|Conventional short name:|
|Others:||Livonian, Curonian, Skuodian|
|Other:||Daugavpils, Ventspils, Jelgava, Jurmala, Rezekne|
|Head of state:||Queen Valentina (since 1989)|
|Prime minister:||Viktors Alksnis (since 2003)|
|Established:||1948, after the merger of Livonia and Courland|
|Currency:||1 tālers = 18 perdīgi = 162 šilīgi = 486 penīgi|
Latvia is a kingdom at the Baltic Sea, inhabited by 1.95 million people, most of whom are protestants or adherents of the Romuva religion.
Latvia is a constitutional monarchy. The royal family is the house of Biron, previously dukes of Courland. The monarch appoints a prime minister who, together with his cabinet, forms the executive branch of the government.
The 100-seat unicameral Latvian parliament, the Saeima, is elected by direct, popular vote every four years.
The current government is a coalition between the post-snorist People's Movement for the Kingdom (TKK), the conservative Agrarian Union (ZS), and the joint caucus of the Latvian National Party (LNP) and the Christian-Democratic Union (KDS). Among the seventeen ministers who form the government are:
- Viktors Alksnis (TKK, prime minister)
- Raivis Špons (ZS, foreign affairs)
- Austris Evers (LNP-KDS, social affairs)
- Peteris Petersons (TKK, justice)
- general Tarivaldis Rosenbergs (TKK, defense)
- colonel Ziedonis Malevics (TKK, colonies)
Composition of the Saeima, after the 2000 and 2003 elections:
|Party name||Party leader||12 X 2000||13 VIII 2003|
|TKK||People's Movement for the Kingdom||Viktors Alksnis||5||29|
|ZS||Agrarian Union||Raivis Špons||17||21|
|DA||Democratic Alliance||Osvalds Tālmanis||31||15|
|LSDDP||Latvian Social-Democratic Labour Party||Inese Paukšta||21||10|
|LKSP||Latvian Communist Workers' Party||Boris Pugo||5||8|
|LTF||Latvian People's Front||Māris Straubergs||13||4|
|BRP||Baltic Romuva Party||Algimautas Bērziņš||3||4|
|LNP||Latvian National Party||Austris Ezers||-||4|
|LZP||Latvian Green Party||Artūrs Blūms||3||3|
|KDS||Christian-Democratic Union||Kristians Putniņš||2||2|
Latvia consists of five provinces. Unlike in the neighboring Estonia, the administrational system remained more or less intact after the fall of SNOR,a lthough the central state has more powers now. It also claims the island of Tobago (known locally as the New Courland) in the Caribbean, which it occupied during the aftermath of the Floridian War in 2004; the international community does not recognise this claim, however.
- Courland (capital - Kuldiga)
- Latgale (capital - Daugavpils)
- Riga (capital - Riga)
- Semigallia (capital - Jelgava)
- Vidzeme (capital - Valmiera)
Latvia as we know it is a fairly recent phenomenon. Historically, it consists of two ancient duchies: Livonia and Courland.
In the early 13th century, the territory of present-day Latvia was conquered by the so-called Order of the Brethren of the Sword (a.k.a. Livonian Order), an order of German knights comparable to the Teutonic Order. Previously the territory had been inhabited mostly by Finnic and Baltic tribes. The knights established a state, the Duchy of Livonia, that also encompassed Courland and the South of present-day Estonia. The country prospered economically, and several of its cities were members of the Hanseatic League: Riga, Goldingen, Windau, Libau, Lemsal, Wolmar, Wenden, and Kokenhusen.
Livonia's prosperity came to an end in the 16th century, when the country desintegrated and became an easy target for foreign powers: Estonia, that had been part of Livonia since 1343, was conquered by Sweden in 1558, while the rest of the country became a battlefield for Russians and Veneds. Courland became a Venedic fief in 1561, while the remaining part of Livonia, from now on called "Livonia" or "Inflantia", became a Venedic protectorate. As a result of the Swedish-Venedic War (1620-1629), the largest part of Livonia became Swedish as well; the Southeastern part, currently known as Latgale, remained part of the Republic of the Two Crowns as Venedic Livonia, and Courland maintained its semi-independent status as a Venedic fief. When the Baltic League was founded in 1653, Courland was one of its founding members.
After Sweden lost the Great Nordic War in 1721, all Swedish possessions in the East Baltic were surrendered to Russia. Venedic Livonia was incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1772 in the First Partition of the RTC. Courland followed in 1864, when the duke, afraid of a popular uprising in the RTC, placed himself under the protection of the czar; shortly after Courland was fully incorporated into the Russian Empire in what would later become known as the Third Partition of the RTC.
After the First Great War, Estonia, Livonia and Courland became independent states in 1918. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, in which the Bolsheviks signed Russia's surrender to Germany provided in a chain of buffer states, all of which were initially under German control; however, when the war in the West ended in a stalemate, Germany was forced to retreat from the Baltics, and the Baltic states were pretty much left alone. During the years 1918-1939, Livonia and Courland were semi-democratic duchies, in which the Germans (the so-called Baltic Barons) formed the ruling class. They were full members of the Baltic League, which then gained importance. However, in 1939 the Baltic states were occupied by snorist Russia as a consequence of the Lipov-Von Korff treaty, and subsequently incorporated into the Empire. After the outbreak of the German-Russian war in 1943, they spent four years under German occupation, and in 1947 Russia rolled in again. Two states, Courlandian State and the Livonian State were formed inititially based largely on the pre-war borders.
Latvia was formed in 1949 of the Russian-occupied areas of Courland and Livonia (with the exception of the lands used to form Skuodia, the Liv State and the Swedish State). The state was divided into 4 Governorates: Courland Governorate, Semigallia Governorate, Latgale Governorate and Vidzeme Governorate. Throughout the Snorist period Latvia was nominally independent, but actually its politics were controlled by Russia. As in the other Snorist sttes, regionalism was promoted as a part of the "divide and rule" principle. Local dialects were made official in the governorates and the standard Latvian language was meant to fall out of usage.
Thus, Latvia owes its existence to snorist Russia. However, it can hardly be said the Latvia was a snorist creation; already in the 19th century, in the era of national reawakening, intellectuals had noticed the similarities between the several Latvian dialects, and promoted the idea of merging them.
Latvia remained a Russian puppet state until 1989, when the junta was finally overthrown. Currently, Latvia is a democracy once again, but after fourty years of exploitation the economy is still in chaos, and poverty causes many people to think back to the junta era with some nostalgia. In the 2003 parliamentary elections, the reform-minded government of prime minister Osvalds Tālmanis was smashed away in favour of the neo-snorists of former junta leader Viktors Alksnis. Since Alksnis took power, Latvian politics have been dominated by nationalist rhetoric, oppression of the Livonian minority, and a semi-successful attempt to recolonise Tobago, a former colony of Courland (although it was taken back by the British in 2007(?)). Several members of the opposition, including Tālmanis himself, have been arrested and sentenced to long imprisonment.
The current Latvian queen is Valentina, the prime minister of Latvia's post-snorist government is Viktors Alksnis.
Latvia is surrounded by the Baltic Sea in the Northwest, Estonia in the North, the Republic of Petrograd and Novgorod in the East, Belarus in the Southeast, the Republic of the Two Crowns in the South, and Skuodia in the Southwest.
Large parts of Latvia are covered by forests, and the country has over 12,000 small rivers and over 3,000 lakes. Most of the country consists of fertile, low-lying plains with some hills in the east, the highest point being the Gaizinkalns at 312 m.
An inlet of the Baltic Sea, the shallow Gulf of Riga is situated in the northwest of the country. The capital city Riga is located on the shores of this inlet, where the Daugava river flows into it. Other major cities include Daugavpils further upriver and Ventspils along the Baltic coast.
The Latvian climate is maritime and temperate in nature, with cool summers and wet, moderate winters.
For centuries under Hanseatic and German influence and then during its inter-war independence, Latvia used its geographic location as an important East-West commercial and trading center. Industry served local markets, while timber, paper and agricultural products supplied the main exports. Conversely, the years of Russian occupation and the years under snorist rule tended to integrate Latvia's economy to serve the empire's large internal industrial needs.
Since the fall of the SNOR, Latvia's economy has been in full transition from a state-controlled economy towards a more market-oriented one, albeit at a measured pace. Nowadays, privatisation in Latvia is almost complete. Virtually all of the previously state-owned small and medium companies have been successfully privatized, leaving only a small number of politically sensitive large state companies. GDP growth has been high since 1999, but has mostly halted since 2004. Unemployment is 15-20%, inflation has grown over the 2004 to 4.9% and is expected to increase further. Latvia is a full member of the Baltic League, the members of which are Latvia's main economic partners.
Major export products are: synthetic fibers, agricultural machinery, fertilizers, radios, electronics, pharmaceuticals, processed foods, textiles, timber, grain, sugar beets, potatoes, vegetables, beef, milk, eggs, fish, wood and wood products, machinery and equipment, and metals.
Latvia's main import and export partners are: the Scandinavian Realm (16.3%), the Republic of the Two Crowns (16.1%), the Holy Roman Empire (13.5%), the Federated Kingdoms (8.7%), the Russian Federation (7.3%), and Estonia (6.0%).
The largest private bank is Banka Baltija, which almost bankrupted in 1995.
The Latvians are the indigenous people of Latvia. The Latvian language is a member of the Baltic language group, and it is the only official language in Latvia. The most sizeable minority are the Livonians. Furthermore, there are a considerable number of Russians and Germans. Minorities from other countries such as Belarus, Skuodia, Lithuania, etc. also live in Latvia.