Learn more about Latvians
- This article is about the ethnic group called Latvians or Letts. For the inhabitants of Latvia, see Demographics of Latvia.
|Image:Janis cakste.jpgImage:Karlisulmanis.jpgImage:Maris Verpakovskis.jpg|
|Total population||c. 1,530,000 |
|Regions with significant populations|| Latvia:|
|Religion|| Lutheranism, Catholicism <tr>
<th style="background-color:#fee8ab;">Related ethnic groups</th> <td style="background-color:#fff6d9;">Lithuanians</td>
Latvians or Letts (Latvian: latvieši), the indigenous Baltic people of Latvia, occasionally refer to themselves by the ancient name of Latvji, which may have originated from the word Latve which is a name of the river that presumably flowed through what is now eastern Latvia. A small Finnic speaking tribe known as the Livs settled among the Latvians and modulated the name to "Latvis," meaning "forest-clearers," which is how medieval German settlers also referred to these peoples. The German colonizers changed this name to "Lette" and called their initially small colony Livland. The Latin form, Livonia, gradually referred to the whole territory of the modern-day Latvia as well as southern Estonia, which had fallen under German dominion. Latvians and Lithuanians are the only surviving members of the Baltic peoples and Baltic languages of the Indo-European family.
Latvian culture has expierenced historical, cultural and religious influences, over centuries during Germanic and Scandinavian colonization and settlement. Eastern Latvia (Latgale), however, retains a strong Polish and Russian cultural and linguistic influence. This highly literate society places strong emphasis upon education, which is free and compulsory until age 16. Most Latvians belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church, but a small minority is Russian Orthodox, and Eastern Latvia (Latgale) is predominantly Roman Catholic.