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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Population: demographic situation, languages and religions


1.Political, social and economic background and trends

1.3Population: demographic situation, languages and religions

Last update: 7 January 2024

The Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia has prepared a one-minute short film LATVIA: THE FIRST 100, showing the changes that have taken place in Latvia over the course of one hundred years with the statisticians' perspective, visualizing the following statistical data: birth rate by sex, population, number of kindergartens and students, as well as the number of books issued and number of physicians in Latvia, population density, etc.

Demographic situation

At the beginning of 2023, Latvia had 1 million 883 thousand inhabitants. In 2022, compared to the year before, the population increased by 0.39%. The increase in the number of inhabitants compared to the previous year was observed for the first time since 1989. Due to a positive migration balance, the population changed by 1.17% last year, which mainly consists of 23.3 thousand persons from Ukraine, or Ukrainian war refugees with temporary protection status. The excess of deaths over the number of births, or negative natural growth (-0.78%), had a negative impact on the population. 

The average age of the population of Latvia at the beginning of 2023 was 42.9 years - 39.6 years for men and 45.7 years for women. In Pierīga region, the population is younger (average age 40.7 years), in Latgale – older (45.2 years). 

In 2022, the number of children under the age of 14 increased in Pierīga and Vidzeme, but their share in the total population of the regions almost did not change during the year. The largest was in the Pierīga region (18.8% of the total population of the region), the smallest in the Latgale region (13.6%). In state cities, the proportion of children varied from 18.2% in Jelgava to 14.6% in Daugavpils. The youngest was Mārupe county (26.6% of all residents were children under the age of 14), while in Krāslavas and Augšdaugavas counties – only 11.0% and 11.8%, respectively. 

At the beginning of 2023, 1 million 176 thousand Latvians lived in Latvia, which was 62.4% of the total population. The second largest ethnic group was Russians (23.7%), followed by Ukrainians (3.0%) and Belarusians (3.0%). The ethnicity of some refugees from Ukraine is not indicated, therefore the number and proportion of Ukrainians in Latvia is probably higher. 

The ethnic composition of the population differs significantly in regions and national cities. At the beginning of 2023, in Rīga, Daugavpils and Rēzekne, Latvians were less than half of the total population of these cities, and in Daugavpils, the share of Latvians was only 21.0%. The largest proportion of Latvians was in Valmiera – 84.8%. Among the regions, the largest proportion of Latvians was in Vidzeme (87.3%), and the smallest in Latgale (46.2%). 

The average age of Latvians was 40.7 years, Russians – 48.8 years, Belarusians – 56.8 years, Ukrainians – 47.3 years, Poles, Lithuanians – 52.4 years, Roma (gypsies) – 39.5 years. At the beginning of 2023, Jews had the highest average age in Latvia (57.2 years), the lowest average age – for Indians (27.5 years). 

Detailed information on population and its characteristics is available at Official Statistics of Latvia portal.


Latvian is the official language in Latvia, states the Constitution (Satversme) and the Official Language Law passed in 1989. The Latvian language belongs to the Baltic group of the Indo-European family of languages. Its closest and only living relative is Lithuanian. People in Latgale region may speak Latgalian language.

According to the Official Language Law (Section 3 and 4), the state ensures the development and use of the Latvian sign language for communication with people with impaired hearing. The state ensures also the maintenance, protection and development of the Līvi language as the language of the indigenous (autochthon) population. 

In 2022, the Parliament adopted amendments to the Education Law and the General Education Law, which provide for the transition to instruction only in the Latvian language within three years. According to the amendments to the laws, from September 1, 2023, the learning process is implemented only in the state language in preschool education and in grades 1, 4 and 7. From September 1, 2024, students of grades 2, 5, and 8 will start studying only in the state language, but from September 1, 2025, grades 3, 6, and 9 will also join. The opportunity to learn the language and cultural history of ethnic minorities is preserved - at the preschool and primary and lower-secondary education level, ethnic minority students will be able to learn the language and cultural history of ethnic minorities within the framework of the extra-curricular education programme.


The Constitution of Latvia (Satversme) declares that the church is separated from the state, and everybody has the right to freedom of religion.

Historically, since the Protestant Reformation movement in the 16th century, the Lutheran church has played a leading role in Latvia. The Reformation brought about great change in the Baltic Region of Europe, with impact on education and language. A rise in education and literacy was in part a result in the printing of books in local languages. However, also Catholicism with the Jesuit order had an impact of spreading education. 

Today, there are around 25 religious confessions in Latvia, of which Evangelic Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox are the largest ones. Churches and religious organizations are free to preach their doctrines and to perform rituals. The preaching of the doctrines of the churches and religious organizations and other ritual activities, as well as the places of worship may not be exploited for purposes contrary to the Constitution and laws.

Under soviet occupation the churches were oppressed in Baltic countries. Many priests were deported to Siberia and churches were declared state property. The teaching of religion was banned, persecuted and punished. Extensive atheist propaganda was developed by means of literature, press, radio, television, theater and cinema. Together with the nation's movement of independence came a "spiritual renaissance". Many priests took an active part in the movement of national liberation. The reinstated state returned the deprived buildings and property to churches, and assigned the force of law to marriages established in the church.

Today the teaching of religion as an optional subject alongside with ethics has been restored in public schools. Instruction in these schools is organized according to the programmes confirmed by the National Centre for Education. Pupils are free to choose to study this subject, according to wish of parents or guardians. Christian instruction and the study of ethics are financed from the state budget.