THE DEVIL OF IĻGUCIEMS. A post-soviet urban legend of Riga still alive!

Elusive to most residents, there is a deterrent yet nonlethal monster seemingly roaming in one of Riga's post-soviet commuter districts. We celebrate the annual Walpurgis night of witches, oculists and teenage goths by revealing the story of one of the most known contemporary urban myths of the capital.

Recently there even was an episode on the national television dedicated to the "achievements" of this urban myth. ("Ielas garumā", 2019).


Long gone are the times when Riga only had urban mythology within Old Town. Surrounded by mostly medieval legends we already wrote about, the historic part of the city could not offer anything else but people built into walls, some ghosts not ghostly enough and things none could encounter any more.

Instead, places outside the old part suffer from the sort-of post-soviet urbanitis - the landscape of concrete blocks, corncobs and other socialist districts are an aching pain to local guides, storytellers and some old-school neighbourhood enthusiasts. In their point of view, all this is a damaged goods to the romanticized value existing only within the lost, the aristocratic, the pre-war, or the non-soviet. Whereas younger generations are not afraid of looking the truth in the eye and finding stories that scratch a more contemporary itch.



During the Soviet times, there was no place for any myths rather than the ones regarding political figures and historic events. Yet people's imagination is hard to curb. Eventually, with many decades in silence, the urban folklore of mystical, unimaginable creatures, incidents or occurrences returned by the end of 1970s. One of the longest living mythological critters from the Soviet era is the Iļģuciema velns or THE DEVIL OF IĻĢUCIEMS!

Sometimes called the duce, dog-man or ogre-dog, this illusive creature has been "observed" throughout decades in a post-soviet neighbourhood that accidentally, somewhat ironically, bears the name of "Iļģi village", or an old synonym for Latvian "Veļi" - the passing spirits of the dead.

Slim and dark in stature, some 2 - 4 m tall, with glowing eyes and overly long extremities, Iļģuciema velns usually apprehended random passers-by, usually kids or teenagers. Several witnesses state the deuce appearing to them when silently standing by a tree or house entrance, sitting on the roof of buildings or creeping in the shadows.

Several sightings with written or spoken testimonies took place in the timespan between the 1980s and 2000s. Through decades the shape and deeds of Iļguciema velns continued to develop, beginning with extra fangs, ending with tendencies of child abduction.

Despite public inactivity for the last 10 years or so (midlife crisis?), the existence of this phantom has fuelled several artistic expressions instead. Of of them was a theatre play "Rīga. Urban Myths" by director Mārcis Lācis and writer Jānis Joņevs in 2016 where the story of Iļguciema velns appeared as one of the main plots. There is also a song by the Latvian progressive metal band "Oghre", who dedicated it entirely to Iļguciema velns.



Should you feel the calling of Van Helsing, we even drew a map of the approximate area where The Deuce of Iļģuciems might be residing. The red dots mark all recorded places where it might have been encountered*. Let the search for the phantom of suburban Riga begin!

iļguciema velns, capital r, mārtiņš eņģelis, capital riga


*none of this is most likely true.