Latvia Country Facts

Latvija
Capital city Riga
Surface 64,589 km²
Population 2.003,000
Road network length 70,936 km
Length of highway network 0 km
First highway 2023
Motorway name autocea
Traffic drives Right
License plate code LV

Latvia (Latvija) is a small country in Northern Europe. The country is about one and a half times the size of the Netherlands and is counted among the Baltic States. Latvia has 2 million inhabitants and the capital is Rīga.

Geography

Latvia is the middle of the three Baltic republics. It borders Estonia to the north, Russia to the east and Belarus and Lithuania to the south. The country is located on the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga. Latvia measures a maximum of 440 kilometers from west to east and 250 kilometers from north to south. The Gulf of Riga extends quite far into Latvia, near the capital Rīga the distance from the coast to the Lithuanian border is only 65 kilometers.

Latvia is a mostly flat country, with some slightly sloping areas. Scattered over the country are forest areas, although they are not as contiguous as in Russia. The main river is the Daugava, known in neighboring countries as the Western Dvina. This flows into the sea at Rīga. Scattered across the country are a number of predominantly smaller lakes.

The country has a humid continental climate, with warm summers and cold winters. The average temperature is 22 °C in summer and -8 °C in winter in Rīga, but due to the continental climate there are peaks to 34 °C in summer and -35°C in winter. On average, there is 620 mm of precipitation per year, much of it in winter as snow.

Economy

Latvia is the least developed of the three Baltic countries. The economy grew as one of the fastest in Europe after 2000, but also shrank the most in the European Union in the period 2008-2012. Latvia has been paying with the euro since 2014. The average salary in 2018 was €1,004 per month, almost 30% lower than in neighboring Estonia. Latvia is located on a number of transit routes and has industry in particular in the capital Rīga. Elsewhere, the industry is relatively small. The transport sector is important to the Latvian economy.

Demographics

Latvians make up a relatively small majority of the population, with 62% of the inhabitants in 2011. Russians are the second group with 27% and 3% of the population is made up of Belarusians, followed by 2% Ukrainians and 2% Poles. The only official language in Latvia is Latvian, although Russian is widely spoken in some places and neighbourhoods. In a referendum in 2012, 75% of the electorate voted against a proposal to make Russian an official language.

Latvia’s population fell sharply after independence in 1991, partly because Russians migrated and Latvians started working abroad as guest workers. The population peaked at more than 2.6 million in 1989 and fell to 2 million in 2014. Due to the emigration of Russians, Latvians form an increasing majority in Latvia, the decrease in the number of Latvians was much smaller than the decrease of Russians and others. ethnicities.

The capital Rīga dominates the country, a third of all Latvians live in the capital. There are also four towns with between 50,000 and 100,000 inhabitants, from largest to smallest Daugavpils, Liepāja, Jelgava and Jūrmala. Other places are smaller, but are often regional centers. In total there are only 8 places with more than 25,000 inhabitants.

History

Modern Latvia came into existence in 1918 when independence from the Russian Empire was declared. There was a dictatorship between 1934 and 1940, after which the Soviet Union occupied the country in 1940. Latvia was then conquered by Nazi Germany, but returned to Soviet rule in 1944 and was subsequently annexed as part of the Soviet Union in 1945. Until 1991 Latvia remained part of the Soviet Union, with large-scale migration of Russians to Latvia, so that by the end of the 1980s only half of the inhabitants were Latvian. In 1991 Latvia became independent and the emigration of the Russian population started, causing the population to fall sharply. The last Russian troops left the country in 1994, and Latvia joined NATO and the European Union in 2004. Since 2014, the country has been part of the Eurozone.

 

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