Spilve Airport in Riga

One of the most impressive socialist realism buildings in Riga

Spilve Airport, can be found on the outskirts of the city, today housing Riga Aviation museum and still being used by some aviation enthusiasts.

Spilve Airport in Riga
Spilve Airport interior – national romantic meets socialist realism

Spilve’s meadows in Iļguciems, Pārdaugava were used for mostly military planes already during the First world War and soon after the war a passenger airport was built, but didn’t last long, because it was destroyed in German air raids on 22nd of June, 1941, more than a week before the Nazis entered city of Riga. The same faith awaited the rebuilt airport in 1944 when Soviet troops were advancing and only after the Second World War it could be again turned into the biggest passenger airport in Latvia.

After the WWII Latvia became part of Soviet Union and most of the important public buildings and structures up to 1955 were constructed in the so called Soviet neoclassicism(sometimes referred to as Stalin’s Baroque) – Science Academy and Stone Bridge just to name a few. Spilve Airport was no exception and this 1954 building is probably one of the most lavish of it’s era. 2 years after Stalin’s death the Communist Party changed their policies towards architecture and the decorated and very expensive post-war buildings were replaced by prefabricated modernist attempts of building the future city.

One thing less observed in other places is the meltdown of Soviet symbols and Latvian folklore ornaments in the decorations and wall murals. Happy Latvians, fully dressed for a folklore event, holding Soviet flags. Hammer and sickle side by side with Jumis and other centuries old Latvian writings. The aviation museum has thrown in some inter-war period aviation posters with the fire cross to get you completely buffled.

All this and the possibility to go back in time to the 1950s make this a good half day out to a place that once was one of the biggest Soviet airports in their western territories. Things did change drastically after 1975 when Riga International Airport was built and Spilve was neglected, but otherwise it’s hard to imagine it would have stayed frozen in time.