The lats was the official currency of the Republic of Latvia. Confusingly for English speaker, the “lats” is actually singular (not lat), and the plural is “lati” (for more than two and up to nine) and “latu” (ten or more).
The history of Latvia is short but action packed. It was only established as an independent nation around a century ago, in 1918, as a consequence of the political reorganisation resulting from the end of World War One. Political independence did not last long however. In 1940 it was forcibly taken under the control of the Soviet Union, via the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact, an ill-fated agreement between Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler at the beginning of the Second World War. This agreement broke down very quickly, and all three Baltic States were invaded by Germany in 1941, which retained control for the majority of the war period. As the Nazi expansion was rolled back toward the end of the war, the Soviet Union returned to re-occupy the three fledgling states. The Soviets retained control in the post war period, with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania becoming part of the “Eastern Bloc” of countries behind the “iron curtain” in Eastern Europe.
This situation continued until the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. The symbolism of the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 resulted in an upsurge in national independence movements across Eastern Europe, with Latvia declaring its independence in May 1990. This declaration was formalised in August 1991, when the nation was formally recognised by most of the world’s nations and its governing bodies such as the United Nations (UN). The situation was formally recognised by its former Russian overlords the following month.
The lats was first introduced in 1922, shortly after Latvia’s original formation. It was effectively withdrawn during the occupation years of World War Two, replaced by the German Reichsmark. The post war Soviet backed government oversaw the introduction of the Russian rouble, so the lat was not restored until shortly after the restoration of independence, in 1992.
The re-introduction of the national Latvian currency was not to last for long however. In September 2003, after a long period of negotiation, over two thirds of Latvians who voted in the national referendum had been in favour of joining the European Union. EU membership was formally confirmed in April 2004. With this new membership came the obligation to convert to the euro, and although this also took some time to be achieved, the national currency was finally replaced in January 2014. A very brief transition period ensued, where both currencies were accepted as legal tender, but by the end of the month, the lats was no more, and Latvia had formally joined the Eurozone.
Sadly, it is unlikely that UK registered online bingo companies are being asked to accept any further stray lats. Loyal Latvians today will be spending their euros like the majority of the rest of Europe.