Northern European state ; it borders to the North with Estonia, to the East and SE with Russia and Belarus, to the South with Lithuania, while to the West it faces the Baltic Sea for about 500 km, which forms the Gulf of Rīga.
- Physical characters
The territory of Latvia constitutes a strip of the Russian lowland. Ancient lands rarely emerge, having been covered, at the beginning of the Quaternary, by a powerful blanket of glacial deposits that gave the town its present appearance, of hills alternating with depressions. A vast flat depression, drained by the Lielupe River and its tributaries, divides the Latvia into two regions. The western one includes a series of hilly ridges, covered with woods, between which the rivers have carved deep and sinuous valleys. At the foot of the hilly edge, along the sea, there is a flat strip of 10 to 30 km wide. The eastern area embraces several groups of reliefs including the Livonian systemcentral; the coasts are generally low and sandy, bordered by dunes, with coastal lagoons and lakes. The main watercourse is the Daugava (Western Dvina), which flows for about 370 km in Latvian territory. Other important rivers are the Venta, the Lielupe and the Gauja. There are about a thousand lakes of various sizes and for the most part of glacial origin.
The climate is mainly continental, but the Baltic Sea somewhat mitigates the temperature of the coastal areas and especially of those facing west, free from ice.
The population is made up mostly of Latvians (59%); Russians (28.3%), Belarusians (3.7%), Ukrainians (2.5%). About 70% of the population resides in urban centers. Rīga concentrates a third of the residents of Latvia and is the political and economic center of the country. The other major urban centers continue to be Daugavpils, an important communications hub and industrial hub, Liepāja, an active port on the Baltic Sea, Jelgava, a lively agricultural and industrial center, and finally Jūrmala, the country’s main tourist resort. In inland areas, however, the population, mainly devoted to agriculture, still lives mainly in the villages. The sizeable Russian-speaking minority is concentrated mainly in the major cities. The most followed religion is the Lutheran one; the majority of the population does not profess any religion.
- Economic conditions
Although poor (with the exception of peat) in raw materials and energy resources, Latvian industry is nevertheless remarkably diversified and constitutes the backbone of the national economy. The influx of British and German capital first (in the 19th century), then the policy of the USSR, allowed, in fact, a strong industrialization of the Latvia; the steel, mechanical, chemical, petrochemical, shipbuilding and some high-tech sectors (pharmaceuticals, electrotechnics, telecommunications) are above all important.
Agriculture is fairly practiced and the yields are good for cereals, potatoes, vegetables and some industrial plants (in particular flax), which feed the processing industries. The forests that supply the raw material to the wood and paper industries are also very extensive. The breeding, especially of cattle and pigs, is considerably developed; the activity of the food, textile and leather (leather) industries is connected to it. On the other hand, fishing, practiced on a large scale, feeds the canning industry.
Trade is facilitated by the presence of a good road and rail network, as well as by the active ports on the Baltic. While maintaining close economic relations with Russia, Latvia has seen an intensification of exchanges with Western Europe, in particular those with Great Britain and Germany, but also with other EU countries.