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Baltic nation, independent from 1918, named for its inhabitants, Latvian Latvji, whose ancient name is of unknown origin. In English, the people name was Lett. Parts of the modern state were known previously as Livonia (from Estonian liiv "sand") and Courland (from Curonians, name of a Lettish people, of unknown origin).
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.