Last updated
Latvian song festival by Dainis Matisons, 2008.jpg
Participants of the Latvian Song and Dance Festival in Latvian folk costumes
Total population
c.1.6–1.7 million
Regions with significant populations
Flag of Latvia.svg  Latvia 1,229,067 (2014) [1]
Other significant population centers:
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom 102,000 (2014) [2] [3]
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 96,070–102,000 (2009) [4]
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 27,870 (2006) [5]
Flag of Germany.svg  Germany 27,752 (2014) [6]
Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil 25,000 (2002) [7] [8] [9]
Flag of Ireland.svg  Ireland 20,593 (2011) [10]
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 20,509 (2016) [11]
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia 20,068 (2010)
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 20,000 (2004) [12]
Other countries
(fewer than 10,000)
Flag of Norway.svg  Norway 8,077 (2013) [13]
Flag of Ukraine.svg  Ukraine 5,079 (2001) [14]
Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden 4,116 (2009) [15]
Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark 3,799 (2012) [16]
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain 3,711 (2011) [17]
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 2,689 (2014) [18]
Flag of Finland.svg  Finland 2,624 (2018) [19]
Flag of France.svg  France 2,602 (2016) [20] [21]
Flag of Lithuania.svg  Lithuania 2,300 (2012) [22]
Flag of Estonia.svg  Estonia 2,478 (2018) [23]
Flag of Belarus.svg  Belarus 1,549 (2009)
Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands 1,400 (2002) [24]
Flag of Kazakhstan.svg  Kazakhstan 1,123 (2009) [25]
Flag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland 736 (2006) [26]
Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium 679 (2008) [27]
Flag of Iceland.svg  Iceland 654 (2013) [28]
Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 383 (2010) [29]
Flag of Venezuela.svg  Venezuela 300 [30]
Flag of Poland.svg  Poland 293 (2011) [31]
Flag of Georgia.svg  Georgia 200
Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 200
Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czech Republic 193 (2011) [32]
Flag of Austria.svg  Austria 152 (2002) [33]
Flag of Uzbekistan.svg  Uzbekistan 140 (2000) [34]
Flag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay 100
Flag of Greece.svg  Greece 69 (2006) [35]
Flag of Kyrgyzstan.svg  Kyrgyzstan 82 (2009) [36]
Flag of Croatia.svg  Croatia 14 (2011) [37]
Predominantly Lutheranism, [38] with Roman Catholic, Latvian Orthodox minorities
Related ethnic groups
Other Balts

Latvians (Latvian : latvieši; Livonian : lețlizt) 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, [39] [40] 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 the 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. [41] 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 China and had spread through the Urals into the Europe where it is currently most common among Finno-Ugric and Baltic people. Latvians and Lithuanians have predominance of the L550 branch of N1a1-Tat.



In 1649, settlement of the Latvian speaking Kursenieki spanned from Memel to Danzig. Curonians kursenieki in 1649.png
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. Aglona Basilica.jpg
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. [38] 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

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