Population and Language in Latvia

Population and Language in Latvia


Latvians are the indigenous people of Latvia, and the Finno-Ugric Livs (or Livonians) are the only indigenous minority. Latvia’s present ethnic mix is largely a result of massive post-war immigration, which resulted in a decline in the share of ethnic Latvians from 77% in 1935 to 52% in 1989.

Population in 2012: 2, 041, 763

Urban: 68% Rural:32%

Ethnic Composition

62.1% Latvian,

27.4% Russian,

3.5% Belorussian,

2.4% Ukrainian,

2.3% Polish,

1.3% Lithuanian,

1.0% other nationalities.

Official Language: Latvian

Hi – Sveiks!

Good-bye – Uz redzēšanos

Yes – Jā

No – Nē

Thank you – Paldies

Please – Lūdzu

Sorry – Atvainojiet

Latvian is a Baltic language that belongs to the Indo-European language family. Its only linguistic relative is Lithuanian, and is considered to be among the oldest and least changed of all living Indo-European languages in the world. It is estimated that 1,5 million people  worldwide use Latvian as their primary language. English and Russian are widely spoken throughout Latvia, while German, French and the Scandinavian languages are also frequently heard.

For more information about Latvian language visit http://www.latvia.lv/library/latvian-language

Most Common Foreign Languages

English, Russian, and German.


Latvia has traditionally had one of the highest per capita ratio of students in the world. The state guarantees free primary and secondary school education and offers scholarships for higher education. Foreign students from EU countries pay the same fees as permanent residents of Latvian, and degrees from Latvian educational institutions are recognized internationally. Doctorates can be received in the social sciences, natural sciences, and law, as well as technical and humanitarian sciences. Latvia also has state-financed ethnic minority schools or classes where courses are taught in Belorussian, Estonian, Hebrew, Lithuanian, Polish, Roma, Russian and Ukrainian.

For more information about Education in Latvia visit http://www.latvia.lv/library/education-latvia

Largest Religious Confessions

Evangelic Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Russian Orthodox. Since the 16th century Reformation, the Lutheran church has played a leading role in Latvia.

Text: © The Latvian Institute, 2012