Country Information Database


Latvia Country Information

Flag of Latvia
Map of Latvia
Introduction Latvia
The name "Latvia" originates from the ancient Latgalians, one of four eastern Baltic tribes that formed the ethnic core of the Latvian people (ca. 8th-12th centuries A.D.). The region subsequently came under the control of Germans, Poles, Swedes, and finally, Russians. A Latvian republic emerged following World War I, but it was annexed by the USSR in 1940 - an action never recognized by the US and many other countries. Latvia reestablished its independence in 1991 following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Although the last Russian troops left in 1994, the status of the Russian minority (some 30% of the population) remains of concern to Moscow. Latvia joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004.
Geography Latvia
Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Estonia and Lithuania
Geographic coordinates:
57 00 N, 25 00 E
Map references:
total: 64,589 sq km
land: 63,589 sq km
water: 1,000 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than West Virginia
Land boundaries:
total: 1,382 km
border countries: Belarus 171 km, Estonia 343 km, Lithuania 576 km, Russia 292 km
498 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 m depth or to the depth of exploitation
maritime; wet, moderate winters
low plain
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Galzina Kalns 312 m
Natural resources:
peat, limestone, dolomite, amber, hydropower, wood, arable land
Land use:
arable land: 28.19%
permanent crops: 0.45%
other: 71.36% (2005)
Irrigated land:
200 sq km
note: land in Latvia is often too wet, and in need of drainage, not irrigation; approximately 16,000 sq km or 85% of agricultural land has been improved by drainage (2003)
Total renewable water resources:
49.9 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 0.25 cu km/yr (55%/33%/12%)
per capita: 108 cu m/yr (2003)
Natural hazards:
Environment - current issues:
Latvia's environment has benefited from a shift to service industries after the country regained independence; the main environmental priorities are improvement of drinking water quality and sewage system, household, and hazardous waste management, as well as reduction of air pollution; in 2001, Latvia closed the EU accession negotiation chapter on environment committing to full enforcement of EU environmental directives by 2010
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note:
most of the country is composed of fertile, low-lying plains, with some hills in the east
People Latvia
2,245,423 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 13.4% (male 154,077/female 146,825)
15-64 years: 69.7% (male 760,976/female 803,106)
65 years and over: 16.9% (male 124,658/female 255,781) (2008 est.)
Median age:
total: 39.9 years
male: 36.9 years
female: 43 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate:
-0.629% (2008 est.)
Birth rate:
9.62 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate:
13.63 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate:
-2.29 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.49 male(s)/female
total population: 0.86 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 8.96 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 10.85 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 6.97 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 71.88 years
male: 66.68 years
female: 77.35 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.29 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.6% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
7,600 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 500 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases:
degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne diseases: tickborne encephalitis (2008)
noun: Latvian(s)
adjective: Latvian
Ethnic groups:
Latvian 57.7%, Russian 29.6%, Belarusian 4.1%, Ukrainian 2.7%, Polish 2.5%, Lithuanian 1.4%, other 2% (2002)
Lutheran 19.6%, Orthodox 15.3%, other Christian 1%, other 0.4%, unspecified 63.7% (2006)
Latvian (official) 58.2%, Russian 37.5%, Lithuanian and other 4.3% (2000 census)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.7%
male: 99.8%
female: 99.7% (2000 census)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 16 years
male: 14 years
female: 17 years (2006)
Education expenditures:
5.1% of GDP (2004)
Government Latvia
Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Latvia
conventional short form: Latvia
local long form: Latvijas Republika
local short form: Latvija
former: Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic
Government type:
parliamentary democracy
name: Riga
geographic coordinates: 56 57 N, 24 06 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions:
26 counties (singular - rajons) and 7 municipalities*: Aizkraukles Rajons, Aluksnes Rajons, Balvu Rajons, Bauskas Rajons, Cesu Rajons, Daugavpils*, Daugavpils Rajons, Dobeles Rajons, Gulbenes Rajons, Jekabpils Rajons, Jelgava*, Jelgavas Rajons, Jurmala*, Kraslavas Rajons, Kuldigas Rajons, Liepaja*, Liepajas Rajons, Limbazu Rajons, Ludzas Rajons, Madonas Rajons, Ogres Rajons, Preilu Rajons, Rezekne*, Rezeknes Rajons, Riga*, Rigas Rajons, Saldus Rajons, Talsu Rajons, Tukuma Rajons, Valkas Rajons, Valmieras Rajons, Ventspils*, Ventspils Rajons
18 November 1918 (from Soviet Russia)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 18 November (1918); note - 18 November 1918 was the date Latvia declared itself independent from Soviet Russia; 4 May 1990 is when it declared the renewal of independence; 21 August 1991 was the date of de facto independence from the Soviet Union
15 February 1922; restored to force by the Constitutional Law of the Republic of Latvia adopted by the Supreme Council on 21 August 1991; multiple amendments since
Legal system:
based on civil law system with traces of Socialist legal traditions and practices; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal for Latvian citizens
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Valdis ZATLERS (since 8 July 2007)
head of government: Prime Minister Ivars GODMANIS (since 20 December 2007)
cabinet: Council of Ministers nominated by the prime minister and appointed by Parliament
elections: president elected by Parliament for a four-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 31 May 2007 (next to be held in 2011); prime minister appointed by the president, confirmed by Parliament
election results: Valdis ZATLERS elected president; parliamentary vote - Valdis ZATLERS 58, Aivars ENDZINS 39
Legislative branch:
unicameral Parliament or Saeima (100 seats; members are elected by proportional representation from party lists by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 7 October 2006 (next to be held in October 2010)
election results: percent of vote by party - TP 19.5%, ZZS 16.7%, JL 16.4%, SC 14.4%; LPP/LC 8.6%; TB/LNNK 7%; PCTVL 6%; seats by party - TP 23, ZZS 18, JL 18, SC 17, LPP/LC 10, TB/LNNK 8, PCTVL 6; note - seats by party as of February 2008 - TP 21, ZZS 17, SC 17, JL 14, LPP/LC 10, TB/LNNK 5, PCTVL 6, independents 10
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (judges' appointments are confirmed by Parliament); Constitutional Court (judges' appointments are confirmed by Parliament)
Political parties and leaders:
First Party of Latvia/Latvia's Way or LPP/LC [Ainars SLESERS, Ivars GODMANIS]; For Human Rights in a United Latvia or PCTVL [Jakovs PLINERS]; For the Fatherland and Freedom/Latvian National Independence Movement or TB/LNNK [Roberts ZILE, Maris GRINBLATS]; Harmony Center or SC [Janis URBANOVICS, Nils USAKOVS]; Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party (Social Democrats) or LSDSP [Juris BOJARS]; Latvian Socialist Party or LSP [Alfreds RUBIKS]; New Democrats or JD [Maris GULBIS]; New Era Party or JL [Einars REPSE, Krisjanis KARINS]; People's Party or TP [Aigars KALVITIS]; The Union of Latvian Greens and Farmers Party or ZZS [Augusts BRIGMANIS]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Headquarters for the Protection of Russian Schools (SHTAB) [Aleksandr KAZAKOV]
International organization participation:
Australia Group, BA, BIS, CBSS, CE, EAPC, EBRD, EIB, EU, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITU, ITUC, MIGA, NATO, NIB, NSG, OAS (observer), OPCW, OSCE, PCA, Schengen Convention, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WEU (associate partner), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Andrejs PILDEGOVICS
chancery: 2306 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 328-2840
FAX: [1] (202) 328-2860
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Charles LARSON Jr.
embassy: 7 Raina Boulevard, Riga LV-1510
mailing address: American Embassy Riga, PSC 78, Box Riga, APO AE 09723
telephone: [371] 703-6200
FAX: [371] 782-0047
Flag description:
three horizontal bands of maroon (top), white (half-width), and maroon
Economy Latvia
Economy - overview:
Latvia's economy experienced GDP growth of more than 10% per year during 2006-07. The majority of companies, banks, and real estate have been privatized, although the state still holds sizable stakes in a few large enterprises. Latvia officially joined the World Trade Organization in February 1999. EU membership, a top foreign policy goal, came in May 2004. The current account deficit - more than 22% of GDP in 2007 - and inflation - at nearly 10% per year - remain major concerns.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$40.05 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$27.34 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
10.3% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$17,700 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 3.3%
industry: 22%
services: 74.7% (2007 est.)
Labor force:
1.167 million (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 13%
industry: 19%
services: 68% (2005 est.)
Unemployment rate:
5.7% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.5%
highest 10%: 29.1% (2003)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
37.7 (2003)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
10.1% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):
32.5% of GDP (2007 est.)
revenues: $10.47 billion
expenditures: $10.29 billion (2007 est.)
Public debt:
7.4% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products:
grain, sugar beets, potatoes, vegetables; beef, pork, milk, eggs; fish
buses, vans, street and railroad cars; synthetic fibers, agricultural machinery, fertilizers, washing machines, radios, electronics, pharmaceuticals, processed foods, textiles; note - dependent on imports for energy and raw materials
Industrial production growth rate:
5.4% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production:
4.778 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 29.1%
hydro: 70.9%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption:
6.09 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports:
707 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports:
2.855 billion kWh (2005)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption:
34,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports:
6,765 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports:
39,190 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
1.861 billion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
1.861 billion cu m (2005)
Current account balance:
-$6.231 billion (2007 est.)
$8.143 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities:
wood and wood products, machinery and equipment, metals, textiles, foodstuffs
Exports - partners:
Lithuania 15.1%, Estonia 13.8%, Russia 12.9%, Germany 8.4%, Sweden 7.4%, UK 6.5% (2007)
$14.82 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, chemicals, fuels, vehicles
Imports - partners:
Germany 15%, Lithuania 13.9%, Russia 8.7%, Estonia 8.1%, Poland 7%, Finland 5.1%, Sweden 4.9% (2007)
Economic aid - recipient:
$162 million (2004)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$5.758 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external:
$33.53 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
$8.62 billion (2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
$699 million (2007 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$2.705 billion (2006)
Currency (code):
lat (LVL)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
lati per US dollar - 0.5162 (2007), 0.5597 (2006), 0.5647 (2005), 0.5402 (2004), 0.5715 (2003)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Latvia
Telephones - main lines in use:
644,000 (2007)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
2.217 million (2007)
Telephone system:
general assessment: recent efforts focused on bringing competition to the telecommunications sector; the number of fixed lines is decreasing as wireless telephony expands
domestic: number of telecommunications operators has grown rapidly since the fixed-line market opened to competition in 2003; combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular subscribership is roughly 125 per 100 persons
international: country code - 371; the Latvian network is now connected via fiber optic cable to Estonia, Finland, and Sweden
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 8, FM 56, shortwave 1 (1998)
1.76 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
44 (plus 31 repeaters) (1995)
1.22 million (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
234,014 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
41 (2001)
Internet users:
1.177 million (2007)
Transportation Latvia
42 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 21
2,438 to 3,047 m: 7
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 9 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 21
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 20 (2007)
gas 948 km; oil 82 km; refined products 415 km (2007)
total: 2,303 km
broad gauge: 2,270 km 1.520-m gauge (257 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 33 km 0.750-m gauge (2006)
total: 69,829 km
paved: 69,829 km (2005)
300 km (2006)
Merchant marine:
total: 22 ships (1000 GRT or over) 208,453 GRT/220,258 DWT
by type: cargo 9, chemical tanker 2, liquefied gas 2, passenger/cargo 4, petroleum tanker 3, roll on/roll off 2
foreign-owned: 1 (Estonia 1)
registered in other countries: 126 (Albania 1, Antigua and Barbuda 13, Belize 12, Cambodia 1, Cyprus 1, Dominica 2, Jamaica 2, Liberia 23, Malta 24, Marshall Islands 15, Panama 8, Russia 2, St Kitts and Nevis 5, St Vincent and the Grenadines 17) (2008)
Ports and terminals:
Riga, Ventspils
Military Latvia
Military branches:
National Armed Forces (Nacionalo Brunoto Speku): Ground Forces, Navy (Latvijas Juras Speki; includes Coast Guard (Latvijas Kara Flotes)), Latvian Air Force (Latvijas Gaisa Speki), Border Guard, Latvian Home Guard (Latvijas Zemessardze) (2008)
Military service age and obligation:
18 years of age for voluntary military service; conscription abolished January 2007; under current law, every citizen is entitled to serve in the armed forces for life (2006)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 568,683
females age 16-49: 565,826 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 412,849
females age 16-49: 468,827 (2008 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 14,506
female: 13,982 (2008 est.)
Military expenditures:
1.2% of GDP (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Latvia
Disputes - international:
Russia refuses to sign the 1997 boundary treaty due to Latvian insistence on a unilateral clarificatory declaration referencing Soviet occupation of Latvia and territorial losses; Russia demands better Latvian treatment of ethnic Russians in Latvia; as of January 2007, ground demarcation of the boundary with Belarus was complete and mapped with final ratification documentation in preparation; the Latvian parliament has not ratified its 1998 maritime boundary treaty with Lithuania, primarily due to concerns over oil exploration rights; as a member state that forms part of the EU's external border, Latvia has implemented the strict Schengen border rules with Russia
Illicit drugs:
transshipment and destination point for cocaine, synthetic drugs, opiates, and cannabis from Southwest Asia, Western Europe, Latin America, and neighboring Balkan countries; despite improved legislation, vulnerable to money laundering due to nascent enforcement capabilities and comparatively weak regulation of offshore companies and the gaming industry; CIS organized crime (including counterfeiting, corruption, extortion, stolen cars, and prostitution) accounts for most laundered proceeds

This page was last updated on 2 October, 2008 Access Time: Thu, 01 Jun 2023 05:57:48 +0000