Latvia is situated on the shore of the Baltic sea, sharing borders with Lithuania to the South, Estonia to the North, Russia to the East and Belarus to the South East.

Territory and population

The area of Latvia is about 64 thousand square kilometres. The population   of the Republic is 2,5 million people, of which 58% Latvians, 29% Russians, 4%   Belorussians, as well as Ukrainians, Poles, Lithuanians, Jews and other nations.

The biggest cities are:

  • Riga (800 thousand inhabitants),
  • Daugavpils (117 thousand inhabitants),
  • Liepaja (97 thousand inhabitants),
  • Jelgava (71 thousand inhabitants),
  • Jurmala (59 thousand inhabitants),
  • Ventspils (47 thousand inhabitants).

Latvia is divided into four historical areas: Vidzeme, Kurzeme, Latgale and Zemgale. The highest peak is Gaizinsh standing at 311,5 meters. The climate in Latvia is moderate with some temperature fluctuation. The summer is warm, the weather in autumn and spring is relatively mild but the unstable winters sometimes getting really cold.


Languages

The official language is Latvian. Russian language is often spoken, English and German not too common but in use.


Religion

Latvia has no official religion, but most population is Lutheran, Catholicism prevails in the East. The Orthodox and Old Believer communes

in Latvia are rather large. In general the society is tolerant to different religious, however the church does influence the mood of society.


State symbols 

The Latvian flag is very similar to the Austrian flag, but darker in colour. It is made of bands of dark red, white, and dark red (from top to bottom). The white band is narrower than the red ones. The national anthem “Dievs, sveti Latviju!”(God, bless Latvia!) was written by a Latvian Composer Karlis Baumanis in the second half of the 19th century and became the national anthem in 1918. The Latvian Coat of Arms – a shield with a rising sun on the blue background at the top; the red lion on the silver background to the left and the silver griffin on the red background to the right.


State political system

Latvia is a Democratic Republic. Its 1,8 million of residents have the voting right but 480 thousand bearing the “alien” passports are not entitled to vote in parliamentary or municipal elections. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President of the Republic and is the head of the government. The President of Latvia is elected by the Parliament and runs a four year term. The President is mostly s representative power, however he can block some decisions of the parliament.


International relations

After the restoration of independence in September 1991 Latvia headed towards joining European and international organizations, since April 2004 Latvia is a member of NATO and since May 2004 – a member of the European Union. Latvia is a member of WTO.