U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
LATVIA BACKGROUND NOTES, SEPTEMBER 1997
RELEASED BY THE BUREAU OF EUROPEAN AND CANADIAN AFFAIRS
Republic of Latvia
Area: 64,100 sq. km. (25,640 sq. miles); about the size of West
Cities: Capital-Riga (1989 pop. 910,455). Other cities-Daugavpils
(124,910); Liepaja (114,486); Jelgava (74,105); Jurmala (60,600);
Ventspils (50,646); Rezekne (42,477).
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: 27% arable land, 13% meadows and pastures, 39% forest and
woodland, 21% 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).
Population: 2.5 million. Growth rate: -0.6%. Birth rate-14/1,000. Death
rate-13/1,000. Divorce rate-40%. Migration rate-4 migrants/1,000.
Density-105/sq. mile. Urban dwellers-71%.
Ethnic groups: Latvian 56.5%, Russians 30.4%, Belarusians 4.3%,
Ukrainians 2.8%, Poles 2.6%.
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-331,100
students at 943 schools, plus 114,200 university students. Literacy-99%.
Health: Infant mortality rate-16/1,000. Life expectancy-65 years male,
Work force (1,405,000 people): Agriculture/forestry-16%. Industry-30%.
Trade/dining-9%. Transport/communication-7%. Construction-10%.
Financial-1%. Services, other-27%.
Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Constitution: The 1922 constitution, the 1990 declaration of renewal of
independence, and the 1991 "Basic Law for the Period of Transition"
serve until a new constitution is ratified.
Branches: Executive-President (Head of State), elected by Parliament
every 3 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: Democratic Party "Saimnieks" (Ziedonis
Cevers)-18 seats; "Fatherland and Freedom" (Maris Grinblats)-14 seats;
Latvia's Way (Gailis, Birkavs, Pantelejevs)-17 seats; Nat'l.
Conservatives/Greens (Krastins, Kirsteins)-8 seats; Unity Party (Alberts
Kauls)-8 seats; Farmers Union (Pres. Ulmanis, Rozentals) and Christian
Democrats (Predele, Jundzis)-7 seats; "For Latvia" (Joachim Siegerist)-
16 seats; "Harmony" (ex-FM Jurkans, Vulfsons, Kide)-6 seats; Socialists
(Stroganovs, Rubiks)-6 seats.
Government budget (1996): $1.9 billion ($60 million deficit).
Suffrage: 18 years-universal.
1996 GDP: $5.3 billion.
Growth rate: 3%. Inflation rate: 13%.
Average annual wages: $2,276.
Natural resources: peat, limestone, dolomite, gypsum, timber.
Agriculture/forestry (10% of GDP): Products-cattle, dairy foods,
cereals, potatoes. Cultivable land-1.36 million hectares, of which 60%
is arable, 18% meadow, and 13% pasture.
Manufacturing (14.3% of GDP): light electrical equipment and fittings,
textiles and footwear, technological instruments, construction
materials, processed foods. Public services-11%. Construction-5.3%.
Energy/water-4.5%. Financial services-3.5%. Rents-2.7%. Other services-
Trade: Exports-$516 million: transhipment of crude oil; wood/wood
products 32%; metals 7%, textiles/apparel 17%, machinery/equipment 10%,
food products 10%, chemicals 5%, vehicles 3%. Major markets-Russia 20%,
UK 16%, other CIS 9%, Germany 14%, Sweden 7%. Imports-$803 million:
energy 46%, minerals 16%, machinery/equipment 18%, chemicals/plastics
12%, food products 8%, textiles/apparel 8%, wood/wood products 4%,
metals 3%. Partners-Russia 18%, Germany 15%, Sweden 6.5%, other CIS 4%.
Official exchange rate: .580 Lat = U.S. $1.
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
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, which Latvia still
Latvians occasionally refer to themselves by the ancient name of
"Latviji," 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-
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
Historically, Latvia always has had a fairly large Russian, Jewish,
German and Polish minority, but postwar emigration, deportations and
Soviet Russification policies from 1939-1989 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 strict language law and draft citizenship law have
caused many non-citizen 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 thirteenth 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
Subsequent wars and treaties ensured Livonia's partition and
colonization for centuries. The Commonwealth's successes during the
Livonian Wars (1558-1583) united the Latvian-populated duchies of
Pardaugava, Kurzeme, and Zemgale, but the Polish-Swedish War (1600-1629)
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 (1700-1721) gave Russia control over
the Latvian territories. From 1804 onwards, 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
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 socio-economic
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 extra-territorial 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
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 over 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
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 1950's 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
"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; three 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 U.S., which had never recognized Latvia's
forcible annexation by the U.S.S.R., resumed full diplomatic relations
with Latvia on
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 reimple-mented significant portions of its 1922
constitution and in spring 1993 the government took a census to
determine eligibility for citizenship. After almost three years of
deliberations, Latvia finalized a citizenship and naturalization law in
summer 1994. By law, those who were Latvian citizens in 1940, and their
descendants, could claim citizenship. Forty-six percent of Latvia's
population is ethnically non-Latvian, yet about 85% of its ethnic Slavs
can pass the residency requirement. Naturalization criteria include a
conversational knowledge of Latvian, a loyalty oath, renunciation of
former citizenship, a ten-year residency requirement, and a knowledge of
the Latvian constitution. Dual citizenship is allowed for those who were
forced to leave Latvia during the Soviet occupation and adopted another
citizenship. Convicted criminals, drug addicts, agents of Soviet
intelligence services, and certain other groups also are excluded from
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 over 90% of the electorate
participated, eight of Latvia's twenty-three registered political
parties passed the four percent threshold to enter parliament. The
Popular Front, which spearheaded the drive for independence two years
ago with a 75% majority in the last 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.
Led by the opposition National Conservative Party, right-wing
nationalists won a majority of the seats nationwide and also captured
the Riga mayoralty in the May 29, 1994 municipal elections. OSCE and COE
observers pronounced the elections free and fair, and turnout averaged
about 60%. In February 1995, the Council of Europe granted Latvia
Through President Clinton's initiative, on April 30, 1994 Latvia and
Russia signed a troop withdrawal agreement. Russia withdrew its troops
by August 31, 1994, and will maintain several hundred technical
specialists to staff an OSCE-monitored phased-array ABM radar station at
Skrunda until the facility is dismantled no later than 1999.
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; seven 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, non-
partisan businessman. The also- popular president, Guntis Ulmanis, has
limited constitutional powers but played a key role in leading the
various political forces to agree finally to this broad coalition. In
June 1996, the saeima re-elected Ulmanis to another three-year term.
In a summer 1997 scandal, the daily newspaper "Diena" revealed that half
the cabinet ministers and two-thirds of parliamentarians appeared to
violate the 1966 anti-corruption law, which bars senior officials from
holding positions in private business. Under pressure from Skele,
several ministers subsequently resigned or were fired. However, after
months of increasing hostility between skele and leading coalition
politicians, the coalition parties demanded-and received-the prime
minister's resignation on July 28. The new government, headed by the
recent Minister of Economy and which includes the recently fired
Minister of Transportation, is expected to pursue the same course of
reform, albeit not likely as vigorous. Parliamentary elections are
scheduled for summer 1998.
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.
Key Government Officials
President-Mr. Guntis Ulmanis, Farmers' Union
Prime Minister-Mr. Guntars Krasts, Fatherland & Freedom
Deputy PM-Mr. Juris Kaksitis, Saimnieks
Deputy PM, Environment & Regional Development-Mr. Anatolijs Gobunovs,
Defense-Mr. Talavs Jundzis, Christian Democrats
Foreign Affairs-Mr. Valdis Birkavs, Latvia's Way
Economy-Mr. Atis Sausnitis, Saimnieks
Interior-Mr. Ziedonis Cevers, Saimnieks
Education & Science-Mr. Juris Celmins, Saimnieks
Agriculture-Mr. Andris Ravins, Farmers' Union
Transportation-Mr. Vilis Kristopans, Latvia's Way
Welfare-Mr. Vladimirs Makarovs, Fatherland & Freedom
Justice-Mr. Dzintars Rasnacs, Fatherland & Freedom
Culture-Ms. Ramona Umblija, Farmers' Union
Finance-Mr. Robert Zile, Fatherland & Freedom
Parliament Chair-Mr. Alfred Cepanis, Saimnieks
Latvia maintains an Embassy in the United States at 4325 17th Street,
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. Comprising 40.1%
of the populace, non-ethnic Latvians control almost 80% of the economy.
Since reestablishing its independence, Latvia has proceeded with market-
oriented reforms, albeit at a measured pace. Its freely traded currency,
the lat, was introduced in 1993 and has held steady, or appreciated,
against major world currencies. Inflation has been reduced to a monthly
rate of one percent or less. After contracting substantially between
1991-93, the eonomy steadied in late 1994, led by recovery in light
industry and a boom in commerce and finance. A prolonged banking crisis
and scandal involving what had been Latvia's largest commercial bank set
the economy back in mid-1995 and 1996, causing budget deficits well
beyond the 2% target recommended by the IMF. Nevertheless, Latvia's
1997 budget is balanced.
Replacement of the centrally planned system imposed during the Soviet
period with a structure based on free-market principles has been
occurring spontaneously from below much more than through consistently
applied structural adjustment. Official statistics tend to understate
the booming private sector, suggesting that the Latvian people and their
economy are doing much better than is reflected statistically. Two-
thirds of employment and 60% of GDP is now in the private sector.
Recovery in light industry and Riga's emergence as a regional financial
and commercial center have offset shrinkage of the state-owned
industrial sector and agriculture. The official unemployment figure has
held steady in the 7% range.
Other than privatization of the food processing and dairy industries,
the pace of privatization of large industrial enterprises has been slow.
The government has privatized about 1,000 enterprises (260 in 1996), and
plans to privatize virtually all remaining state-owned businesses by
1998. Nonetheless, the process has been extremely slow and complicated.
Structural reform has proceeded most rapidly in agriculture and in the
privatization of small enterprises. More than 58,000 private farms have
been established and most remaining collective farms transformed into
private joint stock companies. However, many of Latvia's new farmers
are operating at subsistence levels stemming from a lack of financial
resources and credit. Urban andrural property is slowly being returned
to former owners, but the legal mechanisms for title registration, sale
and mortgaging of real property are not fully developed. By early
1997, only 20% of the population lived in private houses or apartments,
and only 8% of state-owned apartments had been privatized.
Foreign investment in Latvia is still modest compared with levels in
North-Central Europe. A law expanding the scope for selling land,
including to foreigners, was recently passed. Representing 19% of
Latvia's total foreign direct investment, American companies have
invested $68 million. Kellogg's is the largest U.S. investor. In 1996,
the U.S. exported $165 million of goods and services to Latvia and
imported $99 million. Eager to join Western economic institutions like
the WTO, OECD and EU, Latvia signed a Europe Agreement with the EU in
June 1995 (with a four-year transition period). Latvia and the United
States have signed treaties on investment, trade and intellectual
property protection, and avoidance of double taxation.
Latvia's defense concept is based upon the Swedish-Finnish model of a
rapid response force composed of a mobilization base and a small group
of career professionals. The armed forces consist of mobile riflemen, an
air force and navy, border guards, and special units. The army, navy
and air force comprise 1,800 pesonnel. There are also about 4,000
special independent Interior Ministry, intelligence, and civil defense
forces. The "zemessardze," or home guard, is an autonomous 16,500 man-
strong volunteer paramilitary organization which also performs
traditional national guard duties and assists the 2,500 border guards.
There is a mandatory one-year draft period of active duty, and
alternative conscription for conscientious objectors is available.
Defense spending comprises only .67% of GDP.
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 and of the North Atlantic
Coordinating Council. Latvia is unaffiliated directly with any political
alliance but welcomes further cooperation and integration with NATO,
European Union and other Western organizations. It also seeks more
active participation in United Nations peacekeeping efforts worldwide.
Latvia maintains embassies in the United States, Belarus, Belgium,
Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Sweden, the
United Kingdom, and Russia. It also operates missions to the United
Nations in New York City and a Consulate General in Australia. Honorary
consuls are located in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Greece,
India, Israel, Italy, Korea, Moldova, Norway, Switzerland, Taiwan, and
Relations with Russia are improving, primarily because Russia withdrew
its troops from Latvia by August 31, 1994, according to a bilateral
agreement signed on April 30 that year.
Latvia has agreed that Russia may continue to operate the Skrunda radar
facility under OSCE supervision strictly for a four-year period. Russia
expresses concern for how Latvia's laws on language and naturalization
may affect Latvia's non-ethnic Latvians, who comprise 40.1% of the
population. In turn, Latvia is interested in the welfare of over 210,000
ethnic Latvians still resident in Russia. Neither country allows for
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 over 70 years. The U.S.
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 (MFN)
treatment with the U.S. since December 1991. It now receives about $3
million annually from USAID in technical assistance and professional
Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador-Larry C. Napper
Political Officer-John Withers
Economic Officer-Maryruth Coleman
Administrative Officer-Susan Pazina
Consular Officer-Robert Tatge
USAID Director-Howard Handler
Public Affairs Officer-Philip Ives
The U.S. Embassy in Latvia is located at Raina Boulevard 7, Riga [tel.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
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Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel
to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all
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security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in
the country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate
information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-
term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by
calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-
on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information
Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:
http://travel.state.gov and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB).
To access CABB, dial the modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will
accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications program to N-
8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation to VT100.
The login is travel and the password is info (Note: Lower case is
required). The CABB also carries international security information from
the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau of
Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication
series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a
safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents,
U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-
7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-
Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-
day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m.
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225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate
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Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at
(404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization
recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water
safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information
for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is
available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC
20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal
Government Officials" listing in this publication).
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas
are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country
(see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication).
This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information:
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet,
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch,
the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings;
directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's
World Wide Web site is at http://www.state.gov; this site has a link to
the DOSFAN Gopher Research Collection, which also is accessible at
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a semi-annual basis
by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O.
Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or
fax (202) 512-2250.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information,
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet
(www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-
1986 for more information.
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