Latvian culture has strong roots in folk
music and other expressions of popular culture. More
than 1.2 million folk poems, dains, are preserved. They
have been collected and classified by the “father of
folk songs” Krišjānis Barons (1835–1923). In 1873 the
first Latvian song festival was held.
With roots in medieval Catholic church music, art
music developed from the late 18th century. During the
following century, Riga was a major music city in
Northern Europe, where Richard Wagner, among others,
performed. The first opera in Latvian, Spoku while
(Ghost Hour), was written in 1893 by Jēkabs Ozols'.
Opera art has a strong position today, and Riga's opera
house is one of Latvia's most famous buildings.
Latest population statistics of Latvia, including religious profiles and major languages spoken as well as population growth rates in next three decades.
During the Soviet occupation after World War II,
music became a way of trying to preserve national
identity. After independence in 1991, Latvian exile
musicians have played a growing role. Kārlis Baumanis,
who has written lyrics and music for the Latvian
national song God Bless Latvia! (Dievs, svētī Latviju!),
Is considered the country's foremost composer.
Literature in Latvian first appeared in connection
with the national awakening in the second half of the
19th century. Andrejs Pumpurs wrote the epic poem
Lāčplēsis, about a national hero, which came to have
great symbolic significance for the Latvians during the
Soviet occupation. The most well-known Latvian writer,
the poet Jānis Rainis (1865–1929), brought not only
Latvian poetry but also the idea of an independent
state. Popular writers during the first period of
independence were Aleksandrs Grīns, Edvarts Virza,
Kārlis Skalbe and others. After the Soviet occupation of
1940 and World War II, many writers emigrated and worked
In Latvia, the literature was limited by political
repression, but big names emerged during the Soviet era
such as Vizma Belševica (1931–2005) and Knuts Skujenieks
(1937–), both translated into Swedish. Belševica was
mentioned as a possible Nobel Prize candidate. Among
Latvia's most read authors in the early 2000s is Inga
Ābele, who also received attention in Sweden for her
novel High Water (Paisums). In recent decades, the
Latvian-Swedish poet and translator Juris Kronbergs has
been an important bridge builder between Latvian and
Professional theater started playing in Latvia in the
mid-19th century. In the 1920s, the Latvian ballet was
founded, which was heavily influenced by Russian ballet.
The theater was of great importance to the national
identity during the Soviet era's political repression,
but after independence in 1991, the drama scene in
Latvia brought the influences from the Russian theater
tradition on. Theater is also played in Russian.
Janis Rozentāls and Vilhelms Purvītis, active in the
late 1800s and early 1900s, are regarded as portal
figures in the art of painting. During the time of
independence, among others, Niklāvs Strunke and Uga
Skulme achieved success, and the "Riga Group "'s
modernism was influential. Realism regained ground to
become a controlled social realism during the first part
of the Soviet era. Later came names like Džemma Skulme
(1925–) and Edgar Iltners (1925–1983).
IMF loans are repaid
GDP has grown by about 5 percent during the year. Latvia repays its entire
loan to the IMF in advance after selling government bonds at the lowest interest
rate to date. However, most of the loans from the EU and the World Bank remain
VAT is reduced by 1 percentage point to 21 percent in an attempt to curb
inflation, so that Latvia can be approved for entry into the euro.
Compensation to Jews
Justice Minister Gaidis Bērziņš of the National Alliance resigns in protest
of Prime Minister Dombrovski's proposal to compensate the Jews of Latvia for
historically lost property. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Riga
and urges the government to speed up the return of Jewish property seized by
Soviet occupiers or whose owners were murdered during the Nazi occupation.
Zatler's Reform Party changes its name to the Reform Party.
No to Russian as the official language
Following the gathering of names of the Russian minority, a referendum is
held on whether Russian should become official language alongside Latvian. The
proposal was rejected by 74.8 percent of the vote. The turnout is unusually
high, 70 percent.
The population is declining
Figures from the 2011 census show only 2,060,000 residents, a decrease of
over 300,000 in just over a decade.