Destination attractions: stats, facts and information on Latvia

Facts and information about Latvia, including stats about the government, climate, geography, population, economy and culture.


Background: Along with most of the other small nations of Europe, Latvia shares a history of invasion by a succession of expansionist nations, e.g., Sweden, Poland, Germany, and Russia. After a brief period of independence between the two World Wars, Latvia was annexed by the USSR in 1940 under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The USSR recaptured Latvia from its German occupiers in 1944. Latvia reestablished its independence in August 1991, a few months prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union; the last Russian troops left in 1994. The status of ethnic Russians, who make up 30% of the population, is an issue of concern to Moscow. Unemployment has become a growing problem and Latvia hopes to receive an invitation to begin EU accession talks by the end of 1999.


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

Geographic coordinates: 57 00 N, 25 00 E

Map references: Europe


total: 64,589 sq km

land: 64,589 sq km

water: 0 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

Coastline: 531 km

Maritime claims:

continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: maritime; wet, moderate winters

Terrain: low plain

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m

highest point: Gaizinkalns 312 m

Natural resources: minimal; amber, peat, limestone, dolomite

Land use:

arable land: 27%

permanent crops: 0%

permanent pastures: 13%

forests and woodland: 46%

other: 14% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 160 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: NA

Environment—current issues: air and water pollution because of a lack of waste conversion equipment; Gulf of Riga and Daugava River heavily polluted; contamination of soil and groundwater with chemicals and petroleum products at military bases

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


Population: 2,353,874 (July 1999 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 18% (male 216,369; female 207,242)

15-64 years: 67% (male 749,396; female 825,988)

65 years and over: 15% (male 114,038; female 240,841) (1999 est.)

Population growth rate: -1.25% (1999 est.)

Birth rate: 8.1 births/1,000 population (1999 est.)

Death rate: 15.82 deaths/1,000 population (1999 est.)

Net migration rate: -4.75 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1999 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 0.91 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.47 male(s)/female

total population: 0.85 male(s)/female (1999 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 17.19 deaths/1,000 live births (1999 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 67.3 years

male: 61.24 years

female: 73.66 years (1999 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.18 children born/woman (1999 est.)


noun: Latvian(s)

adjective: Latvian

Ethnic groups: Latvian 56.5%, Russian 30.4%, Byelorussian 4.3%, Ukrainian 2.8%, Polish 2.6%, other 3.4%

Religions: Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox

Languages: Lettish (official), Lithuanian, Russian, other


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 100%

male: 100%

female: 99% (1989 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

Data code: LG

Government type: parliamentary democracy

Capital: Riga

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, Leipaja*, 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

Independence: 6 September 1991 (from Soviet Union)

National holiday: Independence Day, 18 November (1918)

Constitution: the 1991 Constitutional Law which supplements the 1922 constitution, provides for basic rights and freedoms

Legal system: based on civil law system

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal for Latvian citizens

Executive branch:

chief of state: President Guntis ULMANIS (since 7 July 1993)

head of government: Prime Minister Vilis KRISTOPANS (since 21 November 1998)

cabinet: Council of Ministers nominated by the prime minister and appointed by the Parliament

elections: president elected by Parliament for a four-year term (amended from a three-year term on 4 December 1997); election last held 18 June 1996 (next to be held by NA June/July 1999); prime minister appointed by the president

election results: Guntis ULMANIS elected president in the first round of balloting; percent of parliamentary vote—Guntis ULMANIS 53%, Ilga KREITUSE 25%

Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament or Saeima (100 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve four-year terms—amended from three-year term on 4 December 1997)

elections: last held 3 October 1998 (next to be held NA October 2002)

election results: percent of vote by party—People's Party 21%, LC 18%, TSP 14%, TVB/LNNK 14%, Social Democrats 13%, New Party 8%; seats by party—People's Party 24, LC 21, TSP 16, TVB/LNNK 17, Social Democrats 14, New Party 8

Judicial branch: Supreme Court, judges' appointments are confirmed by Parliament

Political parties and leaders: New Party [Raimonds PAULS]; People's Party [Andris SKELE]; Democratic Party "Saimnieks" or DPS [Ziedonis CEVERS, chairman]; Latvia's Way or LC [Andrei PANTELEJEVS]; For Fatherland and Freedom or TVB [Maris GRINBLATS], merged with LNNK; Latvian Unity Party or LVP [Alberis KAULS]; Latvian National Conservative Party or LNNK [Andrejs KRASTINS]; Green Party or LZP [Olegs BATAREVSK]; Latvian Farmers Union or LZS [Andris ROZENTALS]; Christian Democrat Union or LKDS [Talavs JUNDZIS]; National Harmony Party or TSP [Janis JURKANS]; Latvian Socialist Party or LSP [Sergejs DIAMANIS]; Latvian Liberal Party or LLP [J. DANOSS]; Political Association of the Underprivileged or MPA [B. PELSE, V. DIMANTS, J. KALNINS]; Latvian Democratic Labor Party or LDDP [J. BOJARS]; Party of Russian Citizens or LKPP [V. SOROCHIN, V. IVANOV]; Christian People's Party or KTP (formerly People's Front of Latvia or LTF) [Uldis AUGSTKALNS]; Political Union of Economists or TPA [Edvins KIDE]; Latvian National Democratic Party or LNDP [A. MALINS]; "Our Land" or MZ [M. DAMBEKALNE]; Anticommunist Union or PA [P. MUCENIEKS]; Latvian Social-Democratic Workers Party or LSDSP [Janis DINEVICS]; Party for the Defense of Latvia's Defrauded People [leader NA]; Latvian Independence Party or LNP [Valdis KONOVALOVS]; Association of Latvian Social Democrats [Juris BOJARS, Janis ADAMSONS]

International organization participation: BIS, CBSS, CCC, CE, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, EU (applicant), FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO (correspondent), ITU, OAS (observer), OPCW, OSCE, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WEU (associate partner), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador Ojars Eriks KALNINS

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 James H. HOLMES

embassy: Raina Boulevard 7, LV-1510, Riga

mailing address: American Embassy Riga, PSC 78, Box Riga, APO AE 09723

telephone: [371] 721-0005

FAX: [371] 782-0047

Flag description: three horizontal bands of maroon (top), white (half-width), and maroon


Economy—overview: Developments in 1998 include an invitation to join the World Trade Organization (the first Baltic country invited), GDP growth of 3.6% (down from 6% in 1997), and reduced inflation at 4.7% (from 8.4% in 1997). The drop in GDP growth is largely attributable to the impact of Russia's financial crisis and reduced investment in emerging markets following the Asian financial troubles. Unofficial sanctions that Russia imposed in the spring initially hit Latvia's exporters—Russia is among Latvia's top three trade partners—but also prompted them to seek alternative markets. Latvia continued its strict fiscal and monetary policy, including its second balanced budget and had a 1.8% budget surplus. Its draft 1999 budget is based on conservative projections of 2% to 4% GDP growth and 4.5% inflation. Unemployment climbed to 9.2% in 1998, a considerable increase over the 6.7% rate in 1997. Latvia continued to have a high current account deficit, estimated at about 9%. Privatization of large state utilities—especially the energy sector—was postponed and is unlikely to resume before late 1999. EU accession remains Latvia's top priority, and Latvia expects to be invited to start EU accession talks by the end of 1999. Continued troubles in the Russian and East Asian economies probably will hold growth to around 2.5% in 1999.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$9.7 billion (1998 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 3.6% (1998 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$4,100 (1998 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:

agriculture: 7%

industry: 28%

services: 65% (1997)

Population below poverty line: NA%

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 4.3%

highest 10%: 22.1% (1993)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 4.7% (1998 est.)

Labor force: 1.4 million (1997)

Labor force—by occupation: industry 41%, agriculture and forestry 16%, services 43% (1990)

Unemployment rate: 9.2% (1998)


revenues: $1.33 billion

expenditures: $1.27 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (1998 est.)

Industries: buses, vans, street and railroad cars, synthetic fibers, agricultural machinery, fertilizers, washing machines, radios, electronics, pharmaceuticals, processed foods, textiles; dependent on imports for energy, raw materials, and intermediate products

Industrial production growth rate: 3% (1998 est.)

Electricity—production: 3.2 billion kWh (1996)

Electricity—production by source:

fossil fuel: 28.12%

hydro: 71.88%

nuclear: 0%

other: 0% (1996)

Electricity—consumption: 6.18 billion kWh (1996)

Electricity—exports: 300 million kWh (1996)

Electricity—imports: 3.28 billion kWh (1996)

Agriculture—products: grain, sugar beets, potatoes, vegetables; beef, milk, eggs; fish

Exports: $1.9 billion (f.o.b., 1998)

Exports—commodities: wood and wood products, machinery and equipment, textiles, foodstuffs

Exports—partners: Russia 21%, Germany 14%, UK 14%, Sweden 8% (1997)

Imports: $3.1 billion (f.o.b., 1998)

Imports—commodities: fuels, machinery and equipment, chemicals

Imports—partners: Russia 16%, Germany 16%, Finland 10%, Sweden 8% (1997)

Debt—external: $212 million (1998)

Economic aid—recipient: $96.2 million (1995)

Currency: 1 Latvian lat (LVL) = 100 santims

Exchange rates: lats (LVL) per US$1—0.570 (January 1999), 0.590 (1998), 0.581 (1997), 0.551 (1996), 0.528 (1995), 0.560 (1994)

Fiscal year: calendar year


Telephones: 710,848 (1997)

Telephone system: Lattelekom is 51% state owned, plans to privatize in 2000 to satisfy EU concerns; 50,000 people are on the waiting list to receive telephone service; Internet service is available throughout Latvia

domestic: local—two cellular service providers; NMT-450 and GSM standards provide service nationwide; over 75% of population covered; intercity—two synchronous digital hierarchy fiber-optic rings form the national backbone; 11 digital switching centers, 3 service centers

international: Latvia has international fiber-optic connectivity to Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania, and an undersea fiber-optic cable to Sweden

Radio broadcast stations: AM NA, FM NA, shortwave NA; note—there are 25 stations of unknown type; 75% of commercial broadcasts must be in the Latvian language; remainder mostly in Russian and European languages

Radios: 1.4 million (1993 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 30 (origin of TV broadcasts must be 40% Latvian and 40% other European languages)

Televisions: NA; note—almost 100% of the population have TV access, 16% have VCRs, and 20% have cable or satellite dishes (1995)



total: 2,412 km

broad gauge: 2,379 km 1.520-m gauge (271 km electrified) (1992)

narrow gauge: 33 km 0.750-m gauge (1994)


total: 55,942 km

paved: 21,426 km

unpaved: 34,516 km (1997 est.)

Waterways: 300 km perennially navigable

Pipelines: crude oil 750 km; refined products 780 km; natural gas 560 km (1992)

Ports and harbors: Daugavpils, Liepaja, Riga, Ventspils

Merchant marine:

total: 11 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 42,429 GRT/44,583 DWT

ships by type: cargo 3, oil tanker 4, refrigerated cargo 3, roll-on/roll-off cargo 1 (1998 est.)

Airports: 50 (1994 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:

total: 36

2,438 to 3,047 m: 6

1,524 to 2,437 m: 2

914 to 1,523 m: 1

under 914 m: 27 (1994 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:

total: 14

2,438 to 3,047 m: 2

914 to 1,523 m: 2

under 914 m: 10 (1994 est.)


Military branches: Ground Forces, Navy, Air and Air Defense Forces, Security Forces, Border Guard, Home Guard (Zemessardze)

Military manpower—military age: 18 years of age

Military manpower—availability:

males age 15-49: 565,811 (1999 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:

males age 15-49: 443,879 (1999 est.)

Military manpower—reaching military age annually:

males: 16,883 (1999 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $60 million (1999)

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 0.9% (1999)

Transnational Issues

Disputes—international: draft treaty delimiting the boundary with Russia has not been signed; ongoing talks over maritime boundary dispute with Lithuania (primary concern is 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; limited production of illicit amphetamines, ephedrine, and ecstasy for export

*Information obtained from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Fact Book.

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