Latvians

From Academic Kids

Latvians or Letts, the indigenous people of Latvia, occasionally refer to themselves by the ancient name of Latvji, which may have originated from the word Latve which is a name of the river that presumably flowed through what is now eastern Latvia. A small Finno-Ugric tribe known as the Livs settled among the Latvians and modulated the name to "Latvis," meaning "forest-clearers," which is how medieval German settlers also referred to these peoples. The German colonizers changed this name to "Lette" and called their initially small colony 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 German dominion. Latvians and Lithuanians are the only surviving members of the Baltic peoples and languages of the Indo-European family.

Latvians look like and are considered Nordics, evidenced through the strong historical, cultural and religious influences gained over centuries during Germanic and Scandinavian colonization and settlement. Eastern Latvia (Latgale), however, retains a strong Polish and Russian cultural and linguistic influence. This highly literate society places strong emphasis upon education, which is free and compulsory until age 16. Most Latvians belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church, but a small minority are Russian Orthodox, and Eastern Latvia (Latgale) is predominantly Roman Catholic.

Latvians speak Latvian language. The Soviet Union imposed the official use of Russian language, so most Latvians speak Russian as a second language.

See also

ka:ლატვიელები lv:Latvieši sr:Летонци

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