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Cities in LATVIA



State structure

The Latvian Soviet leadership's decision in December 1989 to end the communist party's monopoly paved the way for the emergence of independent political parties and the first free elections since 1940. A political transition period followed which lasted until 21 August 1991. In 1993, the 1922 Constitution came back into force. The first elections were held in June 1993. After the elections, the parliament (the Saeima) elected Guntis Ulmanis as president. Ulmanis appointed Valdis Birkavs as Prime Minister, who in turn formed a Council of Ministers. The president, elected by parliament for a three-year term, has no political responsibility and only representative functions. Executive power rests with the government, headed by a prime minister. The government is accountable to the legislative parliament. The Saeima consists of one chamber with 100 deputies elected directly for three years. Since 1994, all persons aged 18 and over living in Latvia have had the right to vote and are descendants of Latvians living in Latvia in 1940. Latvian minorities who came to live in the country after that are therefore no longer entitled to vote, unless they have a reasonable knowledge of Latvian and give up their old citizenship. The large group of Russians is particularly disadvantaged by this.

One of the first problems to be solved was "citizenship". It was decided that citizenship of Latvia could be obtained if one had lived in Latvia continuously for five years, had a reasonable knowledge of the Latvian language and had a legally obtained income. In addition, one must take an oath to remain loyal to Latvia and not to hold any other citizenship.

Latvia is divided into 26 rural districts, 60 cities and 7 large municipalities. For the current political situation see chapter history.


All children of ± 6 years and older are obliged to attend at least nine years of primary education. After this they can follow three years of secondary education or one to six years of technical, vocational or art education. In the school year 93/94, 76,000 children attended primary school, 242,000 attended secondary school, 28,000 attended vocational training, 20,000 attended special training institutes and 7,000 attended schools for the physically or mentally handicapped. There are 18 universities and colleges with 37,000 students.

Illiteracy is almost non-existent. After independence, ethnic groups were again allowed to set up schools where education is given in their own language. In the school year 93/94 there were more than 200 Russian schools, four Polish, one Estonian, one Lithuanian, one Ukrainian and one Jewish school. There are also about a hundred schools that teach in both Latvian and Russian. Because most ethnic groups live in the cities, the percentage of students from these groups attending higher education is higher than for native Latvians. Most higher education institutions are located in the capital, Riga.

In 1997, the first law school was opened with financial help from Sweden and the European Union. At that time, there were about 100 Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian students studying there.


Baister, S. / Latvia
Bradt Publications

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania : country studies
Federal Research Division, Library of Congress,

Williams, N. / Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania
Lonely Planet

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2024
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