World Travelling Guide
World Travelling Guide

Accommodation in Southern Africa and South Africa including accommodation in Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo Province, North West Province, Free State, Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga

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Latvia Travelling Guide
Latvia Travelling Guide

General background: After a brief period of independence between the two World Wars, Latvia was annexed by the USSR in 1940. It reestablished its independence in 1991 following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Although the last Russian troops left in 1994, the status of the Russian minority (some 30% of the population) remains of concern to Moscow. Latvia continues to revamp its economy for eventual integration into various Western European political and economic institutions.

Area comparative:
Slightly larger than West Virginia

Climate: Maritime; wet, moderate winters

Terrain: Low plain

Population: 2,366,515 (July 2002 est.)

Ethnic groups: Latvian 57.7%, Russian 29.6%, Belarusian 4.1%, Ukrainian 2.7%, Polish 2.5%, Lithuanian 1.4%, other 2%

Religions: Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox

Language: Latvian (official), Lithuanian, Russian, other

Government type: Parliamentary democracy

Capital: Riga

Legal system: Based on civil law system

Economic overview: Latvia's transitional economy recovered from the 1998 Russian financial crisis, largely due to the SKELE government's budget stringency and a gradual reorientation of exports toward EU countries, lessening Latvia's trade dependency on Russia. The majority of companies, banks, and real estate have been privatized. Latvia officially joined the World Trade Organization in February 1999 - the first Baltic state to join - and was invited at the Helsinki EU Summit in December 1999 to begin accession talks in early 2000. Preparing for EU membership over the next few years remains a top foreign policy goal. The high current account deficit remains a major concern.

Communication/Telephone system:
Inadequate, but is being modernized to provide an international capability independent of the Moscow international switch; more facilities are being installed for individual use.

Places of interest: Riga, its vibrant coastal capital, is a chief visitor magnet.

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