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Indigenous Peoples' Literature

Latvia/Livonia



The Latvians have their own "Trail of Tears." Our language has constantly been under siege. This came to be known as Russification. Under this policy, Latvian was flooded with Russian words, and even the official writing system of Latvia was changed. Russian was promoted as better than Latvian, and Latvian was often referred to in a derogatory way (some people called it "a dog's language"). So, after 50 years of this sort of business, Latvia finally broke free.

Latvians have consistently lived in the same territory for many millenia. The Latvians are an ancient Baltic people, who, along with their fellow Baltic nationalities, speak what are considered to be among the most archaic Indo-European languages (i.e. they are among the languages most similar to the original proto-Indo-European language, from which most of Europe's languages and many of India's languages are descended). Latvian's sister language, Lithuanian, is more archaic than Latvian, and their mutual extinct linguistic sibling, Old Prussian, is even more archaic. Latvia was an independent country between 1918 and 1940.

In 1990, Latvia restored its independence, and in 1991, during the Soviet coup, it reaffirmed this declaration. Now, nearly 5 years later, Latvia is still struggling. Its government is riddled with corruption, elderly people have to subsist off of meager and usually inadequate state pensions, while the government authorizes raises for itself. Last year, you could see that Latvia had undergone a humongous drive towards "Westernization." The streets of the capital, Riga, looked much like those of any other European city, but you had just to travel to the country to see the dire situation that many people are in.

By law there are two indigenous nationalities in Latvia. These are the Latvians, and a tiny ethnic minority, named the Livonians. The Livonians are a Finno-Ugric people, which means that they and their language are related to that of the Finns and Estonians.

The Latvian government established a special cultural region for them, in their historic home, in the northwest part of Latvia. This region is called "Livod Randa," or the "Livonian Coast [or Shore]" in Livonian.

Currently, the Livonians are still trying to get their act together, but if they play their cards right, they might be able to save their language and culture. Their language is in dire need of revival. There are about 30-50 total speakers, with 9-13 of them being native speakers.

Other nationalities also reside in Latvia, but none of them are indigenous residents of the territory of Latvia; only the Latvians and Livonians are.




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The Indigenous Peoples' Literature pages were researched and organized by Glenn Welker.


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