Background: After a short period of independence between the two world wars, Latvia was annexed by the Soviet Union. The restoration of independence took place in 1991 after the collapse of the USSR. Although the last Russian troops left the country in 1994, the status of the Russian minority (about 30% of the population) continues to interest Moscow. Latvia continues to prepare its economy for the final integration of the country into various political and economic institutions of Western Europe.
Location: Eastern Europe, Baltic Sea coast between Estonia and Lithuania.
Geographical coordinates: 57° 00′ N. latitude, 25° 00′ E
Reference map: Europe.
Area: total: 64,589 km2; land surface area: 64,589 km2; water surface area: 0 km2
Comparative area: slightly larger than West Virginia.
Land borders: total: 1,150 km; with neighboring states: with Belarus 141 km, with Estonia 339 km, with Lithuania 453 km, with Russia 217 km.
Coastline: 531 km.
Maritime claims: continental shelf: to a depth of 200 m or to the depth of field development; exclusive economic zone: 200 nautical miles; territorial waters: 12 nautical miles.
Climate: maritime; wet moderate winter.
Terrain: flat plain.
Maximum and minimum heights: lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m; highest point: Gaizinkalns 312 m.
Natural resources: minimal; amber, peat, limestone, dolomites, hydropower, arable land.
Land use: arable land: 27%; cultivated land: 0%; pastures: 13%; forests and plantations: 46%; others: 14% (1993 est.).
Irrigated land: 160 km2 (1993 est.).
Natural hazards: no data available.
Actual environmental problems: water and air pollution due to lack of treatment facilities; The Gulf of Riga and the Daugava River are heavily polluted; contamination of soil and groundwater with chemicals, including oil products, near former Soviet military bases.
International environmental agreements: party to: Air pollution, Biodiversity, Climate change, Endangered species, Hazardous waste, Ozone layer protection, Ship pollution, Wetlands; signed but not ratified: Air Pollution – Persistent Organic Pollutants, Kyoto Protocol. Population Population: 2,385,231 (June 2001 est.).
Note to the section “Geography”:
Age structure: under 14: 16.55% (male 201,746; female 193,036); 15 to 64 years old: 68.15% (men 776,509; women 848,908); over 65: 15.3% (male 118,110; female 246,922) (2001 est.).
Population growth: -0.81% (2001 est.).
Birth rate: 8.03 newborns / 1000 people. (2001 est.).
Mortality: 14.8 deaths / 1000 people. (2001 est.).
Migration: -1.27 people /1000 people (2001 est.).
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male/female; under 15: 1.04 male/female; from 15 to 64 years old: 0.91 male/female; over 65: 0.48 male/female; for the general population: 0.85 male/female (2001 est.);
Child mortality: 15.34 deaths/1000 live births (2001 est.).
Life expectancy: for the general population: 68.7 years; men: 62.8 years; women: 74.9 years (2001 est.).
General birth rate: 1.15 children/wives. (2001 est.).
Proportion of adults infected with HIV: 0.11% (1999 est.).
Number of people infected with HIV: 1,250 (1999 est.).
AIDS deaths: less than 100 (1999 est.).
Nationality: noun: Latvian; adjective: Latvian, Latvian.
Ethnic groups: Latvians 56.5%. Russians 30.4%, Belarusians 4.3%, Ukrainians 2.8%, Poles 2.6%, others 3.4%.
Believers: Lutherans, Catholics, Orthodox.
Language(s): Latvian (official), Lithuanian, Russian, others.
Literacy: definition: persons aged 15 and over who can read and write; for the general population: 100%; men: 100%; women: 99% (1989 est.).
Common long form: Republic of Latvia;
conventional short form: Latvia; local long form: Latvijas Republika local short form: Latvija; former: Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic
State structure: parliamentary democracy. See a2zgov.com to know more about Latvia government and politics.
Administrative division: 26 districts and 7 municipalities*: Aizkraukle, Aluksnes, Balvy, Bauska, Valka, Valmiera, Ventspils*, Ventspils, Gulbene, Daugavpips*, Daugavpips, Dobele, Jekabpips, Jelgava*, Epgava, Kraslava, Kul – Diga, Liepaja*, Liepaja, Limbazhi, Ludza, Madona, Ogre, Preili, Rezekne*, Rezekne, Riga*, Riga, Saldus, Tapsy, Tukums, Cesis, Jurmala*.
Independence: from November 18, 1991 (until 1991 – as part of the USSR).
National holiday: Independence Day, November 18 (1918); note – November 18, 1918 independence from Soviet Russia was proclaimed, November 18, 1991 – the date of independence from the USSR.
Constitution: The 1991 Constitutional Law supplemented the 1922 Constitution, which provides for fundamental rights and freedoms.
Legal system: based on the civil law system.
Suffrage: from 18 years old; universal for citizens of Latvia.
chief of state: President Vaira VIKE-FREIBERGA (since 8 July 1999);
head of the government: Prime Minister Andris BERZINS (since May 5, 2000);
Government: Council of Ministers proposed by the Prime Minister and approved by Parliament; elections: the president is elected by the Parliament for 4 years; elections last held 17 June 1999 (next to be held June 2003); the prime minister is appointed by the president; election results: Vaira VIKE-FREJBERGA elected as a compromise candidate in the 2nd round of the 2nd phase of voting (after 5 unsuccessful rounds in the 1st phase); Distribution of votes in Parliament: Vaira VJKE-FREJBERGA 53%, Valdis BIRKAVS 20%, Ingrida UDRE 9%.
Legislature: unicameral Parliament (Saeima) (100 seats; members are elected by direct universal suffrage for 4 years); elections: last held 3 October 1998 (next to be held in October 2002); election results: distribution of votes between parties: People’s Party 21%, LC 18%, TSP 14%, TV-LNNK 14%, Social Democrats 13%, New Party 8%; distribution of seats among parties: People’s Party 24, LC 21, TV-LNNK 17, TSP 16, Social Democrats 14, New Party 8.
Judiciary: Supreme Court, judges approved by Parliament.
Political parties and leaders: Anti-Communist Union (RA) (MUTSENIEKS [P. MUCENI-EKS]); Christian Democratic Union (LKDS) (Talavs JUNDZIS); Christian People’s Party (KTP) (Uldis AUGSTKALNS [Uldis AUGSTKALNS]); Democratic Party “Saimnieks” (DPS) (Ziedonis CEVERS, chairman); For Motherland and Freedom (TV) (Maris GRIN-BLATS), merged with LNNK; For Human Rights in a United Latvia (Janis JURKANS), a coalition of the National Accord Party (TSP), the Latvian Socialist Party (LSP) and the Movement for Equal Rights; Green Party (LZP) (Olegs BATAREVSK); Latvian Liberal Party (LLP) (DANOSS [J. DANOSS]); Latvian National Conservative Party (LNNK) (Andrejs KRASTINS); Latvian National Democratic Party (LNDP) (MALINSH [A. MA-LINS]); Latvian Social Democratic Labor Party (Social Democrats) (LSDSP) (Juris BOJARS, Janis ADAMSONS [Juris BOJARS, Janis ADAMSONS]); Latvian Unity Party (LVP) (Alberis KAULS); Latvian Way (LC) (Andrei PANTELEJEVS); New Christian Party (Ainars SLESERS); “Our land” (MZ) (M. DAM-BEKALNE [M. DAMBEKALNE]); Party of Russian Citizens (LKPP) (V. SOROCHIN, V. IVANOV [V. SO-ROCHIN, V. IVANOV]); Political Union of Economists (TRA) (Edvins KIDE); People’s Party (Andris SKELE [Andris SKELE]). Latvian Way (LC) (Andrei PANTELEJEVS); New Christian Party (Ainars SLESERS); “Our land” (MZ) (M. DAM-BEKALNE [M. DAMBEKALNE]); Party of Russian Citizens (LKPP) (V. SOROCHIN, V. IVANOV [V. SO-ROCHIN, V. IVANOV]); Political Union of Economists (TRA) (Edvins KIDE); People’s Party (Andris SKELE [Andris SKELE]). Latvian Way (LC) (Andrei PANTELEJEVS); New Christian Party (Ainars SLESERS); “Our land” (MZ) (M. DAM-BEKALNE [M. DAMBEKALNE]); Party of Russian Citizens (LKPP) (V. SOROCHIN, V. IVANOV [V. SO-ROCHIN, V. IVANOV]); Political Union of Economists (TRA) (Edvins KIDE); People’s Party (Andris SKELE [Andris SKELE]).
Political influence groups and their leaders:
Participation in international organizations: BIS, CBSS, CCC, CE, EARC, EBRD, ECE, EU (applicant), FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (correspondent), ITU, NSG, OAS (observer), OPCW, OSCE, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPU, WEU (associate partner), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO.
US Diplomatic Mission: Head of Mission: Ambassador Aivis RONIS; office: 4325 17th Street NW, Washington, DC 20011; phone:  (202) 726-8213, 726-8214; fax:  (202) 726-6785.
US Diplomatic Mission: 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; phone:  721-0005; fax:  782-0047.
Flag Description: Three horizontal stripes of maroon (top), white and maroon.