What Is the Latvian Lats (LVL)?

The Latvian lats (LVL) was the national currency of the Republic of Latvia, a Baltic nation that is a member of the European Union. The LVL was used between 1993 and 2013. At the start of 2014, it was replaced by the euro.

Key Takeaways

  • The Latvian lats was the national currency of Latvia prior to its replacement by the euro in 2014.
  • The lats was introduced in 1922, replacing the Latvian ruble.
  • Today, Latvia’s economy is mostly service-sector based, with its citizens enjoying a high average standard of living.

Understanding the LVL

The Latvian lats was made up of 100 subunits, called santïms. It was denoted using the symbol “Ls” before the numerals, while santïm are marked with the symbol “s” after them. For example, 100 Latvian lats would be referred to as “Ls100,” and 100 santïm would be marked as “100s.” The plural of lats is lati.

The lats first entered circulation in Latvia in 1922, when it replaced the Latvian ruble. Between 1922 and 1940, its value was pegged to the gold standard, although this practice was interrupted by the occupation of Latvia by the Soviet Union in 1940. In 1993, when Latvia gained its independence from the Soviet Union, the lats was restored as the country’s official currency.

Prior to its replacement by the euro, the lats was minted in coins worth 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 santïms, as well as in coins worth 1 and 2 lati. Banknotes, meanwhile, were distributed in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 500 lati. The lats was issued and controlled by Latvia’s central bank, the Bank of Latvia.

Real-World Example of the LVL

Latvia is sometimes referred to with the nickname "Baltic tiger," which refers to the impressive growth rates that the country enjoyed between 2000 and 2007. The country’s economy reached a high of a 12% growth rate in 2006, but was hit hard by the financial crisis in the years that followed. Between 2008 and 2010, its gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by a combined rate of nearly 22%. Since then, however, it has gradually recovered, with annual growth averaging 3.3% from 2011 through 2019.

Today, Latvia ranks as one of the world’s developed economies, with a per-capita GDP of roughly $17,800. Nearly 75% of Latvia’s GDP is composed of service-sector activities, with most of the remaining 25% composed of industries such as food processing, textiles, electronics, and pharmaceuticals. Latvia’s main trading partners are nearby nations, such as Lithuania, Russia, Poland, and Germany.