Latvia is a European nation that regained its independence in 1991, after
more than 50 years of forced annexation to the Soviet Union.
It had been independent from 1918 to 1940, when the Soviet Union occupied it and
made it one of the 15 republics of the Soviet Union.
A Short Background
After a brief period of independence between the two World Wars, Latvia was
annexed by the USSR in 1940. It reestablished its independence in 1991 following
the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Although the last Russian troops left in 1994, the status of the Russian
minority (some 30% of the population) remains of concern to Moscow.
Latvia continues to revamp its economy for eventual integration into various
Western European political and economic institutions.
Latvia lies on the Eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, in between Estonia to the
North, Lithuania to the South and Russia and Belarus to the East. It is as large
in area as Belgium and the Netherlands together. It is a land of forests,
plains, lakes, river valleys and white sandy beaches. The highest point is 311
meters. The climate is temperate with long, sunny and warm days in summer. The
main river is the Daugava, which played an important role in trade. About one
third of the population (747 000) lives in the capital city Riga and its
surroundings. Other important cities are Daugavpils (113000), Liepaja (88000)
and Jelgava (71000).
||Eastern Europe, bordering the
Baltic Sea, between Estonia and Lithuania
||57 00 N, 25 00 E
||2.346.000 persons (in 2002), Latvian origin 58.2%, Russian
origin 29.2%, other origins (Belarussian, Ukrainian,
Polish, Lithuanian, others)
||Lutheran, Roman Catholic,
||Latvian or Lettish (official),
Lithuanian, Russian, other
||Latvian lat (LVL)
||1 EURO to Latvian Lats: 0,648 (April
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