Facts about Latvia

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LatviaThe 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.

Geography of Latvia

Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Estonia and Lithuania
57 00 N, 25 00 E
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, amber, hydropower, wood, arable land
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
Geography - note:
most of the country is composed of fertile, low-lying plains, with some hills in the east

Population of Latvia

2,245,423 (July 2008 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)
Median age:
total: 39.4 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
9.35 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 71.33 years
male: 66.08 years
female: 76.85 years
Fertility rate:
1.27 children born/woman
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: 99.8%
female: 99.8% 


Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of 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 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
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 Valdis ZATLERS (since 8 July 2007)
head of government: Prime Minister Ivars GODMANIS (since 20 December 2007)
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.
Legislative branch:
unicameral Parliament or Saeima (100 seats; members are elected by direct, popular vote to serve four-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (judges' appointments are confirmed by Parliament)


Latvia's economy experienced GDP growth of more than 10% per year during 2006-07. 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 - more than 22% of GDP in 2007 - and inflation - at nearly 10% per year - remain major concerns.

$40.05 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 4%
industry: 26.1%
services: 69.9%
Inflation rate:
2.8% (
Labor force:
1.1 million
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 15%, industry 25%, services 60% 
revenues: $5.646 billion
expenditures: $5.889 billion
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 29.1%
hydro: 70.9%
other: 0% 
nuclear: 0%
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
grain, sugar beets, potatoes, vegetables; beef, pork, milk, eggs; fish
wood and wood products, machinery and equipment, metals, textiles, foodstuffs
Export partners:
Lithuania 10.8%, Estonia 10.3%, UK 10.1%, Germany 10%, Sweden 7.9%, Russia 7.6%, Poland 5.6%, Denmark 5.3% 
machinery and equipment, chemicals, fuels, vehicles
Import partners:
Lithuania 13.8%, Germany 13.3%, Russia 8.6%, Estonia 7.9%, Poland 6.4%, Finland 5.8%, Belarus 5.7%, Sweden 5.3% 
Latvian lat (LVL)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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