Latvia is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia, to the south by Lithuania, to the east by the Russian Federation, to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden.
The capital of Latvia is Riga. The official language is Latvian and the country has a temperate seasonal climate.
The Latvians are Baltic people, culturally related to the Lithuanians. Together with the Finnic Livs the Latvians are the indigenous people of Latvia.
Latvian is an Indo-European language and along with Lithuanian the only two surviving members of the Baltic branch.
In terms of geography, territory and population Latvia is the middle of three Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Latvia and Estonia share a long common history: historical Livonia, times of Polish-Lithuanian, German (Teutonic Order), Swedish, Russian, Nazi German and Soviet rule, 13th century Christianization and 16th century Protestant Reformation. Both countries are home to a large number of ethnic Russians (26.9% in Latvia).
Latvia is historically predominantly Protestant, except for the region of Latgalia in the southeast which has historically been predominantly Roman Catholic.
Latvia is a unitary parliamentary republic and is divided into 118 administrative divisions of which 109 are municipalities and 9 are cities.
The Republic of Latvia was founded on November 18, 1918. It was occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union between 1940–1941 and 1945–1991 and by Nazi Germany between 1941–1945. The peaceful "Singing Revolution" between 1987 and 1991 and "Baltic Way" demonstration on August 23, 1989 led to the independence of the Baltic states. Latvia declared the restoration of its de facto independence on August 21, 1991.
Latvia is a member of the United Nations, European Union, Council of Europe, NATO, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization, and is part of the Schengen Area.
After economic stagnation in the early 1990s, Latvia posted Europe-leading GDP growth figures during 1998–2006. 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.