The oldest archaeological finds in Latvia date from the end of the preboreal era, ie. 9000s BC The people lived by hunting and fishing and buried their dead in large tombs. The beginning of the Younger Stone Age (c. 4000 BC) is characterized by pottery from the so-called narra culture, which also occurs in Estonia and Lithuania. At the end of the stage, Latvia was part of the chamber ceramic cultural circle. A number of places, now located in mosses, have left an exceptionally rich inventory of bone, horn and wooden objects. The natural amber bodies were used for jewelry production and export.
In the early metal age (second millennium BC), bronze was imported, while later iron extraction took place locally. Metal technology, agriculture and livestock management gradually led to a capital formation, which in turn manifested itself in fortified settlements; later during the Iron Age, the ancient citizens were numerous. During the younger Iron Age, Latvia engaged in trade Sweden. In Grobin ̦a there was already about 650–800 a Swedish colony, and some of Northern Europe’s trade relations with Russia and the Byzantine Empire ran along the Daugava River. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Latvia.
German-dominated Middle Ages
The name of Latvia to refer to the entire Latvian territory was not used until the 1800s national awakening, but then had the Baltic regimens, semgallerna (see Zemgale) and lettgallerna (see Latgale) and the assimilated Finno-Ugric liver termed Latvians for centuries. Both the Nordic Vikings and East Slavic princes showed interest in the strategically located residence of the divided Latvian tribes on the Baltic Sea and the Daugava river from the 11th century.
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The strongest influence, however, came to be exercised by Germans, who from the latter half of the 12th century conducted missionary activities and established trading stations at the mouth of Daugava. In 1201, the German bishop Albert founded the city of Riga as the center of a German bishopric and starting point for colonization of the Latvian hinterland. The following year he instituted the Order of the Swordsman, which in 1237 amounted to the German words and whose crusaders intended to lead the German expansion. The Order Knights erected fortifications around which Latvian cities such as Daugavpils (Dünaburg), Liepāja (Libau) and Jelgava (Mitau) emerged.
German Hansa merchants, often from Visby, increasingly used Riga as a shipping port for flax and hemp. After the conquest of Latvia at the end of the 13th century, until the middle of the 16th century, the country consisted of four German-dominated, feudally embossed and rival areas: the German state order, the archbishopric of Riga, the city of Riga and the bishopric of Kurland.
Polish – Swedish – Russian shifts of power
During the 16th century, the German grip on Latvia weakened. The influence of the German Order and Hansen decreased through the emergence of strong and expansive nation states on both sides of the Baltic Sea and through the Netherlands’ newly won dominance in the Baltic trade. The Reformation, which quickly gained entry into Riga, also contributed to the disintegration of the German order, but also led to a first cultural national awakening by the publication of books in Latvian. By contrast, the Baltic German feudal nobility was able to preserve its land, its harsh control over the peasant farmers and its influence in Latvia’s land.
During the Lifelong War (1558–83) between Ivan IV ‘s Russian Empire and Latvia’s divided German rulers, in 1561 the Latvian territory was divided into two parts: Liveland, which was integrated into the Kingdom of Poland-Lithuania but granted extensive autonomy, and Kurland, which was granted to the last commander-in-chief but under Polish supremacy.
In the 1580s, Latvia’s right of self-determination was curtailed in favor of the Polish nobility, and Jesuit counter-reformers sought to re-introduce Catholicism. The Catholic support was partially destroyed by the wars between Poland and the Swedish great power in the early 17th century. In 1621, the Swedish army took Riga, and in the peace in Altmark in 1629 most of Livland joined Protestant Sweden, while the southeastern Lettgallen and Kurland remained under Poland. The Swedish era was also started with self-government for the country, but noble resistance to the Swedish king Karl XI ‘s demand for reduction of goods and increased peasant freedom led to the province of Livland being pushed harder to the Swedish central power.
Power relations changed again during the Great Nordic War (1700-21), which hit the territory of Latvia severely. As a result of the victory of the Russian army over the Swedish at Poltava in 1709, Swedish Livland became part of Russia, which was confirmed in the peace in Nystad in 1721. Through the divisions of Poland, Polish Livland, ie Lettgallen (1772) and Kurland (1795) were also incorporated., in the growing Russian empire.
Once again, the nobility succeeded in exercising autonomy for the land, which was dominated by the nobility and city officials, which in the 18th century led to further exploitation of the already lawless peasants. During the years 1817–19, the livelihoods gained their personal freedom, however, without retaining their formerly used land, and it was not until the 1860s that a class of Latvian self-sufficient peasants emerged. At the same time, industrialization and immigration to the cities accelerated, resulting in the emergence of both a native middle class and an industrial proletariat. While just under 15 percent of Latvia’s population in 1863 lived in cities, the corresponding figure for 1914 was 38 percent. Folk schools were introduced as early as 1817-19, and in Russia’s first census in 1897, almost all letters were labeled literate.
The rapid economic and social development, together with a periodically reckless refreshment policy on the part of the tsar power, contributed to the emergence of national and class consciousness of the Latvians. While the self-sufficient peasants, the bourgeoisie and an emerging intelligentsia became the backbone of the national movement, the industrial workers became the base of the Latvian labor movement. The national movement, whose message was conveyed in newly launched newspapers and at singing parties, especially by the Hungarian movement formed in the 1860s, sometimes came into conflict with the German people.
Opponents of the Latvian labor movement were both German goods and industrial owners, Latvian peasants and the Russian tsar power. As the most industrialized part of Russia, Latvia had developed a strong labor movement. After organizing extensive strikes in the 1890s, Latvian socialists, organized in Latvia’s Social Democratic Workers Party (1901) and led by Pēteris Stučka (1865-1932), took an active part in the 1905 Russian revolution. In the aftermath, two thousand Latvian workers were executed, while many rebels were exiled to Siberia.
During the First World War, Latvia was part of both the German and Russian spheres of interest. In 1915, parts of Latvia were occupied by the Germans, and since the rest of the country was occupied in February 1918, plans were drawn up to connect Latvia to Germany. However, the Russian revolutions in 1917 changed the political conditions. A Provisional National Council was formed, and a democratic bloc in Riga, which included all parties except the Bolsheviks, passed a resolution on a free and neutral Latvia.
On November 18, 1918, the independent Republic of Latvia was proclaimed with British support with Kārlis Ulmanis as Prime Minister. The realization was temporarily hampered by the Red Army invasion in late 1918 and the proclamation of a Soviet republic under Stučka, but that republic was overthrown by cooperating Latvian and Western troops, and Ulmanis was reinstated. In peace in Riga in 1920, Latvia was recognized by Bolshevik Russia, and the country was admitted the following year as a member of the League of Nations (NF).
Independent Latvia (1918-40)
One of the first steps of the Free Republic was to implement a land reform, which redistributed the land from Balth German landowners to small farmers. Latvia gained a liberal, democratic constitution in 1922, which secured minority groups such as Germans, Jews and Russians a comprehensive cultural autonomy. However, by leaving room for very small political groups, it laid the foundation for an unstable political system, which, through the threat of the Soviet Union and Germany, as well as the Latvian Nazis and Communists, would be put to the test. The Latvian peasant union was the dominant political force, but the political life was often characterized by short-lived coalitions.
The fragmentation and fear of political extremist movements, combined with a depression that hit hard on the weak, western-dependent agricultural economy, led to Ulmanis in 1934, together with the Minister of War, Jānis Balodis, disbanded all political parties and established an authoritarian regime with the support of an authoritarian regime. In 1936, Ulmanis took over the presidential post. Latvia’s foreign policy was characterized by the effort to avoid being drawn into the major power conflicts. The solution during the 1930s was a defense-political collaboration between Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, the Baltic entente.
Latvia during World War II
When World War II broke out, Latvia declared itself neutral. However, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of August 1939 had already placed Latvia in the Soviet sphere of interest, and in October the country was forced to sign an aid pact with the Soviet Union, which was granted the right to station troops in Latvia. In June 1940, Soviet troops invaded Latvia. A communist puppet government was set up, manipulated elections were carried out and the country incorporated as a republic in the Soviet Union. About 35,000 letters were deported, including Ulmanis and Balodis. In July 1941, Latvia was occupied by German troops, and a period marked by assassinations and deportations began. In Salaspils near Riga a large concentration camp was built, where the absolute majority of Latvian Jews were executed. In October 1944, the Red Army was able to reestablish Soviet power. Hundreds of thousands of letters fled west, many to Sweden.
Soviet empire and its downfall
The entry into the Soviet Union meant a socio-economic revolution that was driven further in Latvia than in Estonia and Lithuania; the Moscow-led economy was reoriented from agriculture to heavy industry, the self-sufficient peasants were transformed into kolchos farmers or to urbanized industrial workers, and extensive immigration, especially of ethnic Russians, took place. Republican leadership often fetched its members from letters that spent a long time in Moscow, such as Arvīds Pelše (1899–1983) and Boris Pugo (1937–91), and the culture was rectified according to the Soviet Patriotic template.
During Khrushchev’s thawing years, reformist Communist Eduards Berklavs (1914–2004) sought to defend Latvian national interests, while during Brezhnev’s reign, only occasional dissent votes were raised against the Russian policy. With Gorbachevthis situation changed in power. Latvian intellectuals, organized in the Latvian People’s Front (1988) but also in increasingly powerful groups such as the Latvian Writers’ Union and the Environmental Protection Club, were able to mobilize in mass media and through demonstrations a strong opinion against Moscow’s exploitation of Latvia’s nature and culture, towards the endeavor of demarcation and the difficult demographic situation., who threatened to turn the ethnic Latvians into a minority people in their own republic. In March 1990, the People’s Front, with Latvia’s independence on the program, won by far the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the Republic.
The disintegrating Soviet power tried to stop the independence movement, including by allowing domestic troops to carry out a bloody attack on peaceful protesters in Riga in January 1991. However, it could not prevent Latvia from joining the August 21, 1991, in the surge following a failed Soviet coup and four months before the Union. final downfall, adopt a declaration of independence.
Democratic elections to the free Latvian parliament were held for the first time in fifty years in June 1993. The following month, Guntis Ulmanis was elected president. Linguist Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, with an exile-Latvian background from Canada, was elected president in 1999 and sat in 2007. Although the presidential post is primarily symbolic, Freiberga gave the charter and integrity to a political system often accused of the opposite. She was succeeded in 2007 at the presidential post by physician Valdis Zatlers.
The coalition government that took power in 1993 and was dominated by Liberal Latvia’s road (LC) made important reform decisions for liberalization and privatization of the economy. The Latvian governments have consistently had a liberal or conservative feel, but often included the relatively small but important nationalist party Fosterland and freedom (TB/LNNK) until it dissolved in 2011. The vote (and the media landscape) in Latvia follows to some extent ethnic lines and the there are a number of parties that mainly attract votes from the Russian speakers. One of these, Harmony, has received the most votes in all three elections since 2011.
Some problems have been directly linked to the legacy of the Soviet period and the relationship with Moscow, in particular the issues of Russian troops withdrawal from Latvian territory, which was largely completed in 1994, and the civil rights of the large Russian and Russian-speaking population.
At the 1989 census, the proportion of litters in the country was only 52 percent, and in light of this, the country’s citizenship policy must be considered. In the cities the Baltic Russians are usually the majority, in the countryside the Latvian population dominates. However, grassroots integration is striking, and marriages across ethnic borders are common. In connection with the 1993 elections (as confirmed by citizenship law in 1994), a definition of citizenship was adopted which was based on the principle of descent; those who were citizens of the republic before 1940 and their relatives were eligible for citizenship. Others were allowed to apply according to special regulations. Many of them of Russian origin had moved in after the end of the Second World War and were suspended without citizenship.
Politics has faced criticism from an international perspective, both from the Russian Federation and from the EU and the Council of Europe, even though it does not contravene international standards. Over the years, Latvia has softened its policy in this area. In the spring of 1998, the Latvian government and parliament decided to pass a law that removed the age quota (the so-called window system) and that all individuals, around 20,000, who were born in Latvia after 1991 would automatically obtain citizenship. In a subsequent referendum on the bill in the fall of 1998, 53 percent voted in favor of a relaxation of the Citizenship Act and 45 percent against. Today, about 85 percent of the approximately 650,000 Russian-speaking Latvian citizens.
In the spring of 2004, Latvia joined both NATO and the EU. EU membership opened for a labor migration from Latvia (to Ireland, UK and Scandinavia, among others), which drained the country of up to 10 percent of the working population. Latvia’s liberal economic policies led to high growth (over 10 percent in 2006-07) during the 2000s, but also to overheating. The economic crisis in 2008 hit Latvia very hard. The economy stagnated, unemployment soared, as did inflation. Protests in Riga led to government resignation in early spring 2009. The government that took office in March 2009 under the leadership of former EU parliamentarian Valdis Dombrovskisproposed radical measures, such as sharp (50 percent) cuts in public sector wages and reduced pensions. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also entered into loans for the tarnished Latvian economy.
The crisis measures gave the desired effect; growth accelerated and state finances recovered in 2010 and 2011. Dombrovskis was able to form government after the 2010 election and after a new election to parliament in 2011. The latter was preceded by a political crisis, triggered by then President Valdis Zatler’s quest to bring a number of corruption-accused oligarchs to justice..
At the end of 2011, Latvia’s Savings Bank went bankrupt since its principal owner embezzled large sums. Despite the bank collapse, in December the government was able to terminate Latvia’s three-year loan program with the IMF.
In 2012, the Latvians voted to grant Russian status as the official second language in addition to Latvian. Nejsidan won with 75 percent of the vote.
Dombrovsky surprisingly chose to resign as prime minister after a domestic political crisis in late 2013. The crisis occurred after a house raid in Riga in November, when a shopping center collapsed with just over 50 dead as a result. Former head of the earth trophy Laimdota Straujuma (born 1951) was appointed new head of government. She formed a new government with representatives from all parties in Parliament except the Social Democratic Harmonic Center (later Harmony).
Straujuma was able to form a government even after the regular parliamentary elections in October 2014. In June 2015, the incumbent Defense Minister Raimonds Vējonis from Latvia’s green party was appointed new president. He was succeeded in July 2019 by the lawyer Egils Levits.
On 1 January 2014, the euro was introduced as the country’s currency.
Like 2014, Harmony became the largest party in the 2018 elections. The government parties backed sharply while three new parties took place in parliament: populist Who owns the state? (KPV LV), the New Conservative Party (JKP) and the Alliance For Development/For !. Following a protracted process, in January 2019 a new right-center government took office; Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš (born 1964) from New Unity, the smallest party in Parliament.