Regions of Latvia

Regions of Latvia

Latvia is divided into several historical and cultural regions.

The Latvian constitution used to recognize four distinct regions:

* Kurzeme (Courland), the western part of Latvia, consisting roughly the counties of Liepāja, Kuldīga, Talsi, Saldus and Ventspils.
*Zemgale (Semigallia) is the central part of Latvia. Zemgale is bounded by Kurzeme in the east, Gulf of Riga and Daugava river in the north and Latvia-Lithuania border in the south. It consists approximately of the counties of Bauska, Dobele, Jelgava and Tukums and parts of Aizkraukle, Daugavpils, Jēkabpils, Ogre and Riga counties which are south of Daugava river. Traditional Semigallia also includes the northern part of Šiauliai County in Lithuania.
* Vidzeme, meaning "Middle land", is also known as Livland, though it comprises only a small part of traditional Livland. Present Vidzeme is the Latvian part of Swedish Livonia and Riga. It roughly corresponds to Alūksne, Cēsis, Gulbene, Limbaži, Madona, Valka, Valmiera counties and parts of Aizkraukle, Ogre and Riga counties north of Daugava river.
* Latgale (Latgallia), the part of Livonia still in hands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth after the Treaty of Altmark in 1629, so called Inflanty Voivodeship. It roughly corresponds to Balvi, Krāslava, Ludza, Preiļi, Rēzekne counties and parts of Daugavpils and Jēkabpils counties north of Daugava river.

A fifth region is Sēlija (Selonia, Augšzeme), often considered a part of Semigallia. Selonia comprises the eastern part of the 1939 province of Semigallia, roughly corresponding to parts Aizkraukle, Daugavpils and Jēkabpils counties south of Daugava river. Traditional Selonia also includes a portion of north east Lithuania. Named after the Selonians.

In some cases, Kurzeme and Zemgale are combined into one region. This reflects the political division of Latvia between 1629 and 1917, when Kurzeme and Zemgale were together, first as the Duchy of Courland, then as the Courland Governorate in the Russian Empire while Vidzeme and Latgale were politically separate, both from Courland and one from another. From this perspective, there are three regions: Kurzeme (including Zemgale and Sēlija), Vidzeme and Latgale. This division of Latvia into three regions is no longer commonly used but it can be seen in the Coat of Arms of Latvia and the Monument of Freedom in Riga both of which contain three stars: for Kurzeme, Vidzeme and Latgale, which were united into Latvia in 1918.

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