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Title: Latvians  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Culture of Latvia, Kursenieki, Lithuanians, Balts, Latvian Brazilian
Collection: Baltic Peoples, Ethnic Groups in Europe, Latvian People
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Total population
c. 1.55 million
Regions with significant populations

 Latvia 1 229 067 (2014)[1]

Other significant population centers:
 United States 96,070–102,000 (2009)[2]
 United Kingdom 39,000 (2011)[3][4]
 Canada 27,870 (2006)[5]
 Germany 27,752 (2014)[6]
 Brazil 25,000 (2002)[7]
 Ireland 20,593 (2011)[8]
 Australia 20,124 (2011)[9]
 Russia 20,068 (2010)[10]
 New Zealand 20,000 (2004)[11]
 Norway 8,077 (2013)[12]
 Ukraine 5,079 (2001)[13]
 Sweden 4,116 (2009)[14]
 Denmark 3,799 (2012)[15]
 Spain 3,711 (2011)[16]
 Italy 2,689 (2014)[17]
 Lithuania 2,300 (2012)[18]
 Estonia 2,171 (2012)[19]
 France 1,702 (2007)[20]
 Belarus 1,549 (2009)[21]
 Netherlands 1,400 (2002)[22]
 Finland 1,164 (2013)[23]
 Kazakhstan 1,123 (2009)[24]
  Switzerland 736 (2006)[25]
 Belgium 679 (2008)[26]
 Iceland 654 (2013)[27]
 Turkmenistan 500 (2010)
 Moldova 400 (2010)
 Portugal 383 (2010)[28]
 Venezuela 300[29]
 Poland 293 (2011)[30]
 Georgia 200[31]

Predominantly Lutheranism and Non-Religious with Roman Catholic, Latvian Orthodox and Dievturi minorities.

Historically Baltic Paganism.
Related ethnic groups
Lithuanians, Kursenieki, Latgalians, Semigallians, Livonians

Latvians (Latvian: latvieši; Livonian: leţlizt) are a Baltic ethnic group, native to what is modern-day Latvia and the immediate geographical region. They are also known as Letts,[32][33] although this term is obsolescent. The Latvian people share a common Latvian language.


  • History 1
  • Genetics 2
  • Culture 3
    • Influences 3.1
    • Religion 3.2
    • Language 3.3
  • See also 4
  • References 5


A Finnic-speaking tribe known as the Livs settled among the Latvians and modulated the name to "Latvis," meaning "forest-clearers," which is how medieval German, Teutonic settlers also referred to these peoples. The Germanic settlers referred to the natives as "Letts" and the nation to "Lettland", naming their colony Livonia or Livland.

The Latin form, Livonia, gradually referred to the whole territory of the modern-day Latvia as well as southern Estonia, which had fallen under minimal Germanic influence. Latvians and Lithuanians are the only surviving members of the Baltic branch of the Indo-European family.


Paternal haplogroups N1c-Tat and R1a are the two most frequent, reaching 39.9% each among ethnic Latvians.[34] N1c-Tat mutation probably originated in South Siberia eight to nine thousand years ago and had spread through the Urals into the Europe where it is currently most common among Finno-Ugric and Baltic people. Balts, however, differ from Finno-Ugrics by the predominance of the N1c-L550 branch of N1c-Tat.[35] Haplogroup R1a is associated with the spread of Indo-European languages.

A recent autosomal study has shown that among other European populations, Latvians are genetically related to Lithuanians, followed distantly by Estonians.[36]



In 1649 settlement of the Latvian speaking Kursenieki spanned from Memel (Klaipėda) to Danzig (Gdańsk).

Latvians share a common language and have a unique culture with traditions, holidays, customs and arts. The culture and religious traditions have been somewhat influenced by Germanic, Scandinavian, and Russian traditions. Latvians have an ancient culture that has been archaeologically dated back to 3,000 B.C. Latvians maintained a considerable connection and trade with their neighbors, and near ethnic cousins the Finno-Ugrians, otherwise known contemporarily as Estonians and eventually Finns as well. The first indications of human inhabitants on the lands of modern Latvia date archaeologically to ~9,000 B.C., suggesting that the first settlers were hunters that stayed almost immediately following the end of the last Ice Age. Colonizers from the south arrived quickly, driving many of the hunters northward and polar ice caps melted further, or east, into modern-day Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. The Roman author Tacitus remarked upon the "Aestii" peoples, thought to be inhabitants of the modern Baltic lands, suggesting that they were abound with formidable, yet peaceful and hospitable people. The Latvian peoples remained relatively undisturbed until Papal intervention via the Germanic, Teutonic Order colonized Kurzeme (Courland in English, Kurland in German), beginning in the first-half of the 13th century. Papal decrees ordered the Teutonic Order to spread the "Word of the Lord" and the Gospel of Christianity throughout "uncivilized", "Pagan lands." Though these attempts to Christianize the population failed, and the Teutonic Order eventually redeployed southward, to the region of what was once known as East Prussia.

South-Eastern Latvia (Latgale), due to having a relatively large ethnic Russian population, has maintained a large Russian influence.


The Basilica of the Assumption in Aglona, the most important Roman Catholic church in Latvia.

Most of the religious Latvians belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church, but in Eastern Latvia (Latgale) the Roman Catholic Church is predominant, a small minority of Latvians belong to the Latvian Orthodox Church and other religious congregations.[37] In the late 18th century, a small but vibrant Herrnhutist movement played a significant part in the development of Latvian literary culture, before it was absorbed into the mainstream Lutheran denomination.


The national language of the Latvian people is Latvian. Latvian is part of a unique linguistic branch of Indo-European languages: the Baltic languages.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Population by country of birth and nationality, Annual Population Survey, Office of National Statistics, 2010] Archived August 28, 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^
  5. ^,97154&S=0&SHOWALL=0&SUB=0&Temporal=2006&THEME=80&VID=0&VNAMEE=&VNAMEF=
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Russians#cite note-gks-1
  11. ^'latvian%20diaspora%2020%2C000%20brazil'
  12. ^
  13. ^ State statistics committee of Ukraine - National composition of population, 2001 census (Ukrainian)
  14. ^
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ [2]
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ [3] Archived December 21, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Латыши
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ Ethnic composition, religion and language skills in the Republic of Kazakhstan
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ [4]
  29. ^ Latvijas Republikas un Venecuēlas Bolivāra Republikas attiecības
  30. ^ (Polish)
  31. ^ Latviai
  32. ^ "Lett" at Oxford Dictionaries
  33. ^ "Lett" at Merriam-Webster Online
  34. ^ Kasperaviciute et al. 2004 (link broken)
  35. ^ Pamjav H, Nemeth E, Feher T, Volgyi A "Genetic journey of the N1c haplogroup"
  36. ^ Nelis et al. "Genetic Structure of Europeans: A View from the North–East"
  37. ^
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