Latvian anatomy

An infographic

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Hair

Since time immemorial, we have shared our eastern border with powerful Russia. Therefore, we can definitely liken our hair to the large Russian nation. Just like our hair, the Russians have always been beside us — sometimes more, sometimes less. Sometimes tame and easy to comb, sometimes tousled and uncontrollable as the hair of a rebellious rock ‘n’ roll teenager.

Historically, Russians arrived in the territory of Latvia as merchants and craftsmen to exchange their goods and knowledge with ours. Later, in the 18th century, when Latvia was annexed by the Russian Empire, Russians arrived in Latvia as officers. However, until World War II, the total number of Russians in Latvia never exceeded one-tenth of the Latvian population. After Latvia’s occupation by the Soviet Union, and as a result of the immigration policy implemented by the occupying power, almost half of the Latvian population in 1990 was Russian. Today, Russian language and culture plays such a significant role in the social, economic, and domestic aspects of our everyday life that we can now say, Yes, sometimes we do have a difficult relationship with Russians, but they are still a part of us.

Hair
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Brain

The brain is the most important part of a Latvian’s body. It stores memories about how our nation originated when several Baltic groups blended together in the 15th century. Our brain maintains the self-confidence and togetherness of Latvians, despite the fact that our nation acquired its real “national” character in the early 20th century, which is later than, for instance, the Germans or French.

The brain also stores the typical traits of the Latvian character: tenacity, which has always made us sail our own boat; practicality, which has allowed us to survive the storms of history; and love for the land where our ancestors have been living for more than 4,000 years.

Brain
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Shoulders

What would we do if we did not have our shoulders? They have always been there to support us from both sides during hard times, and they have helped us to carry many burdens – both heavy and light. Unquestionably, our shoulders are our age-old neighbors to the north and south, the Estonians and Lithuanians. We will always be grateful to them for their help in the battles against our enemies, for the advice they have never refused us, and for more practical support when we really needed it. Ačiū & aitäh (thank you) to our brothers and sisters!

Shoulders
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Heart

The Latvian heart has retained a strong link with our ancestors – the Semigallian, Couronian, Latgallian, and Selonian tribes that used to inhabit our land. From our ancestors we have inherited a close link to nature, a pagan perception of the world – which is still present in the mind of modern Latvians – as well as a very special attitude towards our late relatives. Just like our ancestors, we build graveyards on sandy hills, and each year we visit our late relatives to tidy up their last resting place and light a candle in their remembrance.

Heart
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Backbone

The backbone is one of the most essential parts of the human body. It ensures a stately composure, one that bravely proclaims: See, this person has his or her own opinion about everything! We have selected the best backbone available – it comes from the Germans. Germans arrived in Latvia back in the Middle Ages, during the Crusades, and through fire and sword tried to convert Latvians to Christianity. Their efforts were long and hard (though even today, many of us still believe in ancient Latvian pagan deities). However, when these efforts were bolstered by economic and political influences, the Germans ensured that, beginning in the 13th century, Latvians had a chance to become part of Europe and learn about the great developments in the world. That’s right! During those seven centuries, we did not become Germanized but, rather, adopted their rational world outlook, which by some miracle has perfectly merged with the somewhat naive view of the world order characteristic of Latvians in the past.

Backbone
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Navel

Some people get tattoos as a life-long reminder of a significant event, person, or favorite thing. To Latvians, the navel functions as a sort of tattoo. When looking at our navel, we remember where we came from. Our mind brings back memories of the Livonians – an ancient and noble nation that is considered to be the ancestors of our ancestors (ancestors of the tribes blended together in approximately the 15th century; see the section “Brain”). Although very kindred to the Finnish and Estonian languages, the Livonian language, traditions, and worldview laid the foundation for Latvian culture. Nowadays, there are only a few people left who can tell this story in the historic Livonian language. But hey, as we said before, we still have our navel, which will always remind us of the origins of our ancestors – and also of ourselves.

Navel
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Stomach

The Latvian stomach can definitely be attributed to the Swedes. This nation has both filled and emptied us, but it has always kept in mind our own wishes and interests. We have a long-running friendship stretching back to the Viking Age, when the Scandinavians had a settlement in the western part of Latvia. Of course, the ancient Viking warriors did not have excellent manners, and the harsh and distrustful Latvians were not much better. However, we did not allow first impressions and a healthy brawl to obstruct the road to great future plans.

Later, in the 13th century, Gotlanders arrived in the territory of Latvia to build the first stone churches there, and in the 17th century most of Latvian territory was subjugated by the Swedish king. We call this period “the good Swedish times,” because together with the Swedes we learned to read and became acquainted with the Bible. The Swedes left, but their influence remained. Nowadays, it is hard to imagine the Latvian economy without Swedish banks and companies.

Stomach
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Right arm

Jews arrived in Latvia in the second half of the 16th century and settled in small towns in the western part of Latvia – Courland. Jewish craftsmen and merchants, as well as their stores and synagogues, became an integral part of Latvian provincial towns. At the end of the 19th century, Jews had an increasing influence on the national economy and also promoted the growth of Latvian economics. Before World War II, there were 90,000 Jews living in Latvia; the majority of them perished during the Holocaust carried out by the Nazis. Regretfully, there were those who collaborated with the Nazi regime in perpetrating the Holocaust, while others risked their own lives in order to save the lives of their fellow Jewish citizens. Currently, there are approximately 10,000 Jews living in Latvia, and they still keep enriching our culture with their world outlook and traditions.

Right arm
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Left arm

The Poles are one of the largest national minorities in Latvia. They have been living in Latvia since the end of the 16th century, when a large part of Latvia was subjugated by Poland. In the eastern part of Latvia (Latgale), the Poles strengthened the Catholic faith and left several religious traditions that are still kept alive by Latvian Catholics. Although Poland is a big nation that in many ways could have secured their impact in Latvia, they have always been friendly toward Latvians and our country.

Left arm
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Legs

As regards the legs, they should certainly be attributed to the English and the Dutch. Why? Because from the Latvian point of view, these nations are true wanderers – and frequent visitors to Latvia. The English and Dutch arrived back in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries to sell high-quality goods, or to build churches in Riga, the capital of Latvia, together with our ancestors (these churches are still proudly standing, welcoming all visitors). Today, representatives of both nations will occasionally stop by for a visit, and they strengthen the Latvian economy with a stable flow of revenue spent by tourists buying Latvian beer or enjoying delicious meals at restaurants in Riga.

Legs

Anatomy of a Latvian

This infographic shows what a Latvian is really made of.

It is hard to find one clear answer to this question. However, what we know for sure is that Latvians were influenced by many neighboring countries. If your name is Emma, Sergey, Jacek, Andrus, or Ugne, this probably holds true for your country as well.

We can probably surmise that your ancestors were distant relatives of Latvians. In the same way a child inherits his parents’ ears, eyes, or nose, we have also gained something from each nation that has had an influence on life in Latvia.

Enough talk! Find out more by examining the anatomy of a Latvian.

In a figurative sense, of course.

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