A map of Latvia Latvia, along with Estonia and Lithuania, is a Baltic states. The land was smoothed out by glaciers during the last Ice Ages leaving behind a largely flat landscape, with a patchwork of cropfields, lakes, marshes and evergreen forests. In some places it rises to low, rounded hills. Latvia’s major river is the Daugava (Western Dvina), which flows northwestwards into the Gulf of Riga. The cool, continental climate means that winters are cold and often snowy, while summers are short and mild. Between 1940 and 1991, Latvia was part of the Soviet Union. Today, it is a modern, independent republic and a member state of the European Union.
Just over 60% of the people are ethnic Latvians, descendants of the first people to settle in the region. The rest are mainly Russians, many of whom arrived during the period of Soviet rule. Latvia already has a small population, but it is getting even smaller. Families are having fewer children, and many young people are moving abroad in search of better work opportunities and a different lifestyle.
Latvia is home to the widest waterfall in Europe: Ventas Rumba. Though very wide (110 m / 360 ft), it has a modest drop of just 2 m (6.5 ft). The falls are part of an even wider system of rapids (249 m / 817 ft wide).
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