Rīga (German: Riga, Estonian: Riia, Lithuanian: Ryga), situated on the Baltic Sea coast at the mouth of the Daugava river, is the capital of Latvia and a major regional port and industrial centre. Riga is the biggest city in the Baltic States. The city's population has fallen since Latvia's independence from 910,000 (in 1991) to 747,000 (in 2003). Only 42% of Riga's inhabitants are ethnic Latvians (2003).
- Total (2003)
In 1158 AD Baltic-German traders founded a commercial settlement at Riga in Livland or Livonia. In 1201 German Archbishop Albert of Buxhoeveden-Bremen and Riga granted Riga city rights. Riga as well as Livonia and Prussia came under the protection of the Holy Roman (German) Empire, which included archbishops among its subordinate rulers. At the time of Martin Luther Livonia and Prussia became Protestant.
A member from 1282 of the powerful Hanseatic League of northern European trading cities, Riga employed German as its official language of administration until the imposition of Russian in 1891 (all birth, marriage and death records are in German until then). In 1900 Riga's population of 282,943 was composed of rougly 50% Baltic Germans, a quarter Latvians, and a quarter Russians.
After a period as a free city (1561-1581) Riga came under the rule of first the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth and then Sweden (1621-1710) and subsequently Russia. After the region's terrible losses during the Great Northern War (1700-1721), Riga enjoyed rapid growth as a leading port and later industrial city of the rising Russian empire, its population doubling in the latter half of the 18th century and again in the first half of the 19th, and more than quadrupling in 1850-1900.
After severe losses in 1914-1920 owing to war, military occupation, revolution and a brief civil war, a first period of Latvian national independence (1918-1940) saw a slowing of growth as Riga, though now a national capital, lost most of the trade of its former Russian hinterland, now under communist government in the Soviet Union. World War II brought further losses following Soviet annexation (1940) and German occupation (1941-1944).
Restored Soviet rule brought renewed population growth augmented by the immigration of large numbers of non-Latvians from other Soviet republics, particularly Russians: by 1975 less than 40% of Riga's inhabitants were ethnic Latvians, a proportion which has risen since independence.
In 2001, Riga celebrated its 800th anniversary as a city.
- Stockholm School of Economics in Riga
- Riga State Gymnasium No.1
- Ports of the Baltic Sea
- Treaty of Riga
- Mikhail Baryshnikov - famous dancer and actor
- Sergei Eisenstein - Russian film maker
- Heinz Erhardt - German comedian
- Johann Gottfried Herder - German poet, critic, theologian, and philosopher, father of ethnic nationalism
- The father of Gustav Holst
- Laila Freivalds - Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Arturs Irbe - ice hockey player (NHL), goalkeeper
- Sergei Zholtok - ice hockey player, center forward
- Vasili Ulrikh - notorious hanging judge of the Great Purges
- Richard Wagner - composer
A list of rulers of Riga: Archbishops of Riga who were also secular rulers until 1561: