Muslim immigrants in Latvia


Islam keeps a low-key in Latvia. Latvia has among the lowest population shares of Muslims in Europe (0,05%) and is among the few countries that have no mosques.

Nearly all Latvia’s Muslims (or their forefathers) came as a result of foreign pressure. First Latvia’s Muslims served in the 19th century Russian army or were its prisoners of war.

The bulk of current Muslims came as Soviet settlers during the Soviet occupation. Having came from modern-day Russia, Ukraine, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, they are mostly of Turkic stock (Tatars, Azeris, Uzbeks).

These “Soviet Muslims” are far from religious and usually assimilated into the Russophone community. Many of them became atheist (something promoted by the Soviet regime). While Latvia has some 7000 people of traditionally Muslim communities, merely several hundred still practice Islam.

After Latvian independence some new, more religious Muslims came as students from countries such as Lebanon. There were also a few illegal migrants scaling Latvia’s Eastern border.

The real game-changer however came in 2015 when Latvia gave in to European Union pressure to accept 776 illegal migrants from Middle East and Africa, most of them Muslim. As Latvia increasingly loses its sovereignty to the European Union, its ability to control its own population may grow increasingly limited and more Muslim illegal migrants may be sent from Western Europe to Latvia.