The 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 re-established 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.


Location: Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Estonia and Lithuania
Geographic coordinates: 57 00 N, 25 00 E
Population: 2,191,580 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 13.5% (male 152,706/female 145,756)

15-64 years:  69.5% (male 747,044/female 785,521)

65 years and over:  16.9% (male 121,570/female 252,111) (2011 est.)

Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Latvia

conventional short form: Latvia

local long form: LatvijasRepublika

local short form: Latvija

former: Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic

Government type: parliamentary democracy
Capital: name: 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

Telephones – main lines in use: 532,100 (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 2.306 million (2009)
Airports: 42 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 19

over 3,047 m: 1

2,438 to 3,047 m: 3

1,524 to 2,437 m: 5

914 to 1,523 m: 3

under 914 m: 7 (2012)

Military branches: Latvian Republic Defence Force: Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force (LatvijasGaisaSpelki), Border Guard, Latvian Home Guard (LatvijasZemessardze) (2011)
Military service age and obligation: 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)


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.

Transnational Issues:

Russia refuses to sign the 1997 boundary treaty due to Latvian insistence on a unilateral clarificatory declaration referencing Soviet occupation of Latvia and territorial losses; Russia 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