Almost from the beginning of its history, Latvia, an eastern European nation bordering the Baltic Sea, was controlled by foreign powers, including Germany, Poland, and Sweden. By 1940, Latvia had established its identity as a republic, but the country fell to Russia in 1940. It took more than half a century before independence was regained after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The Russian presence is still felt in Latvia, however, and Russians comprise almost a third of the population. Even though almost 58 percent of the population are Latvian, approximately 38 percent speak Russian. There is some religious diversity, but the majority of Latvians are either Lutheran (19.6 percent) or Eastern Orthodox (15.3 percent). Latvia became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ...

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