The Freedom Monument (Latvian: Brīvības piemineklis) is a memorial located in Riga, Latvia honoring soldiers killed during the Latvian War of Independence (1918–1920). It is considered an important symbol of the freedom, independence, and sovereignty of Latvia. Unveiled in 1935, the 42-metre (138 ft) high monument of granite, travertine, and copper often serves as the focal point of public gatherings and official ceremonies in Riga.
The sculptures and bas-reliefs of the monument, arranged in thirteen groups, depict Latvian culture and history. The core of the monument is composed of tetragonal shapes on top of each other, decreasing in size towards the top, completed by a 19-metre (62 ft) high travertine column bearing the copper figure of Liberty lifting three gilded stars. The concept for the monument first emerged in the early 1920s when the Latvian Prime Minister, Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics, ordered rules to be drawn up for a contest for designs of a "memorial column". After several contests the monument was finally built at the beginning of the 1930s according to the scheme "Shine like a star!" submitted by Latvian sculptor Kārlis Zāle. Construction works were financed by private donations.
Following Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940 Latvia was annexed by the Soviet Union and the Freedom Monument was considered for demolition, but no such move was carried out. Soviet sculptor Vera Mukhina (who was born in Riga) is sometimes credited for rescuing the monument, because she considered it to be of the high artistic value. Soviet propaganda attempted to alter the symbolic meaning of the monument to better fit with Communist ideology, but it remained a symbol of national independence to the general public. Indeed, on June 14, 1987 about 5,000 people gathered at the monument to commemorate the victims of the Soviet regime and to lay flowers. This rally renewed the national independence movement, which culminated three years later in the re-establishment of Latvian sovereignty after the fall of the Soviet regime.
The sculptures and bas-reliefs of the Freedom Monument, arranged in thirteen groups, depict Latvian culture and history. The core of the monument is composed of tetragonal shapes on top of each other, decreasing in size towards the top. A red granite staircase of ten steps, 1.8 metres (5.9 ft) in height, winds around the base of the monument between two travertine reliefs 1.7 metres (5.6 ft) high and 4.5 metres (15 ft) wide, "Latvian riflemen" (13; Latvian: Latviešu strēlnieki) and "Latvian people: the Singers" (14; Latvian: Latvju tauta – dziedātāja), which decorate its 3 metres (9.8 ft) thick sides. Two additional steps form a round platform, which is 28 metres (92 ft) in diameter, on which the whole monument stands. At the front of the monument this platform forms a rectangle, which is used for ceremonial proposes. The base of the monument, also made of red granite, is formed by two rectangular blocks: the lower one is a monolithic 3.5 metres (11 ft) high, 9.2 metres (30 ft) wide and 11 metres (36 ft) long, while the smaller upper block is 3.5 metres (11 ft) high, 8.5 metres (28 ft) wide and 10 metres (33 ft) long and has round niches in its corners, each containing a sculptural group of three figures. Its sides are also paneled with travertine. On the front of the monument, in between the groups "Work" (10; depicting a fisherman, a craftsman and a farmer, who stands in the middle holding a scythe decorated with oak leaves and acorns to symbolize strength and manhood) and "Guards of the Fatherland" (9; depicting an ancient Latvian warrior standing between two kneeling modern soldiers), a dedication by the Latvian writer Kārlis Skalbe is inscribed on one of the travertine panels: For Fatherland and Freedom (6; Latvian: Tēvzemei un Brīvībai). On the sides the travertine panels bear two reliefs: "1905" (7; Latvian: 1905.gads in reference to the Russian Revolution of 1905), and "The Battle against the Bermontians on the Iron Bridge" (8; Latvian: Cīņa pret bermontiešiem uz Dzelzs tilta, referring to the decisive battle in Riga during the Latvian War of Independence). On the back of the monument are another two sculptural groups: "Family" (12; Latvian: Ģimene) (a mother standing between her two children) and "Scholars" (11; Latvian: Gara darbinieki). On the red granite base there is yet another rectangular block, 6 metres (20 ft) high and wide, and 7.5 metres (25 ft) long, encircled by four 5.5–6 meters (18–20 ft) high gray granite sculptural groups: "Latvia" (2; Latvian: Latvija), "Lāčplēsis" (3; English: Bear-Slayer, an epic Latvian folk hero), "Vaidelotis" (5; a Baltic pagan priest) and "Chain breakers" (4; Latvian: Važu rāvēji) (three chained men trying to break free from their chains).