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LATVIA
Religion

Cities in LATVIA

Riga

Religion

Before the advent of Christianity, the Latvians held fast to animistic beliefs. Animism is a primeval belief in which it is believed that all earthly things, such as trees, animals or even stones, have their own spiritual power. During the first period of independence (1920-1940), the Dievturiba movement arose, which was again strongly oriented towards the animistic belief. During Russian rule, this sect was persecuted and its leaders regularly imprisoned. In 1989, this sect re-emerged and proclaimed their faith as an official religion.

Orthodox Christianity was introduced in the 12th century by Russian occupiers. At the beginning of the 13th century, German "Knights of the Sword" brought the Catholic faith. The knights tried to impose the Catholic faith on the population by force.

The Protestant faith was introduced in 1521 and quickly gained a foothold. Political motives played an important role in this. Through the Lutheran faith, people tried to combat the influence of the Pope and the Teutonic Knights. The Lutherans took a smarter approach and tried to reach the ordinary people. In contrast to the Latin masses of the Catholics, the masses of the Lutherans were held in Latvian. They also wrote the first Bible in Latvian (1689). The Lutheran Church gradually replaced the Catholic Church.

Around the first period of independence (1920-1940), 55% of the population was Lutheran, 25% Catholic, 9% Russian Orthodox and 5% Jewish. During the Second World War, most of the Jews were murdered in the concentration camps of the Germans. During the Russian domination many priests were deported, churches were turned into museums, sports halls or department stores. Many churches were also simply demolished. After the Soviet rule, churches were re-opened and restored. At present, there are about 370,000 Lutherans and 350,000 Catholics in Latvia. Smaller religious groups are Baptists, Russian Orthodox and there is also a Jewish synagogue in Riga again.


Sources

Baister, S. / Latvia
Bradt Publications

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania : country studies
Federal Research Division, Library of Congress,

Williams, N. / Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania
Lonely Planet

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated April 2024
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