Latvia State Overview

Latvia, in Latvian Latvva (pron. Látvija), is the largest of the three Baltic States, as Lithuania has an area that is only 85% of that of Latvia and Estonia is less than about three tenths. It extends over 65,791 sq km. and therefore has an intermediate position between Austria, Hungary and Portugal which are somewhat larger and Switzerland and Denmark, which are somewhat smaller. The figure of the state, which has its axis constituted by the course of the Daugava and has a large inlet corresponding to the Gulf of Riga, appears elongated from west to east (between 20 ° 58′4 ″ and 28 ° 14′30 ″ longit. E., in the Eastern European time zone) so much so that between Liepāja and Zilupe (near the border with the USSR) the distance is equal to that between Biella and Trieste (445 kilometers); the southernmost point, near the Polish-Lithuanian border, is at 55 ° 40′30 ″, the northernmost one, near the Estonian border, at 58 ° 5′22 ″. The border with the USSR was established with the agreement of 11 August 1920, that with Lithuania with the agreement of 31 March 1921, and the Estonian border with the agreement of 31 March 1927, under which it is It was established that the city of Valka belongs to Estonia, while the Latvian railway station remains. Latvia now consists of ancient Courland (except for the locality of Palanga and a small area near Mažeikiai ceded to Lithuania, in exchange for the Aknīste salient, which was part of the governorate of Kovno), the four southernmost districts of Livonia and the northwest of Vitebsk governorate. It borders on 487 km. with Lithuania, for 93 with Poland, for 269 with the USSR and for 247 with Estonia; s’

It is linked with Lithuania by linguistic ties, while historical events (among which the influence of the German nobility and Swedish domination should be noted) and many common geographical features (more marked maritime, transit country, industrial development of the major ports) rather compare it to Estonia, with which it formed in the pre-war period what were called Baltic Provinces (Baltland of the Germans).

Compared to Europe, Latvia is part of a minor sub-region that has transitional characteristics between Central, Eastern and Northern Europe, but which on the whole appears more closely linked to the northern countries. Borders, open and completely conventional everywhere, adapt quite well to linguistic conditions, except in Letgallia, where there are quite high percentages of minorities, especially Russian ones.

Latvia is currently divided into four provinces, called Courland (Kurzeme), Semigallia (Zemgale), Livonia (Vidzeme) and Letgallia (Latgale), which in turn are divided into 19 districts. This subdivision reflects the limits of ancient ethnic and historical subdivisions.

According to the census of February 1935, the republic had a population of 1,950,502 residents, with an absolute increase compared to the previous census (1930), of 50,457 people and an annual increase of 10,092 residents. (0.5%). An evaluation of January 1937 assigned Latvia one million and 964,287 residents. The demographic increase is scarce due to the low birth rate, which, having dropped to very low annual values ​​in 1934, hints at a slight recovery (1.8 per thousand in 1936).

The latest census found greater ethnic unity, as Latvians represented 75.5% of the population that year (73.4% in 1930). The number of Poles has decreased significantly from 59,000 in 1930 to 48,900 in 1935, White Russians (36,000 in 1930; 26,900 in 1935) and Germans (69,000 in 1930; 62,100 in 1935). In 1935 Riga had 385,063 residents, Liepāja 57,000, Daugavpils 45,120, Jelgava 34,099.

Agriculture shows a slight increase, above all in total and average production per hectare.

The same applies to breeding (p. 993), whose consistency is given in the following table.

For industries there is a general, albeit slight, increase in the number of enterprises, but not a proportional increase in the number of employees; production generally reveals an increase in value.

The foreign trade was severely tested following the world crisis for which imports between 1931 and 1933 were reduced almost by half. However, since 1935 there has been a noticeable recovery.

Exports (wood, butter, linen) suffered an even stronger contraction; but they too have been increasing considerably since 1935. The trade balance, which from 1933 to 1935 was unfavorable to Latvia, was again in surplus in 1936.

Religion. – On May 8, 1937, the diocese of Liepāja was established and given as a suffragan to the archbishopric of Riga, to which metropolitan rights were recognized on the same date.

Finance. – The situation, as a consequence of both the devaluation of 1936 and the general recovery of the agrarian economy, has improved considerably.

As of March 31, 1938, the external public debt was 123.4 million and the internal debt of 32.5 million. On 28 September 1936 the lat was devalued by about 40% and pegged to the pound at the initial parity of 25.22 lats = £ 1. As of December 31, 1937, bank and government notes in circulation amounted to 109 million and the reserve to 77 in gold and 43 in foreign exchange. The exchange control has been in effect since October 1931.

History. – The internal politics of Latvia was dominated by the fear of the expansion of Germanic National Socialism and for this reason first the uniform carrying organizations and military sports organizations were dissolved (2 October 1933), then the National Socialist party itself was banned (March 21, 1934). Also in schools the teaching of the German language was replaced with that of the English language (August 15, 1934). After a series of government crises between 1931 and 1934, the figure of Ulmanis emerged who, first as head of the government, then (from April 1936) as president of the republic, became the arbiter of Latvian politics. Latvia entered into a non-aggression treaty with the USSR (February 15, 1932),

Controls on foreign exchange traffic have been in place since 1931 and can now only be carried out through the State Bank. In 1932 a monopoly on sugar and grains was created and customs duties for cereals, fruit, coal, machinery and textiles were significantly increased. In 1934, customs tariffs were high for cotton, wool and silk. Since 1933, in retaliation for the German ban on the import of butter, a ban which particularly affected the Latvian trade, the importation of German products was prohibited.

Latvia State Overview