Its capital is the old Hanseatic city
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 for trading amber with the Roman Empire.
When the locals did not voluntarily convert to Christianity, Pope Celestine III
called for a crusade. The call was answered by the Teutonic Order and by the end of the 12th centurry Latvia was ruled by the
In the following centuries Lithuanians, Poles, and Swedes all 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 it during WW II. In 1944 the Soviet Union occupied the territory till 1991 when independence was restored.
2004 Latvia is a member of NATO and the EU.