Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


The Republic of Latvia (Latvian: Latvijas Republika), or Latvia (Latvian: Latvija), 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.

On 20 September 2003, in a nationwide referendum, the Latvians voted to join the European Union and Latvia's EU membership took effect on 1 May 2004. Latvia became the member state of NATO on March 29 2004.

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

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Counties
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture
8 International rankings
9 Miscellaneous topics
10 External links


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 18 1918. From 1934 was an authoritarian state. This period of independence lasted only briefly, as the Soviet Union annexed the country on 17 June 1940 in accordance with the Soviet-Nazi agreement (Ribbentrop-Molotov pact) of 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 21 August 1991. It has since followed a course to reinforce its links with the West, and became a member of both NATO and the European Union in 2004.


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 is elected by Saeima. The president appoints a prime minister who, together with his cabinet, forms the executive branch of the government.


Main article: Counties of Latvia

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


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.


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 and the European Union in May 2004. The high current account deficit remains a major concern.


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. In the larger cities, such as Riga and Daugavpils, Russians outnumber Latvians. 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 largely Christian, divided between the Lutheran, Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches. Another religion is Dievturi (The Godkeepers), which has historical roots based on preChristian era mythology.


Main article: Culture of Latvia

International rankings

Miscellaneous topics

External links



European Union (EU)
Austria | Belgium | Cyprus | Czech Republic | Denmark | Estonia | Finland | France | Germany | Greece | Hungary | Ireland | Italy | Latvia | Lithuania | Luxembourg | Malta | Netherlands | Poland | Portugal | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain | Sweden | United Kingdom

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)
Belgium | Bulgaria | Canada | Czech Republic | Denmark | Estonia | France | Germany | Greece | Hungary | Iceland | Italy | Latvia | Lithuania | Luxembourg | The Netherlands | Norway | Poland | Portugal | Romania | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain | Turkey | United Kingdom | United States

[ Edit {}] Countries in Europe
Albania | Andorra | Austria | Azerbaijan | Belarus | Belgium | Bosnia and Herzegovina | Bulgaria | Croatia | Czech Republic | Cyprus | Denmark | Estonia | Finland | France | Germany | Greece | Hungary | Iceland | Ireland | Italy | Kazakhstan | Latvia | Liechtenstein | Lithuania | Luxembourg | Republic of Macedonia | Malta | Moldova | Monaco | Netherlands | Norway | Poland | Portugal | Romania | Russia | San Marino | Serbia and Montenegro | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain | Sweden | Switzerland | Turkey | Ukraine | United Kingdom | Vatican City
Dependencies: Faroe Islands | Gibraltar | Guernsey | Isle of Man | Jersey | Svalbard