Situated in north-eastern Europe with a coastline along the Baltic Sea, Latvia has borders with Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Lithuania. It has linguistic links with Lithuania to the south and historical and religious ties with Estonia to the north.
Not much more than a decade after it declared independence following the collapse of the USSR, Latvia was welcomed as an EU member in May 2004. The move came just weeks after it joined Nato.
For centuries Latvia was primarily an agricultural country, with seafaring, fishing and forestry as other important factors in its economy.
Like its Baltic neighbours, in the decade after independence Latvia made a rapid transformation to embrace the free market.
More than a quarter of the population is Russian-speaking and the rights of this section of society have been a thorny issue since independence.
- Republic of Latvia
- Capital: Riga
- Population 2.2 million
- Area Area: 64,589 sq km (24,938 sq miles)
- Major languages Latvian, Russian
- Major religion Christianity
- Life expectancy 69 years (men), 79 years (women)
- Currency euro