked by buildings blackened by smoke and dust. Furthermore, a great number of wooden houses highlight the simplicity of this working-class neighborhood. Close to the tower, in a park, some ruins emerge from the ground. Pieces of brick walls define the perimeter. So this is what' left of the old Riga synagogue. Jewish symbols label the destroyed building, the last trace of the old ghetto, disappeared during the WWII.

Maskavas Forstate is also and above all a concentrate of religious faiths. No wonder it is possible to glimpse and in some cases visit a variety of churches, whose colourful domes and golden crosses identify the orthodox faith. A further element which justifies the name of the district.

Although it may seem foolish, apparently, the majority of people here speak Russian. This is demonstrated by taking a walk within the most famous flea market of the country: the Latgalite market. Hidden between the houses, a quite big forecourt with a gross aspect, host a long series of stands. It is not too crowded, certainly, it can't be considered as the perfect place for tourists and often is known as a pickpocketing place. Of course, the atmosphere doesn't seem to be so safe and the sellers don't seem willing to be familiar with.

The space between the stands is pretty narrow and the objects are piled waiting to fall down. The majority of the goods offered, seem to be mostly tools or electrical spare parts as well as obsolete junk, pottery, dolls, deer antlers and fake CDs. As in any respectable flea market, the antiques cannot fail. plywood panels and plastic boxes host Soviet pins and coins, evidence of a bygone era. Maybe not in this district.
Kalashnikov and rocket launcher can't be seen, as the legend says, probably you have to be in that sort of things. The market, as well as the district, is a place where is easy to listen people speaking Russian and not Latvian as the rest of the city. This situation, result of historical reasons, is already rooted in the Middle Age when Russians and Jewish were forced to live outside the city. Apparently, over the centuries, things haven't changed much and still today a strong impatience between Latvian and Russian exist.

It only takes a few steps to try to understand the soul of this district, which definitely has nothing impressive. But, for sure, is the protector of a kind of reality that is still substantially linked to a distant and fallen past. Maskavas Forstate is probably one of the last places in which a sense of belonging to the Mother Russia still remains, with all its controversy and hypocrisy.