Latvia

Introduction 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 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.
History

The territory of Latvia has been populated since 9000 BC with the proto-Baltic ancestors of the Latvian people settling on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea around the third millennium BC (3000 BC).[1] By 900 AD, four Baltic tribal cultures had developed: Couronians, Latgallians, Selonians, Semigallians (in Latvian: kurši, latgaļi, sēļi and zemgaļi), as well as the Livonians (līvi) speaking a Finno-Ugric language.

Across Europe, Latvia's coast was known for its amber. The ancient Balts traded Latvian amber with Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. Even today it is frequently used in traditional Latvian jewellery.

A knight (on the right) of The Livonian Brothers of the Sword.

At the end of the 12th century, traders from Western Europe often visited Latvia, setting out on trading journeys along Latvia's longest river, the Daugava, to Russia.

Christian missionaries arrived in 1180. As the Balts did not readily convert and strongly opposed the christening, German Crusaders were sent into Latvia to convert the pagan population.[2] By 1211, Christianity had effective control with the foundation stone for the Dome Cathedral in Riga laid.

In the 1200s, a confederation of feudal nations called Livonia developed under German rule. Livonia included today's Latvia and Southern Estonia. In 1282, Riga and later the cities of Cēsis, Limbaži, Koknese and Valmiera were included in the Hanseatic League. From this time, Riga became an important point in west-east trading. Riga, being the centre of the eastern Baltic region, formed close cultural contacts with Western Europe.

The 1500s were a time of great changes for the inhabitants of Latvia, notable for the reformation and the collapse of the Livonian state. After the Livonian War (1558–1583) today's Latvian territory came under Polish-Lithuanian rule. The Lutheran faith was accepted in Kurzeme, Zemgale and Vidzeme, but the Roman Catholic faith maintained its dominance in Latgale and continues to do so today.

The seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries saw a struggle between Poland, Sweden and Russia for supremacy in the eastern Baltic. Most of Polish Livonia, including Vidzeme, came under Swedish rule with the Truce of Altmark in 1629. Under the Swedish rule, serfdom was eased and a network of schools was established for the peasantry.

The Treaty of Nystad ending the Great Northern War in 1721 gave Vidzeme to Russia (it became part of the Riga Governorate). The Latgale region remained part of Poland as Inflanty until 1772, when it was joined to Russia. The Duchy of Courland became a Russian province (the Courland Governorate) in 1795, bringing all of what is now Latvia into Imperial Russia.

The promises Peter the Great made to the Baltic German nobility at the fall of Riga in 1710, confirmed by the Treaty of Nystad and known as "the Capitulations," largely reversed the Swedish reforms. The emancipation of the serfs took place in Courland in 1817 and in Vidzeme in 1819. In practice, the emancipation was actually advantageous to the nobility because it dispossessed the peasants of their land without compensation. The social structure changed dramatically, with a class of independent farmers establishing itself after reforms allowed the peasants to repurchase their land, landless peasants numbering 591 000 in 1897, a growing urban proletariat and an increasingly influential Latvian bourgeoisie. The Young Latvians (Latvian: Jaunlatvieši) movement laid the groundwork for nationalism from the middle of the century, many of its leaders looking to the Slavophiles for support against the prevailing German-dominated social order. Russification began in Latgale after the Polish led January Uprising in 1863 and spread to the rest of what is now Latvia by the 1880s. The Young Latvians were largely eclipsed by the New Current, a broad leftist social and political movement, in the 1890s. Popular discontent exploded in the 1905 Revolution, which took on a nationalist character in the Baltic provinces.

World War I devastated the country. Demands for self-determination were at first confined to autonomy, but full independence was proclaimed in Riga on November 18, 1918, by the People's Council of Latvia, Kārlis Ulmanis becoming the head of the provisional government. The War of Independence that followed was a very chaotic period in Latvia's history. By the spring of 1919 there were actually three governments — Ulmanis' government; the Soviet Latvian government led by Pēteris Stučka, whose forces, supported by the Red Army, occupied almost all of the country; and the Baltic German government of "Baltic Duchy" headed by Andrievs Niedra and supported by Baltische Landeswehr and German Freikorps unit Iron Division. Estonian and Latvian forces defeated the Germans at the Battle of Cēsis in June 1919, and a massive attack by a German and Russian force under Pavel Bermondt-Avalov was repelled in November. Eastern Latvia was cleared of Red Army forces by Polish, Latvian, and German troops in early 1920.

A freely elected Constituent Assembly was convened on May 1, 1920 and adopted a liberal constitution, the Satversme, in February 1922. This was partly suspended by Ulmanis after his coup in 1934, but reaffirmed in 1990. Since then it has been amended and is the constitution still in use in Latvia today. With most of Latvia's industrial base evacuated to the interior of Russia in 1915, radical land reform was the central political question for the young state. In 1897, 61.2% of the rural population had been landless; by 1930 that percentage had been reduced to 23.2%. The extent of cultivated land surpassed the pre-war level already in 1923. Innovation and rising productivity led to rapid growth of economy, but it soon suffered the effects of the Great Depression. Though Latvia showed signs of economic recovery and the electorate had steadily moved toward the centre during the parliamentary period, Ulmanis staged a bloodless coup on May 15, 1934, establishing a nationalist dictatorship that lasted until 1940. Most of the Baltic Germans left Latvia by agreement between Ulmanis' government and Nazi Germany after the conclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. On October 5, 1939, Latvia was forced to accept a "mutual assistance" pact with the Soviet Union, granting the Soviets the right to station 25,000 troops on Latvian territory. On June 16, 1940, Vyacheslav Molotov presented the Latvian representative in Moscow with an ultimatum accusing Latvia of violations of that pact, and on June 17 great numbers of Soviet forces occupied the country. Fraudulent elections for a "People's Saeima" were held, and a puppet government headed by Augusts Kirhenšteins led Latvia into the USSR.[citation needed] The annexation was formalised on August 5, 1940.

The Soviets dealt harshly with their opponents — prior to the German invasion, in less than a year, at least 27,586 persons were arrested; most were deported, and about 945 persons were shot. While under German occupation, Latvia was administered as part of Reichskommissariat Ostland. Latvian paramilitary and Auxiliary Police units established by occupation authority actively participated in the Holocaust. More than 200,000 Latvian citizens died during World War II, including approximately 70,000 Latvian Jews murdered during the Nazi occupation. Latvian soldiers fought on both sides of the conflict, including in the Latvian Legion of the Waffen-SS, most of them conscripted by the occupying Nazi and Soviet authorities. Refusal to join the occupying army resulted in imprisonment, threats to relatives, or even death.

The Soviets reoccupied the country in 1944–1945, and further mass deportations followed as the country was forcibly collectivised and Sovietised; 42,975 persons were deported in 1949. Influx of labourers, administrators, military personnel and their dependents from Russia and other Soviet republics started, and by 1959 the ethnic Latvian population had fallen to 62%. During the Khrushchev Thaw, attempts by national communists led by Eduards Berklavs to gain a degree of autonomy for the republic and protect the rapidly deteriorating position of the Latvian language were suppressed. In 1989 the Supreme Soviet of the USSR adopted a resolution on the "Occupation of the Baltic States," in which it declared that the occupation was "not in accordance with law," and not the "will of the Soviet people". A national movement coalescing in the Popular Front of Latvia took advantage of glasnost under Mikhail Gorbachev, opposed by the Interfront. On May 4, 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR adopted the Declaration of the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia, subject to a transition period that came to an end with Latvian independence on August 21, 1991, after the failure of the August Putsch. The Saeima, Latvia's parliament, was again elected in 1993, and Russia completed its military withdrawal in 1994.

The major goals of Latvia in the 1990s, to join NATO and the European Union, were achieved in 2004. Language and citizenship laws have been opposed by many Russophones, although a majority have now become citizens. (Citizenship was not automatically extended to former Soviet citizens who settled during the Soviet occupation or to their subsequent offspring. Children born to non-nationals after the reestablishment of independence are automatically entitled to citizenship.) The government denationalised private property confiscated by the Soviet rule, returning it or compensating the owners for it, and privatised most state-owned industries, reintroducing the prewar currency. After a difficult transition to a liberal economy and its re-orientation toward Western Europe, though its economy has one of the highest growth rates.

Geography Location: Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Estonia and Lithuania
Geographic coordinates: 57 00 N, 25 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 64,589 sq km
land: 63,589 sq km
water: 1,000 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly larger than West Virginia
Land boundaries: total: 1,348 km
border countries: Belarus 141 km, Estonia 343 km, Lithuania 588 km, Russia 276 km
Coastline: 498 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
Climate: maritime; wet, moderate winters
Terrain: low plain
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Galzina Kalns 312 m
Natural resources: peat, limestone, dolomite, amber, hydropower, wood, arable land
Land use: arable land: 28.19%
permanent crops: 0.45%
other: 71.36% (2005)
Irrigated land: 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: 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 hazards: NA
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, 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 agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: most of the country is composed of fertile, low-lying plains, with some hills in the east
Politics

The 100-seat unicameral Latvian parliament, the Saeima, is elected by direct popular vote every four years. The president is elected by the Saeima in a separate election, also held every four years. The president appoints a prime minister who, together with his cabinet, forms the executive branch of the government, which has to receive a confidence vote by the Saeima. This system also existed before the Second World War.[3] Highest civil servants are sixteen Secretaries of state.

Membership of the EU and NATO were major policy goals during the 1990s. In a nation-wide referendum on September 20, 2003, 66.9% of those taking part voted in favour of joining the European Union. Latvia became a member of the European Union on May 1, 2004. Latvia has been a NATO member since March 29, 2004.

Latvia has had strained relations with the Russian Federation due to Russian discontent with Latvian language and citizenship policies, as well as Latvia's requests for Russia to recognise it as continuous with the first Latvian Republic and acknowledge consequences of Soviet occupation.

People Population: 2,245,423 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 13.4% (male 154,077/female 146,825)
15-64 years: 69.7% (male 760,976/female 803,106)
65 years and over: 16.9% (male 124,658/female 255,781) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 39.9 years
male: 36.9 years
female: 43 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.629% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 9.62 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 13.63 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -2.29 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: 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 (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 8.96 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 10.85 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 6.97 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 71.88 years
male: 66.68 years
female: 77.35 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.29 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.6% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 7,600 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 500 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne diseases: tickborne encephalitis (2008)
Nationality: 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% (2002)
Religions: Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox
Languages: Latvian (official) 58.2%, Russian 37.5%, Lithuanian and other 4.3% (2000 census)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.7%
male: 99.8%
female: 99.7% (2000 census)
Government 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
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
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
Independence: 18 November 1918 (from Soviet Russia)
National holiday: Independence Day, 18 November (1918); note - 18 November 1918 was the date Latvia declared itself independent from Soviet Russia; 4 May 1990 is when it declared the renewal of independence; 21 August 1991 was the date of de facto independence from the Soviet Union
Constitution: 15 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 system: based on civil law system with traces of Socialist legal traditions and practices; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 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 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 branch: unicameral 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 7%; 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 February 2008 - TP 21, ZZS 17, SC 17, JL 14, LPP/LC 10, TB/LNNK 5, PCTVL 6, independents 10
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (judges' appointments are confirmed by Parliament); Constitutional Court (judges' appointments are confirmed by Parliament)
Political parties and leaders: First Party of Latvia/Latvia's Way or LPP/LC [Ainars SLESERS, Ivars GODMANIS]; For Human Rights in a United Latvia or PCTVL [Jakovs PLINERS]; For the Fatherland and Freedom/Latvian National Independence Movement or TB/LNNK [Roberts ZILE, Maris GRINBLATS]; Harmony Center or SC [Janis URBANOVICS, Nils USAKOVS]; Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party (Social Democrats) or LSDSP [Juris BOJARS]; Latvian Socialist Party or LSP [Alfreds RUBIKS]; New Democrats or JD [Maris GULBIS]; New Era Party or JL [Einars REPSE, Krisjanis KARINS]; People's Party or TP [Aigars KALVITIS]; The Union of Latvian Greens and Farmers Party or ZZS [Augusts BRIGMANIS]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Headquarters for the Protection of Russian Schools (SHTAB) [Aleksandr KAZAKOV]
International organization participation: Australia 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), OPCW, OSCE, PCA, Schengen Convention, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WEU (associate partner), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Andrejs PILDEGOVICS
chancery: 2306 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 328-2840
FAX: [1] (202) 328-2860
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Charles LARSON Jr.
embassy: 7 Raina Boulevard, Riga LV-1510
mailing address: American Embassy Riga, PSC 78, Box Riga, APO AE 09723
telephone: [371] 703-6200
FAX: [371] 782-0047
Flag description: three horizontal bands of maroon (top), white (half-width), and maroon
Culture

Between the thirteenth and nineteenth century, Baltic Germans, many of whom were originally of non-German ancestry but had been assimilated into German culture, formed the upper class.[citation needed] They developed a distinct cultural heritage, characterised by both Latvian and German influences. It has survived in German Baltic families to this day, in spite of their dispersal to Germany, the USA, Canada and other countries in the early 20th century. However, most indigenous Latvians did not participate in this particular cultural life.[citation needed] Thus, the mostly peasant local pagan heritage was preserved, partly merging with Christian traditions, for example in one of the most popular celebrations today which is Jāņi, a pagan celebration of the summer solstice, celebrated on the feast day of St. John the Baptist.

In the nineteenth century Latvian nationalist movements emerged promoting Latvian culture and encouraging Latvians to take part in cultural activities. The nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century is often regarded as a classical era of Latvian culture. Posters show the influence of other European cultures, for example, works of artists such as the Baltic-German artist Bernhard Borchert and the French Raoul Dufy.

After incorporation into the USSR, Latvian artists and writers were forced to follow the Socialist realism style of art. During the Soviet era, music became increasingly popular, with the most popular being songs from the 1980s. At this time, songs often made fun of the characteristics of Soviet life and were concerned about preserving Latvian identity. This aroused popular protests against the USSR and also gave rise to an increasing popularity of poetry. Since independence, theatre, scenography and classical music have become the most notable branches of Latvian culture.

Economy Economy - overview: 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.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $40.04 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $27 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 10.3% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $17,700 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 3.5%
industry: 21.3%
services: 75.2% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 1.136 million (2006 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 13%
industry: 19%
services: 68% (2005 est.)
Unemployment rate: 5.9% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2.5%
highest 10%: 29.1% (2003)
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 37.7 (2003)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 9.6% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 35.8% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $8.975 billion
expenditures: $8.88 billion (2007 est.)
Public debt: 8.8% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products: grain, sugar beets, potatoes, vegetables; beef, pork, milk, eggs; fish
Industries: 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
Industrial production growth rate: 5.9% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production: 4.778 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 29.1%
hydro: 70.9%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 6.09 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 707 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 2.855 billion kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 0 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption: 34,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 6,765 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports: 39,190 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 1.861 billion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 1.861 billion cu m (2005)
Current account balance: $-5.839 billion (2007 est.)
Exports: $7.551 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: wood and wood products, machinery and equipment, metals, textiles, foodstuffs
Exports - partners: Lithuania 14.2%, Estonia 12.3%, Russia 11.5%, Germany 9.8%, UK 7.6%, Sweden 6.3%, Denmark 4.8% (2006)
Imports: $13.7 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment, chemicals, fuels, vehicles
Imports - partners: Germany 15.5%, Lithuania 12.9%, Russia 8%, Estonia 7.7%, Poland 7.2%, Finland 5.7%, Sweden 5%, Belarus 4.7% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $162 million (2004)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $5.16 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external: $29.85 billion (30 June 2007)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home: $6.418 billion (2006 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad: $442 million (2006 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $2.705 billion (2006)
Currency (code): lat (LVL)
Currency code: LVL
Exchange rates: lati per US dollar - 0.5162 (2007), 0.5597 (2006), 0.5647 (2005), 0.5402 (2004), 0.5715 (2003)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 657,400 (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 2.184 million (2006)
Telephone system: general assessment: recent efforts focused on bringing competition to the telecommunications sector; the number of fixed lines is decreasing as wireless telephony 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 is roughly 125 per 100 persons
international: country code - 371; the Latvian network is now connected via fiber optic cable to Estonia, Finland, and Sweden
Radio broadcast stations: AM 8, FM 56, shortwave 1 (1998)
Radios: 1.76 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 44 (plus 31 repeaters) (1995)
Televisions: 1.22 million (1997)
Internet country code: .lv
Internet hosts: 234,014 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 41 (2001)
Internet users: 1.071 million (2006)
Transportation Airports: 42 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 21
2,438 to 3,047 m: 7
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 9 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 21
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 20 (2007)
Pipelines: gas 948 km; oil 82 km; refined products 415 km (2007)
Railways: total: 2,303 km
broad gauge: 2,270 km 1.520-m gauge (257 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 33 km 0.750-m gauge (2006)
Roadways: total: 69,532 km
paved: 69,532 km (2004)
Waterways: 300 km (2006)
Merchant marine: total: 22 ships (1000 GRT or over) 201,684 GRT/221,186 DWT
by type: cargo 9, liquefied gas 2, passenger/cargo 4, petroleum tanker 5, roll on/roll off 2
foreign-owned: 1 (Estonia 1)
registered in other countries: 122 (Antigua and Barbuda 9, Belize 14, Cambodia 2, Cyprus 1, Dominica 2, Jamaica 2, Liberia 15, Malta 36, Marshall Islands 10, Panama 5, Russia 2, St Kitts and Nevis 4, St Vincent and The Grenadines 20) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Riga, Ventspils
Military Military branches: Latvian Republic Defense Force: Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force (Latvijas Gaisa Spelki), Border Guard, Latvian Home Guard (Latvijas Zemessardze) (2007)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for voluntary military service; conscription abolished January 2007; under current law, every citizen is entitled to serve in the armed forces for life (2006)
Manpower available for military service: males age 19-49: 517,713
females age 19-49: 519,631 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 19-49: 361,098
females age 19-49: 422,913 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 19,137
females age 19-49: 18,505 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 1.2% (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: 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
Illicit drugs: transshipment and destination point for cocaine, synthetic drugs, opiates, and cannabis from Southwest Asia, Western Europe, Latin America, and neighboring Balkan countries; despite improved legislation, vulnerable to money laundering due to nascent enforcement capabilities and comparatively weak regulation of offshore companies and the gaming industry; CIS organized crime (including counterfeiting, corruption, extortion, stolen cars, and prostitution) accounts for most laundered proceeds