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The Republic of Latvia sits at the northeastern coast of the Baltic Sea. The country's capital is the old Hanse city of Riga. On the westcoast, Ventspils is the major seaport of the Baltics.
Like Estonia, Latvia has a large proportion of ethnic Russians, many of them having no full citizen status yet.
Some 5000 years ago the region was settled by Baltic people, who later became known trading amber with the Roman Empire.
When locals did not voluntarily convert to Christianity, Pope Celestine III called for a crusade to forcefully impose the love of Christ on the heathens. The call was answered by the Teutonic Order and by the end of the 12th centurry Latvia was converted but ruled by the Germans.
In the following centuries Lithuanians, Poles and Swedes ruled  the territory. In 1795 all of Latvia became part of the Russian Empire, but German remained the official language.
Latvia became independent in 1921 but the Germans took control during WW II.
In 1944 Russia occupied the territory till the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 after which the independence was restored.
Since 2004 Latvia is a member of NATO and the EU.
Tensions between the Baltic states and big brother Russia have increased and recently NATO has stationed extra troops in the region.