Around two million stories, one for each Latvian, are like threads in the rich fabric of our society. The people of Latvia share many distinctive qualities which make them stand out among other nations.
It is true that Latvians do not speak much. However, when they do, they can speak on average in three different languages. This is well above the global and European standard. 9 out of 10 people in Latvia speak Latvian which is the official language. Most popular foreign languages are English, Russian, German, as well as French and the Nordic languages.
Politeness and tolerance are virtues shared by most Latvians. Ethnic Latvians – the majority – have peacefully coexisted with at least 150 other ethnic minority communities. There have been no incidents of interethnic violence in the Republic of Latvia that shows the general respect for diversity.
Freedom of belief is yet another component of tolerance in Latvia. Religious freedom and an ecumenical tradition have attracted a wide variety of believers, many fleeing from persecution abroad. At the same time, the society is the second most secular in Europe after Estonians. Most believers follow the Evangelic Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox denominations.
Tolerance in Latvia goes hand in hand with equal opportunities. Latvia is at the vanguard of women empowerment. Latvian women received the right to vote already in 1920 and frequently reach top political posts. Latvia today has the highest proportion of female top executives in Europe (the second-best in the world). Women currently form at least a half of the workforce.
The people of Latvia work hard to make their country a gem in the crown of nations. Latvians are among leaders in Europe by the amount of real working hours. The success of Latvians is a combination of work ethic and a sound fundamental education. Almost 5 percent of all are students and a great majority, especially the youth, obtain university education.
With their mind and work Latvians can handle everything. Turbulent history is the only variable beyond control, always twisting and turning the destinies of Latvian society. Frequent migration due to wars, political and economic troubles is well known during the last millennium. The 20th century brought the greatest changes, especially as a result of World War II. Many perished or left into exile and several communities were devastated.
Still, the society of Latvia has withstood and dealt with most challenges. Latvian vitality and fortitude makes them the greatest treasure of the country. It is rich in what it has gone through and still welcomes anyone with a genuine interest in getting to know it better. This is what the people of Latvia are known for.
© The Latvian Institute 2015. Photos © Uldis Briedis, Mārtiņš Otto, Latvian National Centre for Culture