Culture: Introduction

Latvian Baltic culture is older than most European cultures. However, it has been greatly altered by a history of alternating Eastern (mostly Russian) and Western (mostly German) foreign domination.

The greatest divisions in the Latvia’s society are ethnic. While the historic “Westerner” (German) communities did not survive the tribulations of 20th century, indigenous Latvians themselves have arguably became imbibed with their cultural legacy and pro-Western views. On the opposite side of the spectrum there are the “Easterners”, mostly Russians, who look eastwards and look to the Soviet past rather positively, and who are regarded with suspicion by local Latvians.

Language differences are an extension of ethnic differences, as Latvians generally speak Latvian natively, while most “Easterner” minorities speak Russian (a result of Soviet minority russification).

Latvia is especially colorful religiously, with many Christian denominations represented. Here too the main division is between “Western” denominations (German-inspired Lutheranism and Polish/Lithuanian-inspired Catholicism), which are followed by ethnic Latvians, and “Eastern” denominations (Russian Orthodoxy and Old Believe), followed by “Easterner” Russophone ethnicities. However, the largest “Eastern” influence on religion have been a great demise of its importance under the Soviet atheist regime, which left large numbers of atheists or non-practicing Christians even among ethnic Latvians.

The ratio between indigenous and Eastern populations is approximately 63%-37%, as it has rebounded from nearly 50%-50% in 1989.

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