Information on Latvia
|Ethnicities||57,6 % Latvians, 29,6 % Russians, 2,7 % Ukranians a.o.|
|Religion||Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Russian-Orthodox|
|Urban %||69 %|
|Basis: Predictions 2013|
|Real Gross Inland Product (GIP), change against previous year||4,3 %|
|Consumer Prices, increase against previous year||1,1 %|
|Unemployment Rate, average/year||13,5 %|
|Trade Balance, balance in % of the GIP||- 2,8 %|
|Official Name of the State||Republic of Latvia|
Riga (770.000 inhabitants)
|Type of Government||Parlamentary Democracy|
|Prime Minister||Valdis Dombrovskis|
|Highest Judicial Power||Supreme Court|
|Electoral System||Proportional Representation|
|Age of majority||18 years|
Latvia with its territory of 64,600 km2 is one of the smallest countries in Europe. Latvia’s land borders are with Estonia in the North, with Russia and Belarus in the East and with Lithuania in the South.
The coastline at the Baltic Sea measures 500 km. Landscape is marked by lowlands, plains and rolling hills. Forests cover about a third of the land. Most of the countryside is less than 300 m above sea level. Fertile lowlands in the interior of the country are called the Granary of the Baltics. Agriculture utilizes almost 40% of Latvia’s total land area.
Latvia is a land of lakes and rivers. It has more than 12'000 watercourses. The lakes are very shallow, the water depth varies between 1 m to 5 m. There are 2,9 million hectares of forest in Latvia, 58% coniferous and 42% deciduous. Many rare species of fauna and flora live in the extensive moorlands and marshes.
Latvia lies in a transitorial zone between maritime and continental climate. That is why the summers are not too hot and the winters correspondigly not too cold. Sometimes the temperature may reach + 30°C in summer and -20°C in winter.
Latvia has 2,7 mio. inhabitants. About the half of them are Latvian, a third are Russian. The ethnic mix of the population is largely a result of the massive post-war immigration politics of Moscow with 400'000 Russian immigrants. An other reason is the escape of tens of thousands of Latvians by the invasion of the Soviets as well as the following deportations and murders. Over 2/3 of the population are urban.
Approximately the half of the inhabitants speak Latvian as their native language. The second dominant language is Russian. Latvian and Lithuanian are the only still spoken Baltic languages. It is claimed at times that these two indo-European languages are descendend from Sanskrit.
The people in Latvia are mostly Lutherians. They are strongly affected with their religion. The identification with their faith was an act of resistance at the times of the Soviet occupation.
Their red-white-red flag was in 1918 promoted to state flag. It goes back to a Livonian chronicle from the 13th century.
The Latvian coat of arms implies several symbols. The three stars stand for the three regions Kurzeme, Latgale and Vidzeme. The rising sun was an emblem on the caps of the latvian freedom fighters in the independence war of 1918. The silver griffin on the riht goes back to the czar aera. It was the heraldic animal of the Livonian government. The red lion on the left symbolizes the region of Kurzeme.
The first contacts to Middle Europe were established in 1186 by the Hanseatic League of Northern Germany. Thereupon German crusaders travelled east to spread the Catholic faith and finally subdued the native tribes. That enabled the establishment of the State of Livonia. In the following the history of Latvia is marked by the power struggle between the German Order and the Teutonic Knights. In addition, the permanent conflicts with the neighbours Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Sweden and Danmark weakened the state. In 1710 Latvia and Estonia are annexed to the russian Empire under Peter the Great. The national awareness of the Latvian people began slowly to develop under the Russian government.
In 1918 the independent State of Latvia was proclaimed. This caused a disastrous two-year civil war. In 1920 the revolutionary Soviet Union recognised Latvia’s independence. The democracy was abruptly finished by the conservative dictatory Umanis‘. The secret Hitler-Stalin-Pact of 1939 enabled the Red Army to invade in 1941 in Balticum. Soviet military bases were established within the country. This phase of stagnation lasted till „perestroika“ and „glasnost“ began in the Soviet Union.
In 1991 the parliament in Latvia voted for re-establishing Latvia‘s pre-war status as a sovereign independent country.
About one third of the population live in Riga which is the metropole of the Baltics. It is the biggest capital in Balticum. Since the Hanseatic days Riga has assumed a central mediating role in East-West trade because of its overseas haven. That is why the city is extremely western-bound with its varied and lively cultural life. The share of ethnic Latvians is about 40% and Russians 55 %.
The near seaside resort Jurmala (40 m long and 90 km2 of area) is famous for its wonderful sandshores. It is a near recreation area for the people in Riga.
80 km southbound of Riga there is the wonderful castle Rundale. It was finished in 1740 and is one of the most famous attractions in the country.
It is also worth while visiting the National Park of Gauja, 50 km northeast of Riga. Its territory covers 900 km2. It is also called „Switzerland of Livonia“ for ist steep slopes which enable in winter some nice down-hill runs.
Latvia joined the International Monetary Fund in May 1992, and in February 1994 the Government of Latvia signed NATO‘s Partnership for Peace Programme. Around the same time, Latvia also signed a free trade agreement with the European Union. Latvia has also become a member of the United Nations, the Councilor of Europe and other bodies to prepare the way for eventual membership of the EU. In early 1992 it was agreed to abolish almost all trade restrictions between the three Baltic countries and to introduce a common visa policy.