|a republic in NE Europe, on the Gulf of Riga and the Baltic Sea: ruled by Poland, Sweden, and Russia since the 13th century, Latvia was independent from 1919 until 1940 and was a Soviet republic (1940--91), gaining its independence after conflict with Soviet forces; it joined the EU in 2004. Latvia is mostly forested. Official language: Latvian. Religion: nonreligious, Christian. Currency: lats. Capital: Riga. Pop: 2 286 000 (2004 est). Area: 63 700 sq km (25 590 sq miles)|
Note: Nationalist sentiments brewing since the mid-nineteenth century erupted at the time of the Russian Revolution; after the collapse of Russia and Germany in World War I, Latvia was able to proclaim its independence. After twenty years of political instability, however, Latvia was forcibly integrated into the Soviet Union in 1940, along with Estonia and Lithuania. The collapse of the Soviet Union enabled Latvians to reassert their national identity, and they declared their country independent in August 1991.