Latvia is a country in the Baltic region of northern Europe. Along with Estonia and Lithuania, it is referred to as the “Baltic States”, and has borders with Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Lithuania. Latvia has the fifth highest proportion of land (56% of the total land area) covered by forests in the European Union. Most of the country is composed of fertile low land planes and moderate hills. Agricultural areas account for 29% of the total land area. There are over 12,500 rivers, stretching for a total of 38,000 kms.
The sheer volume of wild nature makes Latvia one of the greenest countries in the world. The country holds one of the rarest ecosystems in the world largely untouched by civilization. The pristine nature of Latvia is rich & diverse. This is an exceptional land where woodlands, marshes, lakes & rivers have developed over the centuries at their own pace with minimal human interference. The wide variety of wildlife is a testament to the quality of environment. Clean waters, forests and meadows form a safe haven for many species endangered elsewhere.
Latvia gained independence during the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Being a former Soviet Republic, Russian is spoken fluently by most in Latvia. However, Latvian is the only official language. English has been slowly replacing Russian since independence. Today it is easy to get by with only speaking English, especially when talking to younger Latvians, who have better English skills than Russian skills.
The biggest travel destination in the country is the capital Riga, whose old town is a world heritage site. Other attractive destination-cities in Latvia include Jurmala, Kuldiga, Daugavpils, Cesis & Leipaja.
Latvia has a temperate climate, with four pronounced seasons (winter, summer, spring and autumn) of near-equal length. Temperatures can vary between -6℃ (-21℉) in winter and 35℃ (95℉) in summer.
For centuries Latvia was primarily an agricultural country, with seafaring, fishing and forestry being the other important industries. However, since the early 1990s it has made a rapid transition to a free market economy. Today,it is a member of the European Union (EU), WTO, NATO and OECD, and has privatized all state owned small and medium companies. The private sector now accounts for nearly 68% of the country’s GDP.
Following the global economic crisis in 2008-09, Latvia’s economy has been recovering strongly since 2010. The Global Sustainable Competitiveness Index (GSCI) which measures the competitiveness of countries, both currently and in the future, ranks Latvia as 9th in the world. Most of the prominent credit rating agencies in the world have given a “stable” rating to Latvia. Unemployment is in single digits.
Four cornerstones of the Latvian economy are agriculture, chemicals, logistics and woodworking. Other prominent sectors include textiles, food processing, machinery production and green technologies.
Agriculture enjoys the fertile soil and temperate climate of Latvia. It is the traditional trade of Latvians and is still relevant today. Grain makes up a third of the sector. Quality dairy products and honey lead the niche of high value-added exports. Chemical industry relies on highly educated human resources. Pharmacy, recycling, eco-friendly chemicals and bio cosmetics are manufactured and widely exported abroad. University educated local experts provide innovative fundamental research and development. Medicinal discoveries are among the highlights of the Latvian chemical industry. Logistics is well established since time immemorial thanks to the geographic location of Latvia. Ports, rail and roads of Latvia have always linked Europe and the rest of the West with the East. 25 million customers are reachable within 48 hours in the Baltic region next to Latvia. Airport of Rīga provides European and transcontinental flights to almost a hundred destinations. Woodworking thrives on the green gold of Latvia. Half of the country is covered by lush forests, some of which are cut and exported. Raw lumber and manufactured products are a notable component of Latvian exports.
High-tech electronics, information technologies and design form the new success stories of the Latvian economy.
Established and still progressive infrastructure in logistics and communications makes the life of business much easier and their products and services – more competitive. Innovations made in Latvia are highly appreciated in the world markets.
The Latvian education system consists of pre-school education, basic education, secondary education and higher education. General education in Latvia in total lasts 12 years consisting of compulsory 9-years basic education and 3-years secondary education. Additionally, pre-school education at age of 5-6 is compulsory in Latvia.
Basic education stage comprises general basic education (grades 1-9) and vocational basic education. Secondary education stage comprises general secondary education, vocational secondary education and vocational education. Higher education comprises both academic and professional study programs.
The new Latvian Qualifications Framework, similarly to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), consists of eight reference levels and imparts all stages (basic, secondary and higher education) and types (general, vocational, academic and professional) of education.
- Also Known as: Republic of Latvia
- Government is Unitary Parliamentary Constitutional Republic
- Capital: Riga
- Main cities: Riga, Sigulda, Cesis, Jurmala, Daugavpils, Ventspils, Liepaja, Kuldiga, Madona
- Area: 64,589 sq. km (24,938 sq. miles)
- Population: 19.2 million (2019 estimate)
- Literacy Rate: 99.9%
- Religion: Predominantly Christian
- GDP: $ 63.490 billion (2020 estimate)
- Per capita income: $ 15,600
- Legal System: Civil Law System. Also European Union Law is part of Latvian Law
- Natural Resources: Peat, limestone, dolomite, amber, hydropower, wood and arable land
- Industries: Automotive, railroad cars, agricultural machinery, fertilizers, electronics, synthetic fibers, pharmaceuticals, processed foods and textiles
- Major Exports: Food stuffs, wood and wood products, metals, machinery and equipment and textiles
- Major Imports: Machinery and equipment, consumer goods, chemicals, fuels and vehicles
- Commercial Bank Prime lending rate: 2.58% (December 2017 estimate)
- Currency: Euro
- Main Airport: Riga International Airport
- Time Zone: GMT + 2 hours
- Calling Code: +371