Simon Bell (Estonian University of Life Sciences);
Olgerts Nikodemus (University of Latvia);
Zanda Peneze (University of Latvia);
Imants Kruze (University of Latvia)
Soviet Era Landscape Change and the Post-Soviet Legacy in Latvia
The collectivisation of agriculture and the development and application of land improvement “melioration” programmemes and technologies, as well as the construction of kolkhoz centres during the Soviet era in Latvia was extensive and has a legacy on the post-Soviet landscape and agricultural economy. A study of a number of rural municipalities in different landscape types, through the comparison of maps from the early 20th century with those from around 2000, and one example with maps from the 1960s and 1990s, together with field work, revealed the degree of change that had taken place. In particular, there was a significant increase in forest – despite the kolkhoz system being targeted at increasing agricultural outputs, a reduction in the number of farmsteads – in some places this was a result of land battles in the Second World war – and a concentration of residences in villages and widespread drainage of marshes, wetlands and wetter forest. Village centres with concentrations of blocks of flats, storage sheds and industrial units were developed. After 1991 and the restitution of land to the original owners or their descendants, large numbers of kolkhoz agricultural buildings, old estate buildings and some residential blocks became redundant and abandoned. Some of the farmland was also abandoned. The sampled areas show different amounts of landscape change and all showed large numbers of ruined buildings scattered around the area. The question of what to do with these, many of which are robbed of anything useful, vandalised and possibly causing pollution remains open, even after 25 or more years.