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Latvia Historical and Political Profile

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Latvia Index

  • Latvia-Establishing Foreign Relations
  • Latvia-Preface
  • Latvia -National Security
  • Latvia-Government and Politics
  • Latvia-Religion
  • Latvia-Government and Politics Transportation and Telecommunications
  • Latvia-Climate
  • Latvia-Independence, 1918-40
  • Latvia-Postindependence Economic Difficulties
  • Latvia-Foreign Relations Mass Media
  • Latvia-Society
  • Latvia-Foreword
  • Latvia-National Security
  • Latvia-Political System
  • Latvia -Chapter 2 - Latvia
  • Latvia-Economy
  • Latvia-Urbanization, Employment, and Education
  • Latvia-Physical Environment The Pursuit of Independence, 1987-91
  • Latvia-Historical Setting
  • Latvia-Introduction
  • Latvia
  • Latvia-Economy Language and Culture
  • Latvia-Acknowledgments
  • Latvia-Historical Legacy
  • Latvia-Table A - Chronology of Important Events
  • Latvia
  • Latvia-Latvia
  • Latvia-Geography Country
  • Latvia-Outlook Crime and Law Enforcement
  • Latvia-Economic Sectors
  • Latvia-Population Changes since Independence
  • BackgroundThe 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.
    LocationEastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Estonia and Lithuania
    Area(sq km)total: 64,589 sq km
    land: 62,249 sq km
    water: 2,340 sq km
    Geographic coordinates57 00 N, 25 00 E
    Land boundaries(km)total: 1,382 km
    border countries: Belarus 171 km, Estonia 343 km, Lithuania 576 km, Russia 292 km

    Coastline(km)498 km

    Climatemaritime; wet, moderate winters

    Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
    highest point: Galzina Kalns 312 m
    Natural resourcespeat, limestone, dolomite, amber, hydropower, wood, arable land
    Land use(%)arable land: 28.19%
    permanent crops: 0.45%
    other: 71.36% (2005)

    Irrigated land(sq km)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(cu km)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 hazardsNA
    Environment - current issuesLatvia'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 agreementsparty to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
    signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
    Geography - notemost of the country is composed of fertile, low-lying plains, with some hills in the east
    Population2,231,503 (July 2009 est.)
    Age structure(%)0-14 years: 13.3% (male 152,472/female 145,161)
    15-64 years: 69.6% (male 756,469/female 797,505)
    65 years and over: 17% (male 124,432/female 255,464) (2009 est.)
    Median age(years)total: 40.1 years
    male: 37.1 years
    female: 43.3 years (2009 est.)
    Population growth rate(%)-0.614% (2009 est.)
    Birth rate(births/1,000 population)9.78 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
    Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)13.62 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

    Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)-2.3 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
    Urbanization(%)urban population: 68% of total population (2008)
    rate of urbanization: -0.5% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
    Sex ratio(male(s)/female)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 (2009 est.)
    Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 8.77 deaths/1,000 live births
    male: 10.63 deaths/1,000 live births
    female: 6.82 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

    Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 72.15 years
    male: 66.98 years
    female: 77.59 years (2009 est.)

    Total fertility rate(children born/woman)1.3 children born/woman (2009 est.)
    Nationalitynoun: 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)

    Religions(%)Lutheran 19.6%, Orthodox 15.3%, other Christian 1%, other 0.4%, unspecified 63.7% (2006)
    Languages(%)Latvian (official) 58.2%, Russian 37.5%, Lithuanian and other 4.3% (2000 census)

    Country nameconventional long form: Republic of Latvia
    conventional short form: Latvia
    local long form: Latvijas Republika
    local short form: Latvija
    former: Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic
    Government typeparliamentary democracy
    Capitalname: 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 divisions26 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
    Constitution15 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 systembased on civil law system with traces of Socialist legal traditions and practices; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

    Suffrage18 years of age; universal for Latvian citizens
    Executive branchchief of state: President Valdis ZATLERS (since 8 July 2007)
    head of government: Prime Minister Valdis DOMBROVSKIS (since 12 March 2009)
    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 branchunicameral 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 6.9%; 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 November 2009 - TP 21, SC 18, ZZS 17, JL 15, LPP/LC 10, Civic Union 6, TB/LNNK 5, PCTVL 5, independents 3

    Judicial branchSupreme Court (judges' appointments are confirmed by parliament); Constitutional Court (judges' appointments are confirmed by parliament)

    Political pressure groups and leadersFree Trade Union Confederation of Latvia [Peteris KRIGERS], Employers' Confederation of Latvia [Elina EGLE], Farmers' Parliament [Juris LAZDINS]
    International organization participationAustralia 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), OIF (observer), OPCW, OSCE, PCA, Schengen Convention, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WEU (associate partner), WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
    Flag descriptionthree horizontal bands of maroon (top), white (half-width), and maroon

    Economy - overviewLatvia's economy experienced GDP growth of more than 10% per year during 2006-07; but entered a severe recession in 2008 as a result of an unsustainable current account deficit and large debt exposure amid the softening world economy. The IMF, EU, and other donors provided assistance to Latvia as part of an agreement to defend the currency's peg to the euro and reduce the fiscal deficit to about 5% of GDP. 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 and inflation remain major concerns.
    GDP (purchasing power parity)$38.95 billion (2008 est.)
    $40.83 billion (2007 est.)
    $37.12 billion (2006 est.)
    note: data are in 2008 US dollars
    GDP (official exchange rate)$33.98 billion (2008 est.)
    GDP - real growth rate(%)-4.6% (2008 est.)
    10% (2007 est.)
    12.2% (2006 est.)
    GDP - per capita (PPP)$17,300 (2008 est.)
    $18,100 (2007 est.)
    $16,300 (2006 est.)
    note: data are in 2008 US dollars
    GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 3.1%
    industry: 22.7%
    services: 74.2% (2008 est.)
    Labor force1.193 million (2008 est.)

    Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 12.1%
    industry: 25.8%
    services: 61.8% (2005 est.)
    Unemployment rate(%)7.5% (2008 est.)
    5.7% (2007 est.)
    Population below poverty line(%)NA%
    Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: 2.7%
    highest 10%: 27.4% (2004)
    Distribution of family income - Gini index36 (2005)
    32 (1999)
    Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)30.2% of GDP (2008 est.)
    Budgetrevenues: $12.06 billion
    expenditures: $13.41 billion (2008 est.)
    Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)15.4% (2008 est.)
    10.1% (2007 est.)

    Stock of money$6.688 billion (31 December 2008)
    $8.196 billion (31 December 2007)
    Stock of quasi money$5.572 billion (31 December 2008)
    $5.113 billion (31 December 2007)
    Stock of domestic credit$28.96 billion (31 December 2008)
    $27.56 billion (31 December 2007)
    Market value of publicly traded shares$1.609 billion (31 December 2008)
    $3.111 billion (31 December 2007)
    $2.705 billion (31 December 2006)
    Economic aid - recipient$162 million (2004)

    Public debt(% of GDP)19.5% of GDP (2008 est.)
    11.8% of GDP (2004 est.)
    Agriculture - productsgrain, sugar beets, potatoes, vegetables; beef, pork, milk, eggs; fish
    Industriesbuses, 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(%)-4.5% (2008 est.)

    Current account balance-$4.492 billion (2008 est.)
    -$6.485 billion (2007 est.)
    Exports$9.634 billion (2008 est.)
    $8.227 billion (2007 est.)

    Exports - commodities(%)wood and wood products, machinery and equipment, metals, textiles, foodstuffs
    Exports - partners(%)Lithuania 15.5%, Russia 14.7%, Estonia 13.2%, Germany 7.7%, Sweden 6.2%, Denmark 4.3% (2008)
    Imports$15.65 billion (2008 est.)
    $15.13 billion (2007 est.)

    Imports - commodities(%)machinery and equipment, chemicals, fuels, vehicles
    Imports - partners(%)Lithuania 16.1%, Germany 12.9%, Russia 10.7%, Poland 7%, Estonia 7%, Sweden 4.4%, Finland 4.3% (2008)

    Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$5.248 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
    $5.758 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
    Debt - external$42.26 billion (31 December 2008)
    $38.95 billion (31 December 2007)

    Stock of direct foreign investment - at home$11.21 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
    $9.779 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
    Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad$1.083 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
    $782 million (31 December 2007 est.)
    Exchange rateslati (LVL) per US dollar - 0.4701 (2008 est.), 0.5162 (2007), 0.5597 (2006), 0.5647 (2005), 0.5402 (2004)

    Currency (code)lat (LVL)

    Telephones - main lines in use644,000 (2008)
    Telephones - mobile cellular2.234 million (2008)
    Telephone systemgeneral assessment: recent efforts focused on bringing competition to the telecommunications sector; the number of fixed lines is decreasing as wireless telephone service 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 exceeds 125 per 100 persons
    international: country code - 371; the Latvian network is now connected via fiber optic cable to Estonia, Finland, and Sweden (2008)
    Internet country code.lv
    Internet users1.254 million (2008)
    Airports43 (2009)
    Pipelines(km)gas 948 km; refined products 415 km (2008)
    Roadways(km)total: 69,675 km
    paved: 69,675 km (2006)

    Ports and terminalsRiga, Ventspils
    Military branchesNational 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) (2009)
    Military service age and obligation(years of age)18 years of age for voluntary male and female military service; conscription abolished January 2007; under current law, every citizen is entitled to serve in the armed forces for life (2009)
    Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 568,683
    females age 16-49: 565,826 (2008 est.)
    Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 410,374
    females age 16-49: 463,144 (2009 est.)
    Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 12,901
    female: 12,497 (2009 est.)
    Military expenditures(% of GDP)1.2% of GDP (2005 est.)
    Disputes - internationalRussia 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

    Electricity - production(kWh)4.62 billion kWh (2007 est.)
    Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 29.1%
    hydro: 70.9%
    nuclear: 0%
    other: 0% (2001)
    Electricity - consumption(kWh)6.822 billion kWh (2007 est.)
    Electricity - exports(kWh)2.123 billion kWh (2008 est.)
    Electricity - imports(kWh)4.643 billion kWh (2008 est.)
    Oil - production(bbl/day)0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
    Oil - consumption(bbl/day)39,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
    Oil - exports(bbl/day)5,873 bbl/day (2007 est.)
    Oil - imports(bbl/day)43,400 bbl/day (2007 est.)
    Oil - proved reserves(bbl)0 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
    Natural gas - production(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
    Natural gas - consumption(cu m)2.05 billion cu m (2008 est.)
    Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
    HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)0.8% (2007 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS10,000 (2007 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - deathsfewer than 500 (2007 est.)
    Major infectious diseasesdegree of risk: intermediate
    food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea
    vectorborne diseases: tickborne encephalitis (2009)
    Literacy(%)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)(years)total: 16 years
    male: 14 years
    female: 17 years (2006)
    Education expenditures(% of GDP)5.1% of GDP (2004)

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