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Latvia (Republic of), independent country, bordering on the Baltic Sea (west), between Estonia (north), Russia (east), and Lithuania (south). Its capital is Riga.

Land and climate

It is a lowland country, covering some 24,938 sq mi (64,589 sq km), with a moderate continental climate.


Nearly a third of the people are Russians, but the majority are Latvians, an ancient Baltic people. Minorities include Byelorussians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, and Poles. The official language is Latvian. Over 90% of the population are Christians.


While cattle and dairy farming, fishing, and lumbering are of considerable importance, highly developed industries also exist and include shipbuilding, engineering, and the manufacture of steel, textiles, cement, and fertilizers. The country hardly has any natural resources.


Christianized by the German Livonian Knights in the 13th century, Latvia was ruled by Poles, Swedes, and, from the 18th century, Russians. From 1920 to 1940 (when it was reabsorbed into the USSR (Soviet Union)), it enjoyed a precarious independence. Beginning in the late 1980s, Latvia, together with Lithuania and Estonia, was involved in a sometimes violent struggle for economic self-determination, religious freedom, and autonomy from the central Soviet government. With the collapse of communism in the USSR in 1991 Latvia formally attained independence. After independence Latvia pursued Western political and economic policies, and its relationship with Russia deteriorated.

See also: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.


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