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Nationality: Noun and adjective--Latvian(s).
Growth rate: -0.6%. Birth rate--8.6/1,000. Death rate--13.9/1,000. Divorce rate--2.5/1,000. Migration rate--1,500 immigrants, 3,300 emigrants.
Density--36.4/1 km2. Urban dwellers--68.9%.
Major ethnic groups: Latvian 58.5%, Russians 29%, Belarusians 3.9%, Ukrainians 2.6%, Poles 2.5%.
Religions: Lutheran, Orthodox, Roman Catholic.
State language: Latvian. Russian also is spoken by most people.
Education: Years compulsory--9. By 1989, 60% of the adult populace had finished high school, and 12% had completed college. Attendance--408,000 students in 1,057 schools and 90,000 university students. Literacy--99%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--9.8/1,000. Life expectancy--65.4 yrs. male, 76.8 yrs. female.
Work force (989,000 people): Industry--16.9%; agriculture/forestry--14.9%; trade--14.9%; education--8.9%; transport/communications--8.7%; public administration/defense--6.9%; construction--6.1%; healthcare/social welfare--6.1%.
People of Latvia
Latvians occasionally refer to themselves by the ancient name of "Latvji," which may have originated from a "Latve" river that presumably flowed through what is now eastern Latvia. A small Finno-Ugric 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 of modern-day Latvia as well as southern Estonia, which had fallen under German dominion. Latvians and Lithuanians are the only directly surviving members of the Baltic peoples and languages of the Indo-European family.
Latvians look like and consider themselves Nordics, evidenced through the strong cultural and religious influences gained 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; a sizable minority are Russian Orthodox, and Eastern Latvia is predominantly Roman Catholic.
Historically, Latvia always has had a fairly large Russian, Jewish, German, and Polish minority, but postwar emigration, deportations, and Soviet Russification policies from 1939-89 dropped the percentage of ethnic Latvians in Latvia from 73% to 52%. In an attempt to preserve the Latvian language and avoid ethnic Latvians becoming a minority in their own country, Latvia's language law, education law, and citizenship law have caused many noncitizen resident Russians concern over their ability to assimilate, despite Latvian legal guarantees of universal human and civil rights regardless of citizenship.
Written with the Latin alphabet, Latvian is the language of the Latvian people and the official language of the country. It is an inflective language with several analytical forms, three dialects, and German syntactical influence. The oldest known examples of written Latvian are from a 1585 catechism. The Soviets imposed the official use of Russian, so most Latvians speak Russian as a second or first language while the resident Slavic populace generally speaks Russian as a first language.