After a brief period of independence between the two World Wars, Latvia was annexed by the USSR in 1940. It reestablished its independence in 1991 following the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Although the last Russian troops left in 1994, the status of the Russian minority (some 30% of the population) remains of concern to Moscow. Latvia joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004.
Population: 1.9 million (July 2018).
Religions: Lutheran 19.6%, Orthodox 15.3%, other Christian 1%, other 0.4%, unspecified 63.7% (2006).
Ethnic groups: Latvian 62%, Russian 25.4%, Belarusian 3.3%, Ukrainian 2.2%, Polish 2.1%, Lithuanian 1.2%, other 3.8% (2017 est.).
Language: Latvian (official) 56.3%, Russian 33.8%, other 0.6% (includes Polish, Ukrainian, and Belarusian), unspecified 9.4% (2011 est.).
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Country name: Republic of Latvia (local: Latvijas Republika).
Government type: parliamentary democracy.
Legislation: Unicameral parliament (Saeima), which consists of 100 seats (elected for 3 years, since 3 October 1998 - the 7th Saeima).
Independence: 21 August 1991 (from Soviet Union).
Administrative divisions: 26 regions (496 parishes) and 7 cities of national significance (Riga, Daugavpils, Liepaja, Jelgava, Jurmala, Ventspils, Rezekne).
Terrain: low plain. Most of the country is composed of fertile, low-lying plains, with some hills in the east
Total area: 64,589 km˛.
Coastline: 531 km.
Highest point: Gaizinkalns 312 m.
Climate: maritime; wet, moderate winters.
Ports and harbors: Liepaja, Riga, Ventspils.