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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 continues to revamp its economy for eventual integration into various Western European political and economic institutions.
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
water: 1,000 sq km
land: 63,589 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:
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
maritime; wet, moderate winters
low plain
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Gaizinkalns 312 m
Natural resources:
peat, limestone, dolomite, hydropower, wood, arable land, minimal; amber
Land use:
arable land: 29.01%
permanent crops: 0.48%
other: 70.51% (1998 est.)
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, and 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, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
Geography - note:
most of the country is composed of fertile, low-lying plains, with some hills in the east
People Latvia
2,366,515 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 15.8% (male 191,116; female 182,692)
15-64 years: 68.6% (male 775,481; female 847,261)
65 years and over: 15.6% (male 120,304; female 249,661) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate:
-0.77% (2002 est.)
Birth rate:
8.27 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate:
14.74 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate:
-1.23 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.48 male(s)/female
total population: 0.85 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
14.96 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 69 years
female: 75.17 years (2002 est.)
male: 63.13 years
Total fertility rate:
1.18 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.12% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
1,792 (15 January 2002)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
36 (15 January 2002)
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%
Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox
Latvian (official), Lithuanian, Russian, other
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.8%
male: NA%
female: NA%
Government Latvia
Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Latvia
conventional short form: Latvia
local short form: Latvija
former: Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic
local long form: Latvijas Republika
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 of independence from Soviet Russia, 21 August 1991 is the date of independence from the Soviet Union
the 1991 Constitutional Law which supplements the 1922 constitution, provides for basic rights and freedoms
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 Einars REPSE (since 7 November 2002)
cabinet: Council of Ministers nominated by the prime minister and appointed by the Parliament
elections: president elected by Parliament for a four-year term; election last held 17 June 1999 (next to be held by June 2003); prime minister appointed by the president
election results: Vaira VIKE-FREIBERGA elected as a compromise candidate in second phase of balloting, second round (after five rounds in first phase failed to produce a clear winner); percent of parliamentary vote - Vaira VIKE-FREIBERGA 53%, Valdis BIRKAVS 20%, Ingrida UDRE 9%
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 - New Era 23.9%, PCTVL 18.9%, People's Party 16.7%, ZZS 9.5%, First Party 7.6%, LNNK 5.4%; seats by party - New Era 26, PCTVL 24, People's Party 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)]; CENTER Political Alliance [Juris CELMINS]; First Party of Latvia [Eriks JEKABSONS]; For Fatherland and Freedom or LNNK [Maris GRINBLATS]; For Human Rights in a United Latvia or PCTVL [Janis JURKANS], a coalition of the People's Harmony Party or TSP, the Latvian Socialist Party or LSP, and the Equal Rights Movement; Freedom Party [Ziedonis CEVERS]; Land of Mara [Irena SAPROVSKA]; Latvian Rebirth Party [Andris RUBINS]; Latvian Social-Democratic Workers Party (Social Democrats) or LSDSP [Juris BOJARS]; Latvia's Way Union or LC [Andris BERZINS]; Light of Latgale or LG [Rihards EIGIMS]; New Era Party [Einars REPSE]; Our Land Party [Ilmars ANCANS]; Party of Latvians [Aivars GARDA]; People's Party [Andris SKELE]; Progressive Center Party [Inta STAMGUTE]; Russian Party [Mihails GAVRILOVS]; Social Democratic Union or SDS [Egils BALDZENS]; Social Democratic Welfare Party or SLP [Juris ZURAVLOVS]; United Republican Party of Latvia or LARP [Eriks Andrejs SAULUNS, Janis PUKIS, Sarmite JEGERE]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
International organization participation:
BIS, CBSS, CCC, CE, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, EU (applicant), FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (correspondent), ITU, NSG, OAS (observer), OPCW, OSCE, PCA, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPU, WEU (associate partner), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Aivis RONIS
FAX: [1] (202) 726-6785
telephone: [1] (202) 726-8213, 8214
chancery: 4325 17th Street NW, Washington, DC 20011
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Brian E. CARLSON
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] 781-4088
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 SKELE 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. Latvia officially joined the World Trade Organization in February 1999. Preparing for EU membership over the next few years continues as a top foreign policy goal. The high current account and internal government deficits remain major concerns.
purchasing power parity - $20 billion (2002 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
4.5% (2002 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $8,300 (2002 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 5%
industry: 26%
services: 70% (2001)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 3%
highest 10%: 26% (1998) (1998)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
32 (1999)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
2% (2002 est.)
Labor force:
1.1 million (2001 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 15%, industry 25%, services 60% (2000 est.)
Unemployment rate:
7.6% (2001 est.)
revenues: $2.4 billion
expenditures: $2.6 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2002 est.)
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:
5.7% (2002 est.)
Electricity - production:
3.301 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 33%
hydro: 67%
other: 0% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
5.16 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
500 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
2.59 billion kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
grain, sugar beets, potatoes, vegetables; beef, pork, milk, eggs; fish
$2.3 billion f.o.b. (2002)
Exports - commodities:
wood and wood products, machinery and equipment, metals, textiles, foodstuffs
Exports - partners:
Germany 17%, UK 16%, Sweden 10%, Lithuania 8%, Russia 6% (2001 est.)
$3.9 billion f.o.b. (2002)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, chemicals, fuels, vehicles
Imports - partners:
Germany 17%, Russia 9%, Lithuania 8%, Finland 8%, Sweden 7% (2001 est.)
Debt - external:
$3.4 billion (2000 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
$96.2 million (1995)
Latvian lat (LVL)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
lati per US dollar - 0.6384 (January 2002), 0.628 (2001), 0.607 (2000), 0.585 (1999), 0.590 (1998), 0.581 (1997)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Latvia
Telephones - main lines in use:
734,693 (2000)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
401,263 (2000)
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: 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 Service Providers (ISPs):
41 (2001)
Internet users:
312,000 (2001)
Transportation Latvia
total: 2,412 km
broad gauge: 2,379 km 1.520-m gauge (271 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 33 km 0.750-m gauge (2001)
total: 59,178 km
paved: 22,843 km
unpaved: 36,335 km (1998 est.)
300 km (perennially navigable)
crude oil 750 km; refined products 780 km; natural gas 560 km (1992)
Ports and harbors:
Liepaja, Riga, Ventspils
Merchant marine:
total: 6 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 30,119 GRT/30,572 DWT
note: includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Greece 3 (2002 est.)
ships by type: cargo 1, petroleum tanker 1, refrigerated cargo 4
25 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 13
2,438 to 3,047 m: 7
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 4 (2002)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 12
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 7 (2002)
Military Latvia
Military branches:
Ground Forces, Navy, Air and Air Defense Forces, Border Guard, National Guard
Military manpower - military age:
18 years of age (2002 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 591,592 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 464,843 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 19,114 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$87 million (FY01)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
1.2% (FY01)
Transnational Issues Latvia
Disputes - international:
the Russian Duma refuses to ratify boundary delimitation treaty with Latvia; the Latvian Parliament has not ratified its 1998 maritime boundary treaty with Lithuania, primarily due to concerns over oil exploration rights
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; money laundering remains a concern

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003