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The Republic of Latvia is a republic in Northeastern Europe. Bordering the Baltic Sea, Latvia is known as one of the Baltic States, together with Estonia and Lithuania, which border the nation in the north and south, respectively. In the east, it shares borders with Russia and Belarus.

Latvijas Republika
(In Detail[?]) (Full size)
National motto: None
Official language Latvian
Capital Riga
PresidentVaira Vike-Freiberga[?]
Prime minister Einars Repse[?]
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 121st
64,589 km²
 - Total (2001)
 - Density
Ranked 137th
 - Declared
 - Recognised
From the Soviet Union
November 18, 1918
August 11, 1920
Currency Lat
Time zone UTC +2
National anthem Dievs, Sveti Latviju
Internet TLD.LV
Calling Code371

Table of contents

History Main article: History of Latvia

Known for the most part as Livonia, the area that now constitues 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 in November 1918. This period of independence lasted only briefly, as the Soviet Union annexed the country in June 17, 1940 in accordance to Soviet-Nazi agreement (Ribbentrop-Molotov pact) of August 23, 1939.

Except for a brief period of German occupation during World War II, Latvia remained Soviet territory until reforms in Soviet communism such as glasnost stimulated the Latvian independence movement, and Latvia regained its independence on August 21, 1991. It has since followed a course to reinforce its links with the west and is slated to become a member of both NATO and the European Union in 2004.

Politics Main article: Politics of Latvia

The 100-seat unicameral Latvian parliament, the Saeima, is elected by direct, popular vote every four years. The presidential elections are held separately, also every four years. The president appoints a prime minister, who together with his cabinet, forms the executive branch of the government.

Counties Main article: Counties of Latvia[?]

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

Geography 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 Gaizinkalns[?] 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 Liepaja along the Baltic coast.

The Latvian climate is maritime and temperate in nature, with cool summers and wet, moderate winters.

Economy Main article: Economy of Latvia

Latvia's transitional economy recovered from the 1998 Russian financial crisis, largely due to the previous government's budget stringency and a gradual reorientation of exports toward EU countries, lessening Latvia's trade dependency on Russia. The majority of companies, banks, and real estate have been privatised. Latvia officially joined the World Trade Organisation in February 1999 - the first Baltic state to join - and was invited at the Helsinki EU Summit in December 1999 to begin accession talks in early 2000 for an expected membership in May 2004. The high current account deficit remains a major concern.

Demographics Main article: Demographics of Latvia

Less than 60% of the population of Latvia are ethnic Latvians. About 30% is Russian, whose wellbeing is a continuing concern for Russia. Sizeable minorities from other countries such as Belarus, Ukraine and Poland also live in Latvia.

Latvian, a member of the Baltic languages, is the country's only official language, but Russian is also widely spoken. The population is almost entirely Christian, but divided between the Lutheran, Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches. Another religion is Dievturi (The Godkeepers), which has historical roots based on prechristianity era mythology.

Culture Main article: Culture of Latvia[?]

Miscellaneous topics

External Links

  • Cabinet of Ministers (http://www.mk.gov.lv/index.php/en) - Official governmental site
  • President's Chancery (http://www.president.lv/index.php) - Official presidential site
  • Saeima (http://www.saeima.lv) - Official parliamentary site (in Latvian)
  • Welcome to Latvia (http://www.lv) - Wide collection of Latvian links

European Union:
Austria  |  Belgium  |  Denmark  |  Finland  |  France  |  Germany  |  Greece  |  Ireland
Italy  |  Luxembourg  |  Netherlands  |  Portugal  |  Spain  |  Sweden  |  United Kingdom

Countries acceding to membership on May 1, 2004:
Cyprus  |  Czech Republic  |  Estonia  |  Hungary  |  Latvia  |  Lithuania  |  Malta  |  Poland  |  Slovakia  |  Slovenia

Countries of the world  |  Europe

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