Youth Exchange in the Czech Republic between 16. – 23. July 2007

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Spoluúčast - LITVA

Touch Europe Through Equality”

The Project

Presentation of Republic of Latvia

Responsible person of Latvian group

Nelly Barcevska

Prague, Czech Republic

16 th – 23rd July, 2007

Republic of Latvia

(Latvijas Republika)


Located on eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, Latvia lies in East European Plain. The highest point being the Gaizinkalns at 311.6 m, water more than 3,000 lakes and over 12,000 rivers, only seventeen of which are longer than 100 kilometers (sixty miles).

Its neighbors include Estonia on the north, Lithuania on the south, Belarus on the southeast, and Russia on the east.

Area: total 64,589 km² ; water (%) – 1.5.

Capital (and largest city): Riga.

Official languages: Latvian.

Ethnic groups: Latvians 59.0%, Russians28.5%, Belarussians3.8%, Poles2.4%, others 6.3%.

Population: 2,291,000 (January 2006 estimate).

Independence: from Russia and Germany;

declaredNovember 18, 1918,

recognizedJanuary 26, 1921,

proclaimedMay 4, 1990,

completedSeptember 6, 1991.

Accession to the European Union: May 1, 2004.

Government: Parliamentary democracy.

Flag of Latvia

The national flag of Latvia was re-adopted on February 27, 1990. The same flag was used by independent Latvia from 1918 until the country was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940; post-Soviet Latvia sees itself as the same state as pre-Soviet Latvia, not merely a successor state.

Rigathe capital

Rigathe capital of Latvia, is situated on the Baltic Sea coast on the mouth of the River Daugava. Riga is the largest city in the Baltic states. The Historic Centre of Riga has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city is particularly notable for its extensive Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) architecture, comparable in significance only with Vienna and Saint Petersburg.

Business and commerce

Riga is home to numerous academic institutions, including the University of Latvia, Riga Technical University and Riga Stradins University. The Latvian Parliament (Saeima) also sits in Riga, as does the President of Latvia, who resides in Riga Castle.

Riga as a city-port is a major transportation hub and is the center of the local road and railway system. Most tourists travel to Riga by air via Riga International Airport, the largest airport in the Baltic states, which was renovated and modernized in 2001 on the occasion of Riga's 800th anniversary.

Almost all important Latvian financial institutions are located in Riga, including the Bank of Latvia, which is Latvia's central bank.


The official language of Latvia is Latvian, which belongs to the Baltic language group of the Indo-European language family. Latgalian languagea dialect of Latvianis also protected by Latvian law as historical variation of Latvian language. Russian is by far the most widespread minority language, also spoken, or at least understood, by large sections of the non-Russian population.


The population is mostly Christian, although few people attend religious services regularly. The largest groups in 2006 are:

Roman Catholicover 500,000;


Eastern Orthodox350,000.

There are 182 known Muslims living in Latvia; total number of Muslims in Latvia, however, is estimated to be much largerfrom 500 to 12,000.

There are about 600 Latvian neopagans Dievturi (The Godskeepers) whose religion is based on Latvian mythology. About 35 % of the total population is not affiliated with a specific religion and may be nontheist.


The 100-seat unicameral Latvian parliament, the Saeima, is elected by direct, popular vote every four years. The president is elected by the Saeima in a separate election also every four years. The president appoints a prime minister who, together with his cabinet, forms the executive branch of the government, which has to receive a confidence vote by the Saeima. This system also existed before the Second World War.

In a nationwide referendum on September 20, 2003, 66.9% of those taking part voted in favour of joining the European Union. Latvia became a full-fledged member of the European Union on May 1, 2004. Latvia has been a NATO member since March 29, 2004.

Latvia plans to introduce the Euro as the country's currency but, due to the inflation being above EMU's guidelines, this is unlikely to happen before 2010.

Public holidays in Latvia


Type – national; ethnic; pagan;

Significancecelebration of summer solstice.

Begins23 June;

Ends24 June;

Observances: staying up all night, making bonfires, eating cheese, drinking beer.

Jāņi” is a Latvian festival held on the 23-24 June to celebrate the summer solstice, the shortest night and longest day of the year. Both days of Jāņi are public holidays, and people usually spend them in the countryside.

Jāņi” was originally a pagan custom; after Christianization it became associated with Saint John the Baptist's feast day, which falls on June 24; therefore the festival is always held on the night from 23 June to 24 June, not on 21-22 June when the summer solstice actually takes place.

In the past, evil witches were believed to be riding around, so people decorated their houses and lands with rowan branches and thorns in order to protect themselves from evil. In modern days other traditional decorations are more popular, including birch or sometimes oak branches and flowers as well as leaves, especially ferns. People wear wreaths made from flowers for females, or oak leaves for males; in rural areas livestock also is decorated.

Another important detail is fire: A festival fire must be kept from sunset till sunrise, which traditionally people jump over to ensure prosperity and fertility. Traditional food during “Jāņi” is a special type of cheese with caraway seeds, made out of curd, and the traditional drink is beer. Many people make the cheese of “Jāņi” themselves; a few also make their own beer.

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