Brimming with confidence, this enigmatic little country has big plans. Proud owners of the largest Baltic capital Riga, Latvians have fully embraced the western way of life and are arguably the most glamorous of the Baltic trio.
Latvia's confidence is infectious and an attractive aspect of the country, Riga is a bustling, cosmopolitan city, with a beautiful old town and gorgeous art nouveau district, there is plenty to see and do and an excellent Opera festival each year.
Latvia has some wonderful beaches and pretty countryside with grand manor houses and historic villages.
In Latvia you can particularly observe a Russian legacy, 30% of the population is Russian and in Riga this is especially noticeable compared with Tallinn and Vilnius.
In the 12th century AD crusaders were sent to convert one of the last Pagan nations in Europe: Latvia. Missionaries had been sent into the country before, but their efforts had been in vain. The Latvians just refused to be Christian. Finally, it was decided that Latvia would have to be converted by force. Crusaders built a settlement called Riga, near the coast, and conquered Latvia. These crusaders were known as “knights of the sword” and they joined the famous Tectonic knights in 1237. After this Riga flourished, becoming a large trading city, selling things such as furs, honey and wax to larger countries like Russia. Latvia was then controlled by Poland (1561), Sweden (1629) and Russia (1721). Then, like all the Baltic nations, Latvia was captured by both Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany consecutively. Latvia was owned by Russia until WW1, when it was taken over by Germany. Once the Germans surrendered Latvia declared her independence… but a year later was invaded by Soviet Russia. The Germans then drove out the Communists and left Latvia themselves in 1919. Latvia was again announced independent but it wasn’t to last. The country joined the League of Nations but was hit badly in the 1930s by the Great Depression. Around this time Hitler was growing in popularity and Europe was well on the way to another World War. Russia and Germany’s Nazi-Soviet pact meant they planned to divide up Eastern Europe, so Soviet Russia got Latvia. Latvia became part of the Soviet Union in August 1940. Anyone who tried to resist was shot or deported to Siberia. Of course, Hitler didn’t keep his promise to leave the Soviet Union alone, and invaded July 1941. This meant Latvia came under German control, and it wasn’t any better than Soviet control. 75,000 Latvians were killed or deported. Once Germany lost the war Latvia was once again handed to Russia, until their independence in 1991.