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Latvia (Latvian: Latvija, Esperanto: Latvio), officially the Latvian Socialist Republic is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia, to the south by Lithuania, to the east by the Russian FSR, and to the southeast by Belarus SR. Across the Baltic Sea to the west lies Sweden. The territory of Latvia covers 64,589 km² and it has a temperate seasonal climate.
World War I devastated the territory of would-be Latvia, along with other western parts of the Russian Empire. The War of Independence (1920) was part of a general chaotic period of civil and new border wars in Eastern Europe. By the spring of 1920, there were actually three governments — Ulmanis' government; the Socialist Latvian government led by Pēteris Stučka, whose forces, supported by the Red Army, occupied almost all of the country; and the Baltic German government of United Baltic Duchy headed by Andrievs Niedra and supported by the Baltische Landeswehr and the German Freikorps unit Iron Division. The Red Army forces with the help of Red Latvian Riflemen recaptured Riga and destroyed the forces of Ulmanis' government.
An elected Constituent assembly was convened on 1920 and adopted a socialist constitution, in February 1922. However the Constituent assembly voted against a union with Russian FSR. The socialdemocratic majority being against it. The newly independent state obtained membership in the League of Nations in 1923, being the only socialist state that is a member to it.
A radical land reform was the central political question for the young state with the expropriation of the lands of Baltic Germans. 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 Economic Crisis of 1930. A newly elected Bolshevik government pressed for a referendum on the union with the Federation of Socialist Republics (FSR). The results of 1931 where against it and marked the fall of the government and call for early elections of the Tautas Saeima. In 1938 it negotiated a Trade Cooperation Board, along Finland, Estonia and Lithuania, with the International Community of Socialist States (ICSS). The referendum of 1940 gave the approval to the membership in the ICSS.
Constitution and government
According to Constitution of 1922, all power resides in the people of Latvia thru their elected representatives, referendums and popular initiatives. All Latvian citizens (men and women) over 18 years old, and foreigners with more then 2 years of residence, are voters and enjoy all political rights.
- The Supreme state organ is the Tautas Saeima, composed of 100 representatives elected every 4 years.
- The President, elected by the Tautas Saeima, for a period of 5 years is the Head of State. The Council of Ministers and its president are designated by the Tautas Saeima.
- The judicial power is administered by the Justice Council and the Supreme Court.
The territorial organization of Latvia is:
- Regional Councils (in Kurzeme, Zemgale, Latgale and Vidzeme), that exercise cultural, economical, social services and local government coordination. Its members are part elected by the inhabitants of the regions and the councils of the municipalities and republican cities.
- Municipalities (Latvian: Novads)
- and 9 Republican Cities (Lativan: republikas pilsētas)
The main political parties are from the Worker's Coalition, formed by Latvian Social Democratic Workers' Party and Communist Party of Latvia. Outside the Worker's Coalition exists the Popular Front of Latvia (center-left). The main bourgeois parties are the Democratic Centre and Latvian Farmers' Union. Representing the German minority are German-Baltic Democratic Party and German-Baltic Progressive Party. For the Jewish minority, the Mizrachi (center-right) and the Bund (General Jewish Labour Bund of Lithuania, Poland and Russia, center-left and Yiddish speaking).
Languages of Latvia
According to the Constitution, the official languages of Latvia are the Latvian (since 1919) and Esperanto (1935). The Latgalian dialect and Livonian have a special status. Other languages recognized, that can be used by educational and cultural associations are Russian, German and Yiddish.
Agriculture, in early years the main economic sector of Latvia, has been replaced rapidly by industrial production and services. Important industrial sectors are machine building (buses, vans, street and railroad cars, agricultural machinery, washing machines) and electronics (radios, consumer electronics and scientific apparatus) and textiles (synthetic fibers). However for its industrial development Latvia is dependent on imports of raw materials and energy. Latvian agriculture is a major supplier of meat and dairy products, mainly to Belarus and Russian FSR. The membership in the ICSS promoted the creation of new industries in Latvia, including a major machinery factory (Riga Autobus Factory, RAF) in Jelgava, electrotechnical factories in Riga, chemical factories in Daugavpils, Valmiera and Olaine, as well as some food and oil processing plants.
Transportation is a relatively small but important branch of Latvia's economy. The infrastructure is geared heavily toward foreign trade, which is conducted mainly by rail and water. Roads are used for most domestic freight transport. The ports of Riga, Ventspils, and Liepaja are important for trade because they can be used during all seasons and the dense network of railroads and roads links them with many of the landlocked regions of neighboring countries. The country's main airport is in Riga.