Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia, is a country in Northern Europe in the Baltic region. It is bordered to the north by Estonia (343 km), to the south by Lithuania (588 km), and to the east both by Belarus (141 km) and the Russian Federation (276 km). Across the Baltic Sea to the west lies Sweden. Located on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, Latvia lies on the East European Plain. It consists of fertile, low-lying plains, largely covered by forest, mostly pines, the highest point being the Gaizinkalns at 311.6 m (1,020 ft). Phytogeographically, Latvia is shared between the Central European and Eastern European provinces of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom.
The Latvians are Baltic people closely related to the Lithuanians, with the Latvian language sharing many similarities to Lithuanian. Today the Latvians and Lithuanians are the only surviving members of the Baltic peoples and Baltic languages of the Indo-European family. The modern name of Latvia is thought to originate from the ancient Latvian name Latvji, which may have originated from the word Latve which is a name of the river that presumably flowed through what is now eastern Latvia.
The Latvian climate is humid, continental and temperate owing to the maritime influence of the Baltic Sea. Summers are warm and the weather in spring and autumn fairly mild, however, the winters can be extreme due to the northern location. Precipitation is common throughout the year with the heaviest rainfall falling in August. During severe spells of winter weather in Latvia is dominated by cold winds from the interior of Russia and severe snowfalls are common.