Latvia - Encyclopedia Information
Official name Republic of Latvia
Formation 1991 / 1991
Population 2.2 million / 88 people per sq mile (34 people per sq km)
Total area 24,938 sq. miles (64,589 sq. km)
Languages Latvian*, Russian
Religions Other 43%, Lutheran 24%, Roman Catholic 18%, Orthodox Christian 15%
Ethnic mix Latvian 59%, Russian 28%, Belarussian 4%, Other 4%, Ukrainian 3%, Polish 2%
Government Parliamentary system
Currency Lats = 100 santimi
Literacy rate 99%
Calorie consumption 3019 kilocalories
Latvia is the middle one of the Baltic trio, sandwiched between Lithuania and Estonia. Obviously, with L and T playing a big part in the names Lithuania and Latvia, there could be some confusion over cars that you may see. For clarification, LT is Lithuania, LV is Latvia. I’ve no idea why it’s that way round. It just is.
As with Estonia, a lot of our history of military involvement with Latvia is tied up with Russia. In the Napoleonic Wars we spent some time fighting Russia, but by the summer of 1812 we were fighting France alongside the Russians as Napoleon’s armies marched through Russia. Riga, the capital of Latvia (and then under Russian control), was being besieged by the French. The suburbs were burnt, but the arrival of English and Russian gunboats saved the city itself and lifted the siege.
With the Crimean War we returned, but this time not to save Riga. Instead we bombarded it and generally roamed Latvian waters irritating the Russians. For instance, on 30 July 1855, HMS Archer and HMS Conflict attacked the town of Windau, now Ventspils, in Latvia, scattering troops and destroying public buildings.
With the Russian Revolution we returned to Latvian waters. In December 1918, with Red Russian forces only 25 miles away and advancing, Royal Navy shore patrols landed in Riga and marched through town to arrange the evacuation of Allied citizens and the Latvian government itself. HMS Ceres ended up firing on the barracks of a Latvian regiment that had mutinied. And we were in Riga again the following year, this time to help save it from the Germans and the Russians. In the autumn of 1919, HMS Dragon, a light cruiser, was part of a British and French fleet dispatched to Riga to aid Latvian troops in a counter-attack. During the action, Dragon was hit by fire from the shore and nine crew members were killed and four wounded.
Ultimately, we played a small but significant role in helping Latvia gain independence.