Development of a Nation
How Latvia became Latvia,
and how the Latvians became Latvian.

Latvians as a people, and the country of Latvia as a nation-state,
evolved and materialized into current form, in terms of ancestral
bloodlines, the Latvian language, borders, culture, and even how they
received their name.

Ancestral Background
Development of Language
Formation of Borders
Etymology (How Name Received)
Latvia in 2008

Ancestral Background:

  1. Balt tribe distribution
    BC – The Proto-Balto-Slavic population (based on speakers of the
    Proto-Balto-Slavic language) materialized around modern Lithuania.
  2. 1000 BC – A division in the Proto-Balto-Slavic
    population occurs, as a group moves southeastward toward modern
    Ukraine and Moscow. This break-away group represented the earliest
    Slavs. The group that remained behind in the region south of Baltic
    Sea became the basis of the Balt nationality. In the following
    centuries, the Balts proceeded to establish themselves throughout
    modern Latvia, Lithuania, and northern Poland.
  3. As Crusaders from Germany expanded to the east
    during 12th and 13th centuries, Balts
    consolidated in modern Lithuania and Latvia, forming a
    loosely-affiliated band of Baltic tribes.
  4. The Livonian Order (Germanic Catholic order of
    knightly priests, also know as Teutonic Knights) captured the
    territory that comprised modern Latvia (along with Estonia),
    separating it from Lithuania. Those Balts remaining in Lithuania
    resisted the invasions, resulting in two distinct Balt nations from
    that point forward – Latvians and Lithuanians. Latvians would remain
    largely Baltic in lineage, with minor Germanic genetic
    contributions, along trace amounts of Swedish, Polish, Russian as
    these other nations would assert control over Latvia.

Save as much as 70% on select National Geographic merchandise!

Development of Latvian Language:

  1. Northern Europe crusades
    3000 BC – The Proto-Balto-Slavic language
    (branch of

    ) is spoken by Proto-Balto-Slavic group
    centered around Lithuania.
  2. After a split in the Proto-Balto-Slavic nation
    around 1000 BC, the language of those that migrate east and south
    evolves into Slavic (thus the origin of Slavic peoples). The
    language of those that remain in the Baltic region evolves into
  3. Sometime between 400 and 600 AD, the Baltic
    languages split into Western Baltic (ancestral to languages such as
    Old Prussian) – all of which are extinct, and Eastern Baltic
    (ancestral to Latvian and Lithuanian) – with descendant languages
    still in use to this day.
  4. By about 800, Latvian and Lithuanian began to
    develop as dialects of Western Baltic, the divergence between the
    two would spawn separate but related languages.
  5. Since Latvia largely toiled under German
    control (Livonian Order) from the 13th century to the 16th
    century, it was influenced by German, further differentiating it
    from sibling language of Lithuanian.
  6. During 19th century, in time of
    intense Latvian nationalism, Latvians conscientiously root out
    elements of Germanization from the Latvian language.
  7. During Russian rule from the 19th
    century, and during the Soviet era in particular, a policy of
    Russification was implemented by the USSR. As a result, Latvian was
    removed from the public forum, but it managed to survive, although
    with a Russian influence.
  8. Since independence in 1990, Latvians have been
    making a concerted effort to remove Russian influence from language.

Save 20% off and Free Shipping on Select Language Learning Software

Teutonic Knight gains
Formation of Latvian Borders:

  1. 3000
    BC – The Proto-Balto-Slavic population materializes around modern
  2. 1000 BC – A division occurs in the
    Proto-Balto-Slavic population. Those that migrate to the south and
    east toward modern Ukraine and Moscow become predecessors to the
    Slavic ethnogroup. Those that remain behind near the Baltic coast,
    around modern Latvia, Lithuania and Northern Poland become the
    forerunners to the Balts.
  3. As Crusaders from Germany expand to the east
    during the 12th and 13th centuries, Balts
    consolidated in modern Lithuania and Latvia, forming a
    loosely-affiliated band of Baltic tribes.
  4. By
    1237, Germanic priestly knights (Livonian Order) conquered the Balts
    in modern Latvia and southern Estonia, which becomes Livonia.
    Livonian-ruled population was largely comprised of Balts (and Finnic
    Estonians to the north), with Germans as the ruling class.
  5. In 1346, Denmark sold its rebellious Estonian
    provinces to the north to the Livonian Order, expanding Livonia to
    cover all of Estonia and Latvia.

  6. Sweden Expansion
    Russia attempted to gain Baltic access,
    invading the Livonian Order in 1558. Denmark, Sweden, Lithuania and
    Poland joined the Order to restrain Russia. The Livonian
    Order/Teutonic Knights are wiped out in disastrous defeats to Russia
    in battle in 1560, ceding its Estonian territory to Lithuania (Duchy
    of Livonia), Sweden (the northern portion), and Denmark (island of
    Osel), which collectively went on to defeat Russia. This marked the
    end of the Livonian Order, and the Teutonic Knights outside of the
    Holy Roman Empire.
  7. Poland and Lithuania combined to form the
    Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth in 1569,
    the Duchy of Livonia part of this new political entity. It was
    dominated by Poland, as Lithuania was forced to combine with Poland
    due to the growing Russian threat.
  8. In the Polish-Swedish War of 1625 – 1629
    (battle for supremacy along the southern Baltic coast), Sweden
    gained Livonia, consisting of southern portion of Estonia and the
    northern portion of Latvia. Southern Latvia remained part of

  9. Russia
    In the Great Northern War (1700-21, battle
    over supremacy of Baltic Sea), Russia defeated Sweden, gaining all
    of Livonia. Southern Latvia remained with Poland-Lithuania.
  10. As part of the First Partition of Poland in
    1772, Russia took possession of the southeast portion of Latvia.
  11. As part of the Third Partition of Poland in
    Russia took possession of the remainder of Latvia, along with most
    of modern Lithuania, and parts of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine.
    Latvians remained a distinct ethnicity within the expanded Russian
    Empire, setting the stage for the nationalism that would spark an
    independence movement in the 20th century.
  12. With the disarray caused by the Russian
    Revolution (1917 – 22) and German occupation, Latvia declared
    independence in 1918, after German withdrawal and surrender in WWI.
    The Russians and Bolsheviks (Communists) in Latvia fought to keep
    Latvia within the new USSR, but Latvia won independence in 1920,
    with its current borders.
  13. As part of a secret pact between Nazi Germany
    and the USSR in 1939, the USSR claimed control over various Eastern
    European nations, including Latvia, under the agreement that Nazi
    would not interfere (as USSR would not interfere with German

    Partition of Poland
    of various central European nations). The USSR moved in to occupy
    Latvia in 1940, during World War II. In betrayal of the secret pact,
    Nazi Germany began its invasion of Russia in 1941, occupying Latvia
    in 1941. When the Red Army had the Nazis retreating a few years
    later, it reoccupied Latvia in 1944. Upon the defeat of the Nazis in
    WWII, the Soviets refused to withdraw from Latvia, establishing the
    Latvia SSR (Soviet Socialist Republic), as part of the USSR.
  14. Upon the collapse of USSR, Latvia declared
    independence in 1990, becoming officially sovereign as the Republic
    of Latvia in 1991. – The World’s Largest Maps Store!

Etymology (How
Name Received):

Named after an ancient
Baltic tribe from the region. Baltic for “land of bodies of water”.

Latvian Culture:

Original Latvian culture stems back before the Northern Crusades into
the region during the 12th century, when most of Latvia was forcibly
Christianized. This initiated a lengthy period of time where Latvians
would almost continually languish under foreign rule. Consequently,
Latvian culture would become heavily influenced by foreign rulers, such
as German and Russian in particular.

However, Latvians were resilient over the centuries, until finally
achieving independence briefly between WWI and WWII, and then since the
1990 collapse of the Soviet Union. Germans and Russians had tried to
extinguish Latvia culture and language, but both have survived into
modern times, although heavily influenced.

Latvia in 2008:

One of fastest growing
economies in Europe since 2000, but now experiencing inflation and
increased debt/real estate prices, fueling concerns of a possible
economic bubble. Has privatized most of its economy with the exception
of a few large, state-owned utilities.
Government: Democratic Republic
Religion: Mostly Christian or unaffiliated. Survey: 37% believe
in God, 49% some other form of intelligent design, 10% atheist/agnostic.

Demographics: Latvian 57.7%, Russian 29.6% (long standing Russian
rule), most of the rest Eastern Slavic (Belarusian, Ukrainian, Polish),
Largely Latvian and Baltic German before Russian rule beginning in 18th
century, through USSR era ending in 1990.
Foreign Policy: EU and NATO in 2004. Like Finland, wary of a
powerful Russian state, due to centuries of unwanted rule/domination by
Russia. Geopolitically vulnerable to Russia, due to long, hard-to-defend
border with Russia (easy to transport troops across, no natural
barriers), and low population density.
Population: 2,245,423 (2008)

Formation of Nations (All European Nations)

Genealogy Search: - Search MILLIONS of names
First Name Last Name
For females, use maiden name
(last name before marriage)
find family
First Name Last Name
First Name Last Name