Latvia isn’t just home to Latvians but to Latgalians as well, the ethnic Latvians of Latgale, one of the four historical and cultural regions of Latvia. Latgale is the eaternmost region, north of the Daugava River and has a large population of ethinc Russians, especially in the largest city in the region, Daugavpils.
As such, Latgalians have their own culture that sets them apart from other Latvians. The Latgalian language is mostly spoken at home in rural areas, but Latvian is used everyday in official use and urban cities. Thankfully, there is government protection for Latgalian, “to preserve and develop the written Latgalian language as an historic form of the Latvian language”, so this language will not disappear! Recently, Wikipedia announced it would provide information in Latgalian, hopefully leading to increased interest in this very old and different language.
Many Latgalian customs practiced today come from the very early traditions and beliefs of ancient Latgali. For example, Latgalian culture offers many folk songs of seasonal celebrations, collective work and society. Folk songs are now most often sung during seasonal festivals such as the summer solstice, where men frequently wear wreathes of oak leaves, as early Latgalian history, the oak tree was considered as a symbol of masculinity.
Latgalians today are known for their traditional ceramics, folk songs and folklore ensembles, so if you’re studying in Riga, or planning a trip to Latvia, make sure you find the time to visit Latgale and enjoy some of the rich culture still prevalent today!