Overview of Latvia
Latvia is a small republic on the Eastern Shore of the Baltic Sea. It is roughly 25,000 sq. miles or 66,000 sq. km (about the size of West Virginia or Ireland).
The capital of Latvia is Rīga (founded in 1201 AD).
Latvia is an Independent Democratic Republic as outlined in the "Satversme" or Constitution.
The Legislative branch consists of a uni-cameral parliament of 100 seats called the Saeima (elected by the citizens of Latvia every four years).
The State consists of the President of State (head of state and military), who elected by absolute majority of the Saeima and limited to two terms and his advisors.
The Judicial branch consists the Supreme Court, Constitutional Court and the lower court system.
The national anthem is "Dievs, svētī Latviju!"(God Bless Latvia) written by Kārlis Baumanis.
As of May 1st 2004 Latvia (along with Cyprus, Estonia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta) became a member state of the European Union.
The currency of Latvia is Lats. There are 100 santīms in each Lats. Santīms coins come in the following denominations: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 with 1 and 2 lats coins. Banknotes are for Lats: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500. As a member state of the European Union, Latvia will convert to the Euro on 1 January 2014.
The language is Latvian (Lettish), second oldest member of the Indo-European languages belonging to the Baltic branch. Latvian is neither Slavic nor Germanic in origin and is similar only to Lithuanian.
Latvia is bordered on the north by Estonia, to the east by Russia, to the south-east by Belarus, and to the south by Lithuania.
Latvia's economy consists mainly of agriculture and forestry although in recent years tourism has become a booming business. Electronics, pharmaceuticals, machinery and fishing round-out Latvia's economy.
Regions and major cities
Latvia is divided into four territorial regions: Vidzeme, Kurzeme (Courland), Zemgale and Latgale. Each region is divided into administrative districts called "Novadi" and each district is further divided into "Pagasti" or parishes.
The principal cities of Latvia are: In Vidzeme: Riga, Sigulda, Cesis and Valmiera. In Kurzeme: Liepaja and Ventspils (both ice-free ports). In Zemgale: Jelgava and Dobele. In Latgale: Daugavpils and Rezekne.
The major rivers of Latvia are: Daugava (Upper Dvina), Gauja, Lielupe, and Venta. The Gauja is the only river in Latvia which both begins and ends within Latvian borders.
Latvia's climate is Northern Maritime with mild winters and moderately warm summers.