For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
Republic of Latvia
Area: 64,100 sq. km. (25,640 sq. mi.); about the size of West Virginia.
Cities (2002): Capital--Riga (739,232). Other cities--Daugavpils (112,609); Liepaja (86,985); Jelgava (65,754); Jurmala (55,156); Ventspils (44,010); Rezekne (37,777).
Terrain: Fertile low-lying plains predominate in central Latvia, highlands in Vidzeme and Latgale to the east, and hilly moraine in the western Kurzeme region. Forests cover one-third of the country, with over 3,000 small lakes and numerous bogs.
Land use: 20% arable land, 8% meadows and pastures, 45% forest and woodland, 26.7% other.
Climate: Temperate, with four seasons of almost equal length. January temperatures average -5oC (23oF); July 17oC (63oF). Annual precipitation averages 57 centimeters (23 in.).
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Latvian(s).
Growth rate: -0.6%. Birth rate--8.6/1,000. Death rate--13.9/1,000. Divorce rate--2.5/1,000. Migration rate--1,500 immigrants, 3,300 emigrants.
Density--36.4/1 km2. Urban dwellers--68.9%.
Major ethnic groups: Latvian 58.5%, Russians 29%, Belarusians 3.9%, Ukrainians 2.6%, Poles 2.5%.
Religions: Lutheran, Orthodox, Roman Catholic.
State language: Latvian. Russian also is spoken by most people.
Education: Years compulsory--9. By 1989, 60% of the adult populace had finished high school, and 12% had completed college. Attendance--408,000 students in 1,057 schools and 90,000 university students. Literacy--99%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--9.8/1,000. Life expectancy--65.4 yrs. male, 76.8 yrs. female.
Work force (989,000 people): Industry--16.9%; agriculture/forestry--14.9%; trade--14.9%; education--8.9%; transport/communications--8.7%; public administration/defense--6.9%; construction--6.1%; healthcare/social welfare--6.1%.
Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Constitution: The law "On the Republic of Latvia Status as a State," passed by Parliament on August 21, 1991, provided for the reinstatement of the 1922 constitution.
Branches: Executive--President (head of state), elected by Parliament every 4 years; Prime Minister (head of government). Legislative--Saeima (100-member body). Judicial--Supreme Court. Administrative regions: 26 "rural" districts and 6 districts in Riga.
Principal political factions: New Era--24 seats, People's Party--20 seats, Latvia's First Party--14 seats, Farmers and Greens--12 seats, National Harmony Party--9 seats, Fatherland and Freedom--7 seats, For Human Rights in United Latvia--6 seats, Latvia's Socialist Party--5 seats; there are three independent members.
Suffrage: 18 years universal.
Economy (2002 data)
GDP: $8.41 billion.
Growth rate: 6.1%.
Inflation rate: 1.9%.
Average annual wages: $3,359.
Natural resources: Peat, limestone, dolomite, gypsum, timber.
Agriculture/forestry (4.5% of GDP): Products--cattle, dairy foods, cereals, potatoes. Cultivable land--2.48 million hectares, of which 75% is arable, 25% meadow and pasture.
Manufacturing (14.8% of GDP): Light electrical equipment and fittings, textiles and footwear, technological instruments, construction materials, processed foods.
Public services--15%; construction--6.1%; energy/water--3.6%; trade--19.9%; transport and communications--14.5%; business services--11.1%; financial services--4.6%; other services--5.5%.
Trade: Exports--$2.28 billion: wood/wood products 33.6%; metals 13.2%, textiles 12.8%, machines 6.5%, food/food products 7.1. Major markets--Germany 15.5%, U.K. 14.6%, Sweden 10.5%, Lithuania 8.4%, Estonia 6.0%. Imports--$4.04 billion: energy 9.7%, machinery 21.3%, chemicals 10.4%, food/food products 21.8%, metals 8.4%, vehicles 9.8%. Partners--Germany 17.2%, Lithuania 9.8%, Russia 8.8%, Finland 8%, Sweden 6.4%.
Between 55.40 and 58.05 latitude and 20.58 and 28.14 longitude, Latvia lies on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea on the level northwestern part of the rising East European platform. About 98% of the country lies under 200m elevation (640 ft.). The damp climate resembles New England's. With the exception of the coastal plains, the Ice Age divided Latvia into three main regions: the morainic Western and Eastern uplands and the Middle lowlands. Latvia holds over 12,000 rivers, only 17 of which are longer than 60 miles, and over 3,000 small lakes, most of which are eutrophic. Woodland, more than half of which is pine, covers 41% of the country. Other than peat, dolomite, and limestone, natural resources are scarce. Latvia holds 531km (329 mi.) of sandy coastline, and the ports of Liepaja and Ventspils provide important warm-water harbors for the Baltic littoral, although the Bay of Riga itself is rather polluted.
Today, Latvia is slightly larger than Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Its strategic location has instigated many wars between rival powers on its territory. As recently as 1944, the U.S.S.R. granted Russia the Abrene region on the Livonian frontier.
Latvians occasionally refer to themselves by the ancient name of "Latvji," which may have originated from a "Latve" river that presumably flowed through what is now eastern Latvia. A small Finno-Ugric tribe known as the Livs settled among the Latvians and modulated the name to "Latvis," meaning "forest-clearers," which is how medieval German settlers also referred to these peoples. The German colonizers changed this name to "Lette" and called their initially small colony "Livland." The Latin form, "Livonia," gradually referred to the whole of modern-day Latvia as well as southern Estonia, which had fallen under German dominion. Latvians and Lithuanians are the only directly surviving members of the Baltic peoples and languages of the Indo-European family.
Latvians look like and consider themselves Nordics, evidenced through the strong cultural and religious influences gained over centuries during Germanic and Scandinavian colonization and settlement. Eastern Latvia (Latgale), however, retains a strong Polish and Russian cultural and linguistic influence. This highly literate society places strong emphasis upon education, which is free and compulsory until age 16. Most Latvians belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church; a sizable minority are Russian Orthodox, and Eastern Latvia is predominantly Roman Catholic.
Historically, Latvia always has had a fairly large Russian, Jewish, German, and Polish minority, but postwar emigration, deportations, and Soviet Russification policies from 1939-89 dropped the percentage of ethnic Latvians in Latvia from 73% to 52%. In an attempt to preserve the Latvian language and avoid ethnic Latvians becoming a minority in their own country, Latvia's language law, education law, and citizenship law have caused many noncitizen resident Russians concern over their ability to assimilate, despite Latvian legal guarantees of universal human and civil rights regardless of citizenship.
Written with the Latin alphabet, Latvian is the language of the Latvian people and the official language of the country. It is an inflective language with several analytical forms, three dialects, and German syntactical influence. The oldest known examples of written Latvian are from a 1585 catechism. The Soviets imposed the official use of Russian, so most Latvians speak Russian as a second or first language while the resident Slavic populace generally speaks Russian as a first language.
Since 9,000 BC ancient peoples of unknown origin had inhabited Latvia, but by 3,000 BC the ancestors of the Finns had settled the region. A millennium later, pre-Baltic tribes had arrived and within time evolved into the Baltic Couranian, Latgallian, Selonian, and Semigallian groups. These tribes eventually formed local governments independently from the Finno-Ugric Livian tribe until the 13th century when they were conquered by the Germans, who renamed the territory Livonia.
German sailors shipwrecked on the Daugava River in 1054 had inhabited the area, which led to increasing German influence. Founded by the Germanic Bishop Alberth of Livonia in 1201, Riga joined the Hanseatic League in 1285 and shared important cultural and economic ties to the rest of Europe. However, the new German nobility enserfed the peasantry and accorded non-Germanic peoples only limited trading and property rights.
Subsequent wars and treaties ensured Livonia's partition and colonization for centuries. The Commonwealth's successes during the Livonian Wars (1558-83) united the Latvian-populated duchies of Pardaugava, Kurzeme, and Zemgale, but the Polish-Swedish War (1600-29) granted Sweden acquisition of Riga and the Duchy of Pardaugava, minus Latgale, leaving Latvia again split ethnically. In turn, victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War (1700-21) gave Russia control over the Latvian territories. From 1804 onward, a series of local decrees gradually weakened the grip of German nobility over peasant society, and in 1849 a law granted a legal basis for the creation of peasant-owned farms.
Until the 1860s, there still was little sense of a Latvian national identity, as both serfdom and institutional controls to migration and social mobility limited the boundaries of the peasants' intellectual and social geography. The large baronic estates caused a lack of available farmland for an increasing population, creating a large landless, urban class comprising about 60% of the population. Also in the face of stricter Russification policies, the Baltic German clergy and literati began to take a more benevolent interest in the distinctive language and culture of the Latvian peasantry. These patrons--with such Lettish names as Alunans, Barons, Krastins, Kronvalds, Tomsons, and Valdemars--soon formed the Young Latvian Movement, whose aim was to promote the indigenous language and to publicize and counteract the socioeconomic oppression of Latvians.
By 1901, "Jauna Strava" had evolved into the Latvian Social Democratic Party. Following the lead of the Austrian Marxists, the LSDP advocated the transformation of the Russian Empire into a federation of democratic states (to include Latvia) and the adoption of cultural autonomy policy for extraterritorial ethnic communities. In 1903, the LSDP split into the more radically internationalist Latvian Social Democratic Worker's Party and the more influential Latvian Social Democratic Union (LSDU), which continued to champion national interests and Latvia's national self-determination, especially during the failed 1905 Revolution in Russia.
The onset of WWI brought German occupation of the western coastal province of Kurzeme, and Latvians heroically countered the invasion with the establishment of several regiments of riflemen commanded by Czarist generals. As a defensive measure, Russia dismantled more than 500 local Latvian industries, along with technological equipment, and relocated them to central Russia. The sagging military campaign generally increased Latvian and LSDU support for the Bolsheviks' successful October Revolution in 1917, in the hopes of a "free Latvia within free Russia." These circumstances led to the formation of the Soviet "Iskolat Republic" in the unoccupied section of Latvia. In opposition to this government and to the landed barons' German sympathies stood primarily the Latvian Provisional National Council and the Riga Democratic Bloc. These and other political parties formed the Latvian People's Council which on November 18, 1918 declared Latvia's independence and formed an army.
The new Latvian Army faced rogue elements of the retreating German Army and squared off in civil war against the Soviet Red Army, comprised greatly of the former Latvian Riflemen. Soviet power resumed in Latvia one month later on December 17 by order of the Latvian SSR, which forcefully collectivized all land and nationalized all industries and property. By May 22, 1919, the resurgent German Army occupied and devastated Riga for several days. In response, the Latvian Army managed to win a decisive battle over the combined German-Red Army forces and thereafter consolidated its success on the eastern Latgale front. These developments led to the dissolution of the Soviet Latvian government on January 13, 1920, and to a peace treaty between Latvia and Soviet Russia on August 11 later that year. By September 22, 1921, Latvia was admitted to the League of Nations.
Having obtained independent statehood in which Latvians were an absolute majority, the government headed by Prime Minister Ulmanis declared a democratic, parliamentary republic. It recognized Latvian as the official language, granted cultural autonomy to the country's sizeable minorities, and introduced an electoral system into the Latvian constitution, which was adopted in 1922. The decade witnessed sweeping economic reform, as war had devastated Latvian agriculture, and most Russian factories had been evacuated to Russia. Economic depression heightened political turmoil, and on May 15, 1934, Prime Minister Ulmanis dismissed the parliament, banned outspoken and left-wing political parties, and tightened authoritarian state control over Latvian social life and the economy.
The effects of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement of 1939 steadily forced Latvia under Soviet influence until August 5, 1940, when the Soviet Union finally annexed Latvia. On June 14 of the following year, 15,000 Latvian citizens were forcibly deported and a large number of army officers shot. The subsequent German occupation witnessed the mobilization of many Latvians into Waffen SS legions, while some Latvians joined the Red Army and formed resistance groups; others fled to the West and East. By 1945, Latvia's population dropped by one-third.
After the war, the U.S.S.R. subjected the Latvian republic to a scale of social and economic reorganization which rapidly transformed the rural economy to heavy industry, the strongly ethnically Latvian population into a more multiethnic structure, and the predominantly peasant class into a fully urbanized industrial worker class. As part of the goal to more fully integrate Latvia into the Soviet Union, on March 25, 1949, Stalin again deported another 42,000 Latvians and continued to promote the policy of encouraging Soviet immigration to Latvia. The brief "Krushchev thaw" of the 1950s ended in 1959, when the Soviets dismissed Latvian Communist Party and government leaders on charges of "bourgeois nationalism" and replaced them with more aggressive hardliners, mostly from Russia.
"Perestroika" enabled Latvians to pursue a bolder nationalistic program, particularly through such general issues as environmental protection. In July 1989, the Latvian Supreme Soviet adopted a "Declaration of Sovereignty" and amended the Constitution to assert the supremacy of its laws over those of the U.S.S.R. Pro-independence Latvian Popular Front candidates gained a two-thirds majority in the Supreme Council in the March 1990 democratic elections. On May 4, the Council declared its intention to restore full Latvian independence after a "transitional" period; 3 days later, Ivars Godmanis was chosen Council of Ministers Chairman, or Prime Minister.
In January 1991, Soviet political and military forces tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the legitimate Latvian authorities by occupying the central publishing house in Riga and establishing a "Committee of National Salvation" to usurp governmental functions. Seventy-three percent of all Latvian residents confirmed their strong support for independence March 3 in a nonbinding "advisory" referendum. A large number of ethnic Russians also voted for the proposition.
Latvia claimed de facto independence on August 21, 1991 in the aftermath of the failed Soviet coup attempt. International recognition, including the U.S.S.R., followed. The United States, which had never recognized Latvia's forcible annexation by the U.S.S.R., resumed full diplomatic relations with Latvia on September 2.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The Saeima, a unicameral legislative body, now is the highest organ of state authority. It initiates and approves legislation sponsored by the Prime Minister. The prime minister has full responsibility and control over his cabinet, and the president holds a primarily ceremonial role as head of state.
In autumn 1991 Latvia reimplemented significant portions of its 1922 constitution, and in spring 1993 the government took a census to determine eligibility for citizenship. After almost 3 years of deliberations, Latvia finalized a citizenship and naturalization law in summer 1994, which was further liberalized in 1998. By law, those who were Latvian citizens in 1940, and their descendants (regardless of ethnicity), could claim citizenship. Forty-one percent of Latvia's population is ethnically non-Latvian, yet almost three-fourths of all residents are citizens of Latvia Naturalization criteria include a conversational knowledge of Latvian, a loyalty oath, renunciation of former citizenship, a 5-year residency requirement, and a basic knowledge of the Latvian history. Dual citizenship is allowed for those who were forced to leave Latvia during the Soviet occupation and adopted another citizenship. Convicted criminals, agents of Soviet intelligence services, and certain other groups also are excluded from becoming citizens.
On March 19, 1991 the Supreme Council passed a law explicitly guaranteeing "equal rights to all nationalities and ethnic groups" and "guarantees to all permanent residents in the Republic regardless of their nationality, equal rights to work and wages." The law also prohibits "any activity directed toward nationality discrimination or the promotion of national superiority or hatred."
In the June 5-6, 1993 elections wherein more than 90% of the electorate participated, eight of Latvia's 23 registered political parties passed the 5% threshold to enter parliament. The Popular Front, which spearheaded the drive for independence with a 75% majority in the parliamentary elections in 1990, did not qualify for representation. The centrist "Latvia's Way" party received a 33% plurality of votes and joined with the Farmer's Union to head a center-right wing coalition government.
Through a U.S. initiative, on April 30, 1994 Latvia and Russia signed a troop withdrawal agreement. Russia withdrew its troops by August 31, 1994, and maintained several hundred technical specialists to staff an OSCE-monitored phased-array ABM radar station at Skrunda until the facility was destroyed in 1995.
The September 30-October 1, 1995 elections brought forth a deeply fragmented parliament with nine parties represented and the largest party commanding only 18 of 100 seats. Attempts to form right-of-center and leftist governments failed; 7 weeks after the election, a broad but fractious coalition government of six of the nine parties was voted into office under Prime Minister Andris Skele, a widely popular, nonpartisan businessman.
In the 1998 elections, the Latvian party structure began to consolidate with only six parties obtaining seats in the Saeima. Andris Skele's newly formed People's Party garnered a plurality with 24 seats. Though the election represented a victory for the center-right, personality conflicts and scandals within the two largest right of center parties--Latvia's Way and the People's Party--prevented stable coalitions from forming. Two shaky governments under Vilis Kristopans and Andris Skele quickly collapsed in less than a year. In May 2000, a compromise candidate was found in the form of Andris Berzins, the then Latvia's Way mayor of Riga. His four-party coalition lasted until parliamentary elections in October 2002. Those elections left Latvia's Way, for the first time since 1993, with no seats in parliament. Einars Repse's New Era Party, which ran on an anti-corruption platform, gained the most seats, and Repse headed a four-party coalition government until his abrupt resignation in February 2004 over issues relating to personalities and management of the ruling coalition.
A minority government led by Greens and Farmers Union leader Indulis Emsis, including the People's Party and the First Party and with the tacit support of leftist parties, took office on March 9, 2004. The new government was focused on smoothing Latvia's entry into NATO and the European Union. Latvia officially became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on March 29, 2004 after depositing its instruments of treaty ratification in Washington, DC. Latvia joined the European Union on May 1, 2004. Prime Minister Emsis's government collapsed on October 28, 2004 after parliament voted against the 2005 budget. A new coalition government, led Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis, took office on December 2, 2004.
In 1999, the Saeima elected Vaira Vike-Freiberga, a compromise candidate with no party affiliation, to the presidency. Though born in Riga in 1937, she settled in Canada during the years of the Soviet occupation, becoming a well-respected academic in the subject of Latvian culture and psychology. Since her election, she has become one of the most popular political figures in Latvia. She was overwhelming re-elected by parliament for another 4-year term in June 2003.
Latvia's flag consists of two horizontal, maroon bands of equal width, divided by a white stripe one-half the width. The national holiday is November 18, Independence Day.
Principal Government Officials
Prime Minister--Aigars Kalvitis, People's Party
Minister of Defense--Einars Repse, New Era
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Artis Pabriks, People's Party
Minister of Economy--Krisjanis Karins, New Era
Minister of Interior--Eriks Jekabsons, Latvia's First Party
Minister of Education and Science--Ina Druviete, New Era
Minister of Agriculture--Martins Roze, Greens and Farmers Union
Minister of Welfare--Dagnija Stake, Greens and Farmers Union
Minister of Justice--Solvita Aboltina, New Era
Minister of Culture--Helena Demakova, People's Party
Minister of Finance--Oskars Spurdzins, People's Party
Minister of Environment--Raimonds Vejonis, Greens and Farmers Union
Minister of Health--Gundars Berzins, People's Party
Minister of Transport--Ainars Slesers, Latvia's First Party
Minister of Children and Family Affairs--Ainars Bastiks, Latvia's First Party
Minister of e-Affairs--Janis Reirs, New Era
Minister for Regional Development and Local Governments--Maris Kucinskis, People's Party
Special Task Minister for Children and Family Affairs--Ainars Bastiks, Latvia's First Party
Special Task Minister for Society Integration Affairs--Ainars Latkovskis, New Era
Ambassador to the United States--Maris Riekstins
Latvia maintains an embassy in the United States at 4325 - 17th Street, NW, Washington DC 20011 [tel: (202) 726-8213].
For centuries under Hanseatic and German influence and then during its inter-war independence, Latvia used its geographic location as an important East-West commercial and trading center. Industry served local markets, while timber, paper, and agricultural products supplied Latvia's main exports. Conversely, the years of Russian and Soviet occupation tended to integrate Latvia's economy to serve those empires' large internal industrial needs. Since reestablishing its independence, Latvia has proceeded with market-oriented reforms. Its freely traded currency, the Lat, was introduced in 1993 and has held steady, or appreciated, against major world currencies. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has noted that Latvia's economic performance the past several years had been among the best of the European Union (EU) accession countries. Real per capita GDP has grown by more than 50% compared to its 1995 level, while inflation has remained close to or below 3% since 1998. The government expects annual growth rates of about 6% in medium term. At the same time, current account deficit (ranging from 7% to 10% in the past 3 years) remains one of the key vulnerabilities of the Latvian economy. In addition, Latvian fiscal discipline deteriorated considerably at the end of 2002, when budget deficit rose to 2.7% of GDP, well above the government's target figure. However, the government's effort to improve tax administration, to fight gray economy, and to reintroduce strict budget discipline led to an improvement in the fiscal situation in the first 9 months of 2003.
Privatization in Latvia is almost complete. Virtually all of the previously state-owned small and medium companies have been privatized, leaving in state hands the electric utility, the Latvian railway company, and the Latvian postal system, as well as state shares in several politically sensitive enterprises. Despite the lack of transparency of the early stages of the privatization process, and certain difficulties in privatization of some of the largest companies, Latvian privatization efforts have led to the development of a dynamic and prosperous private sector, which accounted for 70% of GDP in 2002.
Foreign investment in Latvia remains high, as both Western and Eastern investors are trying to establish a foothold in the new EU member state, as well as to take advantage of Latvia's stable macroeconomic environment, central location in the region, and cheap labor. Representing 7.1% of Latvia's total foreign direct investment, the U.S. FDI stock in Latvia stood at $184 million at the end of 2002. In the same year, U.S. goods and services accounted for 1.6% of Latvia's total imports, while exports to the United States accounted for 4.2% of Latvia's total exports. Latvia is a member of the World Trade Organization since 1999. Latvia and the United States have signed treaties on investment, trade, and intellectual property protection and avoidance of double taxation.
In the long term, continued high economic growth in Latvia will depend on further improvements of the business environment, particularly successful drive to reduce corruption and strengthen the rule of law, and on Latvia's ability to use the opportunities presented by EU membership.
Latvia's defense concept is based upon four basic pillars--collective defense as a member of NATO, professionalization of the armed forces, support and coordination with civil society, and international military cooperation. The armed forces consist of the land forces brigade with one deployable battalion, an air force focused on air surveillance and search and rescue, and naval forces focused on costal surveillance, assertion of sovereignty, mine countermeasures, and search and rescue. The land forces, navy, and air force comprise approximately 7,000 personnel. The "zemessardze," or home guard, is an autonomous 13,890-man-strong volunteer reserve organization which performs traditional national guard duties such as crisis response and support to military operations. There is a mandatory 1-year draft period of active duty, and alternative conscription for conscientious objectors is available. The Latvian National Armed Forces will be fully professional by the beginning of 2007. Defense spending has risen in recent years, and the government has committed 2% of its GDP for defense spending through 2008.
Latvia became a member of the United Nations on September 18, 1991, and is a signatory to a number of UN organizations and other international agreements, including COE, IAEA, CERCO, ICES, ICAO, IAEA, UNESCO, UNICEF, IMF, and WB/EBRD. It also is a member of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and of the North Atlantic Coordinating Council. Latvia officially became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on March 29, 2004 after depositing its instruments of treaty ratification in Washington, DC. Latvia officially joined the European Union on May 1, 2004.
Latvia maintains embassies in the United States, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Canada, the People's Republic of China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and Uzbekistan. It also operates missions to the United Nations in New York City and Geneva, the European Council, and non-member representation to the EU, Chemical Weapons Nonproliferation Organization, the OSCE, World Trade Organization, and the UN Council on Food and Agriculture. It also is represented at NATO.
Latvia has a Consulate General in Russia; Consulates in Belarus and Russia; Honorary Consulates General in Australia, Cyprus, India, Israel, and Norway; and Honorary Consulates in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Mexico, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, and Venezuela.
Russia expresses concern for how Latvia's language and naturalization laws affect Latvia's Russian-speaking population. Russians comprised 29% of the population in 2003. In turn, Latvia is interested in the welfare of ethnic Latvians still residing in Russia.
The United States established diplomatic relations with Latvia on July 28, 1922. The U.S. Legation in Riga officially was established November 13, 1922, and served as the headquarters for U.S. representation in the Baltics during the interwar era. The Soviet invasion forced the closure of the legation on September 5, 1940, but Latvian representation in the United States has continued uninterrupted for more than 70 years. The United States never recognized the forcible incorporation of Latvia into the U.S.S.R. and views the present Government of Latvia as a legal continuation of the interwar republic. Latvia has enjoyed most-favored-nation treatment with the United States since December 1991.
Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Catherine Todd Bailey
Deputy Chief of Mission--Richard Norland
Political Officer--Frank Collins
Economic Officer--Mark Draper
Management Officer--Mary Teirlynck
Consular Officer--Landon Taylor
Public Affairs Officer--Victoria Sloan
The U.S. Embassy in Latvia is located at Raina Boulevard 7, Riga [tel. (371) 703-6200].