Ethnic Latvian proportion sees slight increase, data show

Even though the number of ethnic Latvians continues to decrease, their proportion to other groups in Latvia has nudged up, according to new data released by the Rīga-based Central Statistical Bureau.

A total of 1,340,143 ethnic Latvians lived in the country last year, the data show, or about 3,000 fewer than in 2008. The total represented 59.3 percent of the population, up 0.1 percentage point from 2008.

Before World War II, ethnic Latvians totaled more than 1.46 million and made up 77 percent of the country’s population, according to 1935 data. Because of wartime losses, population decline due to refugees who became exiles, and Soviet efforts at Russification of the Baltic region, by 1989 the ethnic Latvian proportion had dropped to 52 percent.

In Rīga, Latvians represented 63 percent of the city’s population in 1935. By 1989, ethnic Latvians made up just 36.5 percent of the population. Last year, the Latvian proportion stood at 42.3 percent.

Latvia’s total population last year stood at 2.26 million, according to the statistical bureau. Besides Latvians, other ethnic groups in the population are Russians (27.8 percent of the total), Belarussians (3.6 percent), Ukrainians (2.5 percent), Poles (2.4 percent), Lithuanians (1.3 percent), Jews (0.4 percent), Gypsies (0.4 percent), Germans (0.2 percent) and Estonians (0.1 percent). Other ethnic groups, and those who did not report their ethnic identity, made up 2 percent of the population.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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