Archaeologists have found traces of human settlements and older
human culture, approximately 10 000 BC. Nomadic tribes came into
these territories, during the migration from the Southwest.
This culture had its origin from the midstone age, human settlements
in Ahrensburg in the region of SchleswigHolstein in Germany. This
early European culture was leading until approximately 3000 BC,
when other nations from the East began to settle in the territory
The cultures coming from the East are the ancestors of Finns, Estonians
and Livs (a very small nation living in the northwestern part of
Latvia, now an ethnic minority). Approximately around 2000 BC, Baltic
tribes came into Latvia, and are regarded as the ancestors of present
day Latvians and Lithuanians.
These tribes, coming from the South, assimilated to the nations
already living on Latvian territory. During this period, the inhabitants
split up into several tribes (this process had happened earlier
Since then we differentiate the Baltic tribes into Latgalian, Zemgalian,
Kurzemian on Latvian territory and Prussian and Lithuanian in the
territories further to the south.
In Viking times, west of the Riga bay,lived the Kurshi,who were
well known in the Baltic Sea region.They traded with neighboring
Scandinavian nations, but the trade was frequently attacked and
robbed on both sides. Since the main trade road from the Scandinavian
region to Byzantium went through Kurzeme, a rich trade culture developed.
An important exported product was amber jewelry, which is found
in large quantities on the coasts of the Baltic Sea.
Few Latvian artistic figures or works are internationally known.
The country's literature was kickstarted in the 19th century with
the writing of a national epic poem called Lacplesis (The Bear Slayer)
by Andrejs Pumpurs, which was based on traditional folk tales.
The giant of Latvian literature is Janis Rainis, who Latvians claim
might have enjoyed the acclaim of Shakespeare or Goethe had he written
in a less obscure language.
Latvian verses known as dainas are often short and poetic and have
been compared to the Japanese haiku. In the 19th century, great
collections of folk lyrics and tunes were made by Krisjanis Barons.
In fact, over 1.4 million folk lyrics and 30,000 tunes have been
written down in Latvia.
Latvian is one of only two surviving languages of the Baltic branch
of the Indo-European language family, and speakers of Latvian regard
it as an endangered species. Just over half the people in the country
speak it as their first language.
The language spoken in east and west Latvia has dialectical differences
from the standard Latvian spoken in the central portion of the country.
Latvians are descended from tribes such as the Letts (or Latgals),
Selonians, Semigallians and Cours. In each of the country's 7 largest
cities, Latvians are outnumbered by Russians. Over 200,000 Latvians
live in Western countries, mainly in Australia, Canada, Germany,
the UK and the USA.