Latvia at a glance
Founded in 1918 and located in Northern Europe, Latvia lies on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea. It is a green country with a rich cultural heritage. A half of Latvia’s territory is covered by forests, which makes it the 4th most forested country in Europe.
Latvia is safe and welcoming country, offering space and oppurtunities for everyone, whether you are looking for studies or prefer a quiet afternoon by the seaside. Latvia has it all.
General facts and figures
|Official name:||Republic of Latvia|
|Political system:||Parliamentary Republic, represented by an unicameral parliament (Saeima), with 100 members elected once in 4 years|
|Capital city:||Riga, the biggest city in the Baltic states|
|Other major cities:||Daugavpils, Valmiera, Jelgava, Liepaja, Ventspils|
GMT+2; GMT+3 (Summer)
|Membership:||European Union, Schengen Area, Eurozone, United Nations, Council of Europe, NATO, OECD, WTO|
|Most used foreign languages:||Russian, English, German|
|Border countries:||Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, Belarus|
|Coastline:||498 km (Baltic Sea and Gulf of Riga)|
total: 64,589 sq km
land: 63,589 sq km
water: 1,000 sq km
|International dialing code:||+371|
Brief history of Latvia
The present-day territory of Latvia and ancestors of the Latvian people have been subjects of various European powers over the centuries. In the 13th century to 1561, it was the German religious orders. Then Poland conquered the territory in 1562 and occupied it until Sweden took over the land in 1629, ruling until 1721. Then the land passed to Imperial Russia. From 1721 until 1918, the Latvians remained subjects of the Russian Tsar, although they preserved their language, customs, and folklore.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 gave Latvians their opportunity for freedom, and the Republic of Latvia was proclaimed on November 18, 1918. The Republic lasted little more than 20 years. It was occupied by Russian troops in and incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940. German armies occupied the nation from 1941 to 1944. In 1944, Russia again took control of Latvia until 1990 when the Soviet Union started to collapse.
The Republic of Latvia has been continuously recognised as a state by other countries since 1920 despite occupations by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. On August 21, 1991 Latvia declared the restoration of its de facto independence. Latvia has been an official EU Member State since 2004. Latvia has joined the euro zone as of 1 January 2014.
Entertainment, sports and leisure
Latvia has a vibrant cultural life. With over 800 Art Nouveau buildings, Riga has one of the world’s greatest galleries of this joyful style. Classical and modern music and dance performances are high quality. Folk music and dance traditions are alive and play a large role in everyday life from teaching children morals at school to nation-wide song and dance festivals held every four years. Latvians are also big fans of theatre and contemporary music. Museums cover all sorts of topics and areas. Cinema theatres show films in the original language with subtitles.
Swimming, track and field, basketball, volleyball and fitness are activities you can do at practically every university. Bowling and golf are rapidly gaining popularity with facilities opening around the country. Hockey, football and basketball are the most popular spectator sports. By popular demand, bars set up large screen TVs during championships. When Latvian teams reach international play-offs people may even skip work to watch.
Latvians enjoy eating - food is the central element of almost any celebration. Traditional food is filling and nourishing, because of the northern climate and the hard work farmers and fishermen were used to do. Meat, fish, potatoes and dairy products are the most popular components of main dish meals. Salads are more often composed of vegetables than of greens, and sour cream or mayonnaise is the preferred dressing.
Contemporary Latvians are still very fond of their traditional dark rye bread and mostly choose food that is in season to get the best flavour and price. Many people enjoy growing their own fruits and vegetables or harvesting wild berries and mushrooms from the forests. Of course, one can find a variety of fruit and vegetables from around the world all through the year at supermarkets.
Notable persons from Latvia
Music: Andris Nelsons, conductor; Kristine Opolais, opera singer; Ksenija Sidorova, accordion player; Aleksandrs Antonenko, opera singer; Peteris Vasks, composer; Elina Garanca, opera singer; Viestards Simkus, pianist and composer; Raimonds Pauls, composer; Maris Sirmais, conductor; Arturs Maskats, composer; Inese Galante, opera singer; Brain Storm, music band.
Art: Viulhelms Purvitis, painter; Sergei Eisenstein, film director; Konstantins Peksens, architect; Janis Rozentals, artist; Katrina Neiburga, artist; Maris Liepa, ballet dancer; Anatols Lapins (Anatole Lapine), automobile designer at Porsche; Mikhail Eisenstein, engineer and architect.
Science and inventions: Walter Zapp, inventor and designer of the Minox; Ernests Foldāts, biologist and scientist, discovered various species of orchids.
Literature and philosophy: Rainis, poet; Imants Ziedonis, poet; Nora Ikstena, author; Isaiah Berlin, philosopher.
Sports: Kristaps Porzingis, basketball player; Ernests Gulbis, tennis player; Davis Bertans, basketball players; Laura Ikauniece, athlete; Reinis Nitišs, rallycross driver; Sandis Ozolins, hockey player; Jelena Ostapenko, tennis player; Karlis Skrastins, hockey player; Maris Briedis, boxer.
To find out more go to Latvia.eu website.
See also Practical study info