In October of that year, 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.
Next came Soviet military bases and a demand for the Latvian government to resign, and it did. Shortly thereafter Soviet troops entered Latvian territory, and no opposition was fronted by the Latvians as they had been previously asked by their government to show friendship.
That was a fatal mistake as the Soviets took over the country, deported or killed any opposition, and then held elections that placed Soviet-leaning candidates into office, including the presidency. Its name was now the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic.
At the beginning of World War II, the German's ill-fated plan to invade the Soviet Union began. To help protect the country an estimated 15,000 Latvian men were forcibly drafted into the Soviet Red Army and few of them survived that war.
A few months later, the German Army entered Latvia, and their troops overran most of the country. More than 200,000 Latvian citizens died during the war, including approximately 75,000 Latvian Jews murdered during the German (Nazi) occupation.
In 1944, because of the efforts of the Americans, British and other allied forces, it became clear that Nazi Germany could not win their war in Europe - an effort that in the end would soon be soundly defeated.
Soviet forces began to retake Latvia in late-1944. Citizens desperately wanted to avoid another military and social disaster, so 250,00 Latvians fled the country into both Germany and Sweden.
During the first ten years of occupation the brutal Red Army forcibly deported tens of thousands of Latvians to Siberia labor camps, and that number reached nearly 200,000 by the time of Joseph Stalin's death in 1953.
Deportations and imprisonments continued on and so did the 'Russification' of Latvia. The Soviets flooded the country with huge numbers of non-native Russians to work in new industries, drastically changed the ethnic mix.
In the late 1980's, Soviet President Gorbachev introduced policies in Russia to help reduce the corruption at the top of the Communist Party. That move called 'Glasnost' sparked a passionate desire for freedom across The Soviet Union, and in the end freedom from Communism caused the total collapse of the country in 1991.
Latvia's independence was now possible, and the parliament in Latvia voted on re-establishing de facto independence, restoring Latvia's pre-war status as a sovereign independent country.
In 1994 Russia completed its military withdrawal and Latvia soon began to forge modern relationships with the west by joining NATO and the European Union.
Latvia is a fertile land with a strong dairy industry, and a solid textile, chemical and electronic manufacturing base. Riga, the capital city, is a significant Baltic seaport.
And speaking of Riga, it's a charming ancient city with a stylish 'Old Town.' The city includes numerous art galleries and museums, as well as medieval castles and Baroque palaces.
The resorts along the sandy coastline of Latvia (facing the Baltic) and its interior beauty and history are now growing attractions for tourists from Europe and the Americas.
|Land Area||62,249 km2|
|Water Area||2,340 km2|
|Total Area||64,589km2 (#122)|
|Government Type||Parliamentary Republic|
|GDP (PPP)||$50.65 Billion|
|GDP Per Capita||$25,700|