Flag of Latvia

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After a brief period of independence between the two World Wars, Latvia was annexed by the USSR in 1940. It re-established 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.


Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Estonia and Lithuania

Geographic coordinates:

57 00 N, 25 00 E


total: 64,589 sq km
land: 63,589 sq km
water: 1,000 sq km

Land boundaries:

total: 1,150 km
border countries: Belarus 141 km, Estonia 339 km, Lithuania 453 km, Russia 217 km


531 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: Gaizinkalns 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)

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

Geography - note:

most of the country is composed of fertile, low-lying plains, with some hills in the east


2,274,735 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 14% (male 162,562/female 155,091)
15-64 years: 69.6% (male 769,004/female 815,042)
65 years and over: 16.4% (male 121,646/female 251,390) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 39.4 years
male: 36.3 years
female: 42.4 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

-0.67% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

9.24 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

13.66 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

-2.26 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.48 male(s)/female
total population: 0.86 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 9.35 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 11.31 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 7.29 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 71.33 years
male: 66.08 years
female: 76.85 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

1.27 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.6% (2001 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

7,600 (2001 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

less than 500 (2003 est.)


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, Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox


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: 99.8%
male: 99.8%
female: 99.8% (2003 est.)

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



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


21 August 1991 (from Soviet Union)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 18 November (1918); note - 18 November 1918 is the date Latvia declared itself independent from Soviet Russia; 4 May 1990 is when it declared the renewal of independence; 21 August 1991 is the date of de facto independence from the Soviet Union


15 February 1922; an October 1998 amendment on Fundamental Human Rights replaced the 1991 Constitutional Law, which had supplemented the constitution

Legal system:

based on civil law system


18 years of age; universal for Latvian citizens

Legislative branch:

unicameral Parliament or Saeima (100 seats; members are elected by direct, popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 5 October 2002 (next to be held 7 October 2006)
election results: percent of vote by party - JL 23.9%, PCTVL 19%, TP 16.6%, ZZS 9.4%, First Party 9.5%, TB/LNNK 5.4%; seats by party - JL 24, TP 20, LPP 14, ZZS 12, TSP 8, TB/LNNK 7, PCTVL 6, LSP 5, independents 4

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court (judges' appointments are confirmed by Parliament)

Economy - overview:

Latvia's transitional economy recovered from the 1998 Russian financial crisis, largely due to the government's budget stringency and a gradual reorientation of exports toward EU countries, lessening Latvia's trade dependency on Russia. 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 and internal government deficits remain major concerns, but the government's efforts to increase efficiency in revenue collection may lessen the budget deficit. A growing perception that many of Latvia's banks facilitate illicit activity could damage the country's vibrant financial sector.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$29.7 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$14.64 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

8.3% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$13,000 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 4.1%
industry: 26%
services: 69.9% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

1.11 million (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 15%
industry: 25%
services: 60% (2000 est.)

Unemployment rate:

8.8% (2005 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 2.9%
highest 10%: 25.9% (1998)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

32 (1999)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

5.9% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

29.9% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $5.646 billion
expenditures: $5.889 billion; including capital expenditures of $NA (2005 est.)

Public debt:

12% of GDP (2005 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:

8.5% (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

3.573 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

5.839 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - exports:

300 million kWh (2003)

Electricity - imports:

2.816 billion kWh (2003)

Oil - consumption:

29,000 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:

1.8 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - imports:

1.7 billion cu m (2001 est.)

Current account balance:

-$1.392 billion (2005 est.)


$5.749 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

wood and wood products, machinery and equipment, metals, textiles, foodstuffs

Exports - partners:

UK 12.8%, Germany 12%, Sweden 10%, Lithuania 9.1%, Estonia 8%, Russia 6.4%, Denmark 5.4% (2004)


$8.559 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

machinery and equipment, chemicals, fuels, vehicles

Imports - partners:

Germany 13.9%, Lithuania 12.2%, Russia 8.7%, Estonia 7%, Finland 6.3%, Sweden 6.1%, Poland 5.4%, Belarus 4.8% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$2.2 billion (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$13.2 billion (30 June 2005 est.)

Economic aid - recipient:

$96.2 million (1995)

Currency (code):

Latvian lat (LVL)

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

650,500 (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

1,536,700 (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: recent efforts focused on bringing competition to the telecommunications sector, beginning in 2003; the number of fixed lines is decreasing as wireless telephony expands
domestic: two wireless service providers in addition to Lattelekom, the incumbent monopoly
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)

Television broadcast stations:

44 (plus 31 repeaters) (1995)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

53,251 (2005)

Internet users:

810,000 (2005)


47 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 23
2,438 to 3,047 m: 7
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 13 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 24
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 19 (2005)


gas 1,097 km; oil 409 km; refined products 415 km (2004)


total: 2,303 km
broad gauge: 2,270 km 1.520-m gauge (257 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 33 km 0.750-m gauge (2004)


total: 69,919 km
paved: 69,919 km (2003)


300 km (2005)

Merchant marine:

total: 20 ships (1000 GRT or over) 247,743 GRT/332,058 DWT
by type: cargo 6, chemical tanker 1, liquefied gas 2, passenger/cargo 3, petroleum tanker 7, roll on/roll off 1
foreign-owned: 1 (Russia 1)
registered in other countries: 102 (Antigua and Barbuda 5, The Bahamas 1, Belize 4, Cambodia 1, Cyprus 5, Dominica 2, Gibraltar 2, Liberia 17, Malta 36, Marshall Islands 6, Panama 4, Russia 2, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 17) (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Riga, Ventspils

Military branches:

Latvian Republic Defense Force: Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force, Border Guard, Home Guard (Zemessardze) (2005)

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; 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 must implement the strict Schengen border rules

Illicit drugs:

transshipment point for opiates and cannabis from Central and Southwest Asia to Western Europe and Scandinavia and Latin American cocaine and some synthetics from Western Europe to CIS; 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