From Academic Kids

The Republic of Latvia (Latvian: Latvijas Republika), or Latvia (Latvian: Latvija), 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, Riga (Latvian: Rīga), is the largest city in the Baltic States.

Latvijas Republika
Missing image
Flag of Latvia

Missing image
Latvia: Coat of Arms

(Flag) (Coat of Arms)
National motto: none
Official language Latvian
Capital and largest city Rīga
President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga
Prime minister Aigars Kalvītis
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 121st
64,589 km?
 - Total (2005)
 - Density
Ranked 137th
 - Declared
 - Recognised
 - Lost
 - Declared
 - Recognised
From Imperial Russia
18 November 1918
11 August 1920
17 June 1940
From Soviet Union
4 May 1990
21 August 1991
Currency Lats (Ls)
Time zone
 - Daylight saving time
National anthem Dievs, svētī Latviju!
Internet TLD .lv
Calling Code +371


Main article: History of Latvia

Known for the most part as Livonia, the area that now constitutes Latvia was under the influence of the German Sword Brethren from the 13th century onward. However, in the 18th and 19th century, Russia gained control over Latvia and neighbouring regions. With Russia devastated by revolution and World War I, Latvia declared its independence on November 18 1918.

During the 1920s and early 1930s, Latvia enjoyed an elected, republican government. Its constitution was adopted on February 15th, 1922. It acknowledged that the people were, themselves, sovereign, and provided for the proportional election of their representatives by all Latvians at least 21 years of age. As with most democratic governments, it was a multi-party system, with between 22 and 28 parties, at any given time, holding at least one seat in the parliament, called the Saeima. Governments (parliamentary governments refer to the administration in power as a "government", not to be confused with the formal entity running a given region, also called "government", such as the United States government) were usually organized by coalitions of parties, forming a large enough percentage to control the whole.

This system was overthrown by its own Prime Minister, in a military coup in 1934. Latvia became an authoritarian state. Its independence lasted only briefly, as the Soviet Union annexed the country on 17 June 1940 in accordance to the Soviet-German agreement (Ribbentrop-Molotov pact) of 1939.

Except for a brief period of German occupation during World War II, Latvia was part of the Soviet Union until the country regained its independence on 21 August 1991. In 2004 the country became a member of both NATO and the European Union.


Main article: Politics of Latvia

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 Latvians 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.


Main article: Counties of Latvia

Latvia is divided into 26 counties called rajons. 7 cities have a separate status.

  • Abrene region is sometimes considered as occupied part of Latvia; status undetermined.
Map of Latvia with cities


Main article: Geography of Latvia

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 312 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 Daugava river 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.


Main article: Economy of Latvia

Since year 2000 Latvia has had one of the highest GDP growth rates in whole Europe[1] (,39140985&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL&screen=detailref&language=en&product=sdi_ed&root=sdi_ed/sdi_ed/sdi_ed1000). 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 much 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 population is mostly Christian (majority being Lutheran, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox). Another religion is Dievturi (The Godkeepers), which has historical roots based on prechristian era mythology.


Main article: Demographics of Latvia

Latvians are the indigenous people of Latvia. Only a little more than 60% of the population are ethnic Latvians. Almost 29% are Russian which is the largest national minority in Latvia. In some major Latvian cities (e.g. Rīga, Daugavpils and Rēzekne) Latvians are even outnumbered by Russians. Minorities from other countries such as Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania etc. also live in Latvia. The ethnic mix of the population of Latvia is largely the result of massive immigration during the years of Soviet occupation, which resulted in a decline of the share of ethnic Latvians from around 80% in 1935 to 52% in 1989. [2] (


The state language of the Republic of Latvia is Latvian. The Latvian language belongs to the Baltic language group of the Indo-European language family and is neither Germanic or Slavic. Russian is widely spoken among the Russian community. Latgalian language is widespread in Latgale, though Latvian authorities consider it a dialect of Latvian for political reasons.


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1. Country partly in Asia. 2. Usually assigned to Asia geographically, but often considered European for cultural and historical reasons.

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