LATVIA, (/ˈlætviə/ ( listen ); Latvian : Latvija ), officially
the REPUBLIC OF LATVIA (Latvian: Latvijas Republika), is the second
largest country in the
Baltic region of Northern
Europe and is one of
Baltic states . It is bordered by
Estonia in the northern
Lithuania in the southern, to the east is
Russia , and Belarus
to the southeast, as well as sharing a maritime border with
Latvia has 1,957,200 inhabitants and a territory of 64,589
km2 (24,938 sq mi). The country has a temperate seasonal climate .
After centuries of Swedish , Livonian , Polish and Russian rule , a
rule mainly executed by the Baltic German aristocracy , the Republic
Latvia was established on 18 November 1918 when it broke out and
declared independence from
Russia during the aftermath of World War I
. However, by the 1930s, the country became increasingly autocratic
after the coup in 1934 establishing an authoritarian regime under
Kārlis Ulmanis . The country's de facto independence was interrupted
at the outset of
World War II
World War II , beginning with Latvia's forcible
incorporation into the
Soviet Union , followed by the invasion and
Nazi Germany in 1941, and the re-occupation by the
Soviets in 1944 to form the Latvian SSR for the next fifty years. The
Singing Revolution , starting in 1987, called for Baltic
emancipation from Soviet rule and condemning the "Stalinist" regime's
illegal takeover. It ended with the Declaration on the Restoration of
Independence of the
Latvia on 4 May 1990, and restoring de
facto independence on 21 August 1991.
Latvia is a democratic republic and a highly developed country. Its
Riga served as the
European Capital of Culture
European Capital of Culture in 2014 .
Latvian is the official language.
Latvia is a unitary state , divided
into 119 administrative divisions , of which 110 are municipalities
and 9 are cities.
Latvians are the indigenous people of Latvia.
Latvian and Lithuanian are the only two surviving
Baltic languages .
Despite foreign rule from the 13th to 20th centuries, the Latvian
nation maintained its identity throughout the generations via the
language and musical traditions. As a consequence of centuries of
Russian rule (1710–1918) and later Soviet occupation ,
home to a large number of ethnic
Russians (26.9% in
Latvia ), some of
whom (14.1% of Latvian residents) have not gained citizenship, leaving
them with no citizenship at all. Until World War II,
Latvia also had
significant minorities of ethnic
historically predominantly Lutheran
Protestant , except for the
Latgale region in the southeast, which has historically been
predominantly Roman Catholic . The Russian population has also
brought a significant portion of Eastern Orthodox Christians.
It is a member of the
European Union ,
NATO , the Council of
United Nations , CBSS , the
NB8 , NIB , OECD ,
OSCE , and
WTO . For 2014,
Latvia was listed 46th on the Human Development Index
and as a high income country on 1 July 2014. A full member of the
Eurozone , it uses the euro as its currency since 1 January 2014,
Latvian lats .
* 1 Etymology
* 2 History
* 2.1 The Medieval period
* 2.2 The Reformation period and Polish-Lithuanian rule
Latvia in the
Russian Empire (1795–1917)
* 2.4 Declaration of independence
World War II
World War II
* 2.6 Soviet era (1940–41, 1944–91)
* 2.7 Restoration of Independence in 1991
* 3 Geography
* 3.1 Climate
* 3.2 Environment
* 3.3 Biodiversity
* 3.4 Administrative divisions
* 4 Politics
* 4.1 Foreign relations
* 4.2 Human rights
* 4.3 Military
* 5 Economy
* 5.1 Economic contraction and recovery (2008–12)
* 5.2 Infrastructure
* 6 Demographics
* 6.2 Language
* 6.3 Religion
* 6.4 Education and science
* 6.5 Health
* 7 Culture
* 7.1 Cuisine
* 7.2 Sport
* 8 International rankings
* 9 See also
* 10 Notes and references
* 11 Bibliography
* 12 External links
The name Latvija is derived from the name of the ancient
one of four Indo-European Baltic tribes (along with
Semigallians ), which formed the ethnic core of modern
Latvians together with the Finnic
Henry of Latvia coined
the latinisations of the country's name, "Lettigallia" and "Lethia",
both derived from the Latgalians. The terms inspired the variations on
the country's name in
Romance languages from "Letonia" and in several
Germanic languages from "Lettland".
History of Latvia
History of Latvia
Around 3000 BC, the proto-Baltic ancestors of the Latvian people
settled on the eastern coast of the
Baltic Sea . The Balts
established trade routes to Rome and
Byzantium , trading local amber
for precious metals. By 900 AD, four distinct Baltic tribes inhabited
Semigallians (in Latvian:
kurši, latgaļi, sēļi and zemgaļi), as well as the Livonians
(lībieši) speaking a Finnic language.
In the 12th century in the territory of Latvia, there were 14 lands
with their rulers: Vanema , Ventava ,
Piemare , Duvzare ,
Ceklis , Megava , Pilsāts , Upmale , Sēlija ,
Tālava and Adzele .
THE MEDIEVAL PERIOD
Terra Mariana ,
Livonian Crusade , and Northern
Terra Mariana , medieval Livonia Turaida Castle
Sigulda , built in 1214 under Albert of
Riga In 1282,
Riga became a member of the
Hanseatic League .
Although the local people had contact with the outside world for
centuries, they became more fully integrated into the European
socio-political system in the 12th century. The first missionaries,
sent by the Pope, sailed up the
Daugava River in the late 12th
century, seeking converts. The local people, however, did not convert
Christianity as readily as the Church had hoped. German crusaders
were sent, or more likely decided to go on their own accord as they
were known to do in search of pagans to kill and loot throughout
Saint Meinhard of Segeberg arrived in Ikšķile, in
1184, traveling with merchants to Livonia, on a Catholic mission to
convert the population from their original pagan beliefs. Pope
Celestine III had called for a crusade against pagans in Northern
Europe in 1193. When peaceful means of conversion failed to produce
results, Meinhard plotted to convert
Livonians by force of arms.
In the beginning of the 13th century,
Germans ruled large parts of
today's Latvia. Together with Southern Estonia, these conquered areas
formed the crusader state that became known as
Terra Mariana or
Livonia. In 1282, Riga, and later the cities of
Valmiera , became part of the
Hanseatic League . Riga
became an important point of east-west trading and formed close
cultural links with Western
THE REFORMATION PERIOD AND POLISH-LITHUANIAN RULE
Swedish Livonia ,
Duchy of Courland and Semigallia ,
Duchy of Livonia , and
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth The
Swedish Empire (1560–1815).
Riga became the capital of
Swedish Livonia and the largest city in
the Swedish Empire.
Livonian War (1558–1583), Livonia (Latvia) fell under
Polish and Lithuanian rule. The southern part of
Estonia and the
northern part of
Latvia were ceded to the Grand Duchy of
formed into the
Duchy of Livonia (Ducatus Livoniae Ultradunensis).
Gotthard Kettler , the last Master of the Order of Livonia , formed
Duchy of Courland and Semigallia . Though the duchy was a vassal
state to Poland, it retained a considerable degree of autonomy and
experienced a golden age in the 16th century.
Latgalia , the
easternmost region of Latvia, became a part of the Inflanty
Voivodeship of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
In the 17th and early 18th centuries, the Polish–Lithuanian
Sweden , and
Russia struggled for supremacy in the
eastern Baltic. After the Polish–Swedish War , northern Livonia
(including Vidzeme) came under Swedish rule.
Riga became the capital
Swedish Livonia and the largest city in the entire Swedish Empire.
Fighting continued sporadically between
Poland until the
Truce of Altmark in 1629. In Latvia, the Swedish period is generally
remembered as positive; serfdom was eased, a network of schools was
established for the peasantry, and the power of the regional barons
Several important cultural changes occurred during this time. Under
Swedish and largely German rule, western
its main religion. The ancient tribes of the Couronians, Semigallians,
Selonians, Livs, and northern Latgallians assimilated to form the
Latvian people , speaking one
Latvian language . Throughout all the
centuries, however, an actual Latvian state had not been established,
so the borders and definitions of who exactly fell within that group
are largely subjective. Meanwhile, largely isolated from the rest of
Latvia, southern Latgallians adopted
Catholicism under Polish/Jesuit
influence. The native dialect remained distinct, although it acquired
many Polish and Russian loanwords.
LATVIA IN THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE (1795–1917)
The capitulation of
Estonia and Livonia in 1710 and the Treaty of
Nystad , ending the
Great Northern War in 1721, gave
Vidzeme to Russia
(it became part of the
Riga Governorate ). The
Latgale region remained
part of the
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth as Inflanty Voivodeship
until 1772, when it was incorporated into Russia. The Duchy of
Semigallia became an autonomous Russian province (the
Courland Governorate ) in 1795, bringing all of what is now Latvia
Russian Empire . All three Baltic provinces preserved local
laws, German as the local official language and their own parliament,
Great Northern War (1700–1721), up to 40 percent of
Latvians died from famine and plague. Half the residents of
killed by plague in 1710–1711 .
The emancipation of the serfs took place in
Courland in 1817 and in
Vidzeme in 1819. In practice, however, the emancipation was actually
advantageous to the landowners and nobility, as it dispossessed
peasants of their land without compensation, forcing them to return to
work at the estates "of their own free will".
During the 19th century, the social structure changed dramatically. A
class of independent farmers established itself after reforms allowed
the peasants to repurchase their land, but many landless peasants
remained. There also developed a growing urban proletariat and an
increasingly influential Latvian bourgeoisie . The Young Latvian
(Latvian : Jaunlatvieši) movement laid 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. The rise in use of the
Latvian language in literature and
society became known as the First National Awakening . Russification
Latgale after the Polish led the
January Uprising in 1863:
this 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 Russian Revolution , which took a nationalist
character in the Baltic provinces.
During these two centuries
Latvia experienced economic and
construction boom – ports were expanded (
Riga became the largest
port in the Russian Empire), railways built; new factories, banks, and
a University were established; many residential, public (theatres and
museums), and school buildings were erected; new parks formed; and so
on. Riga's boulevards and some streets outside the Old Town date from
Worth mentioning is the fact that numeracy was also higher in the
Estonian and Latvian parts of the Russian Empire, which may have been
influenced by the
Protestant religion of the inhabitants.
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
World War I
World War I devastated the territory of what became the state of
Latvia, and other western parts of the Russian Empire. Demands for
self-determination were initially confined to autonomy , until a power
vacuum was created by the
Russian Revolution in 1917, followed by the
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk between
Germany in March 1918, then
the Allied armistice with
Germany on 11 November 1918. On 18 November
1918, in Riga, the People\'s Council of
Latvia proclaimed the
independence of the new country, with
Kārlis Ulmanis becoming the
head of the provisional government .
The war of independence that followed was part of a general chaotic
period of civil and new border wars in Eastern Europe. By the spring
of 1919, there were actually three governments—Ulmanis's government;
the Latvian Soviet government led by
Pēteris Stučka , whose forces,
supported by the
Red Army , occupied almost all of the country; and
the Baltic German government of the
United Baltic Duchy , headed by
Andrievs Niedra and supported by the
Baltische Landeswehr and the
Freikorps unit Iron Division .
Estonian and Latvian forces defeated the
Germans at the Battle of
Wenden in June 1919, and a massive attack by a predominantly German
West Russian Volunteer Army —under Pavel Bermondt-Avalov
was repelled in November. Eastern
Latvia was cleared of Red Army
forces by Latvian and Polish troops in early 1920 (from the Polish
Battle of Daugavpils was a part of the Polish–Soviet
A freely elected
Constituent assembly convened on 1 May 1920, and
adopted a liberal constitution, the Satversme , in February 1922. The
constitution was partly suspended by
Kārlis Ulmanis after his coup in
1934 but reaffirmed in 1990. Since then, it has been amended and is
still in effect in
Latvia today. 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 been landless; by 1936, that percentage had
been reduced to 18%.
By 1923, the extent of cultivated land surpassed the pre-war level.
Innovation and rising productivity led to rapid growth of the economy,
but it soon suffered from the effects of the
Great Depression . Latvia
showed signs of economic recovery, and the electorate had steadily
moved toward the centre during the parliamentary period. On 15 May
1934, Ulmanis staged a bloodless coup , establishing a nationalist
dictatorship that lasted until 1940. After 1934, Ulmanis established
government corporations to buy up private firms with the aim of
"Latvianising" the economy.
LATVIA IN WORLD WAR II
Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940 , German occupation of
World War II
World War II ,
The Holocaust in Latvia , Latvian
partisans , and
Latvian anti-Nazi resistance movement 1941–45
Red Army troops enter
Early in the morning of 24 August 1939, the
Soviet Union and Nazi
Germany signed a 10-year non-aggression pact, called the
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact . The pact contained a secret protocol,
revealed only after Germany's defeat in 1945, according to which the
states of Northern and Eastern
Europe were divided into German and
Soviet "spheres of influence ". In the north, Latvia,
Estonia were assigned to the Soviet sphere. A week later, on 1
Germany and on 17 September, the
Soviet Union invaded
Poland . :32
After the conclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, most of the
Baltic Germans left
Latvia by agreement between Ulmanis' government
Nazi Germany under the
Heim ins Reich
Heim ins Reich programme. In total 50,000
Baltic Germans left by the deadline of December 1939, with 1,600
remaining to conclude business and 13,000 choosing to remain in
Latvia. Most of those who remained left for
Germany in summer 1940,
when a second resettlement scheme was agreed. The racially approved
being resettled mainly in Poland, being given land and businesses in
exchange for the money they had received from the sale of their
previous assets. :46
On 5 October 1939,
Latvia was forced to accept a "mutual assistance"
pact with the Soviet Union, granting the Soviets the right to station
between 25,000 and 30,000 troops on Latvian territory. State
administrators were liquidated and replaced by Soviet cadres.
Elections were held with single pro-Soviet candidates listed for many
positions. The resulting people's assembly immediately requested
admission into the USSR, which the
Soviet Union granted. Latvia, then
a puppet government, was headed by
Augusts Kirhenšteins . The Soviet
Latvia on 5 August 1940, as The Latvian Soviet
Republic . German soldiers enter Riga, July 1941
The Soviets dealt harshly with their opponents – prior to Operation
Barbarossa , in less than a year, at least 34,250
deported or killed. Most were deported to Siberia where deaths were
estimated at 40 percent, officers of the Latvian army being shot on
the spot. :48
On 22 June 1941 German troops attacked Soviet forces in Operation
Barbarossa. There were some spontaneous uprisings by
Red Army which helped the Germans. By 29 June
Riga was reached and
with Soviet troops killed, captured or retreating,
Latvia was left
under the control of German forces by early July. :78–96 The
occupation was followed immediately by SS
Einsatzgruppen troops who
were to act in accordance with the Nazi
Generalplan Ost which required
the population of
Latvia to be cut by 50 percent. :64 :56
Under German occupation,
Latvia was administered as part of
Reichskommissariat Ostland . Latvian paramilitary and Auxiliary Police
units established by the occupation authority participated in the
Holocaust and other atrocities. 30,000
Jews were shot in
the autumn of 1941. :127 Another 30,000
Jews from the
Riga ghetto were
killed in the Rumbula Forest in November and December 1941, to reduce
overpopulating in the ghetto and make room for more
Jews being brought
Germany and the West. :128 There was a pause in fighting,
apart from partisan activity, until after the siege of Leningrad ended
in January 1944 and the Soviet troops advanced, entering
July and eventually capturing
Riga on 13 October 1944. :271
More than 200,000 Latvian citizens died during World War II,
including approximately 75,000 Latvian
Jews murdered during the Nazi
occupation. Latvian soldiers fought on both sides of the conflict,
mainly on the German side, with 140,000 men in the
Latvian Legion of
Waffen-SS , The 308th Latvian Rifle Division was formed by the
Red Army in 1944. On occasions, especially in 1944, opposing Latvian
troops faced each other in battle. :299 Activity reaching a peak in
late 1946. :326
SOVIET ERA (1940–41, 1944–91)
Occupation of Latvia by Soviet Union 1944–1945 ,
Latvian Soviet Socialist
Republic , and
women and children photographed before being murdered at Liepaja in
In 1944, when Soviet military advances reached Latvia, heavy fighting
took place in
Latvia between German and Soviet troops, which ended in
another German defeat. In the course of the war, both occupying forces
Latvians into their armies, in this way increasing the
loss of the nation's "live resources". In 1944, part of the Latvian
territory once more came under Soviet control. The Soviets immediately
began to reinstate the Soviet system. After the German surrender, it
became clear that Soviet forces were there to stay, and Latvian
national partisans , soon joined by German collaborators, began to
fight against the new occupier.
Anywhere from 120,000 to as many as 300,000
Latvians took refuge from
the Soviet army by fleeing to
Germany and Sweden. Most sources count
200,000 to 250,000 refugees leaving Latvia, with perhaps as many as
80,000 to 100,000 of them recaptured by the Soviets or, during few
months immediately after the end of war, returned by the West. The
Soviets reoccupied the country in 1944–45, and further deportations
followed as the country was collectivised and Sovieticised .
On 25 March 1949, 43,000 rural residents ("kulaks ") and Latvian
patriots ("nationalists") were deported to Siberia in a sweeping
Operation Priboi in all three
Baltic states , which was carefully
planned and approved in Moscow already on 29 January 1949. This
operation had the desired effect of reducing the anti Soviet partisan
activity. :326 Between 136,000 and 190,000 Latvians, depending on the
sources, were imprisoned or deported to Soviet concentration camps
Gulag ) in the post war years, from 1945 to 1952. Some managed
to escape arrest and joined the partisans. Reconstruction of a
Gulag shack in the
Museum of the Occupation of Latvia ,
In the post-war period,
Latvia was made to adopt Soviet farming
methods. Rural areas were forced into collectivisation . An extensive
programme to impose bilingualism was initiated in Latvia, limiting the
Latvian language in official uses in favour of using Russian as
the main language. All of the minority schools (Jewish, Polish,
Belarusian, Estonian, Lithuanian) were closed down leaving only two
media of instructions in the schools: Latvian and Russian. An influx
of labourers, administrators, military personnel and their dependants
Russia and other Soviet republics started. By 1959 about 400,000
people arrived from other Soviet republics and the ethnic Latvian
population had fallen to 62%.
Latvia had maintained a well-developed infrastructure and
educated specialists, Moscow decided to base some of the Soviet
Union's most advanced manufacturing in Latvia. New industry was
created in Latvia, including a major machinery factory RAF in Jelgava
, electrotechnical factories in
Riga , chemical factories in
Olaine —and some food and oil processing
Latvia manufactured trains, ships, minibuses, mopeds,
telephones, radios and hi-fi systems, electrical and diesel engines,
textiles, furniture, clothing, bags and luggage, shoes, musical
instruments, home appliances, watches, tools and equipment, aviation
and agricultural equipment and long list of other goods.
its own film industry and musical records factory (LPs). However,
there were not enough people to operate the newly built factories. To
maintain and expand industrial production, skilled workers were
migrating from all over the Soviet Union, decreasing the proportion of
Latvians in the republic. Population of
Latvia reached its
peak in 1990 at just under 2.7 million people.
RESTORATION OF INDEPENDENCE IN 1991
Singing Revolution ,
Baltic Way , and On the
Restoration of Independence of the
In the second half of the 1980s, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
started to introduce political and economic reforms in the Soviet
Union that were called glasnost and perestroika . In the summer of
1987, the first large demonstrations were held in
Riga at the Freedom
Monument —a symbol of independence. In the summer of 1988, a
national movement, coalescing in the
Popular Front of Latvia , was
opposed by the Interfront . The Latvian SSR, along with the other
Baltic Republics was allowed greater autonomy, and in 1988, the old
Flag of Latvia
Flag of Latvia flew again, replacing the Soviet Latvian flag
as the official flag in 1990.
In 1989, the
Supreme Soviet of the USSR adopted a resolution on the
Occupation of the
Baltic states , in which it declared the occupation
"not in accordance with law", and not the "will of the Soviet people".
Popular Front of Latvia candidates gained a
two-thirds majority in the Supreme Council in the March 1990
democratic elections . On 4 May 1990, the Supreme Council adopted the
Declaration on the Restoration of Independence of the
Latvia , and the Latvian SSR was renamed
Republic of Latvia.
However, the central power in Moscow continued to regard
Latvia as a
Soviet republic in 1990 and 1991. In January 1991, Soviet political
and military forces tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the
Latvia authorities by occupying the central publishing house in Riga
and establishing a Committee of National Salvation to usurp
governmental functions. During the transitional period, Moscow
maintained many central Soviet state authorities in Latvia.
In spite of this, 73% of all Latvian residents confirmed their strong
support for independence on 3 March 1991, in a nonbinding advisory
Popular Front of Latvia advocated that all permanent
residents be eligible for Latvian citizenship, and that helped sway a
large number of ethnic
Russians to vote for independence. However,
universal citizenship for all permanent residents was not adopted.
Instead, citizenship was granted to persons who had been citizens of
Latvia at the day of loss of independence at 1940 as well as their
descendants. As a consequence, the majority of ethnic non-
not receive Latvian citizenship since neither they nor their parents
had ever been citizens of Latvia, becoming non-citizens or citizens of
other former Soviet republics. By 2011, more than half of non-citizens
had taken naturalisation exams and received Latvian citizenship.
Still, today there are 290,660 non-citizens in Latvia, which represent
14.1% of population. They have no citizenship of any country , and
cannot vote in Latvia.
Latvia declared the end of the transitional period
and restored full independence on 21 August 1991, in the aftermath of
the failed Soviet coup attempt .
Latvia became a member of the
European Union in 2004 and signed the
Lisbon Treaty in 2007.
Saeima , Latvia's parliament, was again elected in 1993. Russia
ended its military presence by completing its troop withdrawal in 1994
and shutting down the
Skrunda-1 radar station in 1998. The major goals
Latvia in the 1990s, to join
NATO and the
European Union , were
achieved in 2004. The
NATO Summit 2006 was held in Riga.
Language and citizenship laws have been opposed by many Russophones .
Citizenship was not automatically extended to former Soviet citizens
who settled during the Soviet occupation, or to their offspring.
Children born to non-nationals after the reestablishment of
independence are automatically entitled to citizenship. Approximately
72% of Latvian citizens are Latvian, while 20% are Russian; less than
1% of non-citizens are Latvian, while 71% are Russian. The government
denationalised private property confiscated by the Soviets, returning
it or compensating the owners for it, and privatised most state-owned
industries, reintroducing the prewar currency . Albeit having
experienced a difficult transition to a liberal economy and its
re-orientation toward Western Europe,
Latvia is one of the fastest
growing economies in the European Union. In 2014,
Riga was the
European Capital of Culture
European Capital of Culture , the euro was introduced as the currency
of the country and a Latvian was named vice-president of the European
Commission . In 2015
Latvia held the presidency of Council of the
European Union . Big European events have been celebrated in
Eurovision Song Contest 2003 and the European Film Awards 2014
. On 1 July 2016,
Latvia became a member of the OECD.
Geography of Latvia See also:
Baltic Sea , Baltic
states , and Northern
Europe Cape Kolka, the northern tip of
Latvia in the Gulf of
Latvia lies in Northern Europe, on
the eastern shores of the
Baltic Sea .
Latvia lies in Northern Europe, on the eastern shores of the Baltic
Sea and northwestern part of the
East European craton , between
latitudes 55° and 58° N (a small area is north of 58°), and
longitudes 21° and 29° E (a small area is west of 21°).
a total area of 64,559 km2 (24,926 sq mi) of which 62,157 km2 (23,999
sq mi) land, 18,159 km2 (7,011 sq mi) agricultural land, 34,964 km2
(13,500 sq mi) forest land and 2,402 km2 (927 sq mi) inland water.
The total length of Latvia's boundary is 1,866 km (1,159 mi). The
total length of its land boundary is 1,368 km (850 mi), of which 343
km (213 mi) is shared with
Estonia to the north, 276 km (171 mi) with
Russian Federation to the east, 161 km (100 mi) with
the southeast and 588 km (365 mi) with
Lithuania to the south. The
total length of its maritime boundary is 498 km (309 mi), which is
shared with Estonia,
Lithuania . Extension from north to
south is 210 km (130 mi) and from west to east 450 km (280 mi).
Most of Latvia's territory is less than 100 m (330 ft) above sea
level . Its largest lake,
Lubāns , has an area of 80.7 km2 (31.2 sq
mi), its deepest lake,
Drīdzis , is 65.1 m (214 ft) deep. The longest
river on Latvian territory is the
Gauja , at 452 km (281 mi) in
length. The longest river flowing through Latvian territory is the
Daugava , which has a total length of 1,005 km (624 mi), of which 352
km (219 mi) is on Latvian territory. Latvia's highest point is
Gaiziņkalns , 311.6 m (1,022 ft). The length of Latvia's Baltic
coastline is 494 km (307 mi). An inlet of the Baltic Sea, the shallow
Riga is situated in the northwest of the country.
Humid continental climate warm summer subtype Oceanic
Latvia has a temperate climate that has been described in various
sources as either humid continental (Köppen Dfb ) or oceanic/maritime
Coastal regions, especially the western coast of
Courland Peninsula ,
possess a more maritime climate with cooler summers and milder
winters, while eastern parts exhibit a more continental climate with
warmer summers and harsher winters.
Latvia has four pronounced seasons of near-equal length. Winter
starts in mid-December and lasts until mid-March. Winters have average
temperatures of −6 °C (21 °F) and are characterized by stable snow
cover, bright sunshine, and short days. Severe spells of winter
weather with cold winds, extreme temperatures of around −30 °C
(−22 °F) and heavy snowfalls are common. Summer starts in June and
lasts until August. Summers are usually warm and sunny, with cool
evenings and nights. Summers have average temperatures of around 19
°C (66 °F), with extremes of 35 °C (95 °F). Spring and autumn
bring fairly mild weather.
WEATHER RECORDS IN LATVIA
37.8 °C (100 °F)
4 August 2014
−43.2 °C (−46 °F)
8 February 1956
Last spring frost
large parts of territory
24 June 1982
First autumn frost
15 August 1975
Highest yearly precipitation
1,007 mm (39.6 in)
Lowest yearly precipitation
384 mm (15.1 in)
Highest daily precipitation
160 mm (6.3 in)
9 July 1973
Highest monthly precipitation
330 mm (13.0 in)
Lowest monthly precipitation
0 mm (0 in)
large parts of territory
May 1938 and May 1941
Thickest snow cover
126 cm (49.6 in)
Month with the most days with blizzards
The most days with fog in a year
Highest atmospheric pressure
31.5 inHg (1,066.7 mb)
Lowest atmospheric pressure
27.5 inHg (931.3 mb)
13 February 1962
The most days with thunderstorms in a year
34 m/s, up to 48 m/s
2 November 1969
Latvia has the fifth highest proportion of land covered by
forests in the European Union.
Most of the country is composed of fertile lowland plains and
moderate hills. In a typical Latvian landscape, a mosaic of vast
forests alternates with fields, farmsteads, and pastures. Arable land
is spotted with birch groves and wooded clusters, which afford a
habitat for numerous plants and animals.
Latvia has hundreds of
kilometres of undeveloped seashore—lined by pine forests, dunes, and
continuous white sand beaches.
Latvia has the 5th highest proportion of land covered by forests in
the European Union, after Sweden, Finland,
Estonia and Slovenia.
Forests account for 3,497,000 ha (8,640,000 acres) or 56% of the total
Latvia has over 12,500 rivers, which stretch for 38,000 km (24,000
mi). Major rivers include the
Daugava River ,
Gauja , Venta
Salaca , the largest spawning ground for salmon in the eastern
Baltics. There are 2,256 lakes that are bigger than 1 ha (2.5 acres),
with a collective area of 1,000 km2 (390 sq mi). Mires occupy 9.9% of
Latvia's territory. Of these, 42% are raised bogs; 49% are fens; and
9% are transitional mires. 70% percent of the mires are untouched by
civilisation, and they are a refuge for many rare species of plants
Agricultural areas account for 1,815,900 ha (4,487,000 acres) or 29%
of the total land area. With the dismantling of collective farms, the
area devoted to farming decreased dramatically – now farms are
predominantly small. Approximately 200 farms, occupying 2,750 ha
(6,800 acres), are engaged in ecologically pure farming (using no
artificial fertilisers or pesticides).
Latvia's national parks are
Gauja National Park in
Ķemeri National Park
Ķemeri National Park in
Zemgale (1997), Slītere National
Park in Kurzeme (1999), and
Rāzna National Park in
Latvia has a long tradition of conservation. The first laws and
regulations were promulgated in the 16th and 17th centuries. There
are 706 specially state-level protected natural areas in Latvia: four
national parks, one biosphere reserve, 42 nature parks, nine areas of
protected landscapes, 260 nature reserves, four strict nature
reserves, 355 nature monuments, seven protected marine areas and 24
microreserves. Nationally protected areas account for 12,790 km2
(4,940 sq mi) or around 20% of Latvia's total land area. Latvia's Red
Book (Endangered Species List of Latvia), which was established in
1977, contains 112 plant species and 119 animal species.
ratified the international Washington, Bern, and Ramsare conventions.
Environmental Performance Index ranks
Latvia second, after
Switzerland , based on the environmental performance of the country's
Venta Rapid in
Kuldīga is the widest waterfall in
Europe and a
natural monument of Latvia.
Devonian sandstone cliffs in
Gauja National Park , Latvia's largest
and oldest national park
Ķemeri National Park
Ķemeri National Park is home to mires, natural mineral-springs, muds
and lakes that are former lagoons of the
Littorina Sea .
Slītere National Park at
Cape Kolka includes several Livonian
fishing villages of the
Livonian Coast . (Livonian : Līvõd Rānda)
The white wagtail is the national bird of Latvia.
Approximately 30,000 species of flora and fauna have been registered
in Latvia. Common species of wildlife in
Latvia include deer , wild
boar , moose , lynx , bear , fox , beaver and wolves . Non-marine
Latvia include 159 species.
Species that are endangered in other European countries but common in
Latvia include: black stork (
Ciconia nigra ), corncrake (
Crex crex ),
lesser spotted eagle (
Aquila pomarina ), white-backed woodpecker
Picoides leucotos ), Eurasian crane (
Grus grus ), Eurasian beaver
Castor fiber ), Eurasian otter (
Lutra lutra ), European wolf (Canis
lupus ) and European lynx (Felis lynx ).
Latvia is shared between the Central European
and Northern European provinces of the
Circumboreal Region within the
Boreal Kingdom . According to the WWF , the territory of Latvia
belongs to the ecoregion of
Sarmatic mixed forests . 56 percent of
Latvia's territory is covered by forests, mostly
Scots pine , birch ,
Norway spruce .
Several species of flora and fauna are considered national symbols.
Quercus robur , Latvian : ozols), and linden (
Tilia cordata ,
Latvian : liepa) are Latvia's national trees and the daisy
Leucanthemum vulgare , Latvian : pīpene) its national flower. The
white wagtail (Motacilla alba , Latvian : baltā cielava) is Latvia's
national bird. Its national insect is the two-spot ladybird (Adalia
bipunctata , Latvian : divpunktu mārīte).
Amber , fossilized tree
resin, is one of Latvia's most important cultural symbols. In ancient
times, amber found along the
Baltic Sea coast was sought by Vikings as
well as traders from Egypt,
Greece and the Roman Empire. This led to
the development of the
Amber Road .
Several nature reserves protect unspoiled landscapes with a variety
of large animals. At
Pape Nature Reserve , where
European bison , wild
horses, and recreated aurochs have been reintroduced, there is now an
Holocene megafauna also including moose, deer, and
Historical regions: orange
Courland , green
Semigallia , brown
Selonia , yellow
Vidzeme , blue
Latvia Main article: Administrative divisions of Latvia
List of cities in Latvia ,
Planning regions of Latvia ,
Statistical regions of Latvia
Statistical regions of Latvia , and
Historical regions of Latvia
Latvia is a unitary state , currently divided into 110 one-level
municipalities (Latvian : novadi) and 9 republican cities (Latvian :
republikas pilsētas) with their own city council and administration:
Valmiera , and
Ventspils . There are four historical and
cultural regions in
Vidzeme , Zemgale
, which are recognised in
Constitution of Latvia .
Selonia , a part of
Zemgale, is sometimes considered culturally distinct region, but it is
not part of any formal division. The borders of historical and
cultural regions usually are not explicitly defined and in several
sources may vary. In formal divisions,
Riga region, which includes the
capital and parts of other regions that have a strong relationship
with the capital, is also often included in regional divisions; e.g.,
there are five planning regions of
Latvia (Latvian : plānošanas
reģioni), which were created in 2009 to promote balanced development
of all regions. Under this division
Riga region includes large parts
of what traditionally is considered Vidzeme, Courland, and Zemgale.
Statistical regions of Latvia
Statistical regions of Latvia , established in accordance with the EU
Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics
Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics , duplicate this
division, but divides
Riga region into two parts with the capital
alone being a separate region. The largest city in
Latvia is Riga, the
second largest city is
Daugavpils and the third largest city is
Politics of Latvia ,
Parliament of Latvia , and
Government of Latvia
Government of Latvia
The 100-seat unicameral Latvian parliament, the
Saeima , is elected
by direct popular vote every four years. The president is elected by
Saeima in a separate election, also held every four years. The
president appoints 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. This system also existed before World
War II . The most senior civil servants are the thirteen Secretaries
of State . The building of the Saeima, the parliament of Latvia,
Foreign relations of Latvia The building of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs in
Latvia is a member of the United Nations,
European Union , Council of
NATO , OECD ,
IMF , and WTO . It is also a member of
Council of the Baltic Sea States and
Nordic Investment Bank . It
was a member of the
League of Nations
League of Nations (1921–1946).
Latvia is part of
Schengen Area and joined the
Eurozone on 1 January 2014.
Latvia has established diplomatic relations with 158 countries. It
has 44 diplomatic and consular missions and maintains 34 embassies and
9 permanent representations abroad. There are 37 foreign embassies and
11 international organisations in Latvia's capital
European Union institution, the Body of European Regulators for
Electronic Communications (BEREC).
Latvia's foreign policy priorities include co-operation in the Baltic
Sea region, European integration, active involvement in international
organisations, contribution to European and transatlantic security and
defence structures, participation in international civilian and
military peacekeeping operations, and development co-operation,
particularly the strengthening of stability and democracy in the EU's
Eastern Partnership countries. Foreign ministers of the Nordic
and Baltic countries in Helsinki, 2011
Since the early 1990s,
Latvia has been involved in active trilateral
Baltic states co-operation with its neighbours
and Nordic-Baltic co-operation with the
Nordic countries . The Baltic
Council is the joint forum of the interparliamentary Baltic Assembly
(BA) and the intergovernmental Baltic Council of Ministers (BCM).
Nordic-Baltic Eight (NB-8) is the joint co-operation of the
governments of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania,
Norway, and Sweden. Nordic-Baltic Six (NB-6), comprising
Nordic-Baltic countries that are
European Union member states, is a
framework for meetings on EU-related issues. Interparliamentary
co-operation between the
Baltic Assembly and
Nordic Council was signed
in 1992 and since 2006 annual meetings are held as well as regular
meetings on other levels. Joint Nordic-Baltic co-operation
initiatives include the education programme NordPlus and mobility
programmes for public administration, business and industry and
Nordic Council of Ministers has an office in Riga.
Latvia participates in the
Northern Dimension and
Baltic Sea Region
European Union initiatives to foster cross-border
co-operation in the
Baltic Sea region and Northern Europe. The
secretariat of the
Northern Dimension Partnership on Culture (NDPC)
will be located in Riga. In 2013
Riga hosted the annual Northern
Future Forum , a two-day informal meeting of the prime ministers of
the Nordic-Baltic countries and the UK. The Enhanced Partnership in
Europe or e-Pine is the U.S. Department of State diplomatic
framework for co-operation with the Nordic-Baltic countries.
Latvia hosted the 2006
NATO Summit and since then the annual Riga
Conference has become a leading foreign and security policy forum in
Latvia held the Presidency of the Council of the
European Union in the first half of 2015.
Human rights in Latvia Non-citizen passport
According to the reports by
Freedom House and the US Department of
State , human rights in
Latvia are generally respected by the
Latvia is ranked above-average among the world's
sovereign states in democracy, press freedom , privacy and human
The country has a large ethnic Russian community, which was
guaranteed basic rights under the constitution and international human
rights laws ratified by the Latvian government.
Approximately 270,000 non-citizens – including stateless persons
– have limited access to some political rights – only citizens are
allowed to participate in parliamentary or municipal elections,
although there are no limitations in regards to joining political
parties or other political organizations. In 2011, the
Commissioner on National Minorities "urged
Latvia to allow
non-citizens to vote in municipal elections." Additionally, there
have been reports of police abuse of detainees and arrestees, poor
prison conditions and overcrowding, judicial corruption,
discrimination against women, incidents of violence against ethnic
minorities , and societal violence and incidents of government
discrimination against homosexuals.
Nils Ušakovs , the first ethnic Russian mayor of
independent Latvia, has been fined by Latvia's State Language Center
for posting in Russian on Facebook.
Military of Latvia Naval Forces minehunter Imanta
Latvian soldiers during an exercise
The National Armed Forces (Latvian: Nacionālie Bruņotie Spēki
Latvia consists of the Land Forces , Naval Forces , Air
Force , National Guard ,
Special Tasks Unit , Military Police , NAF
staff Battalion , Training and Doctrine Command, and Logistics
Command. Latvia's defence concept is based upon the Swedish-Finnish
model of a rapid response force composed of a mobilisation base and a
small group of career professionals. From 1 January 2007, Latvia
switched to a professional fully contract-based army.
Latvia participates in international peacekeeping and security
operations. Latvian armed forces have contributed to
NATO and EU
military operations in
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina (1996–2009), Albania
Kosovo (2000–2009), Macedonia (2003), Iraq (2005–2006),
Afghanistan (since 2003), Somalia (since 2011) and
Mali (since 2013).
Latvia also took part in the US-led Multi-National Force operation
in Iraq (2003–2008) and
OSCE missions in Georgia,
Macedonia. Latvian armed forces contributed to a UK-led Battlegroup
in 2013 and the Nordic Battlegroup in 2015 under the Common Security
and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the European Union.
Latvia acts as the
lead nation in the coordination of the Northern Distribution Network
for transportation of non-lethal
ISAF cargo by air and rail to
Afghanistan. It is part of the Nordic Transition Support Unit
(NTSU), which renders joint force contributions in support of Afghan
security structures ahead of the withdrawal of Nordic and Baltic ISAF
forces in 2014. Since 1996 more than 3600 military personnel have
participated in international operations, of whom 7 soldiers
perished. Per capita,
Latvia is one of the largest contributors to
international military operations.
Latvian civilian experts have contributed to EU civilian missions:
border assistance mission to
Ukraine (2005–2009), rule
of law missions in Iraq (2006 and 2007) and
Kosovo (since 2008),
police mission in Afghanistan (since 2007) and monitoring mission in
Georgia (since 2008).
Since March 2004, when the
Baltic states joined NATO, fighter jets of
NATO members have been deployed on a rotational basis for the Baltic
Air Policing mission at Šiauliai Airport in
Lithuania to guard the
Latvia participates in several
NATO Centres of
Excellence : Civil-Military Co-operation in the Netherlands,
Cooperative Cyber Defence in
Estonia and Energy Security in Lithuania.
It plans to establish the
NATO Strategic Communications Centre of
Excellence in Riga.
Latvia co-operates with
Lithuania in several trilateral
Baltic defence co-operation initiatives:
* Baltic Battalion (BALTBAT) – infantry battalion for
participation in international peace support operations, headquartered
Riga , Latvia;
Baltic Naval Squadron (BALTRON) – naval force with mine
countermeasures capabilities, headquartered near
Baltic Air Surveillance Network (BALTNET) – air surveillance
information system, headquartered near
* Joint military educational institutions:
Baltic Defence College in
Estonia , Baltic Diving Training Centre in
Liepāja , Latvia
and Baltic Naval Communications Training Centre in
Tallinn , Estonia.
Future co-operation will include sharing of national infrastructures
for training purposes and specialisation of training areas (BALTTRAIN)
and collective formation of battalion-sized contingents for use in the
NATO rapid-response force. In January 2011, the
Baltic states were
invited to join
NORDEFCO , the defence framework of the Nordic
countries . In November 2012, the three countries agreed to create a
joint military staff in 2013.
Economy of Latvia
Latvia is part of the EU single
market (dark grey),
Eurozone (dark blue) and
Schengen Area (not
Latvia is a member of the
World Trade Organisation (1999) and the
European Union (2004). On 1 January 2014, the
Euro became the
country's currency, superseding the Lats . According to statistics in
late 2013, 45% of the population supported the introduction of the
euro, while 52% opposed it. Following the introduction of the Euro,
Eurobarometer surveys in January 2014 showed support for the
be around 53%, close to the European average.
Since the year 2000,
Latvia has had one of the highest (GDP) growth
rates in Europe. However, the chiefly consumption-driven growth in
Latvia resulted in the collapse of Latvian GDP in late 2008 and early
2009, exacerbated by the global economic crisis, shortage of credit
and huge money resources used for the bailout of Parex bank. The
Latvian economy fell 18% in the first three months of 2009, the
biggest fall in the European Union. Real GDP growth in Latvia
The economic crisis of 2009 proved earlier assumptions that the
fast-growing economy was heading for implosion of the economic bubble
, because it was driven mainly by growth of domestic consumption ,
financed by a serious increase of private debt , as well as a negative
foreign trade balance . The prices of real estate, which were at some
points growing by approximately 5% a month, were long perceived to be
too high for the economy, which mainly produces low-value goods and
raw materials .
Latvia is almost complete. Virtually all of the
previously state-owned small and medium companies have been
privatised, leaving only a small number of politically sensitive large
state companies. The private sector accounted for nearly 68% of the
country's GDP in 2000.
Foreign investment in
Latvia is still modest compared with the levels
in north-central Europe. A law expanding the scope for selling land,
including to foreigners, was passed in 1997. Representing 10.2% of
Latvia's total foreign direct investment, American companies invested
$127 million in 1999. In the same year, the
United States of America
exported $58.2 million of goods and services to
Latvia and imported
$87.9 million. Eager to join Western economic institutions like the
World Trade Organisation , OECD , and the
European Union , Latvia
Europe Agreement with the EU in 1995—with a 4-year
Latvia and the
United States have signed treaties
on investment, trade, and intellectual property protection and
avoidance of double taxation.
ECONOMIC CONTRACTION AND RECOVERY (2008–12)
2008–2010 Latvian financial crisis An airBaltic
Boeing 757−200WL takes off at
Riga International Airport (RIX)
The Latvian economy entered a phase of fiscal contraction during the
second half of 2008 after an extended period of credit-based
speculation and unrealistic appreciation in real estate values. The
national account deficit for 2007, for example, represented more than
22% of the GDP for the year while inflation was running at 10%.
Latvia's unemployment rate rose sharply in this period from a low of
5.4% in November 2007 to over 22%. In April 2010
Latvia had the
highest unemployment rate in the EU, at 22.5%, ahead of Spain, which
Paul Krugman , the Nobel Laureate in economics for 2008, wrote in his
New York Times Op-Ed column on 15 December 2008: "The most acute
problems are on Europe's periphery, where many smaller economies are
experiencing crises strongly reminiscent of past crises in Latin
America and Asia:
Latvia is the new
However, by 2010, commentators noted signs of stabilisation in the
Latvian economy. Rating agency Standard "> The Port of
one of the busiest ports in the
Baltic states . Main article:
Transport in Latvia
Transport in Latvia
The transport sector is around 14% of GDP. Transit between Russia,
Kazakhstan as well as other Asian countries and the West is
The three biggest ports of
Latvia are located in
Liepāja . Most transit traffic uses these and half the cargo is
crude oil and oil products. Free port of
Ventspils is one of the
busiest ports in the
Baltic states . Apart from road and railway
Ventspils is also linked to oil extraction fields and
transportation routes of
Russian Federation via system of two
Polotsk , Belarus.
Riga International Airport is the busiest airport in the Baltic
states with 4.7 million passengers in 2012. It has direct flight to
over 80 destinations in 30 countries. airBaltic is the Latvian flag
carrier airline and a low-cost carrier.
Latvia has three big hydroelectric power stations in Pļaviņu HES
Rīgas HES (402 MW) and
Ķeguma HES-2 (192 MW). In the recent
years a couple of dozen of wind farms as well as biogas or biomass
power stations of different scale have been built in Latvia.
Latvia operates Inčukalns underground gas storage facility , one of
the largest underground gas storage facilities in
Europe and the only
one in the Baltic states. Unique geological conditions at Inčukalns
and other locations in
Latvia are particularly suitable for
underground gas storage.
Demographics of Latvia
RESIDENTS OF LATVIA BY ETHNICITY (2011)
Latvia (in millions) from 1920 to 2014
The total fertility rate (TFR) in 2013 was estimated at 1.52 children
born/woman, which is lower than the replacement rate of 2.1. In 2012,
45.0% of births were to unmarried women. The life expectancy in 2013
was estimated at 73.19 years (68.13 years male, 78.53 years female).
As of 2015,
Latvia is estimated to have the lowest male-to-female
ratio in total population, at 0.85 males/female.
Latvian people , Latvian
Latvian Germans ,
Latgalians (modern) ,
Livonians , and
Latvia's population has been multiethnic for centuries, though the
demographics shifted dramatically in the 20th century due to the World
Wars, the emigration and removal of
Baltic Germans , the Holocaust ,
and occupation by the
Soviet Union . According to the Russian Empire
Census of 1897,
Latvians formed 68.3% of the total population of 1.93
Russians accounted for 12%,
Jews for 7.4%,
Germans for 6.2%,
Poles for 3.4%.
As of March 2011,
Latvians form about 62.1% of the population, while
Romani people 0.3%,
Estonians 0.1% and others 1.3%. 250 people identify as Livonians
(Baltic Finnic people native to Latvia). There were 290,660
non-citizens living in
Latvia or 14.1% of Latvian residents, mainly
Russians who arrived after the occupation of 1940 and their
In some cities, e.g.,
Rēzekne , ethnic Latvians
constitute a minority of the total population. Despite the fact that
the proportion of ethnic
Latvians has been steadily increasing for
more than a decade, ethnic
Latvians also make up slightly less than a
half of the population of the capital city of
The share of ethnic
Latvians had fallen from 77% (1,467,035) in 1935
to 52% (1,387,757) in 1989. In 2011, there were even fewer Latvians
than in 1989, though their share of the population was larger –
1,285,136 (62.1% of the population).
Language policy in Latvia
Language policy in Latvia
The sole official language of
Latvia is Latvian , which belongs to
the Baltic language sub-group of the Balto-Slavic branch of the
Indo-European language family . Another notable language of
the nearly extinct
Livonian language of the Finnic branch of the
Uralic language family , which enjoys protection by law; Latgalian –
referred to as either a dialect or a distinct separate language of
Latvian – is also formally protected by Latvian law but only as a
historical variation of the Latvian language. Russian, which was
widely spoken during the Soviet period, is still the most widely used
minority language by far (about 34% speak it at home, including people
who are not ethnically Russian). While it is now required that all
school students learn Latvian, most schools also include English and
either German or Russian in their curricula. English is widely
accepted in Latvia, especially in business and tourism. As of 2014
there are 109 schools for minorities that use Russian as the language
of instruction for 40% of subjects (the rest 60% of subjects are
taught in Latvian).
On 18 February 2012,
Latvia held a constitutional referendum on
whether to adopt Russian as a second official language. According to
the Central Election Commission, 74.8% voted against, 24.9% voted for
and the voter turnout was 71.1%.
Religion in Latvia
Religion in Latvia
RELIGION IN LATVIA (2011)
Other or none
The largest religion in
Christianity (79%), The largest
groups as of 2011 were:
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia – 708,773
* Roman Catholic – 500,000
* Russian Orthodox – 370,000
Eurobarometer Poll 2010, 38% of Latvian citizens responded
that "they believe there is a God", while 48% answered that "they
believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 11% stated
that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life
Lutheranism was more prominent before the Soviet occupation, when it
was a majority religion of ~60% due to strong historical links with
Nordic countries and influence of the Hansa , and
general. Since then,
Lutheranism has declined to a slightly greater
extent than Roman
Catholicism in all three
Baltic states . The
Evangelical Lutheran Church, with an estimated 600,000 members in
1956, was affected most adversely. An internal document of 18 March
1987, near the end of communist rule, spoke of an active membership
that had shrunk to only 25,000 in Latvia, but the faith has since
experienced a revival. The country's Orthodox Christians belong to
Latvian Orthodox Church , a semi-autonomous body within the
Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church . In 2011, there were 416
Jews and 319 Muslims
living in Latvia.
There are more than 600 Latvian neopagans , Dievturi (The
Godskeepers), whose religion is based on
Latvian mythology . About
21% of the total population is not affiliated with a specific
EDUCATION AND SCIENCE
Education in Latvia
Education in Latvia See also: List of universities in
University of Latvia
University of Latvia
Riga Technical University and
University of Latvia
University of Latvia are two major
universities in the country, both established on the basis of Riga
Polytechnical Institute and located in
Riga . Another two important
universities, which were established on the base of State University
of Latvia, are
Latvia University of Agriculture (established in 1939
on the basis of the Faculty of Agriculture) and
University (established in 1950 on the basis of the Faculty of
Medicine) – both nowadays cover a variety of different fields. The
Daugavpils is another significant centre of education.
Latvia closed 131 schools between 2006 and 2010, which is a 12.9%
decline, and in the same period enrolment in educational institutions
has fallen by over 54,000 people, a 10.3% decline.
The Latvian policy of science and technology set out the long term
goal – transition from labor-consuming economy to knowledge-based
economy. By 2020 the government aims at a 1.5% GDP funding for
research and development, with half of the investments coming from the
Latvia develop their scientific potential on the basis
of the existing scientific traditions, particularly in organic
chemistry, medical chemistry, genetic engineering, physics, materials
science and information technologies. The highest number of
inventions, which are patented both nationwide and abroad, are made in
the branch of medical chemistry.
Health in Latvia
The Latvian healthcare system is a universal programme , largely
funded through government taxation. It is among the lowest-ranked
healthcare systems in Europe, due to excessive waiting times for
treatment, insufficient access to the latest medicines, and other
factors. There were 59 hospitals in
Latvia in 2009, down from 94 in
2007, and 121 in 2006.
Culture of Latvia Choirs performing during the
Latvian Song and Dance Festival in 2008
Traditional Latvian folklore , especially the dance of the folk songs
, dates back well over a thousand years. More than 1.2 million texts
and 30,000 melodies of folk songs have been identified.
Between the 13th and 19th centuries,
Baltic Germans , many of whom
were originally of non-German ancestry but had been assimilated into
German culture , formed the upper class. They developed distinct
cultural heritage, characterised by both Latvian and German
influences. It has survived in German Baltic families to this day, in
spite of their dispersal to Germany, the United States,
other countries in the early 20th century. However, most indigenous
Latvians did not participate in this particular cultural life. Thus,
the mostly peasant local pagan heritage was preserved, partly merging
with Christian traditions. For example, one of the most popular
Jāņi , a pagan celebration of the summer solstice
Latvians celebrate on the feast day of St.
John the Baptist
John the Baptist .
Historic Centre of
Riga was declared a
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site by
UNESCO in 1997.
In the 19th century, Latvian nationalist movements emerged. They
promoted Latvian culture and encouraged
Latvians to take part in
cultural activities. The 19th century and beginning of the 20th
century is often regarded by
Latvians as a classical era of Latvian
culture. Posters show the influence of other European cultures, for
example, works of artists such as the Baltic-German artist Bernhard
Borchert and the French
Raoul Dufy . With the onset of World War II,
many Latvian artists and other members of the cultural elite fled the
country yet continued to produce their work, largely for a Latvian
Latvian Song and Dance Festival is an important event in Latvian
culture and social life. It has been held since 1873, normally every
five years. Approximately 30,000 performers altogether participate in
the event. Although usually folksongs and classical choir songs are
sung, with emphasis on a cappella singing, recently modern popular
songs have been incorporated into the repertoire, as well.
After incorporation into the
Soviet Union , Latvian artists and
writers were forced to follow the socialist realism style of art.
During the Soviet era, music became increasingly popular, with the
most popular being songs from the 1980s. At this time, songs often
made fun of the characteristics of Soviet life and were concerned
about preserving Latvian identity. This aroused popular protests
against the USSR and also gave rise to an increasing popularity of
poetry. Since independence, theatre, scenography , choir music , and
classical music have become the most notable branches of Latvian
During July 2014,
Riga hosted the 8th World
Choir Games as it played
host to over 27,000 choristers representing over 450 choirs and over
70 countries. The festival is the biggest of its kind in the world and
is held every two years in a different host city.
Latvian cuisine typically consists of agricultural products, with
meat featuring in most main meal dishes. Fish is commonly consumed due
to Latvia's location on the Baltic Sea.
Latvian cuisine has been
influenced by the neighbouring countries. Common ingredients in
Latvian recipes are found locally, such as potatoes, wheat, barley,
cabbage, onions, eggs, and pork. Latvian food is generally quite
fatty, and uses few spices.
Grey peas and ham are generally considered as staple foods of
Sorrel soup is also consumed by Latvians.
Rupjmaize is a
dark bread made from rye, considered the national staple .
Sport in Latvia
Sport in Latvia Arena
Riga during the 2006 IIHF
Ice hockey is usually considered the most popular sport in Latvia.
Latvia has had many famous hockey stars like
Helmut Balderis , Artūrs
Kārlis Skrastiņš and
Sandis Ozoliņš and more recently
Zemgus Girgensons , who the
Latvian people have strongly supported in
international and NHL play, expressed through the dedication of using
the NHL's All Star Voting to bring Zemgus to number one in voting.
Riga is the country's strongest hockey club, playing in the
Kontinental Hockey League
Kontinental Hockey League . The national tournament is the Latvian
Hockey Higher League , held since 1931. The 2006 IIHF World
Championship was held in Riga.
The second most popular sport is basketball.
Latvia has a long
basketball tradition, as the
Latvian national basketball team won the
EuroBasket in 1935 and silver medals in 1939 , after losing
the final to
Lithuania by one point.
Latvia has had many European
basketball stars like
Jānis Krūmiņš ,
Maigonis Valdmanis , Valdis
Valdis Valters ,
Igors Miglinieks , as well as the first
Latvian NBA player
Gundars Vētra .
Andris Biedriņš is one of the
most well-known Latvian basketball players, who played in the NBA for
Golden State Warriors
Golden State Warriors and the
Utah Jazz . Current NBA players
Kristaps Porziņģis , who plays for the
New York Knicks , and
Dāvis Bertāns , who plays for the
San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs . Former Latvian
basketball club ASK
Riga won the Euroleague tournament three times in
a row before being defunct. Currently, VEF
Rīga , which competes in
EuroCup , is the strongest professional basketball club in Latvia. BK
Ventspils , which participates in
EuroChallenge , is the second
strongest basketball club in Latvia, previously winning LBL eight
times and BBL in 2013.
Latvia was one of the
EuroBasket 2015 hosts.
Other popular sports include football , floorball , tennis,
volleyball, cycling, bobsleigh and skeleton . The Latvian national
football team 's only major
FIFA tournament participation has been the
UEFA European Championship .
Latvia has participated successfully in both Winter and Summer
Olympics . The most successful Olympic athlete in the history of
Latvia has been
Māris Štrombergs , who became a two-time
Olympic champion in 2008 and 2012 at Men's BMX.
In 2017 Latvian boxer
Mairis Briedis became the undisputed WBC
cruiserweight world champion, the first and only boxer from
Baltic states to hold any one of the four major titles in boxing.
In 2017 Latvian tennis player
Jeļena Ostapenko won the 2017 French
Open Women\'s singles title being the first unseeded player to do so
in the open era.
The following are links to international rankings of Latvia.
Ease of doing business index 2017
Index of Economic Freedom 2017
International Tax Competitiveness Index 2016
Environmental Performance Index 2016
Global Gender Gap Report Global Gender Gap Index 2016
Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index 2016
Global Innovation Index (INSEAD) 2016
Human Development Index
Human Development Index 2015
Democracy Index 2016
Programme for International Student Assessment Maths 2015
Programme for International Student Assessment Science 2015
Programme for International Student Assessment Reading 2015
Networked Readiness Index 2015
The State of the Internet Report Q3 2016 Global Average Connection
Social Progress Index 2016
OECD Better Life Index 2016
Corruption Perceptions Index 2016
TRACE Matrix business bribery risk 2016
Index of Public Integrity
ICT Development Index 2016
Economic Freedom of the World 2015
Euro health consumer index 2016
Global Peace Index
Global Peace Index 2017
Logistics Performance Index 2016
EF English Proficiency Index 2014
Legatum Prosperity Index 2016
Sustainable Society Index 2012
Fragile States Index 2017
* List of
Outline of Latvia
Public holidays in Latvia
List of museums in Latvia
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