Latvia Population, People, Languages and Religions

By | January 21, 2022

Latvia Country Overview

Where is Latvia located? The northern European state of Latvia is located in the middle of the Baltic States. On the time zone map, Latvia is located in a world time zone that has a standard difference of 2 hours from coordinated universal time (UTC). This means that clocks there are 2 hours later than universal time (UTC+2). The time zone is called “Eastern European Time”. During the summer (from the end of March to the end of October) Latvia switches to daylight saving time.

Latvia National Flag

Population Distribution

As of 2023, the latest population of Latvia is 1,881,232, based on our calculation of the current data from UN (United Nations).

Total population 1,881,232
Population growth rate -1.12%
Birth rate 9.70 births per 1,000 people
Life expectancy
Overall 73.19 years
Men 68.13 years
Women 78.53 years
Age structure
0-14 years 15.24%
15-64 years 64.90%
65 years and above 19.85%
Median age 42.90 years
Gender ratio (Male to Female) 0.86
Population density 29.13 residents per km²
Urbanization 66.20%
62.1% Latvians, 26.9% Russians, 3.3% Belarusians, 2.2% Ukrainians, 2.2% Poles, 1.2% Lithuanians and others – proportion of foreigners in 2015: 15.0% (especially Russians)
Lutherans, Catholics (Roman Catholic), Russian Orthodox
Human Development Index (HDI) 0.854
HDI ranking 39th out of 194

People in Latvia

1.93 million people live in Latvia. Most of the residents are Latvians (62 percent). The proportion of Russians living here is also very high at 26 percent. They came to the country mainly between 1940 and 1990, when Latvia was part of the Soviet Union. However, some Russians have lived in Latvia for generations.

Belarusians are also represented with 3.3 percent, Ukrainians and Poles with 2.2 percent each, but in smaller numbers. The Livs are almost extinct. Only about 230 of them live in Courland, especially in Kolka, the northern tip.

What are non-citizens in Latvia?

When Latvia gained independence in 1990, citizenship was granted to those born on Latvian soil before 1940 and their descendants. All who had immigrated after 1940 were suddenly “non-citizens” and thus stateless. You have to accept restrictions to this day. For example, they cannot become civil servants and they cannot vote.

Since 1995 there has been the possibility of being naturalized. To do this, you have to pass a test that also checks whether someone speaks Latvian. To date there are around 250,000 non-citizens living in Latvia.

How many live where?

The number of the population has been falling since 1989. Each woman has only 1.5 children on average. In addition, many Latvians emigrate to find work in other countries.

68 percent of the population live in one of the cities. With a number of around 700,000, a third of all residents live in Riga. The second largest city is Daugavpils with almost 100,000 people.

Languages in Latvia

Latvia’s official language is Latvian. But it is only spoken by about 58 percent of the population. The Russians living in the country, but also Belarusians and Ukrainians, speak Russian. While Latvian was suppressed during the Soviet era, today Russian is disadvantaged. In parts of the country, for example in Riga, both languages ​​are heard equally often, in others Latvian predominates. There are also Russian-speaking schools, but even there, at least 60 percent of the classes in grades 10 to 12 must be in Latvian.

Latvian is one of the East Baltic languages. It is therefore related to Lithuanian. It is written with Latin letters, which we also use to write German. However, some letters and characters are added. For example, there are the letters Ģ, Ķ, Ļ, Ņ, Ŗ, Č, Š and Ž.

By the way, foreign names are written in Latvian. So William Shakespeare then becomes Viljams Šekspīrs. In Latvian there are no articles like der, die, das. Instead, the endings of the words are changed.

Religions in Latvia

Most of the residents of Latvia are Christians. Here the Protestants form the majority with 36 percent of all residents. The Catholic Church consists of almost 20 percent, the Russian Orthodox 19 percent.