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Latvia: Glossary
Country Study > Glossary


Cheka (Vserossiyskaya chrezvychaynaya komissiya po bor'be s kontrrevolyutsiyey i sabotazhem -- VChK) - All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counterrevolution and Sabotage. The political police created by the Bolsheviks in 1917, the Cheka (also known as the Vecheka) was supposed to be dissolved when the new regime, under Vladimir I. Lenin, had defeated its enemies and secured power. But the Cheka continued until 1922, becoming the leading instrument of terror and oppression in the Soviet Union, as well as the predecessor of other secret police organizations. Members of successor security organizations continued to be referred to as "Chekisty" in the late 1980s.

Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) - A loosely structured alliance of most of the former republics of the Soviet Union that facilitates consultation and cooperation in economic and security matters of common concern. Members in 1995 were Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Ka-zakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

Communist International (Comintern) - An international organization of communist parties founded by Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) leader Vladimir I. Lenin in 1919. Initially, it attempted to control the international socialist movement and to foment world revolution; later, it also became an instrument of Soviet foreign policy. The Comintern was dissolved by Soviet leader Joseph V. Stalin in 1943 as a conciliatory measure toward his Western allies.

Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) - Established in 1972, the group in 1995 consisted of fifty-three nations -- including all the European countries -- and sponsored joint sessions and consultations on political issues vital to European security. The Charter of Paris (1990) changed the CSCE from an ad hoc forum to an organization having permanent institutions. In 1992 new CSCE roles in conflict prevention and management were defined, potentially making the CSCE the center of a Europe-based collective security system. In the early 1990s, however, applications of these instruments to conflicts in Yugoslavia and the Caucasus were largely ineffective. In January 1995, the organization was renamed the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Congress of People's Deputies - Established in December 1988 in the Soviet Union by constitutional amendment, the Congress of People's Deputies was the highest organ (upper tier) of legislative and executive authority in the Soviet Union. As such, it elected the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. The Congress of People's Deputies that was elected in March through May 1989 consisted of 2,250 deputies. The Congress of People's Deputies ceased to exist at the demise of the Soviet Union.

Council of Europe - Founded in 1949, the Council of Europe is an organization overseeing intergovernmental cooperation in designated areas such as environmental planning, finance, sports, crime, migration, and legal matters. In 1995 the council had thirty-five members.

European Community (EC) - A grouping of primarily economic organizations of West European countries, including the European Economic Community (EEC), the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom or EAEC), and the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The name changed to European Union (qv) in November 1993. Members in 1993 were Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain.

European currency unit (ECU) - Established in 1979 as a composite of the monetary systems of European Community (qv) member nations, the ECU functions in the European Monetary System and serves as the unit for exchange-rate establishment, credit and intervention operations, and settlements between monetary authorities of member nations.

European Union (EU) - Successor organization to the European Community (qv). The EU was officially established by ratification of the Maastricht Treaty of November 1993. The aim of the EU is to promote the economic integration of Europe, leading to a single monetary system and closer cooperation in matters of justice and foreign and security policies. In 1995 members consisted of Austria, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden.

glasnost - Russian term for public discussion of issues; accessibility of information so that the public can become familiar with it and discuss it. Glasnost is the name given to Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev's policy in the Soviet Union in the mid- to late 1980s of using the media to make information available on certain controversial issues to provoke public discussion, challenge government and party bureaucrats, and mobilize greater support for the policy of perestroika (qv).

gross domestic product (GDP) - A measure of the total value of goods and services produced by the domestic economy during a given period, usually one year. GDP is obtained by adding the value contributed by each sector of the economy in the form of profits, compensation to employees, and depreciation (consumption of capital). Only domestic production is included, not income arising from investments and possessions owned abroad, hence the use of the word "domestic" to distinguish GDP from the gross national product (qv). Real GDP is the value of GDP when inflation has been taken into account.

gross national product (GNP) - The gross domestic product (qv) plus the net income or loss stemming from transactions with foreign countries. GNP is the broadest measurement of the output of goods and services by an economy. It can be calculated at market prices, which include direct taxes and subsidies. Because indirect taxes and subsidies are only transfer payments, GNP is often calculated at factor cost, removing indirect taxes and subsidies.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) - Established along with the World Bank (qv) in 1945, the IMF has regulatory surveillance and financial functions that apply to its more than 150 member countries and is responsible for stabilizing international exchange rates and payments. Its main function is to provide loans to its members (including industrialized and developing countries) when they experience balance of payments difficulties. These loans often have conditions that require substantial internal economic adjustments by the recipients, most of which are developing countries. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania joined the IMF and the World Bank in 1992.

Karaites - Members of a religious group practicing Karaism, a Jewish doctrine originating in Baghdad in the eighth century A.D. that rejects rabbinism and talmudism and bases its tenets on Scripture alone.

kroon (EKR) - Estonia's prewar currency (1928-40), reintroduced in June 1992 after Estonia became the first former Soviet republic to leave the Russian ruble zone. The kroon was officially pegged to the deutsche mark (DM) within 3 percent of EKR8 = DM1. In March 1996, the exchange rate was EKR11.83 = US$1.

lats (LVL) - Latvia's unit of currency prior to the Soviet annexation in 1940. Reintroduced in March 1993, the lats became the sole legal tender in Latvia in October 1993. In March 1996, the exchange rate was LVL0.55 = US$1.

Latvian ruble - Interim unit of currency introduced in Latvia in May 1992 and circulated in parallel to and valued at par with the Russian ruble, a vestige of Soviet rule, until July 1992. Sole legal tender until March 1993. Replaced by the lats (qv).

litas (pl., litai) - Lithuania's unit of currency prior to the Soviet annexation in 1940. Reintroduced in June 1993, the litas became the sole legal tender in Lithuania in August 1993. In March 1996, the exchange rate was 4.0 litai = US$1.

nomenklatura - The communist party's system of appointing key personnel in the government and other important organizations, based on lists of critical positions and people in political favor. The term also refers to the individuals included on these lists.

Nordic Council - Founded in 1952, the Nordic Council promotes political, economic, cultural, and environmental cooperation in the Nordic region. Members in 1995 were Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.

Old Believers - A sect of the Russian Orthodox Church that rejects the reforms of liturgical books and practices carried out by the head of the church, Patriarch Nikon, in the mid-seventeenth century.

perestroika - Literally, restructuring. The term refers to Mikhail S. Gorbachev's campaign in the Soviet Union in the mid- to late 1980s to revitalize the economy, communist party, and society by adjusting political, social, and economic mechanisms.

value-added tax (VAT) - A tax levied on the value-added income of a business. The VAT is defined as the difference between the total sales revenue and the costs of intermediate inputs, such as raw materials, used in the production process.

World Bank - Name used to designate a group of four affiliated international institutions that provide advice on long-term finance and policy issues to developing countries: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the International Development Association (IDA), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). The IBRD, established in 1945, has the primary purpose of providing loans to developing countries for productive projects. The IDA, a legally separate loan fund administered by the staff of the IBRD, was set up in 1960 to furnish credits to the poorest developing countries on much easier terms than those of conventional IBRD loans. The IFC, founded in 1956, supplements the activities of the IBRD through loans and assistance designed specifically to encourage the growth of productive private enterprises in less developed countries. The president and certain senior officers of the IBRD hold the same positions in the IFC. The MIGA, which began operating in June 1988, insures private foreign investment in developing countries against such noncommercial risks as expropriation, civil strife, and inconvertibility. The four institutions are owned by the governments of the countries that subscribe their capital. To participate in the World Bank group, member states must first belong to the International Monetary Fund (qv).

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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