Latvia

Latvia
Riga
Latvian
Lats (Ls) (LVL)
+371

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Latvia is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia (border length 343 km), to the south by Lithuania (588 km), to the east by the Russian Federation (276 km), and to the southeast by Belarus (141 km). Across the Baltic Sea to the west lies Sweden. The territory of Latvia covers 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi) and it has a temperate seasonal climate.

The Latvians are Baltic people culturally related to the Estonians and Lithuanians, with the Latvian language having many similarities with Lithuanian, but not with the Estonian language (a Finnic language). Today the Latvian and Lithuanian languages are the only surviving members of the Baltic languages of the Indo-European family. The modern name of Latvia is thought to originate from the ancient Latvian name Latvji, which, like the name of Lithuania, may have originated from the river named Latuva. The country is also the home of a large number of ethnic Russians of whom many are non-citizens.

Latvia is a unitary parliamentary republic and is divided into 118 municipalities (109 counties and 9 cities). The capital and largest city is Riga. With a population of 2.22 million, Latvia is one of the least-populous members of the European Union, and its population has declined 15.1% since 1991. Latvia has been a member of the United Nations since September 17, 1991; of the European Union since May 1, 2004; and of the NATO since March 29, 2004.

Following a period of being part of the Soviet Union after World War II, Latvia declared its independence in 1991. After years of economic stagnation in the early 1990s, Latvia posted Europe-leading GDP growth figures during the 19982006 period. In the global financial crisis of 20082010 Latvia was the hardest hit of the European Union member states, with a GDP decline of 26.54% in that period. Its per capita GDP is 49% of the EU average in 2009, making it the third poorest member-state.