Latvia Finally Accomplishes Dream of Returning to Pre-Soviet Times as Population Plunges 27 Percent Since 1991
Latvia finally reaches population size it enjoyed in the 1930s
In 2017 Latvia’s population is 1.95 million. That is an incredible plunge of 27 percent since the 2.66 million high in 1989. The last time Latvia’s population was under 2 million was before WWII, in 1935.
So at least in one way Latvia has accomplished the dream of erasing the 50 years of Soviet “occupation.”
Perhaps it will be some consolation to Latvian nationalists that a big chunk of that decline has been ethnic Russians, who have gone from 0.9 million to 0.5 million. However, ethnic Latvians have likewise declined. There are just 60,000 more ethnic Latvians in Latvia today than there were in 1920.
The fact is that whenever Latvia was part of the same economic space as its Russian hinterland, its location made it an important and vibrant economic hub. Riga was a key port city of both the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire. However, an independent Latvia, and furthermore one that is hostile to Russia, losses that position. It becomes merely yet another small state in Eastern Europe.As a result, Latvia is today a prime emigration country, whereas in Soviet days it was characterized by fast-paced development and labor shortages (especially since the Germans and Latvian right-wingers had killed off the Latvian Jews in the war years) and net migration.