What is a Latvian?

One of the things that make Latvia culturally rich and interesting is its inhabitants. Not only Latvians, but also Russians, Belarussians, Poles, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Jews, Roma, Germans and representatives of other nations live in Latvia.

Medieval costumes in Latvia territory.
  • Traditional costumes
  • Photo: Jasinskis

And even though the ethnic composition of Latvia is so diverse, those living in Latvia with good reason consider themselves part of Europe.

More than a half of the Latvian population consider themselves Latvians – Latvians by origin and Latvian-speakers. Latvians are a nation which has inhabited the shores of the Baltic Sea for several thousand years. Latvians originated from the Baltic people and speak Latvian, which, like Lithuanian, is one of the only Baltic languages remaining in the world. Throughout the centuries Latvians have mixed with other nations, so as to their mentality Latvians share a lot with the Slavs and the Germans, the Scandinavians and the Western Europeans. And perhaps that is the reason why, as our visitors say, the most beautiful girls and the most handsome guys are found in Latvia.

Latviahas a population of approximately 2.3 million, the majority of which

 – 60 % - are Latvians, but 28 percent or 630,000 of the Latvian population are ethnic Russians. 3.6 % are Belarussians, 2.5 % - Ukrainians, 2.4 % - Poles, 1.3 % - Lithuanians, but – 0.4 both Jews and Roma. Latvia is a multi-denominational country; the leading religion is Christianity, subdivided into the Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church, as well as the Baptist Church. Alongside the major denominations, Jewish, Islamic, Krishnaites, Mormon, Buddhists and other world religions are also represented in Latvia. Latvia is unique because a relatively large number of parishes of the Old Believers have been preserved in Latvia; it is possible to get acquainted with the Old Believers’ way of life by visiting, for example, Slutišķivillage in Daugavpils region.

Of course, these are just dry facts, far from revealing what these Latvians are, after all, like. It is considered that a classical Latvian has blue eyes and blonde hair, is hard-working, modest, does not love to stand out and will not make an effort to be noticed above all the rest. A Latvian is honest, simple, but also envious. Is not too talkative and is reticent, which is reflected in a Latvian proverb: “Talking is silver, keeping silent is gold”.

Each Latvian is different. A Latvian in Riga is quite different from the one living in the country, but all Latvians share a sense of belonging to Latvia: Latvians love their country, their take care of the environment, and their property matters to them; moreover, Latvians are pronounced individualists and tend to keep to themselves. However, if need arises, Latvians are able to become united and achieve great things. Latvians were ready for the Singing Revolution and the Baltic Way, when in 1989 many hundred thousand people of Latvia, irrespective of their ethnicity and religious affiliation, went into the streets of Latvia to fight for Latvia’s independence from the USSR.

Serenity and patience are the most typical features of a Latvian. At the same time a Latvian is joyful, cheerful and is a great singer! And even though it might initially seem that a Latvian is not too hospitable, that’s not true. He is hospitable and friendly, ready to give the best to the visitor. Latvians do not differentiate between their guests as to their ethnicity; the main thing is that the guests respect the country, its culture and nature.