Andorra, officially the Principality of Andorra (Catalan: Principat d'Andorra), also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra, (Catalan: Principat de les Valls d'Andorra), is a landlocked microstate in Southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe, having an area of 468 km2 (181 sq mi) and an estimated population of 85,000 in 2012Sony PCG-71313M battery. Its capital, Andorra la Vella, is the highest capital city in Europe, at an elevation of 1,023 metres (3,356 ft) above sea level. The official language is Catalan, although Spanish, Portuguese, and French are also commonly spoken.
Created under a charter in 988, the present Principality was formed in 1278. It is known as a principality as it is a monarchy headed by a prince, or rather, co-princes – the Bishop of Urgell and the President of FranceSony PCG-71212M battery.
Andorra is a prosperous country mainly because of its tourism industry, which services an estimated 10.2 million visitors annually, and also because of its status as a tax haven. It is not a member of the European Union, but the euro is the de facto currency. The people of Andorra have the 4th highest human life expectancy in the world — 82 years at birthSony PCG-71311M battery.
Tradition holds that Charles the Great (Charlemagne) granted a charter to the Andorran people in return for fighting against the Moors. Overlordship of the territory was by the Count of Urgell and eventually by the bishop of the Diocese of Urgell. In 988, Borrell II, Count of Urgell, gave the Andorran valleys to the Diocese of Urgell in exchange for land in Cerdanya. Since then the Bishop of Urgell, based in Seu d'Urgell, has owned Andorra. Sony PCG-71213M battery
Before 1095, Andorra did not have any type of military protection and the Bishop of Urgell, who knew that the Count of Urgell wanted to reclaim the Andorran valleys, asked for help and protection from the Lord of Caboet. In 1095, the Lord of Caboet and the Bishop of Urgell signed under oath a declaration of their co-sovereignty over Andorra. Arnalda, daughter of Arnau of Caboet, married the Viscount of Castellbò and both became Viscounts of Castellbò and CerdanyaSony PCG-61211M battery. Years later their daughter, Ermessenda, married Roger Bernat II, the French Count of Foix. They became Roger Bernat II and Ermessenda I, Counts of Foix, Viscounts of Castellbò and Cerdanya, and also co-sovereigns of Andorra (shared with the Bishop of Urgell).
In the 11th century, a dispute arose between the Bishop of Urgell and the Count of Foix. The conflict was resolved in 1278 with the mediation of Aragon by the signing of the first paréage which provided that Andorra's sovereignty be shared between the count of FoixSony VAIO VPCF24Q1E battery (whose title would ultimately transfer to the French head of state) and the Bishop of Urgell, in Catalonia. This gave the principality its territory and political form.
Over the years, the French co-title to Andorra passed to the kings of Navarre. After Henry of Navarre became King Henry IV of France, he issued an edict in 1607 that established the head of the French state and the Bishop of Urgell as co-princes of AndorraSony VAIO VPCF13M1E/H battery. In 1812–13, the First French Empire annexed Catalonia and divided it in four départements, with Andorra being made part of the district of Puigcerdà (département of Sègre).
Andorra declared war on Imperial Germany during World War I, but did not actually take part in the fighting. It remained in an official state of belligerency until 1939 as it was not included in the Treaty of VersaillesSony VAIO VPCF12Z1E/BI battery.
In 1933, France occupied Andorra as a result of social unrest before elections. On July 12, 1934, adventurer Boris Skossyreff issued a proclamation in Urgell, declaring himself "Boris I, King of Andorra", simultaneously declaring war on the Bishop of Urgell. He was arrested by Spanish authorities on July 20 and ultimately expelled from Spain. From 1936 to 1940Sony VAIO VPCF12S1E/B battery, a French detachment was garrisoned in Andorra to prevent influences of the Spanish Civil War and Francoist Spain. Francoist troops reached the Andorran border in the later stages of the war. During World War II, Andorra remained neutral and was an important smuggling route between Vichy France and Spain.
Given its relative isolation, Andorra has existed outside the mainstream of European history, with few ties to countries other than France and Spain. Sony VAIO VPCF13Z8E/BI battery In recent times, however, its thriving tourist industry along with developments in transport and communications have removed the country from its isolation. Its political system was modernised in 1993, when it became a member of the United Nations and the Council of Europe.
Andorra is a parliamentary co-principality with the President of France and the Bishop of Urgell (Catalonia, Spain), as co-princes. This peculiarity makes the President of FranceSony VAIO VPCF13Z8E battery, in his capacity as Prince of Andorra, an elected reigning monarch, even though he is not elected by a popular vote of the Andorran people. The politics of Andorra take place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democracy, whereby the Prime Minister of Andorra is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system.
The current Prime Minister is Antoni Martí of the Democrats for Andorra (DA). Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both government and parliamentSony VAIO VPCF13M1E/B battery.
The Parliament of Andorra is known as the General Council. The General Council consists of between 28 and 42 Councillors, as the members of the legislative branch are called. The Councillors serve for four-year terms and elections are held between the thirtieth and fortieth days following the dissolution of the previous Council. The Councillors can be elected on two equal constituenciesSony VAIO VPCF1318E/H battery.
Half are elected in equal number from each of the seven administrative parishes and the other half of the Councillors are elected from a single national constituency. 15 days after the election, the Councillors hold their inauguration. During this session, the Syndic General, who is the head of the General Council, and the Subsyndic General, his assistant, are elected. Eight days later, the Council convenes once more. During this session the Head of Government, the Prime Minister of Andorra, is chosen from among the CouncillorsSony VAIO VPCF13J0E/H battery.
Casa de la Vall, Andorran Parliament.
Candidates for the prime-ministerial nomination can be proposed by a minimum of one-fifth of the Councillors. The Council then elects the candidate with the absolute majority of votes to be Head of Government. The Syndic General then notifies the Co-princes who in turn appoint the elected candidate as the Prime Minister of Andorra. The General Council is also responsible for proposing and passing lawsSony VAIO VPCF13E8E battery. Bills may be presented to the Council as Private Members' Bills by three of the Local Parish Councils jointly or by at least one tenth of the citizens of Andorra.
The Council also approves the annual budget of the principality. The government must submit the proposed budget for parliamentary approval at least two months before the previous budget expires. If the budget is not approved by the first day of the next year, the previous budget is extended until a new one is approvedSony VAIO VPCF13E4E battery. Once any bill is approved, the Syndic General is responsible for presenting it to the Co-princes so that they may sign and enact it.
If the Head of Government is not satisfied with the Council, he may request that the Co-princes dissolve the Council and order new elections. In turn, the Councillors have the power to remove the Head of Government from office. After a motion of censure is approved by at least one-fifth of the Councillors, the Council will vote and if it receives the absolute majority of votes, the Prime Minister is removedSony VAIO VPCF12M1E/H battery.
The judiciary is composed of the Magistrates Court, the Criminal Law Court, the High Court of Andorra, and the Constitutional Court. The High Court of Justice is composed of five judges: one appointed by the Head of Government, one each by the Coprinces, one by the Syndic General, and one by the Judges and Magistrates. It is presided over by the member appointed by the Syndic General and the judges hold office for six-year termsSony VAIO VPCF12F4E/H battery.
The Magistrates and Judges are appointed by the High Court, and so is the President of the Criminal Law Court. The High Court also appoints members of the Office of the Attorney General. The Constitutional Court is responsible for interpreting the Constitution and reviewing all appeals of unconstitutionality against laws and treaties. It is composed of four judges, one appointed by each of the Coprinces and two by the General CouncilSony VAIO VPCF12E1E/H battery. They serve eight-year terms. The Court is presided over by one of the Judges on a two-year rotation so that each judge at one point will be the leader of the Court.
Andorra does not have its own armed forces, although there is a small ceremonial Army. Responsibility for defending the nation rests primarily with France and Spain. However, in case of emergencies or natural disasters, the Sometent (an alarm) is called and all able-bodied men between 21 and 60 of Andorran nationality must serve.Sony VAIO VPCF11Z1E/BI battery This is why all Andorrans, and especially the head of each house (usually the eldest able-bodied man of a house), should by law, keep a rifle, even though the law also states that the police will offer a fire-arm in case of need. Andorra is a full member of the United Nations (UN), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and has a special agreement with the European Union (EU) Sony VAIO VPCF24M1E battery.
Andorra has a small army, which has historically been raised or reconstituted at various dates, but has never in modern times amounted to a standing army. The basic principle of Andorran defence is that all able-bodied men are available to fight if called upon by the sounding of the Sometent. The duties of the Andorran Army are entirely ceremonialSony VAIO VPCF23S1E battery.
In the modern era, the army has consisted of a very small body of volunteers willing to undertake ceremonial duties. Uniforms were handed down from generation to generation within families and communities. Despite not being involved in any fighting, Andorra was technically the longest combatant in the First World War, as the country was left out of the Versailles Peace Conference, and technically remained at war with Germany from 1914 until 1939. Sony VAIO VPCF231S1E battery
The army's role in internal security was largely taken over by the formation of the Police Corps of Andorra in 1931. Brief civil disorder associated with the elections of 1933, led to assistance being sought from the French police, with a detachment resident in Andorra for two months under the command of René-Jules Baulard. The Andorran Army was reformed in the following yearSony VAIO VPCF23Q1E battery, with eleven soldiers appointed to supervisory roles. The force consisted of six Corporals, one for each parish (although there are currently seven parishes, there were only six until 1978), plus four junior staff officers to coordinate action, and a commander with the rank of Major. It was the responsibility of the six corporals, each in his own parish, to be able to raise a fighting force from amongst the able-bodied men of the parishSony VAIO VPCF23M1E battery.
Today a small, 12-man ceremonial unit remains the only permanent section of the Andorran army, but all able-bodied men remain technically available for military service, with a requirement for each family to have access to a firearm. The army has not fought for more than 700 years, and its main responsibility is to present the Andorran flag at official ceremonial functions. Sony VAIO VPCF22S8E batteryAccording to Marc Forné Molné, Andorra's military budget is strictly from voluntary donations, and the availability of full-time voluntaries.
The myth that all members of the Andorran Army are ranked as officers, is popularly maintained in many works of reference. In reality, all those serving in the permanent ceremonial reserve hold ranks as officers, or non-commissioned officers, because the other ranks are considered to be the rest of the able-bodied male populationSony VAIO VPCF22S1E battery, who may still be called upon by the Sometent to serve, although such a call has not been made in modern times.
The Grup d'Intervenció Policia d'Andorra (GIPA) is a small special forces unit trained in counter-terrorism, and hostage recovery tasks. Although it is the closest in style to an active military force, it is part of the Police Corps, and not the Army. As terrorist and hostage situations are a rare threat to the nation, the GIPA is commonly assigned to prisoner escort duties, and at other times to routine policingSony VAIO VPCF22M1E battery.
Andorra maintains a small, but modern and well-equipped internal police force with around 240 police officers, supported by civilian assistants. The principal services supplied by the Corps are uniformed community policing, criminal detection, border control, and traffic policing. There are also small specialist units including police dogs, mountain rescue, and bomb disposal. Sony VAIO VPCF22L1E battery
The Andorran Fire Brigade, with headquarters at Santa Coloma, operates from four modern fire stations, and has a staff of around 120 firefighters. The service is equipped with 16 heavy appliances (fire tenders, turntable ladders, and specialist four-wheel drive vehicles), 4 light support vehicles (cars and vans), and 4 ambulances. Sony VAIO VPCF22J1E battery
Historically, the families of the six ancient parishes of Andorra maintained local arrangements to assist each other in fighting fires. The first fire pump purchased by the government was acquired in 1943. The serious fires (which lasted for two days) in parts of the principality in December 1959 led to calls for a permanent fire service, and the Andorran Fire Brigade was formed on 21 April 1961. Sony VAIO VPCF11S1E/B battery
The fire service maintains full-time cover with five fire crews on duty at any time - two at the brigade's headquarters in Santa Coloma, and one crew at each of the other three fire stations.
Due to its location in the eastern Pyrenees mountain range, Andorra consists predominantly of rugged mountains, the highest being the Coma Pedrosa at 2,942 metres (9,652 ft), and the average elevation of Andorra is 1,996 metres (6,549 ft). Sony VAIO VPCF11M1E/H batteryThese are dissected by three narrow valleys in a Y shape that combine into one as the main stream, the Gran Valira river, leaves the country for Spain (at Andorra's lowest point of 840 m/2,756 ft). Andorra's land area is 468 km2 (181 sq mi).
Phytogeographically, Andorra belongs to the Atlantic European province of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the WWF, the territory of Andorra belongs to the ecoregion of Pyrenees conifer and mixed forestsSony VAIO VPCF11D4E battery.
Andorra has an alpine climate and continental climate. Its higher elevation means there is, on average, more snow in winter, lower humidity, and it is slightly cooler in summer. There are, on average, 300 days per year of sunshine.
Tourism, the mainstay of Andorra's tiny, well-to-do economy, accounts for roughly 80% of GDP. An estimated 10.2 million tourists visit annually, attracted by Andorra's duty-free status and by its summer and winter resortsSony VAIO VPCF11C5E battery. Andorra's relative advantage has recently eroded as the economies of adjoining France and Spain have been opened up, providing broader availability of goods and lower tariffs.
The banking sector, with its tax haven status, also contributes substantially to the economy. Agricultural production is limited—only 2% of the land is arable—and most food has to be imported. Some tobacco is grown locally. The principal livestock activity is domestic sheep raising. Manufacturing output consists mainly of cigarettes, cigars, and furnitureSony VAIO VPCF11C4E/B battery. Andorra's natural resources include hydroelectric power, mineral water, timber, iron ore, and lead.
Andorra is not a member of the European Union, but enjoys a special relationship with it, such as being treated as an EU member for trade in manufactured goods (no tariffs) and as a non-EU member for agricultural products. Andorra lacked a currency of its own and used both the French franc and the Spanish peseta in banking transactions until 31 December 1999Sony VAIO PCG-31114M battery, when both currencies were replaced by the EU's single currency, the euro. Coins and notes of both the franc and the peseta remained legal tender in Andorra until 31 December 2002. Andorra is negotiating to issue its own euro coins.
Andorran nationals are a plurality in the country (31,363); other nationalities include Spaniards (27,300), Portuguese (13,794), French (5,213), Britons (1,085) and ItaliansSony VAIO PCG-31113M battery.
The main part of the population in Andorra is made up of citizens without the Andorran nationality, which do not have right to vote (suffrage) in the communal elections. Moreover they are not allowed to be voted as a president or to own more than 33% of the capital stock of a private held companySony VAIO PCG-31112M battery.
The historic and official language is Catalan, a Romance language. The Andorran government is keen to encourage the use of Catalan. It funds a Commission for Catalan Toponymy in Andorra (Catalan: la Comissió de Toponímia d'Andorra), and provides free Catalan classes to assist immigrants. Andorran television and radio stations use CatalanSony VAIO PCG-31111M battery.
Because of immigration, historical links, and close geographic proximity, Spanish, Portuguese and French are also commonly spoken. Most Andorran residents can speak one or more of these, in addition to Catalan. English is less commonly spoken among the general population, though it is understood to varying degrees in the major tourist resortsSony VAIO PCG-41112M battery. Andorra is one of only three European countries (together with France and Monaco) that have never signed the Council of Europe Framework Convention on National Minorities.
The population of Andorra is predominantly (90%) Roman Catholic. Their patron saint is Our Lady of Meritxell. Though it is not an official state religion, the constitution acknowledges a special relationship with the Catholic Church, offering some special privileges to that group. The Muslim community is primarily made up of North African immigrantsSony VAIO PCG-41111M battery. Other Christian denominations include the Anglican Church, the Reunification Church, the New Apostolic Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Jehovah's Witnesses. There is a small community of Hindus and Bahá'ís. Andorra also hosts a population of roughly 100 Jews (see History of the Jews in Andorra).
Children between the ages of 6 and 16 are required by law to have full-time education. Education up to secondary level is provided free of charge by the governmentSONY VAIO PCG-21212M battery.
There are three systems of schools – Andorran, French and Spanish – which use Catalan, French and Spanish, respectively, as the main language of instruction. Parents may choose which system their children attend. All schools are built and maintained by Andorran authorities, but teachers in the French and Spanish schools are paid for the most part by France and SpainSONY VAIO PCG-21211M battery. About 50% of Andorran children attend the French primary schools, and the rest attend Spanish or Andorran schools.
The Universitat d'Andorra (UdA) is the state public university and is the only university in Andorra. It was established in 1997. The University provides first-level degrees in nursing, computer science, business administration, and educational sciences, in addition to higher professional education courses. The only two graduate schools in Andorra are the Nursing School and the School of Computer Science, the latter having a PhD programmeSONY VAIO PCG-51212M battery.
The geographical complexity of the country as well as the small number of students prevents the University of Andorra from developing a full academic program, and it serves principally as a centre for virtual studies, connected to Spanish and French universities. The Virtual Studies Centre (Centre d’Estudis Virtuals) at the University runs in the region of twenty degrees at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels in fields including tourismSONY VAIO PCG-51211M battery, law, Catalan philology, humanities, psychology, political sciences, audiovisual communication, telecommunications engineering, and East Asia studies. The Centre also runs various postgraduate programs and continuing-education courses for professionals.
Healthcare in Andorra is provided to all employed persons and their families by the government-run social security systemSONY VAIO PCG-51112M battery, CASS (Caixa Andorrana de Seguretat Social), which is funded by employer and employee contributions in respect of salaries. The cost of healthcare is covered by CASS at rates of 75% for out-patient expenses such as medicines and hospital visits, 90% for hospitalisation, and 100% for work-related accidents. The remainder of the costs may be covered by private health insurance. Other residents and tourists require full private health insurance. SONY VAIO PCG-51111M battery
The main hospital, Meritxell, is in Escaldes-Engordany. There are also 12 primary health care centres in various locations around the Principality.
A train at Latour-de-Carol (La Tor de Querol), one of the two stations serving Andorra. Andorra has no railways, although the line connecting Latour-de-Carol and Toulouse, which in turn connects to France's TGVs at Toulouse, runs within two kilometres of the Andorran border. SONY VAIO PCG-81212M battery
Until the 20th century, Andorra had very limited transport links to the outside world, and development of the country was affected by its physical isolation. Even now, the nearest major airports at Toulouse and Barcelona are both three hours' drive from Andorra.
Andorra has a road network of 279 km (173 mi), of which 76 km (47 mi) is unpaved. The two main roads out of Andorra la Vella are the CG-1 to the Spanish borderSony VAIO PCG-81112M battery, and the CG-2 to the French border via the Envalira Tunnel near El Pas de la Casa. Bus services cover all metropolitan areas and many rural communities, with services on most major routes running half-hourly or more frequently during peak travel times. There are frequent long-distance bus services from Andorra to Barcelona and Toulouse. Bus services are mostly run by private companies, but some local ones are operated by the governmentSONY VAIO PCG-71111M battery.
There are no railways, ports, or airports for fixed-wing aircraft in Andorra. There are, however, heliports in La Massana, Arinsal and Escaldes-Engordany with commercial helicopter services. Nearby airports are located in Barcelona, Toulouse, Perpignan, Reus, and Girona. The closest public airport is Perpignan - Rivesaltes Airport, which is 160 km (99 mi) away and has short-haul services to several destinations in the United Kingdom and FranceSONY VAIO PCG-7196M battery. La Seu d'Urgell Airport, a small airfield 12 km (7 mi) south of Andorra currently used only by private aeroplanes, is being studied by the government as a possible future airport for public aviation services.
The nearest railway station is L'Hospitalet-près-l'Andorre 10 km (6 mi) east of Andorra which is on the 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)-gauge line from Latour-de-Carol, (25 km/16 mi) southeast of Andorra, to Toulouse and on to Paris by the French high-speed trainsSONY VAIO PCG-7195M battery. This line is operated by the SNCF. Latour-de-Carol has a scenic metre gauge trainline to Villefranche-de-Conflent, as well as the SNCF's 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)-gauge line connecting to Perpignan, and the RENFE's 1,668 mm (5 ft 5 2⁄3 in) -gauge line to Barcelona.
In Andorra, mobile and fixed telephone and internet services are operated exclusively by the Andorran national telecommunications company, SOM, also known as Servei de Telecomunicacions d'Andorra (STA) SONY VAIO PCG-7194M battery. The same company also manages the technical infrastructure for national broadcasting of digital television and radio.
By the end of 2010, it is planned that every home in the country will have fiber-to-the-home for internet access at a minimum speed of 100 Mbit/s.
There is only one Andorran television station, Ràdio i Televisió d'Andorra (RTVA). Radio Nacional d’Andorra operates two radio stations, Radio Andorra and Andorra Música. There are three national newspapers, Diari d'Andorra, El Periòdic d'Andorra, and Bondia as well as several local newspapersSONY VAIO PCG-7192M battery.
The official and historic language is Catalan. Thus the culture is Catalan, with its own specificity.
Andorra is home to folk dances like the contrapàs and marratxa, which survive in Sant Julià de Lòria especially. Andorran folk music has similarities to the music of its neighbours, but is especially Catalan in character, especially in the presence of dances such as the sardanaSONY PCG-8113M battery. Other Andorran folk dances include contrapàs in Andorra la Vella and Saint Anne's dance in Escaldes-Engordany. Andorra's national holiday is Our Lady of Meritxell Day, September 8. American Folk Artist Malvina Reynolds, intrigued by its defense budget of $4.90, wrote a song "Andorra". Pete Seeger added verses, and sang "Andorra" on his 1962 album "The Bitter and the Sweet." SONY PCG-8112M battery .
Andorra is famous for the practice of Winter Sports and also by Roller Hockey. Andorra usually plays in CERH Euro Cup and in FIRS Roller Hockey World Cup. In 2011, Andorra was the host country to the 2011 European League Final Eight. The country is represented in association football by the Andorra national football team. However, the team has had little success internationally because of Andorra's small population. SONY PCG-7134M battery In 2012 Andorra raised its first national cricket team and played an at home match against the Dutch Fellowship of Fairly Odd Places Cricket Club. The first match played in the history of Andorra at an altitude of 1300 meters. FFOP CC ended 187 for 5 wickets, while Andorra XI were all out at 105. Andorra XI has stated they want to keep on playing the game. Both at home and away. Cricket clubs in southern France may be challengedSONY PCG-7131M battery.
Latvia i/ˈlætviə/ (Latvian: Latvija), officially the Republic of Latvia (Latvian: Latvijas Republika), is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia (border length 343 km), to the south by Lithuania (588 km), to the east by the Russian Federation (276 km), to the southeast by Belarus (141 km), and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden. With 2,070,371 inhabitants and a territory of 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi) SONY PCG-7122M battery it is one of the least populous and least densely populated countries of the European Union. The capital of Latvia is Riga. The official language is Latvian and the currency is called Lats (Ls). The country has a temperate seasonal climate.
The Latvians are a Baltic people, culturally related to the Lithuanians. Together with the Finnic Livs (or Livonians), the Latvians are the indigenous people of Latvia. SONY PCG-7121M battery Latvian is an Indo-European language and along with Lithuanian the only two surviving members of the Baltic branch. Indigenous minority languages are Latgalian and the nearly extinct Finnic Livonian language. In terms of geography, territory and population Latvia is the middle of three Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Latvia and Estonia share a long common history: historical Livonia, times of Polish-Lithuanian, German (Teutonic Order) SONY PCG-7113M battery, Swedish, Russian, Nazi German and Soviet rule, 13th century Christianization and 16th century Protestant Reformation. Both countries are home to a large number of ethnic Russians (26.9% in Latvia and 25.5% in Estonia) of whom some are non-citizens. Latvia is historically predominantly Protestant, except for the region of Latgalia in the southeast which has historically been predominantly Roman CatholicSONY PCG-7112M battery .
Latvia is a unitary parliamentary republic and is divided into 118 administrative divisions of which 109 are municipalities and 9 are cities. There are five planning regions: Courland (Kurzeme), Latgalia (Latgale), Riga (Rīga), Vidzeme and Zemgale. The Republic of Latvia was founded on November 18, 1918. It was occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union between 1940–1941 and 1945–1991 and by Nazi Germany between 1941–1945SONY PCG-8Z3M battery. The peaceful "Singing Revolution" between 1987 and 1991 and "Baltic Way" demonstration on August 23, 1989 led to the independence of the Baltic states. Latvia declared the restoration of its de facto independence on August 21, 1991.
Latvia is a member of the United Nations, European Union, Council of Europe, NATO, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization, and is part of the Schengen AreaSONY PCG-8Z2M battery . It was a member of the League of Nations (1921–1946) and the Baltic Free Trade Area (1994–2004). Latvia is also a member of the Council of the Baltic Sea States and Nordic Investment Bank, and is together with Estonia and Lithuania involved in trilateral Baltic States cooperation and Nordic-Baltic cooperationSONY PCG-8Z1M battery .
After economic stagnation in the early 1990s, Latvia posted Europe-leading GDP growth figures during 1998–2006. In the global financial crisis of 2008–2010 Latvia was the hardest hit of the European Union member states, with a GDP decline of 26.54% in that period. Commentators noted signs of stabilisation in the Latvian economy by 2010, and the state of the economy continued to improveSONY PCG-8Y3M battery , as Latvia once again became one of the fastest growing economies of the EU in 2011. The United Nations lists Latvia as a country with a "Very High" Human Development Index (HDI).
The name Latvija is derived from the name of the ancient Latgalians, one of four Indo-European Baltic tribes (along with Couronians, Selonians and Semigallians) that are the forebears of today's Latvians. SONY PCG-8Y2M battery
Around the beginning of the third millennium BC (3000 BC), the proto-Baltic ancestors of the Latvian people settled on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. The Balts established trade routes to Rome and Byzantium, trading local amber for precious metals. By 900 AD, four distinct Baltic tribes inhabited Latvia: Curonians, Latgalians, Selonians, Semigallians (in Latvian: kurši, latgaļi, sēļi and zemgaļi) SONY PCG-7Z1M battery, as well as the Livonians (lībieši) speaking a Finnic language.
Turaida Castle near Sigulda, built in 1214 under Albert of Riga
In 1282, Riga became a member of the Hanseatic League
Although the local people had had contact with the outside world for centuries, they were more fully integrated into European society in the 12th century. The first missionaries, sent by the Pope, sailed up the Daugava River in the late 12th century, seeking converts. The local people, however, did not convert to Christianity as readily as hoped. German crusaders were sent into Latvia to convert the pagan population by force of arms. SONY PCG-6W2M battery
In the beginning of the 13th century, large parts of today's Latvia were ruled by Germans. Together with Southern Estonia, these conquered areas formed the crusader state that became known as Terra Mariana or Livonia. In 1282, Riga, and later the cities of Cēsis, Limbaži, Koknese and Valmiera, were included in the Hanseatic League. Riga became an important point of east-west trading and formed close cultural contacts with Western EuropeSONY PCG-5J5M battery.
Main articles: Swedish Livonia, Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, Duchy of Livonia, and Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Riga became the capital of Swedish Livonia and the largest city in the Swedish Empire.
The 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries were a time of great change for the inhabitants of Latvia, including the reformation, the collapse of the Livonian state, and the time when the Latvian territory was divided up among foreign powersSONY PCG-5K2M battery.
After the Livonian War (1558–1583), Livonia (Latvia) fell under Polish and Lithuanian rule. The southern part of Estonia and the northern part of Latvia were ceded to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and formed into the Ducatus Ultradunensis (Pārdaugavas hercogiste). Gotthard Kettler, the last Master of the Order of Livonia, formed the Duchy of Courland and SemigalliaSONY PCG-5K1M battery. Though the duchy was a vassal state to Poland, it retained a considerable degree of autonomy and experienced a golden age in the 17th century. Latgalia, the easternmost region of Latvia, became a part of the Polish district of Inflanty.
The 17th and early 18th centuries saw a struggle between the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Sweden, and Russia for supremacy in the eastern Baltic. After the Polish–Swedish War (1600–1611), northern Livonia (including Vidzeme) came under Swedish rule. Riga became the capital of Swedish Livonia and the largest city in the entire Swedish Empire. SONY PCG-5J4M battery Fighting continued sporadically between Sweden and Poland until the Truce of Altmark in 1629. In Latvia, the Swedish period is generally remembered as positive; serfdom was eased, a network of schools was established for the peasantry, and the power of the regional barons was diminished.
Several important cultural changes occurred during this time. Under Swedish and largely German rule, western Latvia adopted Lutheranism as its main religionSONY PCG-5J1M battery. The ancient tribes of the Couronians, Semigallians, Selonians, Livs and northern Latgallians assimilated to form the Latvian people, speaking one Latvian language. Throughout all the centuries, however, no such thing as a Latvian state existed so the borders and definitions of who exactly fell within that group are largely subjective. Meanwhile, largely isolated from the rest of Latvia, southern Latgallians adopted Catholicism under Polish/Jesuit influenceSONY PCG-5G2M battery. The native dialect remained distinct, although it acquired many Polish and Russian loanwords.
The Capitulation of Estonia and Livonia in 1710 and the Treaty of Nystad, ending the Great Northern War in 1721, gave Vidzeme to Russia (it became part of the Riga Governorate). The Latgale region remained part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth as Inflanty Voivodeship until 1772, when it was incorporated into RussiaSony VAIO PCG-8131M battery. The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia became an autonomous Russian province (the Courland Governorate) in 1795, bringing all of what is now Latvia into the Russian Empire. All three Baltic provinces preserved local laws, the local official language and their own parliament, the Landtag.
During the Great Northern War (1700–1721), the Baltic area was once again the scene of great devastation, with Peter the Great's scorched-earth policySony VAIO PCG-8152M battery, famine, and Great Plague of Riga being responsible for catastrophic loss of human life: as much as 40% of the population in Latvian lands were killed. In 1710, the plague reached Riga, where it was active until 1711 and claimed the lives of about half the population.
The promises Peter the Great made to the Baltic German nobility at the fall of Riga in 1710, confirmed by the Treaty of Nystad and known as "the Capitulations", largely reversed the Swedish reformsSony VAIO PCG-31311M battery.
The emancipation of the serfs took place in Courland in 1817 and in Vidzeme in 1819. In practice, however, the emancipation was actually advantageous to the landowners and nobility, as it dispossessed peasants of their land without compensation, forcing them to return to work at the estates "of their own free will"Sony VAIO PCG-31111M battery.
During the 19th century, the social structure changed dramatically. A class of independent farmers established itself after reforms allowed the peasants to repurchase their land, but many landless peasants remained. There also developed a growing urban proletariat and an increasingly influential Latvian bourgeoisie. The Young Latvian (Latvian: Jaunlatvieši) movement laid the groundwork for nationalism from the middle of the centurySony VAIO PCG-8112M battery, many of its leaders looking to the Slavophiles for support against the prevailing German-dominated social order. The rise in use of the Latvian language in literature and society became known as the First National Awakening. Russification began in Latgale after the Polish led the January Uprising in 1863: this spread to the rest of what is now Latvia by the 1880sSony VAIO PCG-7186M battery. The Young Latvians were largely eclipsed by the New Current, a broad leftist social and political movement, in the 1890s. Popular discontent exploded in the 1905 Russian Revolution, which took a nationalist character in the Baltic provinces.
World War I devastated the territory of what would become the state of Latvia, along with other western parts of the Russian Empire. Demands for self-determination were at first confined to autonomy, but the Russian 1917 Revolution, treaty with Germany at Brest-Litovsk, and allied armistice with Germany on November 11, 1918, created a power vacuumSony VAIO PCG-7171M battery. The People's Council of Latvia proclaimed the independence of the new country in Riga on November 18, 1918, with Kārlis Ulmanis becoming the head of the provisional government.
The War of Independence that followed was part of a general chaotic period of civil and new border wars in Eastern Europe. By the spring of 1919, there were actually three governments — Ulmanis' government; the Latvian Soviet government led by Pēteris Stučka, whose forces, supported by the Red Army, occupied almost all of the countrySony VAIO PCG-9Z1M battery; and the Baltic German government of the United Baltic Duchy, headed by Andrievs Niedra and supported by the Baltische Landeswehr and the German Freikorps unit Iron Division.
Estonian and Latvian forces defeated the Germans at the Battle of Wenden in June 1919, and a massive attack by a predominantly German force — the West Russian Volunteer Army — under Pavel Bermondt-Avalov was repelled in NovemberSony VAIO PCG-5S1M battery. Eastern Latvia was cleared of Red Army forces by Latvian and Polish troops in early 1920 (from the Polish perspective the Battle of Daugavpils was a part of the Polish-Soviet War).
A freely elected Constituent assembly convened on May 1, 1920, and adopted a liberal constitution, the Satversme, in February 1922. The constitution was partly suspended by Kārlis Ulmanis after his coup in 1934, but reaffirmed in 1990. Since then, it has been amended and is still in effect in Latvia todaySony VAIO PCG-5P1M battery. With most of Latvia's industrial base evacuated to the interior of Russia in 1915, radical land reform was the central political question for the young state. In 1897, 61.2% of the rural population had been landless; by 1936, that percentage had been reduced to 18%.
By 1923, the extent of cultivated land surpassed the pre-war level. Innovation and rising productivity led to rapid growth of the economy, but it soon suffered from the effects of the Great DepressionSony VAIO PCG-5N2M battery. Latvia showed signs of economic recovery and the electorate had steadily moved toward the centre during the parliamentary period. On May 15, 1934, Ulmanis staged a bloodless coup, establishing a nationalist dictatorship that lasted until 1940. After 1934, Ulmanis established government corporations to buy up private firms with the aim of "Latvianising" the economy.
See also: Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940, Occupation of Latvia by Nazi Germany, The Holocaust in Latvia, Latvian partisans, and Latvian resistance movementSony VAIO PCG-3C2M battery
"TWO WORLDS": Anti-Sovietism propaganda board, Latvia, Summer, 1941.
Early in the morning of August 24, 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a 10-year non-aggression pact, called the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. The pact contained a secret protocol, revealed only after Germany's defeat in 1945, according to which the states of Northern and Eastern Europe were divided into German and Soviet "spheres of influence". In the North, Latvia, Finland and Estonia were assigned to the Soviet sphere. Sony VAIO PCG-8161M battery Thereafter, Germany and the Soviet union invaded their respective portions of Poland.
After the conclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, most of the Baltic Germans left Latvia by agreement between Ulmanis' government and Nazi Germany under the Heim ins Reich program. In total 50,000 Baltic Germans left by the deadline of December 1939, with 1,600 remaining to conclude business and 13,000 choosing to remain in Latvia. Most of those who remained left for Germany in summer 1940, when a second resettlement scheme was agreed. Sony VAIO PCG-8141M battery
On 5 October 1939, Latvia was forced to accept a "mutual assistance" pact with the Soviet Union, granting the Soviets the right to station between 25,000 and 30,000 troops on Latvian territory. After staging border incidents, on 16 June 1940 the government of the USSR handed the Latvian ambassador in Moscow a note, in which Latvia was accused of breaching the articles of the agreement of 5 October 1939Sony VAIO PCG-3J1M battery, and demands were made for sending in additional Soviet troops and to change the government. The Latvian government capitulated in the face of overwhelming force. On 17 June Soviet troops invaded Latvian territory. In his address by radio, Kārlis Ulmanis, announced: “Soviet forces are marching into our land this very morning. This is happening with the knowledge and consent of the government, which in turn stems from the amicable relations that exist between Latvia and the Soviet UnionSony VAIO PCG-3H1M battery. It is, therefore, my wish that the residents of our country also show friendship towards the advancing military units ... The government has resigned. I shall remain in my place, you remain in yours”. No opposition was shown towards the Soviet forces; on the contrary, part of the population accepted the news of their arrival with enthusiasm, which was heavily exploited by Soviet propagandaSony VAIO PCG-3F1M battery. Observing them, the well known Russian lawyer and public figure of Latvia, Pyotr Yakobi, wrote: “Taken from the German model, the authoritarian beginning in our country has turned into a government of national bureaucracy, having satisfied a limited circle of citizens, who have adapted themselves to the state pie. Clearly, any hardship is not in vainSony VAIO PCG-3C1M battery. And so now the down-trodden have raised their voice and demand a return of their rights that have been trampled on ... “. Among those unhappy with the regime of Kārlis Ulmanis were not only the national minorities but also many Latvians who were anxious about the deteriorating economic situation and who had no desire to end up under the rule of Nazi GermanySony VAIO PCG-9Z2L battery.
The mass killings of 2,749 Jews on the beach near the city of Liepāja, December 1941.