The lovely Art Nouveau building in center of the Latvian capital of Riga is actually a former KGB headquarters known as The Corner House, where political prisoners would be taken and subject to torture and worse.
The city of Riga came under Soviet control in 1940, and the brutal new leaders brought with them the dreaded KGB secret police. Setting up shop in the Corner House, a secretive headquarters in the middle of the city, the KGB began summoning people to uncertain fates within the depths of the building. “Undesirable Elements” could be picked up for crimes as small as having “anti-Soviet conversations” or “instigating panic.” Many of the people captured by the KGB were executed in a killing area in the basement of the Corner House. Still others were crammed into cells with dozens of other prisoners, and made to sweat and go mad with thirst as the basement was kept at around 85 degrees.
When the Nazis drove the Soviets out of Riga during World War II, they opened the doors of the secretive house to garner trust from the population by showing them the horrors the Soviets had created. After the war, the Germans left the country and the Soviets came right back, continuing the secret police practices as they had before.
Latvia finally regained its independence in 1991, and the Corner House was simply closed off so that the country could move on. In 2012 some of the space was reopened as a museum and visitors can now see first hand, the secretive headquarters of the brutal KGB. Most of the official documents are still kept hidden away, but just being able to see the location itself is a haunting reminder of a dark period in the city’s history.
Update January 2019: The museum is closed for reconstruction until spring 2019.
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