Latvia Facts

Latvia Facts and History


Latvia – The Baltic country on the Baltic coast

Latvia is one of the three Baltic States and is located south of Estonia and north of Lithuania on the Baltic Sea. During the 13th to 15th centuries, many of Latvia’s cities were members of the Hanseatic League. Today’s capital Riga still has one of the largest and most important Baltic ports.

As early as the 15th century, Latvia was threatened by the Russian Empire and subjected again and again into the 20th century. After the Second World War, the three Baltic states were annexed by Russia. Latvia was massively Sovietised from 1945 onwards.

Around 120,000 Latvians had been killed, imprisoned or deported by 1953. In 1993 only 54% of Latvians lived in their own country. Latvia has only been independent again since 1991 and can freely develop its own culture. The country joined the European Union on May 1st, 2004 and the euro area on January 1st, 2014.

Name of the country Republic of Latvia, Latvijas Republika
Form of government Parliamentary democracy
Head of state President of the Republic, Valdis Zatlers (since July 8, 2007)
Geographical location Latvia lies on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea.It borders Estonia in the north, Lithuania in the south, the Russian Federation

in the east and Belarus in the south-east.

National anthem Dievs, sveti Latviju!
Population around 2.2 million residents (Credit: Countryaah: Latvia Population)
Ethnicities 59% Latvians, 28% Russians, 4% Belarusians, 3% Ukrainians, 2.5% Poles, 1% Lithuanians
Religions Evangelical Lutheran Church, Roman Catholic Church,Russian Orthodox Church, Jewish Synagogue Community
Languages Latvian is the only state language, but Russian is widely spoken
Capital Riga
Surface 64,597 km²
Highest mountain Gaizina Kalns with a height of 311 m
Longest river Gauja with a length of 452 km in Livonia (Latvia and Estonia).
Largest lake Lubans with an area of 80.7 km²
International license plate LV
Currency Euro (1 € = 100 cents)
Difference to CET + 1 h
International phone code 00371
Mains voltage, frequency 220 volts, 50 hertz
Top Level Domain (TLD) .lv

History of Latvia

Latvia from the year 1000 to the 17th century

Around 1180 AD, German merchants from Lübeck and Visby came to the mouth of the Daugava, which was populated by Liven, and called the area “Livonia”, which later became the name for the entire area of what is now Latvia and Estonia. In the 13th century Livonia was subjugated and Christianized by the Teutonic Order. This resulted in a confederation of feudal small states as part of the “Holy Roman Empire-German Nation”, which was called “Marienland Livonia”. From the 13th to the 15th centuries, many old Livonian cities became members of the Hanseatic League. Russian attempts at conquest took place in the 16th century. In 1502 Wolter von Plettenberg wins against a huge Russian overwhelming power on Lake Smolina.In 1558 Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible (1530 – 1584) attacked Livonia in the “Livonian War”. In the absence of sufficient help from emperors, princes and Hanseatic cities, Old Livonia sought protection from foreign powers and fell apart. The north submitted to Sweden, the south to Poland. The German-Baltic rule in the interior of the area continued. The “Privilegium Sigismundi Augusti”: freedom of belief, German language, German administration and German law was confirmed by all Polish, Swedish and Russian overlords who followed King Sigismund Augustus up to Tsar Alexander II in 1855.

Latvia in the 18th and 19th centuries

According to Abbreviationfinder website, Riga was conquered in 1710 by Tsar Peter I the Great (1672-1725). Due to the Peace of Nystad in 1721, Livonia and Estonia were annexed to Russia. The old Livonian areas were thus reunited under Russian rule. They were called the “German Baltic provinces of Russia”.

In the 19th century there was a “national awakening”. The Livonian educational class emancipated itself from the German model and founded native-language newspapers, theaters and clubs.

From 1881, the Baltic provinces began to be Russified under Tsar Alexander III (1845 – 1894). This resulted in a reduction in Baltic self-government and the first waves of emigration from Baltic Germans to Germany. In the second half of the 19th century, Riga became the most important port in Russia.

20th century until today

In 1905 the revolution took place in Russia. In the Baltic provinces it was directed primarily against the large German landowners. However, the Russian military brutally suppressed the uprising. During the First World War, Livonia was occupied by German troops.

On November 18, 1918, the Republic of Latvia was proclaimed and recognized by the German Empire. In 1918/1919 the Red Army moved into Latvia after the German occupation troops had withdrawn. The proclamation of the Latvian and Estonian Soviet Republic followed. After the withdrawal of the Red Army, the Estonians and Latvians fought against the Germans, who were defeated at Cesis (Wenden) in June 1919. In 1920 there was a peace treaty with Soviet Russia. The Latvian constitution was repealed in 1934 and a moderate dictatorship was established under Karlis Ulmanis.

On August 23, 1939, the Hitler-Stalin Pact and a secret additional protocol between the German Reich and the Soviet Union were concluded, with Germany leaving the Baltic states to the Soviet sphere of interest. Between 1939 and 1941 the Baltic Germans were resettled in the so-called Warthegau and the Reich territory, which meant the end of the 750-year history of Germanness in the Baltic States.

On June 13th and 14th In 1941 around 15,000 Latvians were deported to the interior of the Soviet Union. In 1940/41 a total of 30,000 Latvians were killed, imprisoned or deported. During the Second World War, Latvia was occupied by the German Wehrmacht and incorporated into the “Reichskommissariat Ostland” in July 1941. From 1944 onwards, Latvians were again abducted into the interior of the Soviet Union. Until 1953 some 120,000 Latvians were killed, imprisoned or deported. Latvia was massively Sovietised from 1945 onwards. In 1993 only 54% of Latvians lived in their own country. The public demand for independence was made in 1986. On May 4th, 1990the parliament passed the Latvian declaration of independence, which was proclaimed on 08/20/1991.

In 1991 the Baltic states were admitted to the UN. In 1992 they founded the Baltic Sea Council. In 1993 the Latvian currency Lat was reintroduced. Latvia was admitted to the Council of Europe in 1995. Latvia was admitted to NATO on April 2, 2004, followed by admission to the EU on May 1 of the same year.

Latvia Facts