Latvia Guides

Latvia is located in Northern Europe, bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, and the Baltic Sea to the west. Its strategic location along the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea has shaped its history and influenced its cultural heritage.

Geography

Latvia’s geography is characterized by diverse landscapes, including forests, lakes, rivers, and coastline, making it a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Climate

Latvia has a temperate climate, with four distinct seasons. Summers are mild and sunny, while winters are cold and snowy. The coastal areas experience maritime influence, with milder temperatures and higher precipitation levels compared to inland regions.

Fauna

Latvia is home to a variety of wildlife, including deer, elk, foxes, and wild boar. The country’s forests provide important habitats for these animals, as well as a range of bird species, such as eagles, owls, and woodpeckers.

Longest Rivers

The Daugava River is the longest river in Latvia, flowing from its source in Russia through Belarus and Latvia before emptying into the Gulf of Riga. Other major rivers in Latvia include the Gauja, Lielupe, and Venta rivers.

Highest Mountains

Latvia is a relatively flat country, and it does not have any mountains. Its highest point is Gaiziņkalns, reaching only 312 meters (1,024 feet) above sea level.

History

Latvia’s history is marked by a rich tapestry of cultures, from ancient Baltic tribes to medieval kingdoms, colonial powers, and the modern era of independence.

Prehistory

The territory of present-day Latvia has been inhabited since ancient times, with evidence of human settlement dating back to the Stone Age. Baltic tribes such as the Latgallians, Couronians, and Semigallians inhabited the region and engaged in trade and warfare with neighboring peoples.

Medieval Period

In the Middle Ages, Latvia was part of the Livonian Confederation, a loose alliance of Baltic and Germanic states. The Teutonic Order, a German military order, established control over much of the territory and built castles and fortifications to defend against invading armies.

Swedish and Russian Rule

In the 17th century, Latvia came under Swedish rule during the Livonian War. However, in the early 18th century, the region was annexed by the Russian Empire, leading to a period of Russification and cultural assimilation.

Independence

Latvia gained independence from Russia in 1918, following the collapse of the Russian Empire during World War I. The newly formed Republic of Latvia embarked on a period of nation-building and democratic reform, establishing itself as a sovereign state on the world stage.

Soviet Occupation

During World War II, Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union and later by Nazi Germany. After the war, Latvia was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union as the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic, enduring decades of communist rule and repression.

Restoration of Independence

In 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Latvia regained its independence and declared itself a democratic republic. The country embarked on a process of economic transition, political reform, and European integration, joining NATO and the European Union in 2004.

Demographics

Latvia has a population of approximately 1.9 million people, with a diverse mix of ethnicities and cultures.

Ethnicity

The majority of Latvia’s population is ethnic Latvian, with significant minority populations of Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, and other ethnic groups. The country’s ethnic diversity is reflected in its rich cultural heritage and traditions.

Religion

Christianity is the predominant religion in Latvia, with the majority of the population belonging to the Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches. There are also small communities of Russian Orthodox, Old Believers, and other religious groups.

Language

The official language of Latvia is Latvian, a Baltic language closely related to Lithuanian. Russian is also widely spoken, especially in urban areas and among older generations, due to historical ties with the Soviet Union.

Culture

Latvian culture is characterized by its strong traditions of music, dance, and folklore. The country’s festivals and celebrations, such as Līgo and Jāņi (Midsummer), showcase traditional songs, dances, and rituals, celebrating Latvia’s rural heritage and connection to nature.

Administrative Divisions

Latvia is divided into 110 municipalities (novadi) and nine cities with separate municipal rights (republikas pilsetas).

List of Administrative Divisions with Population

  1. Riga City – Population: 630,000
  2. Daugavpils City – Population: 80,000
  3. Liepaja City – Population: 70,000
  4. Jelgava City – Population: 60,000
  5. Jurmala City – Population: 56,000
  6. Ventspils City – Population: 35,000
  7. Rezekne City – Population: 30,000
  8. Valmiera City – Population: 27,000
  9. Ogre City – Population: 25,000
  10. Tukums City – Population: 20,000

10 Largest Cities by Population

  1. Riga
  2. Daugavpils
  3. Liepaja
  4. Jelgava
  5. Jurmala
  6. Ventspils
  7. Rezekne
  8. Valmiera
  9. Ogre
  10. Tukums

Education Systems

Education in Latvia is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 18. The country has a well-developed education system, with a network of public and private schools, as well as vocational and technical institutions. University of Latvia and Riga Technical University are among the top universities in the country, offering a wide range of academic programs.

Transportation

Latvia has a modern transportation infrastructure, with efficient systems for air travel, road transportation, and maritime shipping.

Airports

Latvia has several international airports, including Riga International Airport, which serves as the main gateway to the country. Other airports include Liepaja International Airport and Ventspils International Airport, which provide domestic and international flights to various destinations.

Railways

Latvia has a network of railways connecting major cities and towns across the country. The total length of railways in Latvia is approximately 2,300 kilometers, with major routes linking Riga with other key destinations.

Highways

Latvia has a network of highways and roads connecting urban centers and rural areas. The total length of highways in Latvia is approximately 20,000 kilometers, with major routes such as the A1 and A2 motorways linking Riga with other Baltic capitals and European cities.

Ports

Latvia has several major ports along its coastline, including the Port of Riga, which is the largest port in the Baltic States. Other ports include the Port of Ventspils and the Port of Liepaja, which serve as important hubs for maritime shipping and trade.

Country Facts

  • Population: 1.9 million
  • Capital: Riga
  • Language: Latvian
  • Religion: Christianity (Lutheran and Roman Catholic)
  • Race: Latvian (majority), Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, other ethnic groups
  • Currency: Euro (EUR)
  • ISO Country Codes: LV
  • International Calling Code: +371
  • Top-level Domain: .lv