Latvia ( or ; Latvian: Latvija ['latvija], Livonian: Le?m?), officially known as the Republic of Latvia (Latvian: Latvijas Republika, Livonian: Le?m? Vab?m?), is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Since its independence, Latvia has been referred to as one of the Baltic states. It is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, Belarus to the southeast, and shares a maritime border with Sweden to the west. Latvia has 1,957,200 inhabitants and a territory of 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi). The country has a temperate seasonal climate. The Baltic Sea moderates climate, although it has four distinct seasons and snowy winters.
After centuries of Swedish, Polish and Russian rule, a rule mainly executed by the Baltic German aristocracy, the Republic of Latvia was established on 18 November 1918 when it broke away and declared independence in the aftermath of World War I. However, by the 1930s the country became increasingly autocratic after the coup in 1934 establishing an authoritarian regime under K?rlis Ulmanis. The country's de facto independence was interrupted at the outset of World War II, beginning with Latvia's forcible incorporation into the Soviet Union, followed by the invasion and occupation by Nazi Germany in 1941, and the re-occupation by the Soviets in 1944 (Courland Pocket in 1945) to form the Latvian SSR for the next 45 years.
Rainis, was the pseudonym of J?nis Pliekns (b. September 11 [O.S. August 30] 1865 in Varslav?ni, current Jekabpils district — d. September 12, 1929 in Majori), a poet, playwright, translator, and politician who is considered to be the greatest Latvian writer. Rainis' works include the classic plays Uguns un nakts (Fire and Night, 1905) and Indulis un ?rija (Indulis and ?rija, 1911) and a highly regarded translation of Goethe's Faust. His works had a profound influence on the literary Latvian language, and the folkloric symbolism he employed in his major works has been central to Latvian nationalism. During his education at the Riga City Gymnasium he met and befriended P?teris Stu?ka, later to become a prominent Latvian communist and Rainis's brother-in-law. Rainis studied law at the University of St. Petersburg. After completing his studies, he worked at the Vilnius regional court and with Andrejs St?rsts in Jelgava. Rainis wrote for Dienas Lapa (The Daily Sheet), T?vija (Fatherland) and the Latvian Conversational Dictionary. From 1891 to 1895 Rainis was editor in chief of Dienas Lapa. Rainis was also socially active and politically prominent, being one of the spiritual leaders of the Revolution of 1905 in Latvia and the New Current that foreshadowed to it. In 1897 he married Aspazija (pseudonym of Elza Pliekne, born Rozenberga), another Latvian poet and playwright active in the New Current. The New Current was eventually subjected to a crackdown by the Tsarist authorities as a seditious movement. With the failure of the Revolution, he emigrated to Switzerland together with his wife, settling in Castagnola, a suburb of Lugano. Rainis and Aspazija returned to Latvia on April 4, 1920. Rainis, as a member of the Central Committee of the Latvian Social Democratic Workers' Party, resumed his political activities and was member of the Constitutional Assembly of Latvia (Satversmes sapulce) and Saeima (Parliament) and of the Ministry of Education Arts Department, founder and director of the Dailes Theater, and director of the National Theater from 1921 to 1925, Minister of Education from December, 1926 to January, 1928, and a member of the Cultural Fund and (Military) Order of Lpl?sis Council. Rainis had the ambition of becoming Latvia's president and became less prominent in politics when this ambition was not fulfilled.
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