Open main menu

Latvian Americans are Americans who are of Latvian ancestry. According to the 2008 American Community Survey, there are 93,498 Americans of full or partial Latvian descent.

Latvian Americans
Amerikas latvieši
Total population
93,498 (2008 American Community Survey)
Regions with significant populations
California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota
American English, Latvian
Mostly Lutheranism with Roman Catholic minority
Related ethnic groups
Lithuanian Americans, Latvians



The first significant wave of Latvian settlers who immigrated to the United States came in 1888 to Boston. By the end of century, those Latvians immigrants settled primarily in other East Coast and Midwest cities, such as New York City, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Chicago, as well as coastal cities on the West Coast, such as Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Some immigrants also established themselves in rural areas, but they were few and usually did not form long-lasting communities. Although most Latvians settled in cities, in most of these (with the exception of the Roxbury district of Boston) they lived dispersed and did not form ethnic neighborhoods. The first Lutheran church built by Latvians in the United States was erected in 1906 in Lincoln County, where an agricultural colony had been established in 1897.[1]

A new wave of Latvian immigration began around 1906, after the failure of the 1905 Russian Revolution. Many of these immigrants were political leaders and rank-and-file revolutionaries who could be killed by Russian soldiers if they were discovered, so they decided to emigrate and continue the revolutionary movement in other countries. Most of the Latvian revolutionaries were more politically radical than the earlier immigrants to the United States, which increased friction in a number of communities.

In 1917, many Latvian revolutionaries went back to their homeland to work for the creation of a Bolshevik government, and in 1918, when Latvia declared its independence, some nationalists also returned.

After the First World War, the promise of economic improvements in the newly independent nation, immigration quotas established in 1924 by the United States, and the Great Depression all contributed to slow emigration from Latvia.

Toward the end of World War II, tens of thousands Latvians fled from advancing Soviet troops to Western Europe and moved into Displaced Persons camps. About half were eventually repatriated to Latvia, but the rest resettled to Germany, England, Australia, Canada, the United States and other countries. From 1949 to 1951, 40,000 Latvians immigrated to the United States with the help of the U.S. government and various social service and religious organizations. Although many of these refugees had been professionals in their country, in the United States they often had jobs as farmhands, custodians, or builders until they could find better paying jobs.

Most Latvians settled in cities, such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. As with the earlier Latvian immigrants, most did not create ethnic neighborhoods and relied on social events and the press for a sense of community. Within a few years, Latvian organizations managed to create schools, credit unions, choirs, dance groups, theater troupes, publishers and book sellers, churches, veterans' groups, and political organizations.

From 1980 to 1990, 1,006 Latvians arrived in the United States.[citation needed]

Latvia reestablished its independence in 1991; however, few of the immigrants or their descendants have returned.[2]


According to the 2000 census, a total of 87,564 people of Latvian descent lived in the United States. There are larger populations in the states of California, New York, Illinois, Florida and Massachusetts. Many Latvian Americans (about 9,000) have dual citizenship, which became available to Latvians who emigrated after the reestablishment of independence. Also, many often travel to Latvia and provide financial support and give material to various organizations. Some Latvian Americans have been elected to the Saeima, or Parliament, in Latvia.[2]

The states with the largest Latvian-American populations are:

  California   11,443
  New York (state) 9,937
  Illinois 6,982
  Florida 4,921
  Massachusetts 4,706
  Michigan 4,265
  New Jersey 3,946
  Pennsylvania 3,754
  Washington 3,380
  Maryland 3,289
  Ohio 2,362

Latvian-born populationEdit

Latvian-born population in the US since 2010:[3]

Year Number
2010 23,218
2011  22,257
2012  24,131
2013  24,497
2014  21,097
2015  21,364
2016  24,691


The majority of Latvians immigrants to the United States after World War II were university graduates. Many were academics or belonged to intelligentsia.[2]

Languages and religionsEdit

Most Latvian Americans speak English, while Latvian (also known as Lettish) is basically the language spoken by American Latvians of the first generation due to intermarriage. As for religion, although most Latvians Americans are Lutherans, there are also Catholic communities, represented by the American Latvian Catholic Association,[2] as well as American Latvian Baptists and American Latvian Jewish communities.[4].

Notable peopleEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Gaiss svaigs kā Kurzemes mūžamežā: Linkolnas kolonija Viskonsīnā". Latviešu pēdas pasaulē. Latvieši pasaulē – muzejs un pētniecības centrs. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d "Latvian Americans - History, The first Latvians in America, Significant immigration waves". Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Category:American people of Latvian-Jewish descent
  5. ^ a b c d "Latvia's Famous People". Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  6. ^ "Latvian Americans - History, The first latvians in america, Significant immigration waves". Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  7. ^ "Buddy Ebsen Biography". Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  8. ^ "Country Profile". Archived from the original on 3 April 2008. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  9. ^ ""Latvian Art in Exile," The Latvian Institute". 2008. Retrieved 7 October 2017. Elizabetes iela 57, Rīga, LV 1050, LATVIA
  10. ^ "Daughter of Latvian refugees receives top technological award at White House :: The Baltic Course | Baltic States news & analytics". The Baltic Course. 2009-10-14. Retrieved 2017-03-05.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit