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Latvian song festival by Dainis Matisons, 2008.jpg
Participants of the Latvian Song and Dance Festival in Latvian folk costumes
Total population
c. 1.5 million[citation needed]
Map of the Latvian Diaspora in the World.svg
Regions with significant populations
 Latvia 1,187,891 (2021)[1][2]
Other significant population centers:
 United Kingdom124,000 (2020)[3][4][5]
 United States96,070–102,000 (2009)[6]
 Germany40,480 (2020)[7]
 Canada30,725 (2016)[8]
 Brazil25,000 (2002)[9][10][11]
 Australia20,509 (2016)[12]
 Ireland19,933 (2016)[13]
 Russia18 979 (2010)
 Norway11,723 (2019)[14]
 Sweden8,798 (2021)[15]
 Ukraine5,079 (2001)[16]
 Denmark3,799 (2012)[17]
 Spain3,711 (2011)[18]
 Estonia3,329 (2020)[19]
 Finland3,232 (2020)[20]
 Italy2,689 (2014)[21]
 France2,602 (2016)[22][23]
 Lithuania2,300 (2012)[24]
 Belarus1,549 (2009)
 Netherlands1,400 (2002)[25]
 Kazakhstan1,123 (2009)[26]
  Switzerland736 (2006)[27]
 Belgium679 (2008)[28]
 Iceland654 (2013)[29]
 Portugal383 (2010)[30]
 Poland293 (2011)[32]
 Czech Republic193 (2011)[33]
 Austria152 (2002)[34]
 Greece69 (2006)[36]
 Kyrgyzstan82 (2009)[37]
 Croatia14 (2011)[38]
Predominantly Lutheranism,[39] with Roman Catholic, Latvian Orthodox minorities
Related ethnic groups
Other Balts, Baltic Finnic peoples (especially Estonians and Livonians)

Latvians (Latvian: latvieši) are a Baltic ethnic group and nation native to Latvia and the immediate geographical region, the Baltics. They are occasionally also referred to as Letts,[40][41] although this term is becoming obsolete. Latvians share a common Latvian language, culture and history.


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.[citation needed] 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 modern-day Latvia as well as southern Estonia, which had fallen under a minimal Germanic influence. Latvians and Lithuanians are the only surviving members of the Baltic branch of the Indo-European family.


Paternal haplogroups R1a and N1a1-Tat are the two most frequent, reaching 39.9% each among ethnic Latvians.[42] R1a has originated in eastern Europe and is associated with spread of Indo-European languages. R1a of Latvians is predominantly M558 and compared to other populations also has the highest concentration of M558 among R1a. N1a1-Tat mutation originated in East Asia and had spread through the Urals into Europe where it is currently most common among Finnic, Baltic and Eastern-Slavic peoples. Latvians and Lithuanians have a predominance of the L550 branch of N1a1-Tat.

N1c1a was present in 41.5%, R1a1a-M558 in 35.2% and I1 (M253) in 6.3 % of the samples analyzed.[43]



In 1649, settlement of the Latvian speaking Kursenieki spanned from Memel to Danzig.

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 3000 BC. Latvians maintained a considerable connection and trade with their neighbors. The first indications of human inhabitants on the lands of modern Latvia date archaeologically to c. 9000 BC, 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 as 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.

Paganism was the main religion before territory of Latvia was invaded by Christian Teutonic Order. Latvians still celebrate traditional feasts (solstices). Dievturība is a neopagan movement which claims to be a modern revival of the ethnic religion of the Latvians before Christianization in the 13th century.

Most of the Christian Latvians belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church, but in Latgale and Alsunga Municipality the Roman Catholic Church is predominant, a small minority of Latvians belong to the Latvian Orthodox Church and other religious congregations.[39] 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.


Latvians' ancestral language, Latvian, has been recorded since at least the 16th century.[44] It developed into a distinct language by the 9th century. It is part of a distinct linguistic branch of Indo-European languages: the Baltic languages.

Another notable language of Latvia is the nearly extinct Livonian language of Baltic-Finnic sub-branch of Uralic language family, which enjoys protection by law. The Latgalian language (a dialect of Latvian) is also protected by Latvian law as historical variation of Latvian language.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Population by ethnicity in regions, cities, 21 development centres and municipalities at the beginning of the year by Ethnicity, Territorial unit, Indicator and Time period". Oficiālās statistikas portāls. Retrieved 2021-04-23.
  2. ^ "ISG08. Latviešu skaits Latvijā un Rīgā gada sākumā". Retrieved 2017-08-02.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "Population of the UK by country of birth and nationality - Office for National Statistics". Retrieved 2021-04-23.
  4. ^ Population by country of birth and nationality, Annual Population Survey, Office of National Statistics, 2014] Archived August 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ BNS (13 June 2011). "TVNET :: Ārvalstīs - Lielbritānijā pašlaik dzīvo 39 tūkstoši viesstrādnieku no Latvijas". Retrieved 2011-12-03.
  6. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-12-03.
  7. ^ "Federal Statistical Office Germany - GENESIS-Online - Foreigners: Germany, reference date, sex/age years/marital status, country groups/citizenship". 2021-06-25. Retrieved 2021-06-25.
  8. ^ Government of Canada, Statistics Canada (2017-10-25). "Ethnic Origin (279), Single and Multiple Ethnic Origin Responses (3), Generation Status (4), Age (12) and Sex (3) for the Population in Private Households of Canada, Provinces and Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2016 Census - 25% Sample Data". Retrieved 2021-06-25.
  9. ^ "Um atalho para a Europa". Epoca. Editora Globo S.A. 24 June 2002. Archived from the original on 21 August 2012.
  10. ^ "Brazilian Embassy in Stockholm". Archived from the original on 4 January 2007. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  11. ^ "A Millenarian Migration: Varpa". Retrieved 2 August 2017.
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  13. ^ "All non-Irish nationals in Ireland - CSO - Central Statistics Office". Retrieved 2021-06-25.
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  16. ^ "State statistics committee of Ukraine - National composition of population, 2001 census". (in Ukrainian). p. 3. Retrieved 2017-08-02.
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  20. ^ "Befolkning 31.12. Efter Område, Bakgrundsland, Kön, År och Uppgifter".
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  22. ^ "Présentation de la Lettonie".
  23. ^ [1] Archived December 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "Gyventojų skaičius metų pradžioje. Požymiai: tautybė - Rodiklių duomenų bazėje". Archived from the original on 2012-09-06. Retrieved 2011-12-03.
  25. ^ "Demografie van de allochtonen in Nederland" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-08-02.
  26. ^ Ethnic composition, religion and language skills in the Republic of Kazakhstan Archived 2011-07-23 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2015-03-18.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ "Bevolking per nationaliteit, geslacht, leeftijdsgroepen op 1/1/2008" (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 2011-11-20. Retrieved 2011-12-03.
  29. ^ "Frontpage - Hagstofa". Hagstofa. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  30. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-11-06. Retrieved 2013-04-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  31. ^ "Latvijas Republikas un Venecuēlas Bolivāra Republikas divpusējās attiecības". Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  32. ^ "Ludnosc Stan i struktura demograficzno-spoteczna" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-08-02.
  33. ^ [2] Archived 2011-07-18 at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ [3][dead link]
  35. ^ "Latvian | Joshua Project".
  36. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-07-22. Retrieved 2014-11-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  37. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-05-30. Retrieved 2011-07-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  38. ^ "1. POPULATION BY ETHNICITY – DETAILED CLASSIFICATION, 2011 CENSUS". Croatian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2017-05-12.
  39. ^ a b "Tieslietu ministrijā iesniegtie reliģisko organizāciju pārskati par darbību 2011. gadā" (in Latvian). Archived from the original on 2012-11-26. Retrieved 2012-07-25.
  40. ^ "Lett - definition of Lett in English - Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries - English. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  41. ^ "Definition of LETT". Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  42. ^ "Y Chromosome and Mitochondrial DNA Variation in Lithuanians" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-02-25. Retrieved 2010-05-20. Kasperaviciute et al. 2004 (link broken)
  43. ^ Pliss, Liana; Timša, Līga; Rootsi, Siiri; Tambets, Kristiina; Pelnena, Inese; Zole, Egija; Puzuka, Agrita; Sabule, Areta; Rozane, Sandra; Lace, Baiba; Kucinskas, Vaidutis (November 2015). "Y-Chromosomal Lineages of Latvians in the Context of the Genetic Variation of the Eastern-Baltic Region". Annals of Human Genetics. 79 (6): 418–430. doi:10.1111/ahg.12130. ISSN 1469-1809. PMID 26411886. S2CID 13050610.
  44. ^ Vīksniņš, Nicholas (1973). "The Early History of Latvian Books". Lituanus. 19 (3). Retrieved 3 September 2019.

External links[edit]