Facts About Latvia

  • Riga’s Central Market is one of Europe’s biggest markets.
  • The Ventas Rumba in Kuldīga is the widest waterfall in Europe.
  • Latvia is WIFI paradise. It has one of the world’s fastest internet connections, and with over 800 free connection points in Riga.
  • Latvia’s current flag design has been in use since 1280.
  • Latvian is one of oldest European languages.

Geography and Location

latvia-map-747

Latvia borders Estonia in the north, Lithuania in the south, the Baltic Sea with the Gulf of Riga in the west, Russia in the east, and Belarus in the southeast. Latvia is largely a fertile lowland with numerous lakes and hills to the east.

History and Population

The History of Latvia began around 9000 BC with the end of the last glacial period in northern Europe. Ancient peoples appeared during the second millennium BC, and four distinct tribal realms in Latvia’s territories were identifiable towards the end of the first millennium AD. Latvia’s principal river, the Daugava River, was at the head of an important mainland route from the Baltic region through Russia into southern Europe and the Middle East that was used by the Vikings and later Nordic and German traders.

In the early medieval period, the region’s peoples resisted Christianization and became subject to attack in the Northern Crusades. Today’s capital, Riga, founded in 1201 by Teutonic colonists at the mouth of the Daugava, became a strategic base in a papally-sanctioned conquest of the area by the Livonian

Brothers of the Sword. It was to be the first major city of the southern Baltic and, after 1282, a principal trading centre in the Hanseatic League. By the 16th century, Germanic dominance in the region was increasingly challenged by other powers.

Due to Latvia’s strategic location and prosperous city of Riga, its territories were a frequent focal point for conflict and conquest between at least four major powers: the State of the Teutonic Order (later Germany), the Polish–Lithuanian Common wealth, Sweden and Russia. The longest period of external hegemony in the modern period began in 1710, when control over Riga switched from Sweden to Russia during the Great Northern War. Under Russian control, Latvia was in the vanguard of industrialization and the abolition of serfdom, so that by the end of the 19th century, it had become one of the most developed parts of the Russian Empire. The increasing social problems and rising discontent that this brought meant that Riga also played a leading role in the 1905 Russian Revolution.

A Latvian National Awakening arose in the 1850s and continued to bear fruit after World War I when, after two years of struggle in the Russian Civil War, Latvia finally won sovereign independence, as recognized by Russia in 1920 and by the international community in 1921. Latvia’s independent status was interrupted at the outset of World War II in 1940, when the country was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union, invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany in 1941, then retaken by the Soviets in 1944–45.

From the mid-1940s, the country was subject to Soviet economic control and saw considerable Russification of its peoples. However, Latvian culture and infrastructures survived and, during the period of Soviet liberalization under Mikhail Gorbachev, Latvia once again took a path towards independence, eventually succeeding in August 1991 to be recognized by Russia the following month. Since then, under restored independence, Latvia has become a member of the United Nations, entered NATO and joined the European Union

During 2015 Latvia population is estimated to be decreased by -11 929 people and reach 1 986 173 in the beginning of 2016. The number of deaths will exceed the number of live births by 7 273, so the natural increase is expected to be negative. If external migration will remain on the previous year level, the population will be declined by 4 656 due to the migration reasons. It means that amount of people who leaves Latvia to settle permanently in another country (emigrants) will prevail over the amount of people who moves into the country (to which they are not native) in order to settle there as permanent residents (immigrants).

Government:

 Parliamentary democracy

Language in Latvia

Religion

A Nation of Singers

The Family

A Hierarchical Society

Privacy Please

Latvian Customs and Culture

Gift Giving Etiquette
Dining Etiquette

Economy

Government

Living Conditions and Cost of Living

The standard of living is much lower in Latvia compared to the more developed European states. The average wage is also not competitive in comparison with Europe. The average gross monthly wage in Latvia in the4th quarter of 2013 was EUR 737.

The monthly subsistence minimum for a basket of goods and services for one person in December 2013 was approximately EUR 252.19. Income tax and social insurance contributions are not included in calculations of the subsistence minimum.

Average food prices: meat – EUR 6/kg; frankfurters, sausages – EUR 5/kg; chicken – EUR 4.5/kg; cheese – EUR 6-15/kg; milk – EUR 0.80/litre; bread – EUR 0.5-1; potatoes – EUR 0.5/kg; beer, price in shops – EUR 1-2/500 ml). An average restaurant meal costs between EUR 7 and EUR 30. The price of electricity is ≈EUR 11.64/100kwh – starting tariff, basic tariff – ≈EUR 15.15/100kwh, while the average price per litre of 95 grade fuel is EUR 1.299 (4 March 2014).

30-40% of the average monthly wage is spent on rent and utility payments. Average consumer prices in Latvia do not differ significantly from average prices in other European countries.

Latvia Education System & Information specific to International Students