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Latvia: Outlook
Country Study > Chapter 8 > Outlook


Latvia was the first Baltic republic to begin the process of public empowerment and disentanglement from the legacy of a half-century of Soviet rule, initiating the 1987 "calendar" demonstrations, which commemorated long-suppressed critical turning points in Latvian history. Thereafter, Estonia and then Lithuania picked up the torch in a unique historical relay race whose end point was independence.

With independence, however, Latvia had to adjust to totally new circumstances. New rules of the game had to be introduced and accepted. Democratic structures and practices had to be formed or revived. The initial rigors of a market economy and of privatization had to be endured. A new orientation to the rule of law and to the public clash of many voices had to be sanctioned and supported.

Much progress has been made in all these areas; much still remains to be done. The pressure of nationality relations, citizenship issues, economic strategies and priorities, and political confrontations between radical and moderate factions will no doubt remain for some time. These internal problems, however, do not surpass the coping capacity of Latvian political and social structures. The major threat lies in the potential actions of neighboring Russia, where forces of imperial irredentism are finding many political allies.

Ideally, Latvia's future would be best assured by a stable and peaceful Russia. This is a goal supported by most Latvian politicians. If such a goal becomes unattainable, however, Latvia would be compelled to rely on external protection provided by its Western neighbors. It remains to be seen if Latvia will be granted the same protective status as that enjoyed by Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, and other European countries under the NATO umbrella.Among the best works on Latvian history are Arnolds Spekke's History of Latvia: An Outline and Alfreds Bilmanis's A History of Latvia . The interwar period is described well in Georg Von Rauch's The Baltic States: The Years of Independence, 1917-1940 and the Soviet period in Romuald J. Misiunas and Rein Taagepera's The Baltic States: Years of Dependence, 1940-1990 . The period of national awakening is analyzed and described by Juris Dreifelds in "Latvian National Rebirth," Problems of Communism, July-August 1989, and by Anatol Lieven in The Baltic Revolution . An unsurpassed classic on Latvian geography is Latvia: Country and People by J. Rutkis. The National Report of Latvia to UNCED, 1992, prepared for the Rio de Janeiro World Conference by the Environmental Protection Committee of Latvia, is a very good summary of post-Soviet Latvia and its environmental problems. A good source of statistical data is Latvija Skaitlos (Latvia in Figures), the annual report of Latvia's State Committee for Statistics (Valsts Statistikas Komiteja). Invaluable and current information on Latvia's economy is provided by the monthly Baltic Business Report . Very good analytical articles on various aspects of government and politics in Latvia can be found in the RFE/RL Research Report . A most useful compendium of articles on foreign policy has been published in New Actors on the International Arena: The Foreign Policies of the Baltic Countries, edited by Pertti Joenniemi and Peeter Vares, and on national security in Comprehensive Security for the Baltics: An Environmental Approach, edited by Arthur H. Westing. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of January 1995

Last Updated: January 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Latvia was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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