Located on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, Latvia did not emerge as an independent country until the twentieth century, having been occupied at different times in the past by its larger neighbors: Russia, Germany, Poland, and Sweden. In 1993, Latvia held its first parliamentary election and elected its first president after 50 years of a Communist dictatorship. With the entrance of Latvia in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union in 2004, the "post-Communist" era appears to be over. The A to Z of Latvia details the changes the country has undergone since the liberation of the country from the U.S.S.R. and tells the turbulent history of Latvia through a chronology, an introductory essay, a bibliography, an appendix, and several hundred cross-referenced dictionary entries on important persons, places, and events.
Andrejs Plakans is emeritus professor of history at Iowa State University. He has served on committees of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, the American Historical Association, and the Social Science History Association. In 1992, he was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, D.C., and since 1990 he has been a foreign member of the Academy of Sciences of Latvia.