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is named after one of the most prominent historic tribes in the region. The Latgalians
were a Baltic tribe that lived in the region as early as the 400 or 500s.
The Latvians have always been unique to the region as they share few ethnic relations
with many of the people from the greater region. The Latvians have also clung to
historic ties and have been hesitant to change on a number of occasions, however
when those changes have been adopted they seem to stick and today the culture and
lifestyle has many similarities to that of neighboring countries, although significant
variations exist everywhere.
For much of history the Latvians have been isolated and developed a unique culture
and lifestyle that was primarily based on the lands and agriculture. These early
settlers cleared forests and made a living off the lands, while fiercely protecting
themselves. Many people tried to invade the lands and spread their influences to
the people, but the Latvians strongly resisted and even fought off Christianity
at a time when nearly everywhere else in Europe had adopted this religion.
The Germanic people were among the first major outside groups to control the region,
turning it into a major trading hub and altering the economy and lifestyle to a
degree. However, the culture changed in few other ways, with most of the population
resisting Christianity. However, the architecture in Riga still has some obvious
Germanic influences and many foods are also rooted in this time.
The next group to take over the region was the Poles and Lithuanians; having a huge
number of connections with the Lithuanians, including sharing a similar language
and history, helped lead to the conversion of the people to Christianity. Other
changes were also made, but Christianity made the greatest impact as it altered
the culture and daily life to a great degree.
In the 1900s the culture and lifestyle took a major blow when the Soviet Union took
over the people and region. The Soviets tried to destroy much of this past as the
Russian language was forced on the people, the population was urbanized, most jobs
were found in the industrial sector, religion was outlawed (even today few Latvians
are very religious) and many ethnic Russians immigrated to the region.
Since the fall of communism, the Latvians have sought a new identity based on their
language, ethnicity, and culture. This is often defined in contrast to Russian culture
as they share very few similarities, although today most Latvians and Russians remain
urbanized. Today the ethnic Russians and ethnic Latvians tend to remain divided
politically and culturally. For the ethnic Latvians, the Latvian language, traditional
dress, historic foods, and ethnic festivals have all become important parts of the
local culture and identity today.
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