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Latvijas Republika
Republic of Latvia
Flag of Latvia Coat of arms of Latvia
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: For Fatherland and Freedom (Latvian: Tēvzemei un Brīvībai)
Anthem: Dievs, svētī Latviju!
Location of Latvia
Capital Riga
56°58′ N 24°8′ E
Largest city Riga
Official language(s) Latvian
Government
President
Prime Minister
Parliamentary democracy
Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga
Aigars Kalvītis
Independence
Declared
Recognized
From the Soviet Union
May 4, 1990
August 21, 1991
Area
• Total

• Water (%)

64,589 km² ( 123rd)
{{{areami²}}} mi²

1.5%%
Population
• 2005 est.
• [[As of |]] census

• Density

2,290,237 ( 138th)

35/km² ( 137th)
{{{population_densitymi²}}}/mi²
GDP ( PPP)
• Total
• Per capita
2005 estimate
,420,000,000 ( 95th)
,800 ( 55th)
HDI ( 2003) 0.836 ( 48th) – high
Currency Lats (Ls) ( LVL)
Time zone
• Summer ( DST)
EET ( UTC+2)
EEST ( UTC+3)
Internet TLD .lv
Calling code +371
The Republic of Latvia ( Latvian: Latvijas Republika) is a country in Northern Europe. Latvia has land borders with its two fellow Baltic states — Estonia to the north and Lithuania to the south — and Russia and Belarus to the east. In the west, Latvia shares a maritime border with Sweden. The capital of Latvia is Riga ( Latvian: Rīga).

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Contents

History
Politics
Districts
Geography
Economy
Religion
Demographics
Language
Sports
International rankings
Topics of Interest
Accomplishments



History - Contents

The ancestors of today's Latvians were Finnic and Baltic peoples whose forebears had settled in the area prior to the 2nd millennium BC. They formed five principal tribes between the 5th and 8th century AD: the Finnic Livonian, the Baltic Couronians, Semigallians, Selonians, and Latgalians. The period between the 9th and 12th centuries was characterized by conflict and trade with the Scandinavians and Slavs, the Daugava becoming a major Viking trade route.The arrival of Saxon traders and Catholic missionaries in the 12th century invited the Northern Crusades. Riga, built on the site of a Livonian settlement, became the seat of the bishopric of Albert of Buxhoeveden in 1201. It took the better part of the 13th century to conquer the surrounding territories. Increasing social and political barriers between the Germans and the indigenous inhabitants gradually reduced the latter to a servant and peasant class, and by the beginning of the 16th century all of the peasants were serfs, bound to the land as chattel. In the towns, property ownership and most trades were prohibited to non-Germans ( German: Undeutsche). Though the indigenous population lost its freedom, what is now Latvia became part of Western Europe culturally. Despite the worsening geopolitical situation in the 16th century, political power in the Livonian Confederation was never centralized and remained divided between the archbishoprics, the Livonian Order, and the Hanseatic towns. Livonia, especially Riga, was at the forefront of the Protestant Reformation. Ivan the Terrible, anxious to gain access to the Baltic Sea, invaded in 1558. Livonia turned to Zygmunt II August, the King of Poland, for aid, and the Confederation was dissolved. Zygmunt declared the territory north of the Daugava (today Latgale, Vidzeme, and southern Estonia) the Ducatus Ultradunensis; most of the left bank became the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, a fief of Lithuania that retained control over its internal affairs.In the Ducatus Ultradunensis, Stefan Batory introduced the Counter-Reformation, strongly resisted in Riga; Jesuits made major contributions to Latvian education, and the first printing press was established. The German nobility retained its privileges. The 17th and early 18th century saw a struggle between Poland, Sweden and Russia for supremacy in the eastern Baltic. Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden took Riga in 1621, and the larger part of Polish Livonia, including Vidzeme, came under Swedish rule with the Truce of Altmark in 1629. The term "Swedish era" ( Latvian: zviedru laiki) is still synonomous with benefic rule; though serfdom was not abolished, it was strictly regulated and a network of schools was established for the peasantry. The Treaty of Nystad ending the Great Northern War in 1721 gave Vidzeme to Russia (it became part of the guberniya of Livland). The Latgale region remained part of Poland as Inflanty until 1772, when it was joined to Russia. In the Duchy of Courland, a German minority of ca. 4% ruled an indigenous majority of 80%. Courland became known as a "paradise of the nobles," though the code granting privileges to the German nobility declared the country a "social paradise." Courland became a Russian province (the guberniya of Courland) in 1795, bringing all of what is now Latvia into Imperial Russia.The promises Peter the Great made to the Baltic German nobility at the fall of Riga in 1710, confirmed by the Treaty of Nystad and known as "the Capitulations," largely reversed the Swedish reforms. The emancipation of the serfs took place in Courland in 1817 and in Livland in 1819. In practice, the emancipation was actually advantageous to the nobility because it dispossessed the peasants of their land without compensation. At the beginning of the 19th century, 7% of the population was urban, this portion rising to 40% by its close. The population grew from ca. 720 000 persons to almost two million by the end of the century, the proportion of indigenous inhabitants falling from ca. 90% to 68%. The social structure changed dramatically, with a class of independent farmers establishing itself after reforms allowed the peasants to repurchase their land, landless peasants numbering 591 000 in 1897, a growing urban proletariat and an increasingly influential Latvian bourgeoisie. The Young Latvia movement lay the groundwork for nationalism from the middle of the century, many of its leaders looking to the Slavophiles for support against the prevailing German-dominated social order. Russification began in Latgale after the January Uprising in 1863 and spread to the rest of what is now Latvia by the 1880s. The Young Latvians were largely eclipsed by the New Current, a broad leftist social and political movement, in the 1890s. Popular discontent exploded in the 1905 Revolution, which took on a nationalist character in the Baltic provinces. World War I devastated the country. Demands for self-determination were at first confined to autonomy ("a free Latvia in a free Russia"), but full independence was proclaimed in Riga on November 18, 1918 by the People's Council of Latvia, Kārlis Ulmanis becoming the head of the provisional government. The War of Liberation that followed was a very chaotic period in Latvia's history. By the spring of 1919 there were actually three governments -- Ulmanis' government, which concluded an agreement with the Germans and was supported by Great Britain; the Iskolat led by Pēteris Stučka, which proclaimed an independent Soviet Latvia and whose forces, supported by the Red Army, occupied almost all of the country; and the Baltic German puppet government headed by Andrievs Niedra. Estonian and Latvian forces defeated the Germans at the Battle of Cēsis in June 1919, and a massive attack by a German and Russian force under Pavel Bermondt-Avalov was repelled in November. Eastern Latvia was cleared of Bolshevik forces by Polish, Latvian, and German troops in early 1920.A freely elected Constituent Assembly was convened on May 1, 1920 and adopted a liberal constitution, the Satversme, in February 1922 — suspended by Ulmanis after his coup in 1934 but reaffirmed in 1990 and since amended, this is the constitution still in use in Latvia today. The Satversme declares that power is vested in the people of Latvia (Latvijas tauta -- rather than the Latvian people, latviešu tauta), and minorities received considerable cultural autonomy. With most of Latvia's industrial base evacuated to the interior of Russia in 1915, radical land reform was the central political question for the young state. In 1897, 61.2% of the rural population had owned land; by 1930 that percentage had been reduced to 23.2%. The extent of cultivated land surpassed the pre-war level already in 1923. Innovation and rising productivity led to the GNP per capita approaching Finland's level by 1930, but the economy soon suffered the effects of the Great Depression. Though Latvia showed signs of economic recovery and the electorate had steadily moved toward the center during the parliamentary period, Ulmanis staged a bloodless coup on May 15, 1934, establishing a nationalist dictatorship that lasted until the USSR occupied the country. Most of the Baltic Germans left Latvia by agreement between Ulmanis' government and Nazi Germany after the conclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and Latvia was illegally annexed to the Soviet Union as the Latvian SSR on August 5, 1940.The ensuing months would become known in Latvia as Baigais Gads, the Year of Horror. Mass arrests, disappearances, and deportations culminated on the night of June 14, 1941. Prior to the German invasion, in less than a year, at least 27 586 persons were arrested; most were deported, and ca. 945 persons were shot. While under German occupation, Latvia was administered as part of Reichskommissariat Ostland. Latvian paramilitary units and police participated in the Holocaust. 80 000 to 100 000 Latvian citizens were killed during the Nazi occupation, including ca. 70 000 Latvian Jews; ca. 20 000 Jews brought from Central and Eastern Europe were also murdered in Latvia. Latvian soldiers fought on both sides of the conflict, including in the Latvian Legion of the Waffen-SS, most of them conscripted by the occupying authorities.The Soviets reoccupied the country in 1944-45, and further mass deportations followed as the country was forcibly collectivized and Sovietized; 42 975 persons were deported in 1949. An influx of laborers, administrators, military personnel and their dependents from Russia and other Soviet republics meant that the ethnic Latvian population had fallen to 62% by 1959. During the Khrushchev Thaw, attempts by national communists led by Eduards Berklavs to gain a degree of autonomy for the republic and protect the rapidly deteriorating position of the Latvian language were suppressed. A national movement coalescing in the Popular Front of Latvia took advantage of glasnost under Mikhail Gorbachev, opposed by the Interfront, and on May 4, 1990 the Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR adopted the the Declaration of the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia, subject to a transition period that came to an end on August 21 1991, after the failure of the August Putsch. The Saeima, Latvia's parliament, was again elected in 1993, and Russia completed its military withdrawal in 1994.In the 1990s and early 21st century, Latvia focused on "rejoining Europe"; its two major goals, NATO and European Union membership, were achieved in 2004. Controversial language and citizenship laws (Latvian is the sole official language and citizenship was not automatically extended to those who arrived during the Soviet era or their descendants) have been opposed by many Russophones. Though many residents are naturalizing since the law was liberalized, almost 18,5% of the inhabitants remain non-citizens today. The government denationalized private property confiscated by the Soviets, returning it or compensating the owners when that was not possible, and privatized most state-owned industries, reintroducing the prewar currency. After a difficult transition to a liberal economy and its re-orientation toward Western Europe, Latvia still has the lowest standard of living in the EU, though its economy has one of the highest growth rates.


Politics - Contents

Map of Latvia with cities
Map of Latvia with cities
Ingrīda Ūdre - Speaker of Saeima, the Latvian parliament
Ingrīda Ūdre - Speaker of Saeima, the Latvian parliament
The 100-seat unicameral Latvian parliament, the Saeima, is elected by direct, popular vote every four years. The president is elected by the Saeima in a separate election also every four years. The president invites a prime minister who, together with his cabinet, forms the executive branch of the government, which has to receive a confidence vote by the Saeima.On September 20, 2003, in a nationwide referendum 66.9% of the participants voted in favour of joining the European Union. Latvia became a full-fledged member of the European Union on May 1, 2004. Latvia is a NATO member since March 29, 2004.Latvia has no territorial claims towards Russia, but demands an acknowledgement from Russia of the annexation of the small part of Abrene region, since this land was previously part of Latvia and was detached from it by the Soviet Union. At the same time Latvia is considering to require monetary compensation from Russia for the Soviet occupation. A special government commission has calculated the amount of 100 billion USD in losses caused to Latvia by its incorporation into the Soviet Union, however, no official demands yet for Russia to provide compensation have been made by the Latvian government.


Districts - Contents

Latvia is divided into 26 districts called rajons. 7 cities (lielpilsētas) have a separate status.
  • Aizkraukle District
  • Alūksne District
  • Balvi District
  • Bauska District
  • Cēsis District
  • Daugavpils
  • Daugavpils District
  • Dobele District
  • Gulbene District
  • Jēkabpils District
  • Jelgava
  • Jelgava District
  • Jūrmala
  • Krāslava District
  • Kuldīga District
  • Liepāja
  • Liepāja District
  • Limbaži District
  • Ludza District
  • Madona District
  • Ogre District
  • Preiļi District
  • Rēzekne
  • Rēzekne District
  • Riga
  • Riga District
  • Saldus District
  • Talsi District
  • Tukums District
  • Valka District
  • Valmiera District
  • Ventspils
  • Ventspils District
  • Abrene region, annexed to Russia during WWII;
    its status is disputed by Latvia.
Daugavpils, 1912
Daugavpils, 1912
Sigulda New Castle, Latvia
Sigulda New Castle, Latvia
Train station at Grobiņa, Latvia
Train station at Grobiņa, Latvia
Doma laukums (main church's square) in Riga
Doma laukums (main church's square) in Riga
Old Believers' church from the front, Rēzekne, Latvia
Old Believers' church from the front, Rēzekne, Latvia
Early 1920s photo of Rēzekne
Early 1920s photo of Rēzekne
Town Hall Square and "Guild of Blackheads" House, Riga
Town Hall Square and "Guild of Blackheads" House, Riga



Geography - Contents

Large parts of Latvia are covered by forests, and the country has over 12,000 small rivers and over 3,000 lakes. Most of the country consists of fertile, low-lying plains with some hills in the east, the highest point being the Gaiziņkalns at 311 m.An inlet of the Baltic Sea, the shallow Gulf of Riga is situated in the northwest of the country. The capital city Riga is located on the shores of this inlet, where the River Daugava flows into it. Other major cities include Daugavpils further upriver and Liepāja along the Baltic coast.The Latvian climate is maritime and temperate in nature, with cool summers and wet, moderate winters.Latvia is historically and culturally divided in four or five distinct regions, see regions of Latvia.


Economy - Contents

Since year 2000 Latvia has had one of the highest GDP growth rates in Europe [1]. In 2004, annual GDP growth was 8.5% and inflation was 6.2%. Unemployment was 8.5% - almost unchanged compared to the previous two years. Privatization is mostly completed, except for some of the large state-owned utilities. Latvia is a member of the World Trade Organisation ( 1999) and the European Union ( 2004).The Latvian government aspires to adopt the euro as the country's currency on January 1, 2008


Religion - Contents

The population is mostly Christian. The largest group being Lutheran (556 000, according to 2003 data), with smaller percentages Roman Catholic (430 405) and Eastern Orthodox (350 000). Another religion is Dievturi (The Godkeepers), which has historical roots based on pre-Christian era mythology. There are also Jews (9883 in 2005) in Latvia who are now mainly a remainder from the Soviet Union, as during World War II the Jewish Community (according to the last official census in 1935 there were 93,479 Jews in the country, or approximately 5% of the total population) was annihilated.


Demographics - Contents

Latvia's population has been multiethnic for centuries, though the demographics shifted dramatically in the 20th century due to the world wars, the repatriation of the Baltic Germans, the Holocaust, and the Soviet occupation.In 1897 the first official census in this area indicated that Latvians formed 68.3 % of the total population of 1.93 million; Russians accounted for 12%, Jews for 7.4 %, Germans for 6.2 %, and Poles for 3.4 %. The remainder were Lithuanians, Estonians, Gypsies, and various other nationalities. Latvians and Livonians, the indigenous peoples of Latvia, are now less than 60% of the population; 28.5% of the inhabitants are Russian. [2]. Ca. 54% of the ethnic Russians are citizens of Latvia; most of the others are permanent residents with Latvian aliens' passports. Like others who arrived whilst Latvia was illegally annexed by the USSR, and their descendants, they must naturalize to receive Latvian citizenship. Over 100 000 persons have naturalized in recent years, but 418 440 persons (278 213 of them ethnic Russians) are non-citizens. Children born to residents after the restoration of independence in 1991 do not require naturalization to obtain citizenship.In some major cities (e.g. Daugavpils and Rēzekne), Russians outnumber Latvians. Minorities from other countries such as Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, etc., also live in Latvia. The share of ethnic Latvians had fallen from 77% (1,467,035) in 1935 to 52% (1,387,757) in 1989. [3]. In 2005 there were even fewer Latvians than in 1989, though their share of the population was larger - 1,357,099 (58.8% of the inhabitants).


Language - Contents

The official language of the Republic of Latvia is Latvian. The Latvian language, like Lithuanian and the extinct Old Prussian language, belongs to the Baltic language group of the Indo-european language family. Russian is by far the most widespread minority language, also spoken or at least understood by large sections of non-Russian population. The Latgalian language is widespread in Latgale (most linguists consider Latgalian a dialect of the Latvian language).


Sports - Contents

Latvia has a professional football and hockey league. Latvia's football league is named the Latvian football Virsliga.Latvian hockey team has participated in 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics and all Ice Hockey World Championships since its entry in group A in 1997. Its best result was the 7th place in 1997 and 2004 World Championships. Ice Hockey World Championships will take place in Riga in year 2006.


International rankings - Contents

  • Environmental Sustainability Index 2005 Rank 15 out of all countries
  • Reporters Without Borders world-wide press freedom index 2005: Rank 16 out of 167 countries



Topics of Interest - Contents

  • Communications in Latvia
  • Foreign relations of Latvia
  • Holidays in Latvia
  • Latvijas Skautu un Gaidu Centrālā Organizācija
  • List of cities in Latvia
  • Military of Latvia
  • National Roads in Latvia
  • Regions of Latvia
  • Sports in Latvia
  • Tourism in the Baltics
  • Transportation in Latvia
  • History of Russians in Latvia
  • Muslims in Latvia
  • Latvijas Televīzija



Accomplishments - Contents

  • Manufactured the first monoplanes.
  • Invention and production of the minox camera. This is the little "matchbox action" camera that you see in James Bond movies.
  • Manufactures "Blue" microphones, a brand of recording studio microphone that has gained recognition recently in professional recording circles. These mics are most notable for their unique shapes and designs.
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