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Latvia

Latvia
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"Latvia" (; ), officially the "Republic of Latvia" (), is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia (343 km), to the south by Lithuania (588 km), to the east by the Russian Federation (276 km), and to the southeast by Belarus (141 km). Across the Baltic Sea to the west lies Sweden. The territory of Latvia covers and it has a temperate seasonal climate.

The Latvians are Baltic people culturally related to the Estonians and Lithuanians, with the Latvian language having many similarities with Lithuanian, but not with the Estonian language (a Finno-Ugric language). Today the Latvian and Lithuanian languages are the only surviving members of the Baltic languages of the Indo-European family. The modern name of Latvia is thought to originate from the ancient Latvian name "Latvji", which, like the name of Lithuania, may have originated from the river named Latuva. The country is also the home of a large Russian minority of whom many are non-citizens.

Latvia is a unitary parliamentary republic and is divided into 118 municipalities (109 counties and 9 cities). The capital and largest city is Riga. With a population of 2.23 million Latvia is one of the least-populous members of the European Union, and its population has declined 14.9% since 1991. Latvia has been a member of the United Nations since September 17, 1991; of the European Union since May 1, 2004 and of the NATO since March 29, 2004.

Following a period of Soviet occupation after World War II, Latvia regained its independence in 1991. After years of economic stagnation in the early 1990s, Latvia posted Europe-leading GDP growth figures during the 1998–2006 period. In the global financial crisis of 2008–2010 Latvia was the hardest hit of the European Union member states, with a GDP decline of 26.54% in that period. Its per capita GDP is 49% of the EU average in 2009, making it the third poorest member-state.
History


Around the beginning of the third millennium BC (3000 BC), the proto-Baltic ancestors of the Latvian people settled on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. The Balts established trade routes to Rome and Byzantium, trading local amber for precious metals.A History of Rome, M Cary and HH Scullard, p455-457, Macmillan Press, ISBN 0-333-27830-5 By 900 AD, four distinct Baltic tribes inhabited Latvia: Curonians, Latgalians, Selonians, Semigallians (in Latvian: "kurši", "latgaļi", "sēļi" and "zemgaļi"), as well as the Livonians ("lībieši") speaking a Finno-Ugric language.
The Medieval period ===Although the local people had had contact with the outside world for centuries, they were more fully integrated into European society in the 12th century. The first missionaries, sent by the Pope, sailed up the Daugava River in the late 12th century, seeking converts. The local people, however, did not convert to Christianity as readily as hoped. German crusaders were sent into Latvia to convert the pagan population by force of a

In the beginning of the 13th century, large parts of today"s Latvia were conquered by Germans. Together with Southern Estonia these conquered areas formed the crusader state which became known as Terra Mariana or Livonia. In 1282, Riga, and later the cities of Cēsis, Limbaži, Koknese and Valmiera, were included in the Hanseatic League. Riga became an important point of east-west trading. and formed close cultural contacts with Western Europe.
The Reformation period ===The 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries were a time of great change for the inhabitants of Latvia, including the reformation, the collapse of the Livonian state, and the time when the Latvian territory was divided up among foreign pow

After the Livonian War (1558–1583), Livonia (Latvia) fell under Polish and Lithuanian rule. The southern part of Estonia and the northern part of Latvia were ceded to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and formed into the "Ducatus Ultradunensis" (Pārdaugavas hercogiste). Gotthard Kettler, the last Master of the Order of Livonia, formed the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia. Though the duchy was a vassal state to Poland, it retained a considerable degree of autonomy and experienced a golden age in the 17th century. Latgalia, the easternmost region of Latvia, became a part of the Polish district of Inflanty.

The 17th and early 18th centuries saw a struggle between Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Sweden and Russia for supremacy in the eastern Baltic. After the Polish–Swedish War (1600–1611), northern Livonia (including Vidzeme) came under Swedish rule. Fighting continued sporadically between Sweden and Poland until the Truce of Altmark in 1629. In Latvia, the Swedish period is generally remembered as positive; serfdom was eased, a network of schools was established for the peasantry, and the power of the regional barons was diminished.

Several important cultural changes occurred during this time. Under Swedish and largely German rule, western Latvia adopted Lutheranism as its main religion. The ancient tribes of the Couronians, Semigallians, Selonians, Livs and northern Latgallians assimilated to form the Latvian people, speaking one Latvian language. Throughout all the centuries, however, no such thing as a Latvian state existed so the borders and definitions of who exactly fell within that group are largely subjective. Meanwhile, largely isolated from the rest of Latvia, southern Latgallians adopted Catholicism under Polish/Jesuit influence. The native dialect remained distinct, although it acquired many Polish and Russian loanwords.
Latvia in the Russian Empire ===The Capitulation of Estonia and Livonia in 1710 and the Treaty of Nystad, ending the Great Northern War in 1721, gave Vidzeme to Russia (it became part of the Riga Governorate). The Latgale region remained part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth as Inflanty Voivodeship until 1772, when it was incorporated into Russia. The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia became an autonomous Russian province (the Courland Governorate) in 1795, bringing all of what is now Latvia into the Russian Empire. All three Baltic provinces preserved local laws, the local official language and their own parliament, the Land

During the Great Northern War (1700–1721), the Baltic area was once again the scene of great devastation, with Peter the Great"s scorched-earth policy, famine, and plague being responsible for catastrophic loss of human life: as much as 40% of the population in Latvian lands were killed."". Kevin O"Connor (2004). p.29. ISBN 0313323550 In 1710, the plague reached Riga, where it was active until 1711 and claimed the lives of about half the population.. Bank of Latvia.

The promises Peter the Great made to the Baltic German nobility at the fall of Riga in 1710, confirmed by the Treaty of Nystad and known as "the Capitulations", largely reversed the Swedish reforms. The 18th century was one of the hardest for the peasantry, who were virtually treated as chattels and had no rights or education. Peasants were obliged to work on feudal lords" lands as many as six days per week, leaving one day to look after their own farms. As a solution to their problems, many of the peasants turned to alcohol, which the local barons willingly provided, hoping to addict and exploit the peasantry for further economic gain.

The emancipation of the serfs took place in Courland in 1817 and in Vidzeme in 1819. In practice, however, the emancipation was actually advantageous to the landowners and nobility, as it dispossessed peasants of their land without compensation, forcing them to return to work at the estates "of their own free will".

During the 19th century, the social structure changed dramatically. A class of independent farmers established itself after reforms allowed the peasants to repurchase their land, but many landless peasants remained. There also developed a growing urban proletariat and an increasingly influential Latvian bourgeoisie. The Young Latvian () movement laid the groundwork for nationalism from the middle of the century, many of its leaders looking to the Slavophiles for support against the prevailing German-dominated social order. The rise in use of the Latvian language in literature and society became known as the First National Awakening. Russification began in Latgale after the Polish led the January Uprising in 1863: this spread to the rest of what is now Latvia by the 1880s. The Young Latvians were largely eclipsed by the New Current, a broad leftist social and political movement, in the 1890s. Popular discontent exploded in the 1905 Russian Revolution, which took a nationalist character in the Baltic provinces.
Declaration of Independence ===“Poland & The New Baltic States” map from a British atlas in 1920, showing still-undefined borders after the treaties of Brest and Versailles and before the Peace of R
Kārlis Ulmanis
World War I devastated the territory of what would become the state of Latvia, along with other western parts of the Russian Empire. Demands for self-determination were at first confined to autonomy, but the Russian 1917 Revolution, treaty with Germany at Brest-Litovsk, and allied armistice with Germany on November 11, 1918, created a power vacuum. The People"s Council of Latvia proclaimed the independence of the new country in Riga on November 18, 1918, with Kārlis Ulmanis becoming the head of the provisional government.

The War of Independence that followed was part of a general chaotic period of civil and new border wars in Eastern Europe. By the spring of 1919, there were actually three governments — Ulmanis" government; the Soviet Latvian government led by Pēteris Stučka, whose forces, supported by the Red Army, occupied almost all of the country; and the Baltic German government of the United Baltic Duchy, headed by Andrievs Niedra and supported by the Baltische Landeswehr and the German Freikorps unit "Iron Division".

Estonian and Latvian forces defeated the Germans at the Battle of Wenden in June 1919, and a massive attack by a predominantly German force — the West Russian Volunteer Army — under Pavel Bermondt-Avalov was repelled in November. Eastern Latvia was cleared of Red Army forces by Latvian and Polish troops in early 1920.

A freely elected Constituent assembly convened on May 1, 1920, and adopted a liberal constitution, the "Satversme", in February 1922.Bleiere, p. 155 The constitution was partly suspended by Kārlis Ulmanis after his coup in 1934, but reaffirmed in 1990. Since then, it has been amended and is still in effect in Latvia today. With most of Latvia"s industrial base evacuated to the interior of Russia in 1915, radical land reform was the central political question for the young state. In 1897, 61.2% of the rural population had been landless; by 1936, that percentage had been reduced to 18%.Bleiere, p. 195

By 1923, the extent of cultivated land surpassed the pre-war level. Innovation and rising productivity led to rapid growth of the economy, but it soon suffered from the effects of the Great Depression. Latvia showed signs of economic recovery and the electorate had steadily moved toward the centre during the parliamentary period. On May 15, 1934, Ulmanis staged a bloodless coup, establishing a nationalist dictatorship that lasted until 1940. After 1934, Ulmanis established government corporations to buy up private firms with the aim of "Latvianising" the economy. By 1940, Latvia"s economy under Ulmanis ranked second in Europe.
Latvia in World War II

"TWO WORLDS": Anti-Sovietism propaganda board, Latvia, Summer, 1941.

Early in the morning of August 24, 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a 10-year non-aggression pact, called the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. The pact contained a secret protocol, revealed only after Germany"s defeat in 1945, according to which the states of Northern and Eastern Europe were divided into German and Soviet "spheres of influence"., executed August 23, 1939 In the North, Latvia, Finland and Estonia were assigned to the Soviet sphere. Thereafter, Germany and the Soviet union invaded their respective portions of Poland.

Most of the Baltic Germans left Latvia by agreement between Ulmanis" government and Nazi Germany after the conclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In total 50,000 Baltic Germans left by the deadline of December 1939, with 1,600 remaining to conclude business and 13,000 choosing to remain in Latvia. Most of those who remained subsequently left for Germany in the Summer of 1939, when a second resettlement scheme was agreed.Lumans pp. 110–111 On October 5, 1939, Latvia was forced to accept a "mutual assistance" pact with the Soviet Union, granting the Soviets the right to station between 25,000 and 30,000 troops on Latvian territory.Lumans, p. 79

On June 16, 1940, Vyacheslav Molotov presented the Latvian representative in Moscow with an ultimatum accusing Latvia of violations of that pact. When international attention was focused on the German invasion of France, Soviet NKVD troops raided border posts in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.Wettig, Gerhard, "Stalin and the Cold War in Europe", Rowman & Littlefield, Landham, Md, 2008, ISBN 0742555429, page 20–21Senn, Alfred Erich, "Lithuania 1940 : revolution from above", Amsterdam, New York, Rodopi, 2007 ISBN 9789042022256 State administrators were liquidated and replaced by Soviet cadres, in which 34,250 Latvians were deported or killed. Elections were held with single pro-Soviet candidates listed for many positions, with resulting peoples assembly immediately requested admission into the USSR, which was granted by the Soviet Union. Latvia, then a puppet government, was headed by Augusts Kirhenšteins.Lumans, pp. 98–99 Latvia was incorporated into the Soviet Union on August 5, 1940 as The Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic.

The Soviets dealt harshly with their opponents – prior to the German invasion, in less than a year, at least 27,586 persons were arrested; most were deported, and about 945 persons were shot. While under German occupation, Latvia was administered as part of "Reichskommissariat Ostland". Latvian paramilitary and Auxiliary Police units established by occupation authority participated in the Holocaust as well. More than 200,000 Latvian citizens died during World War II, including approximately 75,000 Latvian Jews murdered during the Nazi occupation. Latvian soldiers fought on both sides of the conflict, including in the Latvian Legion of the Waffen-SS, most of them conscripted by the occupying Nazi and Soviet authorities.
Soviet era
In 1944 when the Soviet military advances reached the area heavy fighting took place in Latvia between German and Soviet troops which ended with another German defeat. During the course of the war, both occupying forces conscripted Latvians into their armies, in this way increasing the loss of the nation"s "live resources". In 1944, part of the Latvian territory once more came under Soviet control. The Soviets immediately began to reinstate the Soviet system. After the German surrender it became clear that Soviet forces were there to stay, and Latvian national partisans, soon to be joined by German collaborators, began their fight against another occupier – the Soviet Union.

Anywhere from 120,000 to as many as 300,000 Latvians took refuge from the Soviet army by fleeing to Germany and Sweden. Most sources count 200,000 to 250,000 refugees leaving Latvia, with perhaps as many as 80,000 to 100,000 of them recaptured by the Soviets or, during few months immediately after the end of war, returned by the West.
The Soviets reoccupied the country in 1944–1945, and further mass deportations followed as the country was forcibly collectivised and Sovieticised.
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* from Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.
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* from "UCB Libraries GovPubs"
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* publications on Latvian society, economy, culture and history
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* – a digital library that provides scientific information on the Nordic and Baltic countries as well as the Baltic region as a whole
* statistical information on economical, demographic, social, and environmental phenomena and processes



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arc:ܠܛܒܝܐ
roa-rup:Letonia
frp:Lètonie
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gn:Letoña
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be:Латвія
be-x-old:Латвія
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bi:Latvia
bar:Lettland
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br:Latvia
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cv:Латви
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cs:Lotyšsko
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nv:Létbiiya
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dz:ལེཊི་བི་ཡ།
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el:Λεττονία
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eo:Latvio
ext:Letónia
eu:Letonia
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fa:لتونی
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fur:Letonie
ga:An Laitvia
gv:Yn Latvey
gag:Latviya
gd:An Laitbhe
gl:Letonia - Latvija
hak:Lâ-thot-vì-â
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zh-yue:拉脫維亞
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bat-smg:Latvėjė
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