a brief period of independence between the two World Wars, Latvia was
annexed by the USSR in 1940. It reestablished its independence in 1991
following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Although the last Russian
troops left in 1994, the status of the Russian minority (some 30% of the
population) remains of concern to Moscow. Latvia continues to revamp its
economy for eventual integration into various Western European political
and economic institutions.
is neither very large nor very small. It's a country cozily nestled
between Estonia and Lithuania on the
shore of the Baltic Sea, also known
as the Amber Sea. The territory of Latvia (24,900 square miles) is
inhabited by over 2.5 million people. Latvian language is one of the
most ancient European Languages. Together with Lithuanian, Latvian forms
the Baltic branch of the Indo-European group of languages. Although
Latvia occupies only a small territory, the variety of its nature is
large. This is determined by its geographical location, the history of
its development and the local characteristics.
There are no smoking volcanoes or geysers, cloud-covered mountain tops
or boundless plains in Latvia. However, Latvia will surprise the visitor
with other generous gifts of Mother Nature. Tree-covered hills alternate
with grain-fields and pastures of the flatlands and massive forests.
Along picturesque riverbanks the uncovered basic strata form cliffs and
crags in which the water has carved caves. Numerous lakes sparkle at the
bottom of hills. The forests and waters are full of wildlife.
capital of Latvia is the city of Riga.
Riga announces itself with a unique and fantastically beautiful
silhouette which is sometimes reflected in the Daugava, the largest
river of Latvia, but sometimes secretively disappears in the fog. Old
Riga will be celebrating its 800th birthday in 2001. It is the most
ancient part of Riga and it is also the beginning of Riga -- with the
first local inhabitant log building in the 11th century and the first
German newcomer stone building in the 13th century. Over the time with
much of the old disappearing and the new replacing it, the Old Town has
become a part of the modern city where evidence of various centuries
alternates in the streets.
With 12,310 rivers and 3,000 lakes the country has many opportunities for
boating and walking and just enjoying the outdoors. There are many small
medieval towns, country castles, museums and folk parks to be visited.