Latvia Destinations Travel Guide



Flag of Latvia

Language: Latvian

Currency: Lats (LVL)

Calling Code: +371

Latvian History


Description of Latvia

Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia, is a sovereign country member of the European Union, with capital in Riga, covering 64 589 km² of surface and has a total population of 2 070 371 inhabitants. This republic, which is located in northern Europe, it is one of the Baltic countries and borders Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia and Belarus to the east, and the Baltic Sea to the west, a country of low plains with extensive forests.

Latvia became independent again after 1991, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, since that year it is part of the United Nations Organization (UN), since 2004 of the European Union (EU) and of NATO, and since 2016 is a member of the OECD. Currently the country is a parliamentary democratic republic divided into 120 municipalities (90 municipalities and 30 cities).

The country adopted the euro as the official currency on January 1, 2014. From that day the euro gradually replaced the LatA as the currency of Latvia, there being a two-week double circulation period during which the two currencies circulated, with the in order to allow a progressive withdrawal of the Latvian currency. When a payment was received in lats, the change was offered in euros.


Travel Destinations in Latvia

Riga region (Latvia)

Jaunpils Castle
Ķemeri National Park
Turaida Castle


Vidzeme (Latvia)

Gauja National Park
North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve


Kurzeme (Latvia)

Slītere National Park


Zemgale (Latvia)

Bauska Castle
Dobele Castle
Mežotne Palace
Rundale Palace
Tervete Nature Park


Latgale (Latvia)

Rāzna National Park



Around the 3rd millennium BC e. Finno-Ugric tribes of pit-comb ceramics (whose linguistic descendants were historical livings) came to the territory of modern Latvia. Not later than the 1st millennium BC.  the Baltic tribes of the culture of hatched ceramics settled here.

During the period of feudal fragmentation in Russia and the emergence of destinies, the Livonian lands in the Western Dvina were dependent on the Principality of Polotsk, to which they were subordinate to the reign of Prince Vseslav Bryachislavich (1044–1101). According to the chroniclers, the Livs paid tribute to the princes of Polotsk, the Curonians paid tribute to the kings of Sweden.

In 1184, the Catholic missionary Maynard von Segeberg, with the permission of Prince Vladimir Polotsky, began to preach Christianity in his vassal lands - near the Livs. After 2 years, the Bremen Archbishop Hartwig II elevated Maynard to the rank of bishop and created the first diocese in Livonia under his leadership. On October 1, 1188, Pope Clement III approved Maynard in the episcopal rank, and gave the created bishopric to submission to Bremen. However, the Livs were not very willing to convert to Christianity and rebelled against the authority of the bishop, killing Maynard's successor, Bishop Bertold.

XIII — XV centuries
In 1201, Bishop Albert Buxgewden founded the city of Riga. To strengthen his power, he founded the Order of the Sword-Bearers (after the defeat at the Battle of Saul - the Livonian Order as part of the Teutonic Order), which later became an independent political and economic force; the order and the bishop fought each other for political hegemony in Livonia. In 1209, the bishop and order agreed to divide the controlled lands among themselves. On the map of Europe appeared the state formation of the German crusader knights - Livonia (according to the name of the local ethnos - Livs). It includes the territories in which Estonia and Latvia are located today. The control of the Principality of Polotsk over its former inheritances in the territory of Latvia (Kukenojs and Gersike) was lost.

In 1254, a new division of Livonian lands took place - under an agreement between the Riga Archbishopric, its cathedral chapter and the Livonian Order. Many Livonian cities later became members of the flourishing North European Trade Union - the Hansa.

XVI century
The first printed text in Latvian appears in the Catholic church reference book - in the book “Agenda” (1507, Leipzig).

Riga residents also actively participated in the Reformation, already in 1517 the preacher of ideas of Luther Andreas Knopken arrived in Riga. In 1530, Nikolaus Ramm first translated Bible passages into Latvian. After some conflicts (including armed ones) in 1554, the Master of the Livonian Order, Walter von Plettenberg, declared freedom of religion in Livonia.

At the same time, Moscow Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible announced his claims to Livonia. As an excuse, a protest was filed against the non-payment of tribute from St. George, established after the Russo-Livonian war of 1480-1481 and the Russo-Livonian treaty of 1503, as well as the oppression of Russian merchants. The Baltic Germans initially asked to cancel the tribute, and at the negotiations in December 1557 they agreed to pay off the debt in the amount of 30 thousand Hungarian gold (which amounted to 45 thousand thalers or 18 thousand rubles), in the future to pay one thousand Hungarian gold per year, however promises are not kept. This was the reason for the outbreak of war. Having invaded the territory of Livonia in 1558, already in August 1560, Ivan the Terrible defeated the fragmented forces of the order at the battle of Ergem. The Livonian War, which lasted 25 years, ended in 1583 with the Plyus Armistice. As a result, the Livonian Order ceased to exist, and its territory was divided between the Polish-Lithuanian state, Sweden (the north of present-day Estonia) and Denmark (it got the island of Ezel). The lands of the Livonian Order north of the Western Dvina became the Zadvina Duchy directly controlled by Poland, and the lands to the south became the vassal state of the Commonwealth - the Duchy of Courland.

XVII century
As a result of the Polish-Swedish wars, the Zadvinsk Duchy ceased to exist. Most of it fell under Sweden's control (Swedish Livonia), and the southeastern part was transformed into the Inflantian Voivodeship of the Commonwealth.

In the XVII century, as a result of the consolidation of Latgals, villages, Zemgals, Curns and Livs, the formation of the Latvian nation took place.


In 1638, Georg Manselius compiled the first Latvian dictionary Lettus, and in 1649 Paul Einhorn published the Historia Lettica (Latvian History). In 1683, the first alphabet of the Latvian language was published. In 1685, a textbook of the Latvian language appeared under the authorship of Heinrich Adolfius. Until now, differences between the dialects of the Latvian language remain, and some linguists consider the deep dialects of the Upper Latysh dialect to be a separate Latgalian language.

In 1684, a local blacksmith Zviedris Johanson was sentenced to be burned at the stake in Priekule. From 1670 to 1684, he spent several flights with an aircraft of his own design (like a hang glider). For dispersal I used towers of castles and churches. He flew 2 km to the neighboring estates, broke his leg, and later already knew how to circle in the air.

XVIII century
After the victory of the Russian kingdom over the Swedish Empire on August 30 (September 10), 1721, the Nishtadt Peace Treaty was signed. Sweden recognized the accession of Livonia, Estonia, Ingermanland, part of Karelia and other territories to Russia, for which Russia paid Sweden compensation of 2 million yefimk (1.3 million rubles).

1757 - the Kraslava Catholic Theological Seminary was opened.
1772 - during the first partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Latgale (Polish Inflants) also departs to Russia.
1775 - Academia Petrina was opened in Courland by the Duke Peter Biron.
1785 - in Courland, the Latvian mechanic Ernst Johann Binemann launched the first balloon.
1795 - during the third division of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Duchy of Courland departs from the Russian Empire.

XIX century
1812 - the war with Napoleon partially affected the territory of modern Latvia.
1817 - the abolition of serfdom in the Courland province.
1819 - the abolition of serfdom in the Livonia province.
1822 - the first newspaper in Latvian “Latviešu Avīzes” (“Latvian Newspaper”) begins to be published in Jelgava.
1861 - the first railway in the territory of modern Latvia, Riga - Dinaburg, came into operation.
1862 - Riga Polytechnic Institute was opened.
Since the middle of the XIX century - the growth of national identity, the movement of young boys.

The end of the XIX century - the rapid development of industry. The Russian-Baltic Carriage Works, the Phoenix Carriage Building Plant, the Conductor Rubber Products Plant began to operate, and the first cars and bicycles in Russia were produced. The leading industries are engineering and metalworking.

May 1899 - workers ’performances (the so-called Riga riot).

XX century
1905 - revolutionary events in the Livonia province.

1915 - German occupation of Courland during the First World War, the evacuation of industry from Latvian cities, the great destruction in Dvinsk (now Daugavpils), the creation of Latvian rifle units.

November 18, 1918 - The People’s Council of Latvia proclaimed the Republic of Latvia as an independent and independent state, thus completing the preparation of the statehood of Latvia.

December 22, 1918 - V. Lenin signs a decree of the Council of People's Commissars recognizing the independence of the Soviet Republic of Latvia.

1918-1920 - the struggle for the independence of Latvia. Pro-German and pro-Soviet armed groups were forced to retreat, which created the prerequisites for international recognition of Latvia.

August 11, 1920 - in Riga, a peace treaty was signed between the RSFSR and Latvia, which recognizes the independence of the Republic of Latvia. On the basis of legal norms of that time, this de jure led to the emergence of the Republic of Latvia as a subject of international law.

January 26, 1921 - recognition by the Entente of Latvia as an independent state de jure.

September 22, 1921 - Latvia joined the League of Nations.

February 15, 1922 - The Constituent Assembly adopts the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia - Satversme.

May 15, 1934 - coup d'etat, absolute power in the country is concentrated in the hands of K. Ulmanis.

June 7, 1939 - Latvia signs a non-aggression pact with Germany, in a hidden clause containing an obligation to take “all necessary military security measures in relation to Soviet Russia”.

August 23, 1939 - Germany and the Soviet Union sign a non-aggression pact (also known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact). The agreement was accompanied by a secret additional protocol on the division of Eastern European countries into spheres of German and Soviet interests (Latvia fell into the sphere of influence of the USSR).


October 29 - according to the Mutual Assistance Pact between the USSR and Latvia, signed after the surrender of Poland, parts of the 2nd separate rifle corps and the 18th aviation brigade of the Red Army arrive in Latvia, in which there were 21,559 people.

June 15, 1940 - attack on the Latvian border guards in Maslenki.

June 16 - at 14:00, the Soviet People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs V. Molotov read to the Ambassador of Latvia F. Kocins the ultimatum of the USSR government, which required the resignation of the Latvian government and the introduction of an unlimited contingent of Soviet armed forces in Latvia, supplementing it if before 23:00 no response will be received from the government of Latvia, the armed forces of the USSR will enter the territory of Latvia and suppress any resistance. The government of K. Ulmanis decided to accept an ultimatum and resign on the evening of June 16. The Cabinet of Ministers rejected military resistance, as it believed that it would cause bloodshed, but would not save the Latvian state.

June 17 - additional units of the Red Army enter Latvia.

July 14-15, 1940 - the elections to the People’s Diet are held in Latvia. Only one was admitted to the elections - a list of candidates nominated by the "Bloc of Working People". All other alternative lists were rejected. It was officially reported that 97.5% of the vote was cast for the list.

July 21, 1940 - The People’s Diet proclaims Latvia as the Soviet Republic (the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic) and on August 5, 1940 - the Supreme Soviet of the USSR accepts Latvia into the USSR.

1941 - a wave of repression - in accordance with the Decree of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks and the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR of May 16, 1941 "On measures to clean the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian SSR from the anti-Soviet, criminal and socially dangerous elements" were arrested and deported to remote areas USSR members of anti-Soviet nationalist organizations, former law enforcement officials and military personnel of bourgeois Latvia and the White Army (subject to compromising documents), large manufacturers, landowners, merchants and high-ranking civil servants of Latvia yskoy Republic of criminals who continue to engage in illegal activities - those whom the authorities considered dangerous to the Soviet regime on the eve of the war.

According to the documents of the State Archives of Latvia, on June 14, 1941, 15 424 people were deported from Latvia, of which 5263 were arrested. Of those arrested, 700 were shot, 3441 people died in custody; that is, one fifth of those arrested survived. Among the rest deported to places of special settlement, 1,900 people died. According to the KGB of the USSR, which was analyzed by historian A. Dyukov, the total number of deceased victims of deportation amounted to 4884 people (34% of the total), while before 1953, 2000 people returned home. According to A. Dyukov, 81.27% of the deportees were Latvians, 11.70% Jews, 5.29% Russians.

June 22, 1941 - Nazi Germany attacked the USSR. By mid-July, the entire territory of Latvia was occupied by German troops. The formation of police battalions has begun on a voluntary basis, subsequently united in the Latvian Volunteer SS Legion.

According to Soviet data, during the years of Nazi occupation by the Nazis and their accomplices, 313,798 Soviet citizens (including 39,835 children) and 330,000 Soviet prisoners of war were killed in Latvia.

October 13, 1944 - units of the Red Army enter Riga.

1949 - during the second wave of repressions, about 50,000 people were deported from Latvia.

1940-1956 - the movement of "national partisans" (the so-called "forest brothers").

1940-1991 - Latvian SSR as part of the USSR. Industry is developing in the republic (enterprises of the WEF, Radiotechnika, RAF, and Lyme). During this period, some party leaders of Soviet Latvia were promoted to leading posts in Moscow, among them A. Pelshe, member of the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee, B. Pugo, head of the KGB of Latvia, etc.

In modern Latvian historiography, the period when the country was part of the USSR is considered to be Soviet occupation. In 2016, the damage from it was estimated at € 185 billion.

On May 4, 1990, the Supreme Council of the Latvian SSR adopted the “Declaration on the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia”. According to this document, the constitution of independent Latvia of 1922 was resumed and a de facto transitional period was established before the convocation of the Seimas.

On August 21, 1991, the Supreme Council of Latvia confirmed the independence of the republic by adopting the Constitutional Law “On the State Status of the Republic of Latvia”.

On September 6, 1991, Latvia's independence was recognized by the USSR State Council.


September 17, 1991 the Republic of Latvia became a member of the UN.

February 10, 1995 the Republic of Latvia becomes a member of the Council of Europe.

On February 10, 1999, the Republic of Latvia became a member of the World Trade Organization.

XXI Century
In February 2004, 19 NATO member states ratified the protocols on Latvia’s accession to the North Atlantic Alliance; in May of the same year, the country was admitted to the European Union.

Latvia became a part of December 21, 2007, and since March 30, 2008 fully applies the rules of the Schengen zone. On January 1, 2014, Latvia became the 18th member of the Eurozone.

In the first half of 2015, Latvia presided over the Council of the European Union.

On June 2, 2016, Latvia became the 35th member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).



The official language is Latvian. Although Russian is not an official language, 34% of the population speaks it: in all large cities and in most of Latgale, it will not be difficult to communicate in Russian. As in most countries of the former Soviet Union, the older generation is more likely to communicate in Russian, while the younger generation - in English.

Latgale is also spoken in Latgale. The Livs are recognized as a national minority, but the number of speakers of the Livonian language is extremely small.



Latvian national cuisine is little known outside Latvia. The most typical dishes are gray peas with bacon, bacon pies, bread soup (dessert, served with whipped cream).

Fast food is widespread (the Lithuanian pizza chain Chili Pizza, McDonald's, Hesburger and others).

As typical Latvian products from Latvia, you can bring Janov's cheese with caraway seeds (since ancient times it was prepared for the summer solstice - Ligo - in a round shape symbolizing the sun), black bread with caraway seeds / dried fruits / nuts, sweet and sour bread, "Black balsam" (“Melnais balzams”), infused with herbs and sold in clay bottles with a wax seal (often served with coffee). There are many locally produced beers (including fruit flavored beers), several brands of cider.

Night life
Most developed in the capital of Latvia Riga (many nightclubs and discos for every taste and budget). In addition, there are good music and drinking establishments in Jurmala, Liepaja, Ventspils, Daugavpils. In most provincial Latvian cities, after 20 hours, life freezes.

Where to stay
In all cities of Latvia you can find hotels of different stars. Hotels of the highest category - in Riga (Reval Hotel chain, SAS Radisson, etc.). In addition, you can get the addresses of guest houses for FREE from the city information bureaus. In recent years, accommodation in rural Viesu nams (guest houses), located in picturesque natural places, has become popular, as a rule, with their own recreational opportunities (baths, fishing, hiking and horseback riding, etc.). A number of old baronial estates and at least one castle (Jaunciems) have been turned into hotels.

Rescue phone 112