Spanish marines landed on the Baltic coast for the first time during this year’s BALTOPS exercises. Choosing an uncanny location not too far from Riga, the Spaniards weren’t the only bearded people on the beach.
Peeking through tree-lined dunes, the usual residents of the colourful encampment observed the heavy armour, scores of troops, and landing craft approach Lilaste beach.
Local Latvians know the beach to be synonymous with nudist camping, but more importantly – mysterious shamans. On the day, several people draped in scarves observed the amphibious operations unfolding in front of the brightly-dyed fabric flags hoisted atop trees.
The so-called shamans first appeared on Lilaste beach in 2002, inspired by the Russian artist and self-declared ‘Shaman’, Maxim Zolotukhin. According to the Latvian media, in 2015 someone attempted to burn down the site, and in 2018, the local municipality tried to close it down.
Regardless, the coloured tree trunks with symbols, flags and curious people remained part of BALTOPS in 2019.
“This beach is a whole dune kingdom with an amazing and sophisticated ecosystem, but above all, full of shamanic spirits,” Zolotukhin’s writing are previously quoted by the Latvian press.
In June 2019, the Spanish marines pierced the dunes with their armoured, amphibious Armtrac vehicles before departing for the Ādaži training ground nearby.
The Latvian Ministry of Defence did not return a comment in time for publication.
The so-called Shaman beach in Latvia