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Image:Liels gerbonis.gif
Map of Latvia
Coordinates: 56°58′0″N, 24°8′0″E
Founded 1201
Mayor Aivars Aksenoks
 - City 307.17 km²
 - Water 48.5 km²  15.8%
 - City (2006) 727,578
 - Density 2369/km²
 - Metro 790,000
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 - Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Website: http://www.riga.lv

Riga (Latvian: Rīga, Estonian: Riia, Russian: Рига), the capital of Latvia, is situated on the Baltic Sea coast on the mouth of the River Daugava, at 56°58′N 24°8′E. Riga is the largest city in the Baltic states. The Historic Centre of Riga has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city is particularly notable for its extensive Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) architecture, comparable in significance only with Vienna, Saint Petersburg and Barcelona.


[edit] Business and commerce

Riga is home to numerous academic institutions, including the University of Latvia (Latvijas Universitāte), Riga Technical University (Rīgas Tehniskā Universitāte) and Riga Stradins University (Rīgas Stradiņa Universitāte). The Latvian Parliament (Saeima) also sits in Riga, as does the President of Latvia, Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, who resides in Riga Castle.

Business and leisure travel to Riga has increased significantly in recent years due to the improved commercial and travel infrastructure. Riga as a city-port is a major transportation hub and is the center of the local road and railway system. Most tourists travel to Riga by air via the Riga International Airport, the largest airport in the Baltic states, which was renovated and modernized in 2001, coincident with Riga's 800th anniversary. Air traffic has doubled between 1993 and 2004. Baltic sea ferries connect Riga to Stockholm, Kiel and Lübeck.

Almost all important financial institutions are located in Riga, including the Bank of Latvia, which is Latvia's central bank. Foreign commercial trade through Riga has been on the increase in recent years and received a new impetus on May 1, 2004 when Latvia became a member of the European Union. Riga accounts for about half of the total industrial output of Latvia, focusing on the financial sector, public utilities, food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, wood processing, printing and publishing, textiles and furniture, and communications equipment manufacturing. The port of Riga is an important cargo shipping center.

[edit] Population

Year Population
1767 19,500
1800 29,500
1840 60,000
1867 102,600
1881 169,300
1897 282,200
1913 517,500
1920 ¹185,100
1930 377,900
1940 353,800
Year Population
1941 335,200
1945 ²228,200
1950 482,300
1955 566,900
1959 580,400
1965 665,200
1970 731,800
1975 795,600
1979 835,500
1987 900,300
Year Population
1990 909,135
1991 900,455
1992 889,741
1993 863,657
1994 843,552
1995 824,988
1996 810,172
1997 797,947
1998 786,612
1999 776,008
Year Population
2000 764,329
2001 756,627
2002 747,157
2003 739,232
2004 735,241
2005 731,762
2006 727,578

Riga is the biggest city in the Baltic States but the population is decreasing very fast and keeps on falling. The city's population (in 2006) is 727,578. In Riga native Latvians make up about 43% of the population, with about an equal percentage of Russians. By comparison, 59% of Latvia's inhabitants are native Latvians, 28.5% are Russians, 3.8% are Belarusians, 2.5% are Ukrainians, 2.4% are Polish, 1.4% are Lithuanians and the remaining 2.4% are accounted for by other nationalities (2006). Most Latvians are Protestant Evangelical Lutheran or Roman Catholic Christians, whereas most Russians belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. Riga is the biggest city in the Baltic States but the population is decreasing very fast and keeps on falling. The city's population in 2003 was 739,232. In Riga native Latvians make up about 45% of the population, with about an equal percentage of Russians. By comparison, a little more than 60% of Latvia's inhabitants are native Latvians, 29.0% are Russians, 3.9% are Belarusians, 2.6% are Ukrainians, 2.5% are Polish, 1.4% are Lithuanians and the remaining 2.1% are accounted for by other nationalities (2003). Most Latvians are Protestant Evangelical Lutheran Christians, whereas most Russians belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. Following the indpendence of Latvia in 1991, amny non-Latvians whose families arrived after the 1940 annexation were stripped of their citizenship, as a result, large numbers have emigrated out of Latvia, resulting in a population decline. Another result of this exodus is that the percentage of Latvians in the city's population has slightly increased.


  1. Massive population decrease after World War I.
  2. Population decrease after World War II and deportations.

[edit] History

Image:Riga dom.jpg
The Old Town of Riga

Riga is located at the site of an ancient settlement of the Livs, an ancient Finnic 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 [1]. Some believe that the name of the river gave Riga its name.

The modern founding of Riga is regarded by historians to have begun with the arrival in Latvia of German traders, mercenaries and religious crusaders in the second half of the 12th century, attracted by a sparsely populated region, potential new markets and by the missionary opportunities to convert the local population to Christianity. German merchants established an outpost for trading with the Balts near the Liv settlement at Riga in 1158. The Augustinian monk Meinhard built a monastery there circa 1190.

Bishop Albert was proclaimed Bishop of Livonia by his uncle Hartwig, Archbishop of Bremen and Hamburg in 1199. He landed in Riga in 1201 with 23 ships and more than 1500 armed crusaders, making Riga his bishopric. He established the Order of Livonian Brothers of the Sword (later a branch of the Teutonic Knights) and granted Riga city rights in that same year. Albert was successful in converting the King of the Livs, Caupo of Turaida, to Christianity, although, as related in the Chronicle of Henry of Livonia ("Henricus Lettus"), it took him three decades to gain full control of Livonia (German Livland). Riga as well as Livonia and Prussia came under the auspices of the Holy Roman (German) Empire. It was not until much later, at the time of Martin Luther, that Riga, Livonia and Prussia converted to Protestantism.

Riga served as a gateway to trade with the Baltic tribes and with Russia. In 1282 Riga became a member of the Hanseatic League (German Hanse, English Hansa). The Hansa developed out of an association of merchants into a loose trade and political union of North German and Baltic cities and towns. Due to its economic protectionist policies which favored its German members, the League was very successful, but its exclusionist policies produced competitors. Its last Diet convened in 1669, although its powers were already weakened by the end of the 14th century, when political alliances between Lithuania and Poland and between Sweden, Denmark and Norway limited its influence. Nevertheless, the Hansa was instrumental in giving Riga economic and political stability, thus providing the city with a strong foundation which endured the political conflagrations that were to come, clear down to modern times.

As the influence of the Hansa waned, Riga became the object of foreign military, political, religious and economic aspirations. Riga accepted the Reformation in 1522, ending the power of the archbishops. In 1524, a venerated statue of the Virgin Mary in the Cathedral was denounced as a witch, and given a trial by water in the Daugava or Dvina River. The statue floated, so it was denounced as a witch and burnt at Kubsberg<ref name="fn_1">MacCulloch, Diarmaid (2003). "The Reformation". Penguin. ISBN 0-670-03296-4.</ref>. With the demise of the Teutonic Knights in 1561, Riga for twenty years had status of Free Imperial City, then in 1581, Riga came under the influence of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Attempts to reinstitute Roman Catholicism in Riga and southern Livonia failed as in 1621, Riga and the outlying fortress of Daugavgriva came under the rule of Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, who intervened in the Thirty Years' War not only for political and economic gain but also in favor of German Lutheran Protestantism. During the Russo-Swedish War, 1656-1658, Riga withstood a siege by Russians. Riga remained the second largest city under Swedish control until 1710 during a period in which the city retained a great deal of self-government autonomy. In that year, in the course of Great Northern War, Russia under Tsar Peter the Great invaded Riga. Sweden's northern dominance ended, and Russia's emergence as the strongest Northern power was formalized through the Treaty of Nystad in 1721. Riga was annexed to Russia and became an industrialized port city of the Russian empire, where it remained until World War I. By 1900, Riga ranked the third in Russia after Moscow and St. Petersburg in the number of industrial workers.

During these many centuries of war and changes of power in the Baltic, the Baltic Germans in Riga, successors to Albert's merchants and crusaders, clung to their dominant position despite demographic changes. Riga even employed German as its official language of administration until the imposition of Russian language in 1891 as the official language in the Baltic provinces. All birth, marriage and death records were kept in German up to that year. Latvians began to supplant Germans as the largest ethnic group in the city in the mid-19th century, however, and by 1897 the population was 45% Latvian (up from 23.6% in 1867), 23.8% German (down from 42.9% in 1867), 16.1% Russian, 6% Jewish, 4.8% Polish, 2.3% Lithuanian, and 1.3% Estonian. The rise of a Latvian bourgeoisie made Riga a center of the Latvian National Awakening with the founding of the Riga Latvian Association in 1868 and the organization of the first national song festival in 1873. The nationalist movement of the Young Latvians was followed by the socialist New Current during the city's rapid industrialization, culminating in the 1905 Revolution led by the Latvian Social Democratic Workers' Party.

Image:Riga old.jpg
A view of Riga on a postcard from around 1900.

The 20th century 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 German, Swedish, Russian rule, Latvia, with Riga as its capital city, thus declared its independence on November 18, 1918. For more details see History of Latvia.

Between 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, Kārlis Ulmanis, 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 and annexation of Latvia in 1940, German occupation in 1941-1944. The Baltic Germans were forcibly repatriated to Germany at Hitler's behest, after 700 years in Riga. The Jewish community was forced into a ghetto in the Maskavas neigborhood, and a concentration camp in Kaizerwald. 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 returned to Latvia with the defeat of Nazism.

Soviet occupation after the war was marked by deportations of many Latvians to Siberia and elsewhere, on the charge that they collaborated with the Nazis. Forced industrialization and planned large-scale immigration of large numbers of non-Latvians from other Soviet republics into Riga, particularly Russians, changed the emographic balance of Riga. High-desity apartment developments, such as Purvciems, Zolitude, and Ziepniekkalns ringed the city's edge, linked to the center by electric railways. By 1975 less than 40% of Riga's inhabitants were Latvians, a percentage which has risen since Latvian independence.

In 1986 the modern landmark of Riga, the Riga Radio and TV Tower, whose design is reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower, was completed.

The policy of economic reform introduced as Perestroika by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev led to a situation in the late 1980s in which many Soviet republics, including Latvia, were able to regain their liberty and freedom. See Latvia. 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.

In 2004, the arrival of low-cost airlines resulted in cheaper flights from other European cities such as London and Berlin and consequently a substantial increase in numbers of tourists.[citation needed]
Image:View from St. Peter's Church, Riga 2.JPG
View of the city from St. Peter's Church

[edit] Sights

Image:Latvia Riga Cat House rooftop.jpg
A cat on the top of the roof in the Old Town
  • The Doma Cathedral, considered the largest church in the Baltic states. Built in the 13th century, it was modified several times along its history. It has a magnificent organ that dates from 1844.
  • Riga Castle (Rīgas Pils), which houses the Museum of Latvian History and the Museum of Foreign Art.
  • St. Peter's Church, with its 123 m high tower.
  • St. John's Church, a small 13th-century chapel, behind St. Peter's Church.
  • The Powder Tower (Pulvertornis), the only tower that remains from the city wall. The Latvian Museum of War is located inside.
  • Wooden architecture open air museum.
  • The Occupation Museum of Latvia, which documents the seizure and occupation of Latvia by different forces from 1940 to 1991.

[edit] Riga's neighbourhoods

Image:Riga Powder Tower.JPG
The Powder Tower of Riga
Image:Riga street.jpg
Left-bank Riga is distinguished by its green streets and large parks.

The city of Riga consists of six administrative regions, four of which are named by regions of Latvia - Kurzeme district, Latgale suburb, Vidzeme suburb, Zemgale suburb. There is also a Central District and a Northern district. Residents, however, divide Riga in residential neighbourhoods called micro regions. Unlike the city centre, they are mostly residential although they are equipped with commercial sectors. These neighbourhoods include:

Some common factors in these place names are "vec" meaning old [vecs], "kalns" meaning hill, "ciems" meaning village, "sala" meaning island and "mež" meaning forest [mežs].

[edit] Notable people

A list of rulers of Riga: Archbishops of Riga who were also secular rulers until 1561.

[edit] Sister cities

Riga maintains sister city relationships with the following cities:

Image:Flag of Denmark.svg Aalborg, Denmark (1989) Image:Flag of Italy.svg Florence, Italy Image:Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Slough, UK
Image:Flag of Kazakhstan.svg Almati, Kazakhstan Image:Flag of Spain.svg Alicante, Spain Image:Flag of France.svg Calais, France
Image:Flag of the Netherlands.svg Amsterdam, The Netherlands Image:Flag of Australia.svg Cairns, Australia Image:Flag of France.svg Dunkirk, France (1960)
Image:Flag of Kazakhstan.svg Astana, Kazakhstan Image:Flag of Ukraine.svg Kiev, Ukraine Image:Flag of France.svg Bordeaux, France
Image:Flag of Japan (bordered).svg Kobe, Japan Image:Flag of Germany.svg Bremen, Germany Image:Flag of Russia (bordered).svg Moscow, Russia
Image:Flag of the United States.svg Dallas, USA Image:Flag of Belarus.svg Minsk, Belarus Image:Flag of Sweden.svg Norrköping, Sweden
Image:Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg Beijing, China Image:Flag of Finland (bordered).svg Pori, Finland Image:Flag of Germany.svg Rostock, Germany
Image:Flag of Russia (bordered).svg Saint Petersburg, Russia Image:Flag of Chile (bordered).svg Santiago, Chile Image:Flag of Sweden.svg Stockholm, Sweden
Image:Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg Suzhou, China Image:Flag of the Republic of China.svg Taipei, Taiwan Image:Flag of Estonia.svg Tallinn, Estonia
Image:Flag of Lithuania.svg Vilnius, Lithuania Image:Flag of Poland (bordered).svg Warsaw, Poland Image:Flag of Guam.svg Guam, USA

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Districts and Cities of Latvia
District :
Aizkraukle DistrictAlūksne DistrictBalvi DistrictBauska DistrictCēsis DistrictDaugavpils DistrictDobele DistrictGulbene DistrictJēkabpils DistrictJelgava DistrictKraslava DistrictKuldīga DistrictLiepāja DistrictLimbaži DistrictLudza DistrictMadona DistrictOgre DistrictPreiļi DistrictRēzekne DistrictRīga DistrictSaldus DistrictTalsi DistrictTukums DistrictValka DistrictValmiera DistrictVentspils District
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