Top 10 AMAZING FACTS ABOUT LATVIA
In this installment, we are going to highlight 10 facts about the Baltic country of Latvia. From one of the oldest national flags in existence, to the discovery of citric acid, we are going to 10 fascinating facts about Latvia!
The Baltic Way
The Baltic Way, or Baltic Chain, was a peaceful demonstration across all three states: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It occurred on August 23rd, 1989, with approximately two million people forming a human chain, which stretched over 419 miles or 675 kilometers. These ‘protests’ were in memory of the 50th anniversary of unwanted occupation of the Baltic States by foreign powers, as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Such an event was organized by Baltic pro-independence campaigners and groups or political parties from each of the three nations. This was done to draw global attention to their desire to remain free. The date which this took place, as mentioned before, August 23rd, is remembered as Black Ribbon Day. It is also known as the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism.
Latvian Born Crocodile Dundee
Arvid Blumenthal was born in Dundaga, Latvia in 1925. In 1942, Blumenthal joined the 25th Battalion Abavas on the Eastern Front. He was badly wounded in battle, yet his life was spared. In 1951, the young man moved to Australia in order to pursue his passion of hunting and exploration. His adventures are told of in several different books, one of which being “Latvian Crocodile Hunter in Australia”. It is said that Blumenthal may have been the precursor or even the prototype to Crocodile Dundee, as featured in the 1986 film. Although not so much is known about Blumenthal, other than poaching crocodiles, we know that he studied the Aborigines and dug for opals. A crocodile monument has been erected in his home town of Dundaga in honor of one of Latvia’s most famous crocodile killing, Aborigine studying, opal digging men!
If there’s one thing Latvians love more than anything else, it’s their sports teams; Ice Hockey being the most popular among all. Each Spring when the country’s national team is playing in the World Championships, huge celebrations are held no matter the outcome. In 2014, Latvia reached the quarterfinals of the Winter Olympics, only to be outmatched by Team Canada. Another increasingly popular sport is track, more specifically, marathon running. The Riga Marathon is an annual road race that covers roughly twenty six miles or forty two kilometers. This is one of the fastest growing marathons in Northern Europe, and has reached over 20,000 participants each year. Other Latvia sports include strong men competitions and automobile racing.
Most Donuts Performed Simultaneously
Latvia doesn’t often make headlines, but there are a few special circumstances. On September 7th, 2012, the Latvian Drift Association set the world record for most cars doing donuts simultaneously. One hundred and seven automobiles performed the stunt in the Bikernieki Sports Complex, near Riga, Latvia’s capital. In total, 115 automobiles took part in the record breaking attempt, but of those, eight were cut out of the mix for failure to follow the guidelines or other infringements not allowing for a ‘proper’ donut to be made. The previous record was set in Sonoma, California on the Infineon Raceway, where just seventy five cars pulled off the feat.
Latvian cuisine consists primarily of agricultural products, with meat being the staple of most dishes. Various types of fish are consumed due to Latvia’s location on the east coast of the Baltic Sea. Potatoes, cabbage and onions are all grown within the country and are used for a large majority of their dishes. Although it may seem unusual and even gross to many of us, Latvians love their cold beet soup. This is served with a meat cutlet and side of pot cooked cabbage, all topped off with a pickled cucumber. Sour milk has even made its way into the mix, and has made its way into the Latvian dairy industry where it is used to make yogurt and other drinks. Another very popular Latvian drink is Riga Black Balsam. A pharmacist created the concoction during the 18th century when he mixed twenty four different ingredients into oak barrels. A punch is made by combining one part black balsam with four parts blackcurrant juice, and a pinch of clove. This should be mixed with vodka which only helps to give it a little kick, and bring out its twenty four various ingredients, which include: raspberry, nutmeg, birch bud and bilberry.
Uljana Semjonova was born on March 9th, 1952 in Zarasai, Lithuania. She grew up to tower over nearly everyone she came in contact with, even men. Semjonova’s record height was six feet, eleven inches, or 2.10 meters. She was the leading women’s basketball player throughout the 1970’s and 80’s, and won gold in the 1976 and 1980 Olympic Games. Uljana Semjonova grew at such a rate that she was forced to wear size 21 men’s shoes, or for our European viewers, size 58. This makes her the record holder for biggest feet ever in women’s basketball. In 1993, she became the first ever women inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame from outside the United States.
One of The Fastest Growing European Economies
In the past several years, Latvia has gained recognition for having one of the fastest growing and most dynamic economies in Europe. Between 1995 and 2007, Latvia’s economy has grown by an average rate of 7.6% per year. One source attributes such success to effective price and trade liberalization and financial sector reform since the 1990’s. Latvia ranked 21st worldwide in the Ease of Doing Business Index, and it belongs to a group of very high human development countries. What gives Latvia such an advantage is its geography. Transit services are very highly developed and so is the wood-processing industry. In 2006 and 2007 alone, Latvia’s GDP increased by more than 10%.
Latvian Inventions and Discoveries
Among the more popular of Latvian inventions is the production of citric acid. In 1948, Latvian scientists found a way to produce the weak acid from molasses using microbiological biosynthesis. For the majority of our viewers, this may not mean a whole lot, but citric acid is all around us, from the foods we eat, to the medications we take. It even makes its way into our hair through shampoo and conditioning products. For those of you interested in exploring the great unknown of our universe, Friedrich Zander is one Latvian inventor you may have heard about. He was born on August 11th, 1887 in Riga, Latvia. Zander attended a seven year high school program, at which time he became fascinated with spaceflight. The young man went on to make many theoretical contributions to science, and is credited for the design of the first liquid-fueled rocket to be launched in the Soviet Union. Friedrich Zander is best known for his yearning to visit places far above our atmosphere, he is remembered by the saying, “Forward to Mars!”
Latvia’s former Prime Minister, Valdis Dombrovskis, resigned on November 27th, 2013, just days after the roof of a supermarket in Riga collapsed. This terrible tragedy reportedly killed fifty four individuals and wounded another forty. It was the worst disaster since the country declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and is only slightly less gripping than the sinking of the Latvian ship, Mayakovsky, on August 13th, 1950. This event cost the lives of some 147 people, forty eight of which were children. Prime Minister Dombrovskis took the blame for the deaths of those fifty four people because of the fact that his administration abolished state building inspections due to budget cuts. Now that’s something you don’t hear about every day, a politician owning up to their mistakes.
Latvia’s National Flag
The national flag of Latvia was used by the independent nation from 1918 until 1940 when the country was under Soviet Union occupation. On February 27th, 1990 the previous banner consisting of a red-white-red color scheme was chosen to remain Latvia’s national flag. Although officially adopted in 1922, the Latvian flag was flown as early as the 13th century. One source points out that the overwhelming use of red symbolizes the Latvian people’s readiness to shed blood for freedom and liberty. Another interpretation of the flags origins comes from 1279 when a Latvian leader was mortally wounded in battle. He was wrapped in a white sheet which then became bloodstained. The white strip running through the center is said to represent that white sheet, and the red around it, the brave warrior’s blood.