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History of Riga

The capital of Latvia, Riga was founded at the start of the thirteenth century- in 1201, to be precise- by a German missionary, who arrived, along with hundreds of German Christians, to convert the Latvians to Christianity. As the centuries passed, Riga grew in size and stature; by the sixteenth century, it had acquired the status of an important outpost of the region. Although the city passed into the hands of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the late 1500s, actual power continued to be exercised by German merchants and aristocrats.

In 1710, Riga had become part of the Russian empire; and the following century saw it develop into a major manufacturing and industrial centre. During the First World War, however, the city was badly damaged, and took some time to recover. With Latvia’s independence (post WWI), Riga remained an important city, but got suppressed when the USSR annexed the country in the 1940s. Today, after Latvia’s return to democratic rule, Riga is slowly recovering from the years of communist rule; capitalism is making headway, and although it’s still not as Westernised as some other East European capitals, it’s headed towards being a major tourist destination.


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