Latvia as a name
The word Latvia stems form an ancient tribe called “latgali” in Latvian, Latgallians in English. In Latvian language “Latvia” is “Latvija”. In Spanish Latvia is Letonia, in French Lettonie and in German Lettland. In Finnish Latvia is the same as in English, “Latvia”.
Written records of the red-white-red Latvian flag have existed since the second half of the 13th century. Bearing a red flag with a white stripe ancient Latvian tribes went to war against ancient Estonian tribes.
At the end of the 1860s Latvian student, folklore researcher and later, professor Jekabs Lautenbahs-Jusmins found reference to the use of a red-white-red flag in The Oldest Rhyming Verse Chronicles of the Livonian Order. The Chronicles depicted events in Latvia in the second half of the 13th century (till 1290) and glorified the feats of the crusaders in converting the pagan inhabitants of the Latvian region to the Christian faith.
Based on the aforementioned historical record, the present day flag design was adapted by artist Ansis Cirulis in May 1917. The red colour of the Latvian flag is a particular dark red tone that is referred to as “Latvian red” in the rest of the world. The flag’s colour proportions are 2:1:2 (the upper and lower red bands are always twice as wide as the white band in the middle), and the correlation of the width and length of the flag is fixed as 1:2.
The national coat of arms
The sun in the upper part of the coat of arms symbolises Latvian national statehood. A stylised depiction of the sun was used as a symbol of distinction and national identity by Latvian riflemen – latviesu strelnieki – recruited into the Russian imperial army during WWI. During WWI the sun figure was fashioned with 17 rays that symbolised the 17 Latvian-inhabited districts. The three stars above the coat of arms embody the idea of the of historical districts (Vidzeme, Latgale and combined Kurzeme-Zemgale) into a united Latvia.
Culturally historical regions are also characterised by older heraldic figures, which already appeared in the 1600s. Kuzeme and Zemgale (Western Latvia) are symbolised by a red lion. The lion appears as early as 1569 in the coat of arms of the former Duke of Kurzeme.
Vidzeme (North Latvia) and Latgale (Eastern Latvia) are symbolised by the legendary winged silver creature with an eagle’s head, a griffin. This symbol appeared in 1566, when the territories known today as Vidzeme and Latgale had come under Polish-Lithuanian control. The Latvian artist Rihards Zarins designed the Latvian national coat of arms.
The proper use of the Latvian coat of arms is firmly regulated. Three types of symbols are used – large, small enhanced and small. The large coat of arms, for example, can be used by the State President, Parliament, Prime Minister, Cabinet of Ministers, government ministries, the Supreme Court and Prosecutor General, as well as Latvia’s diplomatic and consular missions.
The National anthem is called “God Bless Latvia!”, Dievs, sveti Latviju. The workds are music were written by Karlis Baumanis. He used the word “Latvia” in his songs in the late 19th century, when Latvian national consciousness was only awakening. Blaumanis song was performed publicly in 1873, but became a national anthem only in June 1920. Latvian symbol of independence is the Freedom Monument is Riga. It is called Brivibas piemineklis and built 1931-1935 according to design of Karlis Zale.
The national bird is white wagtail (balta cielava). The national insect is two-spot ladybird, called “marite” in Latvian. Ancient Latvian goddess was called Mara.
The national flower is “pipene”, or daisy in English. The national tree is linden (lime tree. liepa in Latvian) and the oak (ozols). These trees were considered sacred in the ancient times. An important symbol is amber, dzintars in Latvian.