Republic of Latvia or Latvijas Republika
Latvian: Latvija Lithuanian: Latvija Estonian: Lati German: Lettland French: Lettonie Spanish: Letonia Russian: Латвия Swedish: Lettland Chinese: 拉脫維亞 Japanese: ラトビア Arabic: لاتفيا
The Republic of Latvia was founded on November 18, 1918. It has been continuously recognised as a sovereign state since 1920 despite occupations and rule by the Soviet Union (1940-1941, 1945-1991) and Nazi Germany (1941-1945).
On August 21, 1991 Latvia declared the restoration of its de facto independence, re-established international diplomatic ties, and joined the United Nations. Latvia joined the WTO in 1998 and in 2004 became a member of the European Union and NATO.
The name “Latvija” comes from the ancient Latgallians, one of four Indo-European Baltic tribes, who along with Couronians, Selonians and Semigallians formed the ethnic core of today’s Latvian people.
Facts and Figures about Latvia
- Country code: lv
- Currency: euro
- Calling code: +371
- Internet tld: .lv (.eu)
- Time zone: eet (utc+2) eest (utc+3)
- Weights and measures: metric
- Area 64,589 sq.km or 24,937 sq.miles.
- Regions Kurzeme, Zemgale, Vidzeme, Latgale.
- Total national border length 1,862 km.
- Length of Latvia’s Baltic coastline 494 km.
- Largest lake Lubāns, 80.7 sq.km.
- Deepest lake Drīdzis, 65.1 metres.
- Longest river within Latvian territory the Gauja, 452 km.
- Largest river to flow through Latvian territory the Daugava, total length 1,005 km, of which 352 km within Latvian territory.
- Highest point Gaiziņkalns, 311.6 metres.
- Metric units 1 km = 0.62 mile; 1 m = 39.37 inches
Latvia is the central country of the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and is located in North-eastern Europe on the east coast of the Baltic Sea. Its geographic coordinates are 57°00’N latitude and 25°00’E longitude. It consists of fertile lowland plains and moderate hills, with most of its territory less than 100 metres above sea level. It has an extensive network of rivers, thousands of lakes and hundreds of kilometres of undeveloped seashore lined by pine forests, dunes, and continuous white sand beaches.
Latvia is bordered by Estonia to the north, Russia to the east, Belarus to the southeast, Lithuania to the south and the Baltic Sea to the west. Its strategic location has made it an international crossroad for trade, commerce and cultural exchange since ancient times. Vikings followed the ‘Amber Road’ through Latvian territory along the Daugava River to reach Byzantium and the Mediterranean Sea.
Latvia’s weather features a temperate maritime climate, with mild summers, moderate winters and frequently high levels of humidity and precipitation.
- Summer: June – August.
- Winter: December – February.
- The average temperature:
- In summer: 15.8°C (in the capital 16.1°C),
- In winter: -4.5°C (in the capital -3.8°C).
- The warmest month: July,
- The coldest month: January.
- The average precipitation amount:
- In summer: 195 mm,
- In winter: 116 mm.
With over 44 percent of its territory covered by forests, a vast network of free flowing rivers and thousands of lakes, Latvia is one of Europe’s best preserved havens for a wide variety of wildlife. Over 27 thousand species of flora and fauna thrive in natural settings that are still relatively undisturbed by man. Many rare species, such as the black stork and lesser spotted eagle, make their homes in Latvia’s mixed forests, marshes and meadows. There is also an abundance of otters, beavers, lynx and wolves, as well as great concentrations of deer, elk, fox and wild boar. Bird-watching is particularly rewarding in Latvia, especially in the coastal areas and wetlands during annual migration periods.
Name: Euro / Code: EUR / Symbol: €
Latvia’s national currency is the euro consisting of 100 euro cents. Banknotes have nominal values of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros, while coins have nominal values of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 euro cents, and 1, 2 euros.
The euro was introduced in Latvia on January 1, 2014, when it replaced the lat, which had been the country’s currency since 1993. The lat was also the national currency of the Republic of Latvia from 1922 to 1940.
The lat was one of Europe’s most stable and secure currencies, its exchange rate to euros was 1 : 1,423. The 500 lat banknote (711.44 euros) was the third most valuable in the world before it gave way to the 500 euro banknote in 2014. The lat was pegged to the euro since 2005 providing a fixed rate.
Latvia is a democratic, parliamentary republic. Legislative power is in the hands of the single chamber Saeima , which has 100 deputies. Parliamentary elections are held every 4 years. Latvia’s head of state, the President, is elected by the Saeima for a period of 4 years. The President signs laws, chooses the Prime Minister (who heads the government) and performs representative functions.
Latvians are the indigenous people of Latvia, and the Finno-Ugric Livs (or Livonians) are the only indigenous minority. Latvia’s present ethnic mix is largely a result of massive post-war immigration, which resulted in a decline in the share of ethnic Latvians from 77% in 1935 to 52% in 1989.
Population in 2013: 2, 023, 825
Urban: 68% Rural: 32%
Latvia has traditionally had one of the highest per capita ratio of students in the world. The state guarantees free primary and secondary school education and offers scholarships for higher education. Foreign students from EU countries pay the same fees as permanent residents of Latvian, and degrees from Latvian educational institutions are recognized internationally. Doctorates can be received in the social sciences, natural sciences, and law, as well as technical and humanitarian sciences. Latvia also has state-financed ethnic minority schools or classes where courses are taught in Belorussian, Estonian, Hebrew, Lithuanian, Polish, Roma, Russian and Ukrainian.