Latvian Ruins No 5

Obviously war is destructive, but anyone who recalls the Soviet military withdrawal from Latvia in the 1990s knows that even when they leave of their own accord, soldiers can leave behind a big mess.

On Ezermalas iela, right at the gates of Riga’s fancy Mežaparks neighbourhood is a different world altogether in the form of a long-abandoned Soviet military site. Enter through sagging gates still bearing Red Star emblems in the metalwork to find Czarist-era neo-classical barracks and glass-strewn brick reminders of the Empire version 2.0.

A municipal police van cruises unhurriedly and alertly around the town, suggesting life does go on here, and judging by the graffiti “Fuck da police” the conflict is a bitter one. But other messages such as “CSDD sucks” – a negative remark about Latvia’s roads and traffic department – indicate that the bile of the local anarchists may be directed against a wide array of state oppressors. Maybe someone’s car didn’t get through inspection.

Next door is Riga Technical University’s Faculty of Machine Building, but nothing shows that the technically pragmatic guys are bothered by their (non) neighbours. Maybe they should add a department from the Academy of Culture, because the scope for raves, happenings and freaky theatre performances is only limited by one’s imagination.