macrohistory & world report

Republic of Latvia

Map of Latvia

Latvia (capital Riga) and neighboring states

World Factbook as of November 2014: Latvia is a small, open economy with exports contributing nearly a third of GDP. Due to its geographical location, transit services are highly-developed, along with timber and wood-processing, agriculture and food products, and manufacturing of machinery and electronics industries. Corruption continues to be an impediment to attracting foreign direct investment and Latvia's low birth rate and decreasing population are major challenges to its long-term economic vitality... The economy has not returned to pre-crisis levels despite strong growth, especially in the export sector in 2011-12. The IMF, EU, and other international donors provided substantial financial assistance to Latvia as part of an agreement to defend the currency's peg to the euro in exchange for the government's commitment to stringent austerity measures. ... The government of Prime Minister Valdis DOMBROVSKIS remains committed to fiscal prudence and reducing the fiscal deficit. The majority of companies, banks, and real estate have been privatized, although the state still holds sizable stakes in a few large enterprises, including 99.8% ownership of the Latvian national airline. Latvia officially joined the World Trade Organization in February 1999 and the EU in May 2004."

Economic growth rate
2013: 4%
2012: 5.6%
2011: 5.5%

Work force in agriculture
2011: 4.1%

Unemployment rate
2013: 9.8%
2012: 11.4%
2011 : 13%

Public debt
2011: 44.8% of GDP
2010: 44.7% of GDP

Export/import ratio
2011: Exports 81.7% of imports.

Export parters
2010: Russia 15.2%, Lithuania 15.2%, Estonia 12.6%, Germany 8.2%, Sweden 5.9%, Poland 4.7%

Income Distribution – GINI index
Ranks 90th among 140 countries (lower rank number is less equal) .

Health expenditures
2009: 8.1% of GDP


Living in an urban area
2010: 68%

Migration rate
2012: A net loss of 2.34 persons per 1,000 population.

Health care
Latvia 2002: Latvia spends $166 per year per person on health care compared to $1,704 for Finland and $243 for Estonia.

Latvians commemorate the disappearance of 15,000 people into Stalin's prison system in 1941. Among the disappeared were top army officers and intellectuals. It is similar to what Stalin did to Polish military leaders.

Latvia's national anthem has these words:

Latvia Bless Latvia, O God,
Our verdant native land sod,
Where Baltic heroes trod,
Keep her from harm!


Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Estonia and Lithuania


Parliamentary democracy. President elected by parliament for a four year term and eligible for a second term. Members of Parliament popularly elected to four-year terms.

Freedom of the Press
Latvia has been listed in the top ten.

Capital: Riga

Recent History

In 1920 the Soviet government signed a peace treaty recognizing Latvia's independence, remaining until 1940. Latvia was traded by Hitler to Stalin in the Hitler-Stalin pact of August 1939.  

Latvia was primarily an agricultural economy, with fishing and a timber industry, but the Soviet Union industrialized it, and many non-Latvians moved in.

Latvia suffered economically with  independence in 1990 and the removal of Soviet industries.  Joblessness followed, and many men turned to vodka and suicide. The trauma and poverty of the early 1990s is said to have left Latvian women hesitant or reluctant to bring children into the world. There was a high abortion rate.

In 2004, Latvia joined the European Union and NATO, to the annoyance of Russia. Latvia's entry into the European Union required a speed up of its naturalization of minorities, including its Russian population. Latvia is a member of the coalition in Iraq, with a little over 100 soldiers there. Membership in NATO is seen by some as security against a Russian invasion. Latvia and Russia have not agreed upon a border between them. Russia is concerned about opinion in Latvia that favors those who fought on the side of Germany in World War II, and Russia is concerned about the more than 30 percent of Latvia's population that is Russian.

The World Factbook

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