Latvia: Country and Foreign Investment
History, Population, Language and Culture
The forefathers of the Latvian people were the proto-Balts, who arrived in the first half of 2000 BC, although the territory had already been long inhabited by the ancient Finnic peoples. The region became a key trading crossroads, lying on a route stretching from Scandinavia to Russia and the Byzantine Empire, while amber found along the Latvian coast was renowned as far afield as ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. By the late 12th century, traders from Western Europe used the River Daudava as a trade route to Russia.
Latvia’s strategic geographic location meant it was prone to invasion from neighbouring territories, and from the 12th century onwards the country fell under German, Polish, Swedish and Russian rule. Latvia enjoyed a period of independence from August 1920, but this was short-lived as, after World War II, the country became a part of the USSR. The fall of the USSR led to Latvia once again achieving full independence in 1991.
The population was 2.17m in July 2010. Latvians make up around 59% of the population, and Russians around 28%; Belarusians, Ukrainians, Polish and Lithuanians make up the bulk of the rest.
The official language is Latvian; Russian, German and English are widely spoken.
The three main religions in Latvia are the Evangelic Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches. However, Latvian culture is strongly influenced by folklore, and Christian rituals are often intermingled with pagan customs. Riga is home to a number of theatres, an opera, and a symphony orchestra.