Go to content

Main menu:

Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia (Latvian: Latvijas Republika), is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe, one of the three Baltic states. It is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, and Belarus to the southeast, as well as a maritime border to the west alongside Sweden. Latvia has 1,957,200 inhabitants and a territory of 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi). The country has a temperate seasonal climate.

Latvia is a democratic parliamentary republic established in 1918. The capital city is Riga, the European Capital of Culture 2014. Latvian is the official language. Latvia is a unitary state, divided into 119 administrative divisions, of which 110 are municipalities and 9 are cities.

Latvians are the indigenous people of Latvia. Latvian and Lithuanian are the only two surviving Baltic languages. Despite foreign rule from the 13th to 20th centuries, the Latvian nation maintained its identity throughout the generations via the language and musical traditions. As a consequence of centuries of Russian rule (1710–1918) and later Soviet occupation, Latvia is home to a large number of ethnic Russians (26.9% in Latvia, some of whom (14.1% of Latvian residents) have not gained citizenship, leaving them with no citizenship at all. Until World War II, Latvia also had significant minorities of ethnic Germans and Jews.

Latvia is historically predominantly Protestant Lutheran, except for the Latgale region in the southeast, which has historically been predominantly Roman Catholic.The Russian population has also brought a significant portion of Eastern Orthodox Christians.

The Republic of Latvia was founded on 18 November 1918. However, its de facto independence was interrupted at the outset of World War II. In 1940, the country was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union, invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany in 1941, and re-occupied by the Soviets in 1944 to form the Latvian SSR for the next fifty years. The peaceful Singing Revolution, starting in 1987, called for Baltic emancipation of Soviet rule and condemning the "Stalinist" regime's illegal takeover. It ended with the Declaration on the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia on 4 May 1990, and restoring de facto independence on 21 August 1991.

Latvia is a democratic and developed country and member of the European Union, NATO, the Council of Europe, the United Nations, CBSS, the IMF, NB8, NIB, OECD, OSCE, and WTO. For 2014, Latvia was listed 46th on the Human Development Index and as a high income country on 1 July 2014. A full member of the Eurozone, it uses the euro as its currency since 1 January 2014, replacing the Latvian lats.


Smiltene is a town in the Vidzeme region of in northern Latvia, 132 km northeast of the capital Riga, and the administrative centre of Smiltene Municipality. It has a population of 5,536 (2015).

Its original name was Smiltesele (the ending probably came from the Russian "selo" - village), later it was called Smilten in German before adding the Latvian ending and thus becoming Smiltene.[

Smiltene is located in the Northern part of the Vidzeme Highland on the shores of the river Abuls. There are three artificial lakes on the river in Smiltene, the biggest natural lake - Klievezers is in the Southern part of Smiltene. The town centre is 106 above the sea level, the highest spot is on Klievu street - 145.14 metres above the sea level. There are three possible meteorite craters in Smiltene.

The area around Smiltene was a part of the Latgalian lands of Tālava. After Crusaders had taken over most of the modern day Latvia, the area was part of the lands of the bishop of Riga. In 1359 on the steep hill near the river Abuls was built a castle. The tradesmen and craftsmen village around it - Smiltestele - first is mentioned in historical documents in 1427, since 1523 it was called a town. During the Livonian war the castle and the town were brought to ruin by the army of Ivan the Terrible. Under Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth Smiltene and the area surrounding it were controlled by the starosta Kaspar Mlodecki.

In the early stages of the Great Northern War Smiltene was burnt down by the Russian army. After the war the area became devastated due to hunger and Bubonic plague. In 1708 the Swedish government built a new church and started the restoration of the village of Smiltene.

In 1760 the Russian empress Catherine II gave Smiltene manor as a present to the Governor-General G.Braun. During this time the manor was restored, from 1763 to 1771 were built manor buildings which have been still preserved. After the death of Braun his heirs sold the manor to the Riga merchant J.S.Baundau whose family had it for almost 100 years.

In 1893 the Smiltene manor was bought by Paul Lieven (of the Lieven family of Baltic German aristocrats), who split the land into parcels – thus creating the foundations of the modern day city. In 1901 electricity was connected in the Smiltene manor house. For Lieven's money a hospital, sawmill and electric station were built in Smiltene in 1903. After his suggestion and with his financial support a narrow gauge railway was built from Smiltene to Valmiera.

In 1920 Smiltene was granted the town rights in the Latvian Republic. In 1935 there were more than 400 dwelling houses and many industrial companies in Smiltene. On September 22, 1944 during the retreat of the Nazi army at least 297 buildings were destroyed in Smiltene.

In 1950 Smiltene become the administrative centre of the newly created Smiltene District.[2] In 1959 the district was merged with Valka District, which existed until the administrative territorial reform of 2009.

Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
Back to content | Back to main menu