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RIGA (REE-guh)

Capital and largest city of Latvia
Common clues: Latvia's capital; Baltic capital; Latvian seaport; Baryshnikov birthplace; Capital where Lettish is spoken; Big Baltic city; Letts live here
Crossword puzzle frequency: 4 times a year
One day in Riga

Let the devil into church and he will climb into the pulpit ~ Latvian Proverb

Riga (Rīga in Latvian), the capital of Latvia, is situated on the Baltic Sea coast on the mouth of River Daugava, at 56°58′ N 24°8′ E. Riga is the largest city in the Baltic States and serves as a major cultural, educational, political, financial, commercial and industrial center in the Baltics.

Riga is located at the site of an ancient settlement of the Livs, an ancient Finno-Ugric tribe, at the junction of the Daugava and Ridzene (Latvian: Rīdzene) rivers. The Ridzene was originally known as the Riga River, at one point forming a natural harbor called the Riga Lake, neither of which exist today. Some believe that the name of the river gave Riga its name.

The 1900's brought World War I and the impact of the Russian Revolution to Riga. The German army marched into Riga in 1917. In 1918 the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed giving the Baltic countries to Germany. Because of the Armistice with Germany (Compiègne) of November 11, 1918, Germany had to renounce that treaty, as did Russia, leaving Latvia and the other Baltic States in a position to claim independence.

After more than 700 years of foreign occupation, Latvia, with Riga as its capital city, thus declared its independence on November 18, 1918.

During World War I and World War II (1918-1940), Riga and Latvia shifted their focus from Russia to the countries of Western Europe. A democratic, parliamentary system of government with a President was instituted. Latvian was recognized as the official language of Latvia. Latvia was admitted to the League of Nations. Driven by the economics of comparative advantage, the United Kingdom and Germany replaced Russia as Latvia's major trade partners. As a sign of the times, Latvia's first Prime Minister, Karlis Ulmanis (Latvian Kārlis), had studied agriculture and worked as a lecturer at the University of Nebraska in the United States of America.

Riga was described at this time as a vibrant, grand and imposing city and earned the title of "Paris of the North" from its visitors.

This period of rebirth was short-lived, however, as World War II soon followed with Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940, German occupation in 1941-1944 and Soviet occupation of Latvia again at the end of the war. The Baltic Germans were forcibly repatriated to Germany after 700 years in Riga. Hundreds of thousands of Latvians perished and thousands fled into exile in countries all over the world. Latvia lost one-third of its population.

Soviet occupation after the war was marked by deportations to Siberia and elsewhere, forced industrialization and planned large-scale immigration of large numbers of non-Latvians from other Soviet republics into Riga, particularly Russians. By 1975 less than 40% of Riga's inhabitants were Latvians, a percentage which has risen since Latvian independence.

The policy of economic reform introduced as Perestroika by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev led to a situation in the late 1980's in which many Soviet republics, including Latvia, were able to regain their liberty and freedom. Latvia declared its full de facto independence on August 21, 1991 and that independence was recognized by Russia on September 6, 1991. Latvia formally joined the United Nations as an independent country on September 17, 1991. All Russian military forces were removed from 1992 to 1994.

In 2001, Riga celebrated its 800th anniversary as a city. On March 29, 2004 Latvia joined NATO. On May 1, 2004 Latvia joined the European Union.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Riga".