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Riga Castle, Latvia. Author Britt Storlykken Helland. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike
Riga Castle, Latvia. Author Britt Storlykken Helland

Latvia: the antique Courland

Latvia (Latvijas Republika) is a parliamentary republic, divided into four main regions: Livonia (Vidzeme), Letgallia (Latgale), Courland (Kurzeme) and Zemgallia (Zemgale). The country became independent in 1991 and joined the European Union in 2004.

The most important cities are the capital Riga, Daugavpils, Jelgava, Jurmala, Liepaja, Rezekne, Ventspils. Latvia is bordered to the north-east by Estonia, with which it shares the territory of Livonia, while to the east it borders with Russia, to the south-east with Belarus and to the south with Lithuania. In the west and north-west it is lying on the Baltic Sea with its vast Gulf of Riga.

The Latvian territory is mostly flat with low hills to the east and west and is dotted with lakes and crossed by the river Daugava. The highest hill in the country is the Gaizinkalns with 311 meters above sea level.

Latvia map

Latvia map

Latvia is full of lakes, the largest in the country being Lake Lubans with 80 sq km. The region, which hosts the largest number of lakes Letgallia, which includes the eastern end of the country at the border with Russia and Belarus.

The coasts, generally low and sandy, are often accompanied by small lagoons, such as in the Gulf of Riga. The largest river is the Daugava and another major river is the Gauja.

English text correction by Dietrich Köster. 

  • Area: 64,589 sq km
  • Population: 2,294,200: Latvians 59.0%, Russians 28.3%, Belorussians 3.7%, Ukrainians 2.5%, Poles 2.4%, Lithuanians 1.4%, others 2.1%.
  • State Capital: Riga
  • Official Language: Latvian. Russian is the most widespread minority language.
  • Religion: Non-religious 35%, Lutherans 24%, Catholics 18%, Orthodox 15%, others 8%
  • Currency: Euro (EUR)
  • Time: GMT+2, Daylight Saving Time from April to November GMT +3.

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