Latvia’s population is significantly declining, which is a serious social and economic problem for society. Over the past 25 years, Latvia has lost a quarter of its population as a result of low childbirth, an aging population and emigration.
Above all, many young people move abroad, more than 40 percent of emigrants are 20-35 years, which has led to a reduction in the working population. Negative population growth continued in the mid-2010s, although Latvia has shown a trend with a growing number of births since 2011. At the same time, birth rates are lower than death rates, which contributes to a growing proportion of pensioners in the population.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Latvia, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
After the country’s EU accession in 2004, many Latvians mainly emigrated to the UK and Ireland to look for work. The outflow increased when the financial crisis hit in the autumn of 2008. It is estimated that up to a quarter of a million people emigrated in the years 2000–2012.
According to experts, immigration could break Latvia’s negative population growth, but studies show that less than one-fifth of Latvia’s are positive about immigration. It is the lowest figure in the EU.
From the Second World War and throughout the Soviet era, a large number of Russians immigrated to Latvia, to supply labor and strengthen Moscow’s control over the country. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of letters escaped or disappeared in deportations and executions. In 1989, the Latvians comprised just over half of the population, compared to three quarters in 1930.
Today, the proportion of litters has increased to about two-thirds of the population, as many Russians have emigrated in the period since independence in 1991. However, Russian-speaking people are in the majority in several major cities, such as Riga and Daugavpils. About a tenth of the country’s population lacks Latvian citizenship and thus voting rights in parliamentary and municipal elections. Most of these are ethnic Russians.
After independence, a law was passed that automatically granted the right to citizenship for those who were citizens of Latvia in 1940, and their descendants. Those who came to the country during the Soviet era, and their descendants, must apply to become citizens and fulfill certain conditions (see below). This meant that almost all the letters were granted citizenship and the vast majority of Russians disappeared. Under threat from Russia and pressure from the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the EU and NATO, Latvia softened the law on citizenship. In 1998, all children born in the country were granted the right to citizenship at the parents’ request upon independence. Others must apply, pass examinations in the Latvian language and history, be able to main points of the Constitution and the text of the national anthem. Those who have acted “anti-constitutionally” against the state or are members of banned organizations, such as the Communist Party,
Russian-speaking politicians have demanded that everyone born in the country should be granted citizenship and voting rights on equal terms. In 2019, Parliament passed a new law that automatically allows children of Russian-speaking non-citizens to become citizens. Despite the contradictions, integration at the grassroots level has worked relatively well. For example, marriages across ethnic borders are common.
Before World War II, around 90,000 Jews lived in Latvia, but only a few thousand survived the war. During the German occupation of 1941-1944, some letters – encouraged or forced by the Nazis – participated in the persecution of the Jews. The settlement with that part of the story has gone slow.
Latvian has been an official language since 1988, but for natural reasons Russian also has a strong position and is used by many in business. In 2012, a referendum was held on the Russian minority’s proposal to make Russian into other official languages. About 75 percent voted no.
Linguists believe that a long time ago there was a common Baltic language that was eventually divided into ancient Baltic and ancient Slavic languages. Latvian and Lithuanian are the only now living Baltic languages. The similarity between them is similar to that between Swedish and Icelandic.
Latvian pronunciation guide
Ā ā, Ē ē, Ī ī, Ū ū = a dash above vowels, the sound lengthens
C = ts, Č č = tj, Š š = sch, Ž ž = toning zj
Ģ ģ = dj, Ķ ķ = tj, Ļ ļ = lj, Ņ ņ = nj
(Č and Ķ sound about the same, but Č is a bit coarser)
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
letters 56.5%, Russians 30.5%, Belarusians 4.4%, Ukrainians 2.8%, others 5.8%
Number of residents
1 940 740 (2017)
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
68.1 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
11.2 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
14.6 per 1000 residents (2016)
-1.0 percent (2017)
1.7 number of births per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
54.1 percent (2017)
75 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
80 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
70 years (2016)
Latvian is the official language 1
- Russian is largest minority language