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Flag of Latvia
Map of Latvia
Introduction Latvia  
After a brief period of independence between the two World Wars, Latvia was annexed by the USSR in 1940. It 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: 1,150 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: 29.67%
permanent crops: 0.47%
other: 69.86% (2001)
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 (1998 est.)
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  
2,290,237 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 14.4% (male 169,284/female 161,648)
15-64 years: 69.4% (male 770,839/female 819,309)
65 years and over: 16.1% (male 120,306/female 248,851) (2005 est.)
Median age:
total: 39.12 years
male: 35.95 years
female: 42.15 years (2005 est.)
Population growth rate:
-0.69% (2005 est.)
Birth rate:
9.04 births/1,000 population (2005 est.)
Death rate:
13.7 deaths/1,000 population (2005 est.)
Net migration rate:
-2.24 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2005 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 (2005 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 9.55 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 11.55 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 7.45 deaths/1,000 live births (2005 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 71.05 years
male: 65.78 years
female: 76.6 years (2005 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.26 children born/woman (2005 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.6% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - 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.)
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
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
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Vaira VIKE-FREIBERGA (since 8 July 1999)
head of government: Prime Minister Aigars KALVITIS (since 2 December 2004)
cabinet: Council of Ministers nominated by the prime minister and appointed by the Parliament
elections: president reelected by Parliament for a four-year term; election last held 20 June 2003 (next to be held by June 2007); prime minister appointed by the president
election results: Vaira VIKE-FREIBERGA reelected president; parliamentary vote - Vaira VIKE-FREIBERGA 88 of 94 votes cast
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 NA October 2006)
election results: percent of vote by party - JL 23.9%, PCTVL 18.9%, TP 16.7%, ZZS 9.5%, First Party 7.6%, LNNK 5.4%; seats by party - JL 26, PCTVL 24, TP 21, ZZS 12, First Party 10, LNNK 7
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (judges' appointments are confirmed by Parliament)
Political parties and leaders:
Alliance of the Greens and Farmers Union or ZZS [Augusts BRIGMANIS (Farmer's Union), Indulis EMSIS (Green Party)]; First Party of Latvia [Ainars SLESERS]; For Human Rights in a United Latvia or PCTVL [Jakovs PLINERS]; For Our Latvia or ML [Rihards Jablokovs]; Latvian National Democratic Party or LNDP [Jevgenijs Osiopovs]; Latvian National Front [Aivars GARDA]; Latvian Social-Democratic Workers Party (Social Democrats) or LSDSP [Alfred RUBIKS]; Latvia's Way Union or LC [Andris BERZINS]; Light of Latgale or LG; New Era Party or JL [Einars REPSE]; New Politics Party or JP [Sergejs DOLGOPOLOVS]; People's Harmony Party or TSP [Janis JURKANS]; People's Party or TP [Atis SLAKTERIS]; Social Democratic Union or SDS [Egils BALDZENS]; Union for the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK or TB/LNNK [Janis STRAUME]; United Social Democratic Welfare Party or SLP [Juris ZURAVLOVS]; United Republican Party of Latvia or LARP
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Headquarters for the Protection of Russian Schools (SHTAB) [Aleksandr KAZAKOV]
International organization participation:
Australia Group, BIS, CBSS, CE, EAPC, EBRD, EIB, EU (new member), FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (correspondent), ITU, MIGA, NATO, NIB, NSG, OAS (observer), OPCW, OSCE, PCA, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPU, WCO, WEU (member affiliate), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Maris RIEKSTINS
chancery: 4325 17th Street NW, Washington, DC 20011
telephone: [1] (202) 726-8213, 8214
FAX: [1] (202) 726-6785
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Catherine TODD-BAILEY
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 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.
purchasing power parity - $26.53 billion (2004 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
7.6% (2004 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $11,500 (2004 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 4.4%
industry: 24.8%
services: 70.8% (2004 est.)
Labor force:
1.17 million (2004 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 15%, industry 25%, services 60% (2000 est.)
Unemployment rate:
8.8% (2004 est.)
Population below poverty line:
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):
6% (2004 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):
26.1% of GDP (2004 est.)
revenues: $4.231 billion
expenditures: $4.504 billion, including capital expenditures of NA (2004 est.)
Public debt:
11.8% of GDP (2004 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% (2004 est.)
Electricity - production:
4.547 billion kWh (2002)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 29.1%
hydro: 70.9%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption:
5.829 billion kWh (2002)
Electricity - exports:
1.1 billion kWh (2002)
Electricity - imports:
2.7 billion kWh (2002)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
44,000 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - exports:
Oil - imports:
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
1.7 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
1.7 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Current account balance:
$-1.251 billion (2004 est.)
$3.569 billion f.o.b. (2004 est.)
Exports - commodities:
wood and wood products, machinery and equipment, metals, textiles, foodstuffs
Exports - partners:
UK 22.1%, Germany 9.9%, US 8.2%, Sweden 7.3%, France 6.6%, Lithuania 6.4%, Estonia 5.2%, Denmark 4.2%, Russia 4.1% (2004)
$5.97 billion f.o.b. (2004 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, chemicals, fuels, vehicles
Imports - partners:
Germany 16.1%, Russia 14.4%, Lithuania 7.6%, Finland 6.5%, Sweden 5.6%, Estonia 5.1%, Italy 4.2%, Poland 4% (2004)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$1.65 billion (2004 est.)
Debt - external:
$7.368 billion (2004 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
$96.2 million (1995)
Currency (code):
Latvian lat (LVL)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
lati per US dollar - 0.5402 (2004), 0.5715 (2003), 0.6182 (2002), 0.6279 (2001), 0.6065 (2000)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Latvia  
Telephones - main lines in use:
653,900 (2003)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
1,219,600 (2003)
Telephone system:
general assessment: inadequate, but is being modernized to provide an international capability independent of the Moscow international switch; more facilities are being installed for individual use
domestic: expansion underway in intercity trunk line connections, rural exchanges, and mobile systems; still many unsatisfied subscriber applications
international: country code - 371; international connections are now available via cable and a satellite earth station at Riga, enabling direct connections for most calls (1998)
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:
51,758 (2004)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
41 (2001)
Internet users:
936,000 (2003)
Transportation Latvia  
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: 60,472 km
paved: 57,206 km
unpaved: 3,265 km (2002)
300 km (2004)
gas 1,097 km; oil 409 km; refined products 415 km (2004)
Ports and harbors:
Liepaja, Riga, Ventspils
Merchant marine:
total: 19 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 53,153 GRT/37,414 DWT
by type: cargo 7, chemical tanker 1, liquefied gas 2, passenger/cargo 3, petroleum tanker 5, roll on/roll off 1
registered in other countries: 86 (2005)
50 (2004 est.)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 26
2,438 to 3,047 m: 7
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 16 (2004 est.)
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: 1
under 914 m: 20 (2004 est.)
Military Latvia  
Military branches:
Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force, Border Guard, Home Guard (Zemessardze)
Military manpower - military age and obligation:
19 years of age for compulsory military service, conscript service obligation - 12 months; 18 years of age for volunteers; Latvia plans to phase out conscription, tentatively moving to an all-professional force by 2007 (August 2004)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 19-49: 517,713 (2005 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 19-49: 361,098 (2005 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 19,137 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$87 million (FY01)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
1.2% (FY01)
Transnational Issues Latvia  
Disputes - international:
the Latvian-Russian boundary treaty of 1997 remains unsigned and unratified with Russia linking it to better Latvian treatment of ethnic Russians and Latvian politicians demanding Russian agreement to a declaration that admits Soviet aggression during the Second World War and other issues; 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; vulnerable to money laundering despite improved legislation due to nascent enforcement capabilities and comparatively weak regulation of offshore companies and the gaming industry; organized crime (including counterfeiting, corruption, extortion, stolen cars, and prostitution) accounts for most laundered proceeds

This page was last updated on 9 August, 2005