Republic of Latvia
July 24

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Area 64,610 A fertile plain with 3,000 lakes and indented by the Gulf of Riga. The central of the three Baltic republics.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 2,356,508 -1.46% 36 per sq. km.
2010 2,137,362 -0.85% 33 per sq. km.
2025 1,936,009 -0.64% 30 per sq. km.

Capital Riga 826,508. Urbanites 69%.


Indo-European 98.5%.

Baltic 58%. Latvian 1,333,000; Lithuanian 35,500.

Slav 39.6%. Russian 717,000; Belarusian 92,000; Ukrainian 68,500; Polish 54,000.

Other 0.9%. Gypsy 8,000.

All other 1.5%. Jews 6,000; Tatar 5,000.

Literacy 99.5%. Official language Latvian (Lettish). All languages 5. Languages with Scriptures 2Bi 1NT 1por.


Slowly recovering from the mismanagement of the Soviet regime. A lack of natural resources has forced Latvia to develop an industrialized economy. Latvia aims to become a regional high-tech centre. HDI 0.744; 74th/174. Public debt 5.4% of GNP. Income/person $2,430 (7.7% of USA).


Has been ruled by the Germans, Danes, Poles, Swedes and Russians since the Middle Ages. Its brief independence from Russia (1917-1940) was ended by Stalin's reconquest. Stalin liquidated a fifth of the population, deported many more and forcibly settled Russians in their place. This history still influences modern politics, as do the stirrings of ultra-right wing groups. Independent in 1991 as a multi-party democracy. Stringent citizen qualifications disenfranchise most of the Russian settlers, many of whom are leaving the country.


Christian beginnings go back to the 13th Century. Latvians were early supporters of Luther, and much of the population converted to Lutheranism. The churches were harshly persecuted under both the Nazis and the Communists. Religious freedom since 1988 has caused many to return to the Church, but has also opened the door to sects.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Christian 58.25 1,372,666 +0.5%
non-Religious 40.32 950,144 -3.9%
Other 0.80 18,852 +1.2%
Muslim 0.38 8,955 -1.5%
Jewish 0.25 5,891 -7.9%

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 5 19.43 458 +1.3%
Independent 12 3.01 71 -1.0%
Catholic 1 19.94 470 -1.2%
Orthodox 5 4.39 104 -7.5%
Marginal 2 0.18 4 +6.4%
Unaffiliated   11.30 266 n.a.

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Catholic C 241 281,437 470,000
Lutheran P 301 160,000 400,000
Russian Orthodox O 110 65,000 100,000
Old Believers I 65 32,500 65,000
Baptist P 81 6,259 40,000
Pentecostal P 53 5,500 10,000
Seventh-day Adventist P 44 3,868 6,962
Independent [9] I 25 1,250 2,500
Other denoms [9]   38 7,000 12,000
Total Christians [25]   958 563,000 1,107,000

Trans-bloc Groupings pop.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Evangelical 7.6 179 +1.2%
Charismatic 1.6 38 +1.4%
  Pentecostal 0.4 10 +2.1%

Missionaries from Latvia
P,I,A 39 in 4 agencies to 3 countries: Latvia 35.

Missionaries to Latvia
P,I,A 72 in 15 agencies from 8 countries: USA 46, Canada 10.

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Challenges for Prayer

1 A sobering reality has replaced the elation of independence. The economy is in serious need of a boost, and the gap between rich and poor is rapidly widening. The partial disintegration of society has left a moral vacuum – economic growth takes priority over the needs of the elderly and children who rely on the state for care. Yet, although many Latvians view the future pessimistically, most feel that the Church is a trustworthy institution and God needs to be a part of Latvia's future. Pray that both leaders and citizens may recognize the truth of this and personally respond to it.

2 Solutions for the vexing ethnic question are needed. The anxious Slav community comprises 40% of the population, yet they are finding themselves marginalized because of present reactions to past Soviet wrongs. Many are leaving the country. Latvians need to re-establish their national identity, culture and language and successfully integrate the many ethnic minorities who live among them. Pray for the government as the nation's leaders wrestle with these issues.

3 The post-independence religious bubble has burst. The spiritual urgency of the early 1990's has largely lapsed into general spiritual apathy. While religious freedom exists, only about 2% of the population regularly attends church. Although the smaller evangelical denominations continue to grow, the Lutheran and Catholic churches still struggle with nominalism and a lack of teaching and pastors. Continue to pray for healthy growth in the churches and harmony between believers of different ethnicities.

4 Leadership training is important, as great hunger exists in the churches for biblical teaching and training. There is also a need to equip believers to recognize false teaching. In addition to the Bible seminaries (Lutheran, Baptist and Catholic) and the Theological Faculty in Riga University, YWAM and the Baptists have established training centres. The Lutheran Church has a one-year training programme for lay leaders and there are 2 Russian-language Bible schools. Financial support is often a problem for students. Pray that students at all these institutions may be trained into godly, committed leaders.

5 Youth ministries are again beginning to take off. IFES is working in Latvia, and SU camps are ministering not only to Latvian youth, but to young people from across Eastern Europe. Among Latvian youth, 80% believe in God, but few have been introduced to Christ. Pray for more workers with the vision to reach young people.

6 Literature. A new Latvian translation of the Bible has been sponsored by the King of Sweden. The Bible Society has been very active, using their ecumenical platform to cooperate with many denominations. Some Christian books are now being translated into Latvian and a few are also being written by Latvian Christian authors. Pray that the ministry of literature may be fruitful in every segment of the population.

7 Media.

a) Radio. There are several diverse radio ministries evolving. These include:

i) Focus Radio, which translates English scripts with a training emphasis into Latvian.

ii) The Baptists who broadcast in English two days a week.

iii) The All Latvian Lutheran Hour (LLH) and other Christian programmes which are broadcast on national and local radio as well as live broadcasts of services on TV.

iv) Over 20 hours a week can be received in Russian.

v) Christian Radio which has broadcast 24 hrs/day in Latvian since 1993.

b) TV. The Lutheran Church broadcasts a series of Christian films and talk shows, which are tied into church programmes.

c) The JESUS film, in Latvian and Russian, has been viewed by an estimated 90% of the population, in film and on national television.

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