Years Ago The land that is Latvia today is located near the
equator—before continental plates drift north.
10, 000 B.C.
Glaciers that had been covering the entire region begin receding
north, making human habitation possible.
Latvian ancestors settle on the Baltic coast. Couronians,
Latgallians, Semgallians and Finno-Ugric Livs later assimilate to
1190 The first
Christian missionaries persuade some Latvians to convert. But as soon
as the Germans left, the Latvians, by one account, jumped into the
river to wash off their baptism. Soon, Latvians again submitted—then
again renounced Christianity. Germans succeeded in converting Latvians
for good 20 years later.
A defining point in Latvian history: At the Popes behest,
German crusaders, led by Bishop Albert von Buxhoevden of Bremen,
conquer Latvia; Riga is founded and becomes a bridgehead for further
German conquests in the Baltics. German domination continues for 700
1282 Riga joins
the Hanseatic League, Europes powerful trading bloc.
Latvia is conquered by Poland; Catholicism becomes entrenched.
1629 Part of
Latvia, including Riga, is conquered by Sweden, which enacts social
reforms. Latvians now refer to this era as the good Swedish times. Riga
becomes the biggest city in Swedens Kingdom.
1640s Latvian Duke
Jacob funds an expedition colonizing the Caribbeans Tobago in
the 1600s; 2000 Latvians settled there.
1710 Latvia falls
to Russia; Polish-ruled Latvia ceded to Russia 80 years later. Germans
regain privileges lost under Swedes.
1812 In a
defensive maneuver, fearing an attack by Napoleon, officials order
that Riga suburbs be burned down.
system of serfdom is abolished.
consciousness among Latvians increases. Russification policies follow.
1905 Poor peasants
vent their anger at land-owning Baltic Germans; Latvian rioters kill
600 people, including 100 German nobles. Czarist police quell the
violence, and deport thousands who took part.
1918 Latvians had
been pushing mainly for autonomy within what they hoped would be a
democratically-oriented Russia. But after Soviet heavy-handedness,
they declare independence. Latvians beat back German and Soviet
militaries. Theyre aided by Great Britain; Estonians also help.
1920 Against all
odds, Latvia wins independence. Amid post-war economic misery and
destruction, land is taken from German nobility and redistributed to
Latvia prospers, becoming a major exporter of agricultural goods. Riga
becomes a favorite meeting place for Western and Soviet spies.
1939 Hitler and
Stalin carve up Europe, with the Baltics said to be in the Soviet
sphere. Before, the Baltics were able to play Germany and Russia
off each other, but theyre now virtually within the clutches of
Russia-with Germanys acquiescence.
1940 As Nazis grab
France, Soviets occupy Latvia. Deportations begin.
1941 First mass
deportations by Stalinist forces, targeting the cream of society.
Others dragged out of detention cells and shot. Later in the year,
Nazi Germany occupies Latvia; Latvian Jews are massacred-including
some 25,000 in two days outside Riga, at Rumbula.
occupy Latvia again. Thousands, including over 2/3 of the nations
intellectuals, flee to the West.
1949 Another wave
of deportations. Between 1940-49, Latvia loses 35 percent of its
population to war, deportation, exile and mass murder.
1987 First open
protests against Soviet rule.
Latvian legislature declares a transition to independence.
1991 In January,
Soviets crackdown on the Baltics.
August 1991 A coup
in the Kremlin unravels as quickly as it began. Two days before, it
looked like the absolute worst was about to happen. But suddenly, with
Moscows authority having collapsed, the impossible dream of
restoring independence comes true.
1999 Latvia swears
in its first woman president, Vaira Vike-Freiberga. Ancient legend had
it that the nation would prosper once a woman ruled; annual growth
jumps from around 0 to over 5 percent.
Riga celebrates 800th birthday.
March 29, 2004 Latvia is
accepted into NATO.
May 1, 2004 Latvia joins the European
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