Latvia is a country situated in northeastern Europe on the Baltic Sea. It sits between the two other Baltic States, Estonia to the north and Lithuania to the south. The eastern border is shared with Russia and the southeastern with Belarus.
The capital city, Riga, which is home to 32% of the population, is situated in the Gulf of Riga at the mouth of the river Daugava. Latvia's total area of 64,589 sq. km is mostly flat, and 40% of the land is covered by forest. The highest elevation in Latvia is the Gaizins at 312 meters. There are about 12,000 rivers and 2300 lakes in Latvia. The largest river is the Daugava, whose source is in Russia.
Latvian people first appeared in what is now Latvia during the 9th century AD. Since the 13th century Latvia has been successively dominated by Germany, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, and Russia. German Crusaders began the conversion of the Baltic peoples to Christianity early in the 13th century.
Indigenous Latvian nationalism grew rapidly in the 20th century and Latvia was able to declare its independence on 18 November 1918. After a period of fighting, the new nation was recognized by Germany and Russia.
In June 1940, following the fall of France, the USSR accused Latvia of forming, with neighboring Estonia, a secret anti-Soviet military alliance, and Soviet forces occupied the country. It was occupied by Germany from 1941 to 1944, after which it again became a part of the USSR. By 1950 sovietization was complete.
In the 1980's during the period of liberalization in the Soviet Union, Latvian nationalism was able to rise and in August 1991 Latvia was able to reestablish its independence.
The total population of Latvia is 2.4 million. Latvians constitute 57% of the population, but this figure was at least 75% before the Soviet occupation. Still today, Russians are 30% of the population. The predominant religion is Lutheran.
Language and culture
A separate page contains further information about the Latvian language and culture.
Internet starting points
The internet contains a lot of information about Latvia. Here are some starting points.
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