Abolished in 2006 by a decision of the Latvian parliament. Since 2007 Latvia had only professional voluntary military service. However, the Latvian parliament (Saeima) adopted the State Defence Service Law in the third reading on 5 April 2023. After the final reading, the new law will regulate the roll out of state defence service across Latvia.

The proposed law also re-establishes alternative service, considering the rights of conscientious objectors.

Also, Latvia introduced a new kind of project, called “Total Defence” in 2017, and a National Defence Course was introduced into the secondary school system with effect from January 2021 (see EBCO Report 2020).

Conscientious objection:


First recognised by the Law on Substitute Service of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic. It was passed in 1990, couple of months before the restoration of the independence of the Republic of Latvia and it introduced the Alternative Service as a possibility to opt-out the Soviet mandatory military service. The law stated that the purpose of the Alternative Service is to ensure the freedom of conscience and beliefs of a person. Since then till 2007 (when conscription was abolished) the Alternative Service option was available for those who were objecting military service.

Considering that Latvia currently has only professional military service, a serving member of the military can freely and at any time terminate the service contract on the basis of mutual agreement with the Latvian National Armed Forces.













No conscription

Voluntary enlistment:


The minimum age of recruitment in Latvian National Armed Forces is 18. The same minimum legal age applies to mobilization during war time. However, the National Defence Course has been developed for students in secondary schools who are 16-18 years old, and it will be mandatory starting from 2024-25 school year.

More including the reply of the Ministry of Defence to the Questionnaire about EBCO’s Annual Report 2022 (e-mail on 02/12/2022).

One of the priorities of the Ministry of Defense (MoD) in 2022 is related to the development of national defense training in Latvia. This lesson is already being taught in 97 schools, including almost 4,200 students in 10th grade and almost 1,200 in 11th grade. [1]

On January 13 2022, in the final reading, the Saeima adopted amendments to the Law on National Defense Training and the Youth Guard, which entitle those serving in the institutions of the Ministry of the Interior (MoI) to become teachers of national defense training. [2]

In 2024, when the national defense education is expected to be compulsory for all secondary school students, it will cover approximately 32 to 34 thousand young people; a class of around 8,000 young guards. This means that more than 40,000 young people need to be trained. To do this, at least 270 instructors are needed. More than half are currently completed. [3]

According to the reply of the Ministry of Defence to the Questionnaire about EBCO’s Annual Report 2022 (e-mail on 02/12/2022):

The National Defence Course is an integral part of the secondary education curriculum. The main document specifying its content is the State education standard. The State education standard is developed by the Ministry of Education and Science and approved by the Cabinet of Ministers. Currently, in the State education standard the National Defence Course is categorized as a special course, meaning that it is voluntary course, but starting from 2024-25 school year this course will be mandatory for all secondary school students.

At the moment each secondary school voluntarily decides on introducing the National Defence Course in their curricula. Up till now, the National Defence Course is taught in more than 97 secondary schools. National Defence Course’s teachers are employed by the Cadet Force Centre, a civil institution under the Ministry of Defence.

The content of the National Defence Course was developed by the Cadet Force Centre in close collaboration with the National Centre for Education, an institution under the Ministry of Education and Science. The content is publicly available both on the webpage of the National Centre for Education and on the webpage of Cadet Force Centre. Additionally, the Cadet Force Centre provides the teachers with detailed plan, instructions and guidelines for every single lesson.

The National Defence Course consists of several modules where students are taught a range of theoretical and practical skills. Those modules are:

  • Security and defence of a nation-state, role of civil society and civic engagement;
  • Resilience in crises, leadership and command;
  • Skills and competencies for defence.

Additionally, students can engage in extracurricular activities (summer camps). Participation in those camps is voluntary.

The course has been developed for students in 10'1’ and 11 1 grade (or 2nd and 3" study year in vocational education). Usually, students in those grades are 16-18 years old. As it was mentioned above, the National Defence Course will be mandatory for students in secondary schools only starting from 2024-25 school year.

It is important to note that secondary education is not compulsory in Latvia, although the proportion of the population who complete it is high.

The National Defence Course is 140 academic hours long. The course is implemented in 2 academic years.

Cadet Force Centre is a civil institution subordinated to the Minister of Defence. In addition to higher pedagogical education and qualification to teach defence skills to qualify for teaching the National Defence Course, the teacher has to fulfil several extra requirements (e.g. complete the Course on the Rights of the Child etc.).

Module "Skills and competences for defence" includes the topic "Safe handling of weapons, shooting with a pneumatic weapon". The time allocated for this topic altogether is 31 academic hours. During those lessons students learn about weapons, development of weapons through history, operating principles of weapons, moral responsibility using weapons and safety rules. To acquire practical skills students try out shooting with a pneumatic weapon (a weapon that fires using air pressure).

The law on the National Defence Course and Cadet Force states that for students who, due to their religious or philosophical beliefs or due to other objective circumstances, are unable to participate in particular activities that are a part of the National Defence Course, the teacher provides alternative study topics and individually adjusts the study process. There are no consequences for this choice.

The objectives and content of the National Defence Course is in line with values and ideals embedded in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child especially emphasizes that a child’s education should help their personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential. It should also build their respect for other people and the world around them and they should respect the values of their own country. Education should prepare children for responsible life in a free society.

The purpose of the new law is to guarantee an opportunity for a child or a young person to acquire knowledge, skills and abilities suitable for their age and interests.

The activities included in the National Defence Course don’t lead to any obligations regarding National Armed Forces. The minimum age of recruitment in Latvian National Armed Forces is 18 and Latvia has fully voluntary military service (no conscription).

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