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Latvi-ya? I hardly know ya!

"What if upvote is potato, and downvote is potato. When downvote, potato is actually rock. But when upvote? Is also rock."

Latvia (Latvian: Latvija), officially known as the Republic of Latvia (Latvian: Latvijas Republika), is a Northern European country and the middle one of the three "Baltic Republics" along with Estonia and Lithuania, and has shared their modern history of brief independence following World War I before being snapped up by the Soviet Union until independence in 1991. This is why the Soviet Union and Allies in general aren't very popular in Latvia - as the people often see Hitler as the liberator, due to how he stopped the Soviet atrocities in Latvia (no, they're not supportive of his other policies). In fact, it wasn't until 1918 that the three of them had clearly delineated borders - for most of their history the area known as Livonia or Courland/Kurland was a vaguely-defined parcel of land passed around between Prussia and The Teutonic Knights, Sweden, and Russia.

The country is bisected by the Daugava River, which flows into the Gulf of Riga, at, well, Riga, the capital and largest city of the country. In The Middle Ages, the Baltic countries — the last stronghold of paganism in Europe — were targeted by the Northern Crusade; crusader armies, mostly ethnic Germans, invaded the region and set up colonies and feudalist systems, which eventually evolved into the Duchy of Courland and Semigalia and the Duchy of Livonia. These settlers were the ancestors of the Baltic Germans, who formed a large part of the ruling class in the region up until World War IInote . Riga, which was founded by Germans (on the site of several native Baltic settlements) was one of the most important ports of the Hanseatic League, and German colonists founded many other key cities in the country as well, including Cesis and Daugavpils (or Wenden and Dünaburg in German). Over the centuries, the Germans intermingled with the native Baltic-speaking Latvians; many Baltic elite families intermarried with and assimilated into the German ruling class, while lowborn German colonists often married into and assimilated into the broader Latvian culture, especially in cities. German influence is still seen in the architecture of many Latvian cities, as well as Lutheranism's status as the largest Christian denomination.note  Eventually, though, the independent German duchies were conquered first by Poland-Lithuania, then by Sweden, then by Russia, under whose control they remained until they attained independence after World War I.

The interwar period was, for the most part, good for Latvia — at least at first. No longer under the control of the absolutist Russian czars, Latvia (along with its Baltic neighbors Estonia and Lithuania) enjoyed a democratic regime, rapid economic growth, and good relations with Western European powers like the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the United States. However, Karlis Ulmanis, who had been the country's prime minister several times since independence, staged a coup in 1934 and established a dictatorship, ending Latvian democracy for the next half-century. Things got worse when Nazi Germany and Josef Stalin's USSR signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, dividing Eastern Europe between them; Latvia was on the Soviet side, and Soviet forces overran the country in 1939. Though the Soviets officially annexed Latvia that same year, this was never recognized by the Western world, which continued to consider it (along with Estonia and Lithuania) legally independent and illegally occupied.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact did not last. In 1941, Germany launched a surprise invasion of the Soviet Union, and the Baltics, including Latvia, were relatively close to the border, meaning they were overrun quickly by the German advance. After two years of Soviet occupation, many Latvians welcomed the Germans as liberators, and Latvia was incorporated into Reichskomissariat Ostland. A lot of people were drafted/volunteered into the Waffen SS Latvian Legion during the World War II Nazi German occupation and used to fight the Soviets. Not supporting Hitler directly, they saw this as the only opportunity to secure some sort of an independence from the Soviets, which, by then, had sent huge amounts of Latvians to gulags or just shot them. Latvia has a remembrance day for them in the 16th of March, a date which is, unfortunately, portrayed in media as some sort of a Nazi-support celebration, but this is not the case. Of course, the true nature of the German occupation and their plans for the region quickly revealed itself, and the Germans proved to be even more draconian than the Soviets they had replaced. Most depressingly, 70,000 Latvian Jews were murdered in The Holocaust, more than 75% of their pre-war population. After the tide of the war turned at Stalingrad and Moscow, Soviet forces retook the region, but a small number of German troops managed to hold out in the "Courland Pocket," in the far west of Latvia, until Germany surrendered in May 1945.

On the other hand, a lot of Latvians, ever since World War I, served in the Red Latvian Riflemen. They were crucial in the Revolution in Russia, providing a cadre of battle-hardened disciplined shock-troops, and later, protecting Lenin himself. Many Latvians took high positions in the law enforcement, military, and intelligence services of the newly founded Soviet state. During World War II, many Latvians joined the Red Army and fought against the Nazis, notably during the Battle of Moscow.

Also, a cool Latvian thing, done together with Estonians and Lithuanians, was getting independence via making a huge chain of people, stretching from Vilnius to Tallin.

Since independence, Latvia has become a popular tourist destination, joined the European Union, and adopted the Euro as its national currency in January 2014. Also, Latvia has one of the fastest internet connection speeds in the world, as seen here, due to extensive government backing.

In sports, apparently, the Latvians are really, really good in BMX and Beach Volleyball, getting a lot of success in these areas lately. The national sport is Ice Hockey, the fanaticism of this is around the same level as in Canada. If Latvia's only good hockey team - Dinamo Riga - performs well in KHL, it's a national celebration. And every Latvian who ends up in NHL is a national hero - in fact, thanks to a surge in online fan voting from Latvia, Zemgus Girgensons was the leading vote-getter for the 2015 NHL All-Star Game. The Latvians were also the very first European Champions in basketball.

Culturally, due to everything that has happened with the small country, the Latvians are in the exact middle between the Russians and Germans, with the tropes associated to these countries appearing here almost equally, and sometimes in hilarious ways (for example, the Latvians are never late for work. Even when they are completely drunk).

The Latvians (the older term 'Lett' has fallen out of use in English) are really touchy about being mistaken for the Russians - and by "touchy", we mean that calling a Latvian a Russian is a sure-fire way of getting into a fight. This might have something to do with the fact that out of the three Baltic states, Latvia was Russified the most; the number of Russians doubled from about 250,000 to 500,000 in just two decades after the Soviet annexation in 1940 and peaking at 900,000 in late 1980s (35% of the total population). For many years, the Russians actually made up the majority in the capital and most populous city, Riga, and still do in the second-biggest city Daugavpils. This created a problem after independence, as the Baltic countries have made a resolute agreement not to offer automatic citizenship to residents who migrated post-1940 or recognize languages other than their own at all. Latvian Russians who want to get Latvian citizenship will have to learn Latvian, and not many of them want to do so, which means that they are, legally speaking, stateless.

Also, the Soviet era made us strong. One of the least politically correct countries in the region, the Latvians are huge fans of Black Comedy and Self-Deprecation (usually such jokes, a lot like Russian 'anekdoty' are told in intentionally poor grammar for added comedy value). Here's some examples:

  • "Latvian has potato, is starve. Latvian save potato for tommorow. Eat dirt today. What if run out of dirt tomorrow?"
  • "One day, hear knock on door. Man ask 'Who Is?' 'Is potato man, I come around to give free potato.' Man is very excite and opens door. Is not potato man. Is secret police."

Regarding the national language, it's considered by linguists to be one of the most conservative from the Indo-European language family, alongside Lithuanian. For non-speakers, it sounds vaguely Slavic-ish, which is understandable, since the language is a part of the clade that contains the Slavic languages, albeit (like Lithuanian) having split from the others thousands of years ago. And no, no matter what dictionary you find about Latvian, "kavorka" does not mean "the lure of the animal", nor it is a word of Latvian at all (or other languages for that matter).

Latvian regional stereotypes are almost completely limited to those about Kurzeme (Courland, the northwest), the capital region around Riga, and Latgale (the southeast). The Kurzemnieki (Courlanders) are portrayed as rustic and slightly dim peasants with a drawling and near-incomprehensible accent that drops the latter half of every word, subsisting off of farming and forestry and eating potatoes, fish and assorted weeds. People from Riga, on the other hand, are portrayed as fancy city-dwellers with a pretentious accent who all have retail jobs and speak English. The Latgalians, when they aren't confused with the Russians, are portrayed as backwater savages who speak an alien tongue and are more Lithuanian-Belarusian than Latvian. Zemgale and Vidzeme? Where's that?

Latvian cuisine is a simple and no-nonsense thing: potatoes, pork, smoked fish (in Kurzeme), sour cream and a whole lot of dill. Add various pickles and preserves to taste.

Also, a special note for British tourists: our monument of freedom is not a public toilet. Otherwise, come and visit us, a pint of beer is cheaper that a 0.5lither bottle of coca-cola.

Latvia in media


Audio Play


  • Holes is about a boy whose Latvian ancestors were cursed
  • Officer Berg of War and Peace, a Latvian officer who proposes to a beautiful countess.
  • Pete of Bones is of Latvian descent. Following World War II and the subsequent Soviet occupation of the Baltics, Pete’s grandmother, her sons, and their wives decided it was best to seek greener pastures. According to family lore, the departure from Riga involved a dead-of-night dash and a harrowing voyage on a sketchy cargo ship.
  • Jakob Gradus of Pale Fire. His father was a Minister from Riga.
  • And by the same author of Pale Fire, we have Robert Karlovich Horn from Pnin.
  • The Latvian Sea Pirate from The Tin Drum
  • Nathan and Larry of Sophie's Choice are of Latvian Jewish descent.
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich gives us Kildigs, the plump red faced Latvian.



  • In Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Charles adopts a Latvian boy named Nikolaj
  • Aleks of EastEnders.
  • Red Jackal from GI Joe Red Shadows is a Latvian defector who eventually joined the Z force
  • Vlad, the Latvian exchange student from Modern Family.


  • A common misconception is that Doctor Doom is Latvian. He's actually Latverian. However the country's Ruritania nature and aesthetics could have been drawn from Latvia.
  • Broodhollow gives us a Latvian logger named Maris Kruzevabole
  • There's an entire site dedicated to fictional Latvians
  • Counter-Strike: Condition Zero has a mission set in Ventspils.
  • Ilona Vike from Dino D-Day is Latvian. It's explained that her village of Sarauj was destroyed by Hitler's dinosaur army.

See Also:

Famous Latvians:

  • Gustav Holst, though thoroughly English in his personal identity, was of partial Latvian descent.
  • Not a Latvian, but associated: Richard Wagner was the director of the Riga German's Theater (which later became Latvian National Opera) for a while.
  • Isaiah Berlin, Sergei Eisenstein, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Mark Rothko although not technically Latvians, were also born in Riga.
  • Same for Mihails Tāls, a Latvian Jew who was World Chess Champion from 1960–1961. He's more commonly known by the Russian version of his name, Mikhail Tal.
  • Aleksandrs Liepa, the inventor of Pringles, was a Latvian (well, according to the patent, at least).
    • His surname means "linden" in Latvian, it is quite common surname among Latvians.
  • Edward Leedskalnin (Edvards Liedskalniņš), an immigrant from Latvia, created that crazy coral castle in Florida - and nobody has any idea as of how.
  • Fred Norris (originally Fred Leon Nukis) of The Howard Stern Show is the son of Valija and Henry Nukis who were Latvian immigrants.
  • Maris Strombergs is the first (and as of now, the only) Olympic champion in BMX, getting gold in Beijing and London.
  • Ksenia Solo from Lost Girl was born in Riga and then migrated to Canada with her parents, when she was 5.
  • DJ Lethal from Limp Bizkit (real name Leors Dimants) was also born in Riga, in a Latvian Jewish family.
  • Kārlis Irbītis, one of the pioneers of VTOL technology and the designer of the Canadian CL-84 plane was a Latvian. Exceedingly funny that he's almost unknown in Latvia, where his extremely eccentric (yet still loved) painter brother Voldemārs Irbe is known far better.
  • Highly ironically, the very first commander of the Soviet Army was a Latvian - Jukums Vācietis. It is widely thought that the Soviets only beat the Royalists in the civil war due to the Latvian Red Riflemen, which were much more disciplined and organized that the Red Army. Later, he served as Lenin's personal guard until the great purges of 1937. Yeah, that didn't turn out so well.
  • Aminata Savadogo, who represented the country at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015 and gave them their best result in a decade. She is a Latvian of Burkinabé and Russian descent.
  • Kristaps Porziņģis, current rising NBA star with the Dallas Mavericks.
  • Another non-Latvian closely associated with the country: CJ Perry, better known as WWE's Lana, though born in Florida, was mostly raised in Latvia as the daughter of Christian missionaries. She danced with Latvia's national ballet in her teens.

The Latvian flag
The flag, consisting of a carmine red field and white bar, is said to be among the oldest flags still in use. Popular legend attributes its origins as the shroud used to wrap a wounded tribal leader during the wars of the late 13th century — the parts which came into contact with him miraculously remained pure, while its edges became stained with his blood.

The Latvian national anthem

Dievs, svētī Latviju!
Mūs' dārgo tēviju
Svētī jel Latviju
Ak, svētī jel to!

Dievs, svētī Latviju!
Mūs' dārgo tēviju
Svētī jel Latviju
Ak, svētī jel to!

Kur latvju meitas zied
Kur latvju dēli dzied
Laid mums tur laimē diet
Mūs' Latvijā!

Kur latvju meitas zied
Kur latvju dēli dzied
Laid mums tur laimē diet
Mūs' Latvijā!

God, bless Latvia!
Our beloved fatherland,
Bless Latvia,
Oh bless it, yet again!

God, bless Latvia!
Our beloved fatherland,
Bless Latvia,
Oh bless it, yet again!

Where Latvian daughters bloom,
Where Latvian sons sing,
Let us dance for joy there,
In our Latvia!

Where Latvian daughters bloom,
Where Latvian sons sing,
Let us dance for joy there,
In our Latvia!

  • Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic
    • President: Edgars Rinkēvičs
    • Prime Minister: Evika Siliņa
    • Speaker of the Saeima: Daiga Mieriņa

  • Capital and largest city: Riga
  • Other major cities: Daugavpils, Liepaja, Jelgava
  • Population: 1,907,675
  • Area: 64,589 sq km (24,938 sq mi) (122nd)
  • Currency: Euro (€) (EUR)
  • ISO-3166-1 Code: LV
  • Country calling code: 371
  • Highest point: Gaiziņkalns (312 m/1,024 ft) (184th)
  • Lowest point: Baltic Sea (459 m/1,506 ft) (-)