Demography and economic geography. – Northern European state. With 2,041,111 residents, According to an estimate by UNDESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs) of 2014, of which a third concentrated in the capital alone, Riga, the population of Latvia is made up of 61.4% of Latvians (they were 77% in 1935 and then suffered a continuous decline, until reaching a minimum of 52% in 1989, before rising to 57.7% in 2000), 26% from Russians, 3.4% from Belarusians, 2.3% from Ukrainians, 2.2% from Poles and 1, 2% Lithuanians (of which 0.3% Jews and Roma and 0.1% Germans and Estonians). In 2013, the negative demographic balance of −22,357 units (−8095 for the natural balance and −14,262 for the migratory balance) confirmed the decline in the population, which has continued since 1990 and peaked in 2010, with −45,899 units. (Latvijas Statistika, 2014).
After joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union (EU) in 2004, on 1 January 2014 the Latvia entered the eurozone (see euro, area). The entry, originally planned for 2008, was postponed to 2014 due to excessive inflation and failure to comply with the five criteria set by the Maastricht Treaty, following the global financial crisis that exploded in 2008. In December of that same year, the former ‘Baltic tiger’ in difficulty received the help of the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF): it was an assistance plan of 7.5 billion dollars spread over three years which included a drastic reduction of public spending. The GDP trend went from + 10% in 2007 to −18% in 2009 (2.7% in 2014), while the unemployment rate from 6% in 2007 to 18.
The economy of Latvia then recovered thanks to exports, made more competitive not by a devaluation of the currency, but by a drastic decrease in expenses and salaries and by an increase in taxation. The Latvian economic activity is mainly concentrated on the production of electronic components and on financial and transport services, particularly in the oil sector. Most of the trade is done with the EU. The peculiarity of its banking sector is linked to the importance of non-resident deposits, which represent more than half of the total bank deposits.
Politics. – After the resignation of Aigars Kalvitis, on 20 December 2007 the Parliament approved a new government led by Ivars Godmanis of the Latvian Via party (LC). To cope with the disruptive economic crisis, starting in 2008 the executive applied a series of austerity measures, cutting public spending and invoking financial support from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. The interventions were harshly contested especially by the weaker sections of the population and caused violent clashes in the capital Riga in January 2009. The following month Godmanis resigned and on March 12 Valdis Dombrovskis, leader of the center-right New Era (JL) party, formed a new government supported by a coalition of five parties.
The precarious socioeconomic conditions – with an unemployment rate of 20% – and discontent with austerity to honor commitments with the EU and IMF were complex challenges for the government and created rifts in the coalition. In the elections of 2 October 2010, the center-right alliance Unit – in which JL, Union Civic (PS) and Society for another policy (SCP) participated – won, and Dombrovskis was confirmed at the helm of a government that also obtained support Union of Greens and Peasants (ZZS). Green Andris Bērziņš became president of Latvia on July 8, 2011, beating outgoing Valdis Zatlers.
After 94.3% of citizens voted in favor of the dissolution of Parliament in a referendum on 23 July 2011, new elections were held on 17 September 2011: the pro-Russian members of the Centro dell harmony (SC), but a center-right coalition formed by Unity, Reform Party (RP) and National Alliance (NA) managed to form a new executive, chaired for the third time by Dombrovskis. On November 27, 2013, a few days after the tragic collapse of the roof of a supermarket in Riga in which 54 people died, Dombrovskis resigned. On January 22, 2014, Laimdota Straujuma was appointed prime minister, at the head of a center-right coalition reconfirmed with the elections of October 4, 2014. On June 3, 2015,
In foreign policy, the Latvia strengthened its Atlanticist and European commitment, ratifying the Lisbon Treaty in May 2008 and adopting the euro on January 1, 2014. After formalizing the borders in March 2007, the Latvia instead tightened relations with Russia following the failure of the referendum of February 2012 on the conferral of an official status to the Russian language, wanted by the Russian-speaking minority, and after having taken a very critical position against Moscow regarding the Ukrainian crisis of 2014.
Cinema. – Latvian cinema was born on the wave of the success that cinema achieved throughout Europe in the early twentieth century. In the 1920s, after independence, it became very popular because it told stories of the immediate past, civil and military events of the war of independence that had just ended. His destiny, however, would have been to change often over the years, always adapting to the different regimes and the ‘needs’ of the moment.
During the Soviet occupation of the three Baltic countries, it became a priority and for this reason Latvia received generous funding to make mainly documentaries. The ‘Riga school of poetic documentary’ was born, around which directors worked who, trained in the film schools of Moscow and St. Petersburg, first of all reflected on the potential of cinematographic language. Herz Frank, Juris Podnieks, Uldis Brauns, Ivars Kraulītis represented the founding generation of the Latvian gaze, capable of knowing images in the representation of an urgent and universal present at the same time. Just see films like Frank’s Par 10 minūtēm vecāks (1978; Older than 10 minutes) and Vai viegli būtjaunam? (1986; Is it easy to be young?) By Podnieks for the documentary, or Povest o latyshskom strelke (1958; History of Latvian fusiliers) by Pavel Armand for fictional cinema to realize that the formal aspect, in terms of construction of the shot, rhythm and refinement of the sound, constitute the most important aspect of the works of Latvian directors.
With the end of the Soviet occupation in 1991, the cinema fell into a profound economic crisis. State support failed, but this did not stop his energy. The film industry, heavily downsized, relied above all on private initiative and flourished again adapting to the modern needs of the market and to changes in the public. Support also came from co-productions with other European countries, both in the field of fictional cinema and in terms of animation, a very prolific sector, especially in the context of animated puppets.
Among the most significant and eclectic directors of recent years we must mention Laila Pakalnina, very well known and celebrated internationally. His work, which alternates documentary with fictional cinema (Kurpe, 1998, The shoe; Pitons, 2003, The python; Kilnieks, 2006, The hostage), stands out for its irony and the unusual way in which captures and describes the simple things: a landfill (Leiputrija, 2004, The land of dreams), an old man who spends his time at the bus stop (Teodors, 2006), become, in his films, points of reference through which to question a reality that is always, at the same time, paradoxical and simple, poetic and cruel.
Among the most recent and widely successful films at home, we should mention Rigas sargi (2007, The Defenders of Riga) by Aigars Grauba, on the war of independence of 1919, Kolka Cool (2011, The cold of Kolka) by Juris Poskus, My family tree (2013) by Una Celma, Mammu, es tevi mīlu! (2013, Mom, I love you!) By Jânis Nords, Modris (2014) by Juris Kursietis.