Latvia Geography

The territory of Latvia, shaped by the Quaternary glaciations, Latvia, culturally foreign to the lifestyle and organization of society imposed by the Moscow regime, was, together with the other two Baltic Republics (Estonia and Lithuania), among the first states to claim their autonomy, at the first signs of the collapse of the Soviet empire. Having regained national sovereignty, the country has engaged in a difficult process of recovering its economic and cultural identity, finally crowned with its entry into the European Union, over the course of history has been easy prey for neighboring powers: Sweden, Poland and Russia. Overlooking the Baltic and rich in fertile soils and forests, the small Republic owes its name to Letti: this is the Finnish term for the Balti, or the ancestors of the current residents of the region. The Latvians obtained their own independent nation for the first time in 1918, but fate would have them again subjected to Russian power following the tragic events of the Second World War. Long penalized by the annexation to the Soviet Union (1 May 2004) and adherence to international treaties. While remaining largely dependent on foreign countries for raw materials, Latvia entered the 21st century with a great desire for redemption and revitalization of the various sectors of civil life.


The Latvians descend from the tribes of the Letgalli, Livoni, Seli, Semgalli and Curi (Baltic Slavic lineage) and the first stable human settlements date back to 2000 BC. C. ca. The region has always been sparsely inhabited (the average density is only 35 residents / km²) and almost a third of the urban population lives in the capital Riga. According to iamhigher, the population density is also high along the south-eastern border and, as a whole, the country it has a very high urbanization index. The most important cities, besides the capital, are Ventspils, an industrial port of petrochemicals, and Liepāja, ice free all year round thanks to the most open position on the Baltic. The birth rate is significantly lower than the death rate, so the natural demographic movement is negative. The country is mainly inhabited by Latvians (59.2%), followed by Russians (28%), Belarusians (3.7%), Ukrainians (2.5%), Poles (2.4%) and Lithuanians (1.3%). The consistent presence of citizens of Russian origin is due to the massive immigration that took place, as in the other Baltic Republics, after World War II; approx. 500,000 Russians, who did not pass the Latvian language and history exams, do not enjoy political rights. The emigration of Latvians abroad is very substantial, mainly to Australia, Canada, Germany, Great Britain and the United States. The main communication routes are the maritime ones, which connect Riga, Ventspils and Liepaja to the other Baltic countries. From the capital, airlines and sea lines depart for Sweden, with which Latvia maintains close relations. The road and rail networks, on the other hand, are underdeveloped: asphalted arteries are less than half of the total and motorways have a very limited extension. The difficult transition towards a national socio-political model and towards a liberal economic system has provoked evident tensions both on the institutional and on the productive structure.

The clear distinction between classes and socio-professional groups that already existed between the two wars has re-emerged, with an evident regionalization of the electoral geography that has again seen cities and the countryside oppose themselves according to a centuries-old scheme. But it was the economic trend that had the most profound impact on the Latvian population and institutions and fueled tensions that resulted in the relative instability of the political framework.


Almost half of the territory of Latvia is covered with forests of coniferous forests and broad-leaved trees, in which pine, spruce, birch and aspen are found. Particularly varied is the array of birds, including the woodpecker, the partridge, the black stork and the heron. Among the mammals that inhabit the region stand out the lynx, the wolf, the fox, the wild boar and the moose, while the seal is present in the coastal waters. Despite the richness of this natural heritage, pollution is a particularly serious problem for Latvia. Heavy industry, planted in the country by the Soviet regime, has had a massive impact on both the atmosphere and water and the modernization of existing plants is proceeding slowly due to the high costs it entails. After independence, Latvia has given priority to environmental issues by extending protected areas to an area that represents over 14.1% of the national territory. Among the protected areas, the most important are the Gauja River National Park, the Krustkalnu Reserve and the Teicu Reserve.

Latvia Country and People

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