About Latvia



The Baltic Sea areas of what is now called Latvia were first settled in 3000 BC, and over centuries of time trade routes developed across parts of Europe, and beyond.

During Medieval times this land (including southern Estonia) was called Livonia. In 1201, at the request of Pope Innocent III, German crusaders (knights) conquered large parts of it and founded Riga.
In the late 13th century the Hanseatic League emerged. It was an economic alliance of cities that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe, and the merchant-dominated city of Riga became an important member.

Rome’s appointed bishops here were continually charged with expanding the influence of the Catholic church and to protect its interest. Conflicts with German knights who still controlled large portions of the land (apart from the church) continued on into the 16th century.

In the mid-16th century, Lithuania, Poland and Russia(all looking for more land) fought the Livonian War. In the end, Livonia (Latvia) fell under Polish and Lithuanian rule.

Poland, Lithuania, Sweden and Russia continued their efforts to control the Baltic lands, and in 1611, after the Polish-Swedish War, parts of Livonia (Latvia) fell under Swedish control.

Russia had long-contested Swedish influence over this land along the Baltic Sea, and from 1700-1721 the Great Northern War raged. In the end Russia was the victor and Latvia, as well as Estonia were now in Russian hands.

The result was a human tragedy for Latvia. The Emperor of Russia’s forces quickly destroyed Latvian resources (including food) and a wide-spread famine soon caused a substantial loss of human life, estimated to be 40% (or more) of the population.

Conditions remained all but unbearable for the workers (peasants) in Latvia on into the early 19th century, but by then, the social structure began to change (albeit slowly) and some basic capitalist freedoms returned.

It was then that nationalism surfaced for the first time, and Latvians began to envision more personal freedoms, and maybe, just maybe, an independent (separate) nation would be possible for them.

In the early 20th century, that Latvian desire for independence was a front-burner issue across the country, and it exploded into a fever during the 1905 Russian Revolution, when a wave of mass political and social unrest spread across the Russian Empire.

Then in 1914, World War I raised its ugly, destructive head across Europe. The war devastated the Baltic countries, but in the end some major participants were politically defeated and ceased to exist; including the German and Russian imperial powers.

For Latvia, this proved an opportunity not to be missed and it proclaimed the independence of their new country in the capital city of Riga on November 18, 1918.

Soon the established map of Europe would be completely redrawn, as a number of smaller states had now surfaced. The League of Nations was formed whose principal mission was to maintain world peace, especially across Europe. The success of their mission would be short-lived.

In 1939, the German-Soviet powerbase (Stalin and Hitler) in an effort to control the European continent, signed a secret agreement that literally divided eastern Europe, and the Soviets had their greedy eye once again on Latvia, as well as Estonia.

Fast Facts

  • Name: Latvia
    (long form) Republic of Latvia
  • Capital City: Riga (706,413 pop.)
    (1,098,523 metro)
  • Latvia Population: 2,204,708 (2010 est.)
  • World Populations (all countries)
  • Currency: Latvian Lats
    (conversion rates)
    20 Lats
  • Ethnicity: Latvian 59.3%, Russian 27.8%, Belarusian 3.6%, Ukrainian 2.5%, Polish 2.4%, Lithuanian 1.3%, other 3.1%
  • GDP total: $32.2 billion (2010 est.)
  • GDP per capita: $14,300 (2010 est.)
  • Land Sizes
  • Language: Latvian (official) 58.2%, Russian 37.5%, Lithuanian and other 4.3%
  • Largest Cities: (by population) Riga, Daugavpils
  • Name: Latvia is derived from Latgale (originally Lettigalli), with “Let-” meaning pour, and “-gale” meaning land.
  • National Day: November 18
  • Religion: Lutheran 19.6%, Orthodox 15.3%, other Christian 1%, other 0.4%, unspecified 63.7%
  • Symbols

Land Statistics

  • Coastline: 309 miles (498 km)
  • Land Area:
    (land) 24,034 sq miles (62,249 sq km)
    (water) 903 sq miles (2,340 sq km)
    (TOTAL) 24,938 sq miles (64,589 sq km)
    To convert sq km (kilometers) to sq mi (miles)
    use our converter
  • Land Area: (all countries)
  • Land Divisions: 26 counties and 7 municipalities, including: Aizkraukles Rajons, Aluksnes Rajons, Balvu Rajons, Bauskas Rajons, Cesu Rajons, Daugavpils*, Daugavpils Rajons, Dobeles Rajons, Gulbenes Rajons, Jekabpils Rajons, Jelgava*, Jelgavas Rajons, Jurmala*, Kraslavas Rajons, Kuldigas Rajons, Liepaja*, Liepajas Rajons, Limbazu Rajons, Ludzas Rajons, Madonas Rajons, Ogres Rajons, Preilu Rajons, Rezekne*, Rezeknes Rajons, Riga*, Rigas Rajons, Saldus Rajons, Talsu Rajons, Tukuma Rajons, Valkas Rajons, Valmieras Rajons, Ventspils* and Ventspils Rajons. (municipalities*)
  • Horizontal Width: 282.74 miles (455.02 km) fromLiepaja east to Rezekne
  • Vertical Length: 205.65 miles (330.96 km) from Ainazi southeast to Daugavpils

    Note: Lengths and widths are point-to-point, straight-line measurements from a Mercator map projection, and will vary some using other map projections

  • Bordering Countries: (4) Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania, Russia
  • Geographic Center: 19.72 miles (31.74 km) southeast of Riga
  • Highest Point:  Gaizina Kalns 1,022 ft (311.6 m)
  • Lowest Point:   Baltic Sea 0 m
  • Latitude and Longitude
  • Relative Location



  • Latitude/Longitude (Absolute Locations)
    Riga: (capital city) 56° 56′ N, 24° 6′ E
    Aluksne: 57° 25′ N, 27° 2′ E
    Daugavpils: 55° 52′ N, 26° 32′ E
    Liepaja: 56° 29′ N, 21° 0′ E
  • Latitudes and Longitudes: (specific details)
  • Find any Latitude & Longitude
  • Relative Locations: (specific details)