Latvia regained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Situated on the Baltic coast, Latvia is a low-lying country with large forests that supply timber for construction and paper industries. The environment is rich in wildlife. Latvia also produces consumer goods, textiles and machine tools. The country attracts tourists from all over Europe.
Ethnically, the population is 59% Latvian and 29% Russian, and more than a third live in the capital Riga. Founded in 1201, Riga is the largest city in the three Baltic states with a population of 730 000. Its Freedom Statue is one of the highest monuments in Europe, at 43 metres.
The 100-seat unicameral Latvian Parliament, the Saeima, is elected by direct, popular vote every four years. The president is elected by the Parliament, also every four years.
Mark Rothko – expressionist painter
Peteris Vasks – contemporary composer
Characteristic specialities of Latvian cuisine are speķapīrādziņi (bacon pies) and a refreshing, cold sour cream soup.
- Political system: Republic
- Capital city: Riga
- Language: Latvian
- National day: 18 November – proclamation of the Republic of Latvia (1918)
- Total area: 65 000 km²
- Population: 2.3 million
- Currency: lats
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