The Flag of Latvia: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

Written by Taiwo Victor
Published: January 14, 2023
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As one of the three Baltic states, Latvia is situated between Lithuania and Estonia on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea. Latvia is also surrounded by Belarus and Russia and shares maritime borders with Sweden on the sea.

The country has a land mass of 64,589 km² (24,938 square miles), making it slightly bigger than West Virginia and almost half the size of Greece. Latvia’s terrain is mostly flat, with a mix of rivers, beaches, lakes, forests, and marshes.

There are so many things to learn about this Eastern European country, including its founding and how its flag came to be. You’ll find all about the Latvian flag’s history, meaning, and symbolism.

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Founding of Latvia

Latvia was initially discovered by the Balts, who settled in the area. For centuries, the Baltic tribes remained uninfluenced by the outside world. That was until other European nations began adopting Christianity, and the Balts were seen as anachronists.

In the 1230s, German crusaders invaded and took over Latvia and imposed Catholicism on the natives. Germans continued to dominate the Latvian region until the area was conquered in 1562 by Polish-Lithunian Commonwealth. Two new regional powers arose in the 17th century—Russia and Sweden—and this affected the influence of Polish-Lithunia. Sweden captured Riga, the present-day capital of Latvia, in 1621, and between 1700 and 1795, Russia seized control of Latvia from Sweden.

Between 1860 and 1914, Latvia grew to be an industrial heartland. This birthed the Latvian National Awakening, with several Latvians excelling in business, art, and urban jobs and more natives respecting their language and culture. As more Latvian peasants moved into major cities in their numbers, the Revival leaders began clamoring for independence. Latvia finally gained independence on the 18th of November, 1918, after the Russian Revolution of 1918.

Unfortunately, after about two decades of independence, the advent of World War II brought Latvia back under the rulership of Germany and Russia, both occupying the once-independent country. The Soviet Union won this war and continued occupying Latvia until 1990. In May 1990, Latvia finally gained independence from the Soviet Union.

Characteristics of Latvia

Russians account for 25% of Latvia’s population.


Latvia is a land blessed with undulating plains, lowlands, and hills alternating against each other. The country’s eastern region is elevated and is the location for the popular feature, the Central Vidzeme Upland. It also features several rivers that flow into the huge Baltic Sea.

Latvians make up as much as 60% of the population in the country today, with the Russians accounting for 25%. There are also several minor groups within the region. While the official language is Latvian, Russian is also spoken by 33% of the population. English is widely spoken, but mainly for business and tourism purposes.

Latvia’s climate is characterized by high humidity and cloudy skies. The climatic conditions in Latvia are often cold, with the summers being cool and rainy, while winter lasts for as long as nine months.

Latvia has a stable economy and is one of the best economies in Europe. Latvia is also known for its agricultural prowess, as 10% of its agricultural land is solely for livestock pasture. The country also exports different crops, which has consolidated its economy. 

The History of the Latvian Flag

The flag of Latvia is one of the oldest flags in the world.

© Kruklitis

The Latvian flag ranks among the oldest flags in the world, existing as far back as 1279 in the Livonian Chronicle. Apparently, it was used as a battle flag by the local tribes. According to history, a white sheet was used to shroud a fatally injured Latvian chief. The two ends of the white cloth were stained in his blood, while the center part remained white. This bloodstained cloth was used as a flag during the battle, with Latvian soldiers emerging as winners.

This red-and-white design was adopted in 1918 when Latvia gained its first independence, and some adjustments were made to its size. This was until the nation was reconquered in 1940 by the Soviet Union. During that time, the Latvian flag was rendered null and void. However, Latvians in western capitals refused to bow to the authority of the Soviet Union and continued using the flag.

Finally, on the 29th of September, 1988, the Latvian flag was legalized again and replaced the Soviet Latvian flag on the 27th of February, 1990. 

The Flag of the Latvian Soviet Republic

While Latvia remained occupied by the Soviet Union, the use and production of the Latvian flag became illegal and an act punishable by law. Therefore, a Soviet Latvian flag was adopted, and its design consisted of a red background with a sickle and hammer in the upper-left corner. The final design was accepted in 1953, with waves added to the flag.

The Meaning and Symbolism of the Latvian Flag

The white stripe on the Latvian flag symbolizes peace and independence.

© Oleg

The Latvian flag features three horizontal stripes, a white stripe in the middle, and two red-colored stripes on both ends. The white stripe symbolizes peace as well as independence. This meaning is significant to the Latvians who had to endure years of hardship under the rule of the Soviet Union.

The chestnut color symbolizes the blood spilled in wars and the readiness of the Latvians to give their lives to fight for their sovereignty and freedom.

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National Flag of Latvia Eps File - Latvian Flag Vector File
The flag of Latvia consists of a carmine red field (background) divided horizontally by a narrow white stripe. The flag's width-to-length ratio is 1 to 2.

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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