January 26, 2022
Latvia (Latvian: Latvija; Latvian: Latveja; Liv: Lețmō), officially the Republic of Latvia (Latvian: Latvijas Republika; Liv: Leţmō Vabāmō), is a country in northeastern Europe and one of the Baltic countries bordering the Baltic Sea. The country is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania and Belarus to the south, Russia to the east, and it shares a maritime border with Sweden to the west. Latvia, with 1,862,687 inhabitants (July 2021) and an area of 64,589 km², is one of the least and least populated countries in the European Union. The capital of Latvia is Riga, the official language is Latvian and the currency is the euro (as of January 1, 2014, previously it was Latvian lats). The country has a moderate continental climate. Latvians are a Baltic people and Latvian is an Indo-European language. Together with the Finno-Ugric bodies, they form the original populations of Latvia. The country is geographically, in terms of area and population, the middle of three Baltic countries: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Latvian and Lithuanian are related as the only two living Indo-European Baltic languages. Indigenous minority languages are Letgal and the almost extinct Finno-Ugric Lifs, which is related to Estonian. Latvia and Estonia share a long history: historical Livonia, times of Baltic-German, Polish-Lithuanian, Swedish, Russian, Nazi-German and Soviet rule, 13th-century Christianization and the 16th-century Protestant Reformation. In both countries, a large part of the population is ethnically Russian: 26.9% in Latvia, 26% in Estonia. Latvia is predominantly Protestant (Evangelical Lutheran), with the exception of the Letgallen region, which is predominantly Roman Catholic. Latvia is a democratic parliamentary republic with an administrative division consisting of 109 municipalities and 9 cities. The country is divided into five regions: Riga (Rīga), Courland (Kurzeme), Vidzeme, Semigallen (Zemgale) and Letgallen (Latgale). The Republic of Latvia was founded on November 18, 1918. Between 1940–1941 and 1945–1991 the country was occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union and between 1941-1945 by Nazi Germany. The nonviolent 'Singing Revolution' between 1987 and 1991 and the 'Baltic Way' demonstration on August 23, 1989 led to the independence of the Baltic countries. Latvia declared its independence and the restoration of its sovereignty on 21 August 1991. Latvia is a member of the United Nations, European Union, Council of Europe, NATO, OECD, OSCE, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization, and is part of the Schengen area. The country was a member of the League of Nations (1921-1946) and part of the Baltic Free Trade Area (1994-2004). Latvia is a member of the Baltic Sea Council, the Nordic Investment Bank and maintains trilateral Baltic and Nordic Baltic cooperation with Estonia and Lithuania. The United Nations assigns Latvia a Human Development Index (HDI) of 'very high'.