The first known Baltic people, before the
birth of Christ, traded amber to the Mediterranean. Riga
was founded in 1201 by German crusaders, who subjugated
present-day Latvia, where the peasant population was
oppressed by German nobility. In the 17th century,
Sweden occupied the area, and in the early 18th century
it was conquered by Russia. Latvia became free in the
end of World War I in 1918, but independence was crushed
by Soviet occupation 1939 - 1940.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Latvia, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
The present Latvia was inhabited several millennia
BC. The wealth of the Baltic coast's amber, used for
jewelery and other ornaments, led early to trade between
the Baltic and the Mediterranean.
In ancient Greek tombs, finds were made of amber,
dating to around 1600 BC, which have been found to
originate from the Baltic Sea coast. During the Roman
Empire, more specifically from the 10th century AD, the
so-called Bärnstensvägen emerged as a lively busy trade
route between Northern Italy and the Baltic Sea.
The first sure written information about a Baltic
people, the Aisans, can be found in the Roman historian
Tacitus about a century AD. According to him, the
Aisites collected amber and were more diligent as
farmers and fruit growers than the Germans. Jordanes, a
Gothic writer, stated in the 500s that the Aisans lived
east of the Wistula River. Linguistic research has later
shown that, in ancient times, the Baltic region
stretched from the Baltic into present Russia up to the
regions around Volga and Moscow.
From the end of the 12th century, German crusaders
advanced along the Baltic coast. Through prolonged
battles, they laid down what constitutes Latvia today
(the name Latvia first came into use in the 19th
century). The area consisted mainly of the landscapes of
Kurland (Kurzeme, farthest west) and Livland (Vidzeme,
southern Estonia and northern present Latvia), named
after the Baltic and Finnish-Ugric peoples groups cure
and liver respectively. Other Baltic peoples in the area
were semen grids (the Zemgale landscape), harnesses and
light grids (the Latgale landscape).
The Germans founded Riga in 1201 and formed the
Swordsman's Order, which later went up in the German
words. Riga became a Hanseatic city in 1282.
The German state of law was dissolved after the
Reformation in the 16th century. Russia attempted to
conquer Livland, which, however, came first under
Polish-Lithuanian and then (in the 1620s) under Swedish
control, finally to become part of the growing Russian
empire under Tsar Peter I. Kurland after a long Nordic
war in 1721 was long independent. duchy under Poland but
resigned in 1795 to Russia. Thus, the tsar ruled the
entire eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, and Livland and
Kurland remained Russian-controlled Baltic provinces
until Latvian independence in 1918.
After centuries of occupation and division of Latvia,
a national movement arose in the 1860s. It was met by a
deliberate refreshment policy, including the banning of
Latvian as a language of instruction in primary school.
In the early 1900s, a political movement was formed that
required territorial independence for Latvia within the
Russian Empire. During the revolution in Russia in 1905,
the Latvians revolted against both the German
countryside and the Russian oppression. The rise was
brutally defeated. Hundreds of people were killed in
criminal expeditions and executions. Thousands were
exiled to Siberia.
During the First World War, especially in the years
1915–1917, Latvia was a scene of war and the country was
paralyzed. Germany occupied the western half of the
country in 1915 and a fifth of the population was
displaced. The Russian rulers relocated much of the
industry to the interior of Russia.
Latvian Volunteer Corps managed to temporarily halt
Germany's advance. After the Russian Revolution in 1917,
demands for complete independence were raised. Latvian
nationalist groups elected a provisional national
council which, on November 18, 1918, proclaimed
independent Latvia. But it was not until 1920 that both
Germans and Russians were finally defeated. At the peace
in Riga in 1920, Soviet Russia promised to "forever"
respect Latvian independence. In 1922, Latvia adopted a
Although the country lost a quarter of its population
and most of its industry in the war, the economy began
to flourish, and by the end of the 1920s Latvia had
reached Western European living standards.
The new democracy was unstable with many small
parties in Parliament, so to speak. A
long line of weak coalition governments succeeded. The
most important parties were the Conservative
Peasant League, which held the Prime Minister's
post in 12 of 18 governments, and the Socialist
Workers' Party. The Communist Party
was banned. Successful land reforms gave land to over
140,000 landless peasants and Latvia began to export
Latvian democracy did not cope with the stress of the
economic depression in the early 1930s. In 1934,
President Kārlis Ulmanis, leader of the Peasant League,
conducted a bloodless coup, dissolved Parliament, banned
all political parties and established dictatorship.
Following the outbreak of World War II in the fall of
1939, Soviet leader Josef Stalin forced the Balts to
conclude defense agreements that allowed the Soviet
Union to place troops in the Baltic States. In
accordance with secret supplementary provisions of the
so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, in which Germany and
the Soviet Union divided Eastern Europe between them,
Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union in June 1940.
The Occupation Force had elections run by the
Communists, and the new parliament then "applied" for
entry into the Soviet Union. President Ulmanis was
deported, terror started, and over 1,000 people were
killed in less than a year. One night in June 1941, over
15,000 Latvian people were deported to prison camps in
Russian Siberia. Most were light, but Jews and Russians
were also removed. At this time, a nationalization of
industry was also initiated. However, the Soviet regime
was canceled the same summer, when German troops
A Latvian SS affiliate, the Latvian Legion, was
established by order of Adolf Hitler. Most of Latvia's
nearly one hundred thousand Jews were killed, partly by
the help of letters. Other letters risked their lives to
save Jews and oppose the German occupation. Soviet
troops returned and when the German army was forced back
in 1944 and capitulated in 1945, over 100,000 letters
fled to the west.
Crisis loans from the IMF and the EU
In order to receive emergency loans from outside, the government and
parliament decide on tough budget cuts. Public wages are reduced by 15 percent,
VAT is increased, and taxes are increased on gasoline, alcohol, tobacco and
coffee. The austerity measures are gradually being followed by promises of € 7.5
billion in crisis loans from the IMF, EU, Sweden and others. The IMF immediately
pays close to EUR 600 million to prevent an emergency crisis in the Treasury.
The government saves the bank Parex
The action is hard on the state budget. The government is forced to request
emergency loans from the EU and the IMF.
Big Bank risks bankruptcy
Latvia's second largest bank Parex has made major losses and is forced to
initiate bankruptcy proceedings.
The referendum is annulled
In a referendum, 97 percent say yes to the proposal that the people should be
able to take initiative in the dissolution of Parliament. However, turnout is
too low and the referendum will not be valid.
Latvia goes into recession
After experiencing the EU's highest economic growth, Latvia enters the EU's
worst economic crisis in the second half of 2008.
New decision on the head of the Anti-Corruption Agency
The government again decides to dismiss Aleksej Loskutovs (see also
September 2007). He is accused of lack of control after a couple of
officials at the agency embezzled money. Parliament approves the government
decision, but the opposition sees it as an attempt to prevent corruption
investigations against coalition parties and their oligarchs.
Name collection for constitutional change
The trade union movement is conducting the name gathering, which will make it
possible in the referendum to take the initiative for Parliament's dissolution
and new elections.