|Regions with significant populations|
|Latvia 1,319,552 (2012)|
|United States||96,070-102,000 (2009)|
|United Kingdom||39,000 (2011)|
|New Zealand||20,000 (2004)|
A large non-religious population.
Dievturi minority.Historically Baltic Paganism.
|Related ethnic groups|
|Lithuanians, Kursenieki, Latgalians, Semigallians, Livonians|
Latvians or Letts (Latvian: latvieši; Livonian: leţlizt) are a Baltic ethnic group, native to what is modern day Latvia and the immediate geographical region. The native language of the Latvian people is called Latvian. Most Latvians belong to the Evangelical Lutheran and Roman Catholic Church, though a small minority of Latvians belong to the Latvian Orthodox Church and other religious congregations. Latvian are primarily an urban peoples with 68% living in/or near urban areas and 32% in "rural" areas. However, these numbers are not reflective of an independent Latvia, as much of recent history has been subject to imperial invasion and occupation.
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. N1c-Tat mutation probably originated in South Siberia 8-9 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. 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. It is important to remember that Estonians are of Finno-Ugric language and partial genetics. Thus, it must be emphasized that Latvians and Lithuanians (the Eastern Baltic peoples) and Estonians, form a genetic continuum.
Latvians have some cultural and religious influences from centuries of Germanic, Scandinavian, and Russian occupation. However, Latvians remain distinctly Latvian linguistically and form a unique culture with traditions, holidays, customs, and the arts, wholly separate from previous imperial occupiers, regardless of their duration of stay. Latvians have proven a resilient peoples with an ancient culture that has been archaeologically dated back to 3,000 B.C. Latvians maintained 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, Belorussia, and Ukraine. The Roman author Tacitus remarked upon the "Aestii" peoples, whom he encountered upon his travails northward into the 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 (Kurland in German), beginning in the first-half of the 13th century. Papal decrees ordered the Teutonic occupants 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.
Most of the religious Latvians belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church but Eastern Latvia (Latgale) has some Russian Orthodox influence. 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 in to the mainstream Lutheran denomination.
The national language of the Latvian people is Latvian. Latvian is an ancient language, and is part of a unique linguistic branch of Indo-European languages: the Baltic languages. Much as there are Slavic, Celtic, Germanic, Romance based languages, Latvian is of a wholly different origin. Latvian or Lithuanian (relatively similar) are often referred to as the "Sanskrit of Europe", implying how closely related the Baltic languages are to the origins of all Indo-European languages, tracing back to, what is now Southern Russia, near the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.
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- List of Latvians
- Demographics of Latvia
- History of Latvia
- Livonian people
- Latvian Russians
- Latvian name