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Latvia - Legislation Affecting Families, Partner Relationships, Family

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Latvia is situated at the ancient waterway from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea via lands inhabited by Eastern Slavs. Because of its location, the territory has, since the twelfth century, been conquered repeatedly—by German crusaders, Russians, Poles, and Swedes. The principal inhabitants of the region—the Balts, one of the ancient Indo-European tribes, and Livs—were oppressed for centuries.

Only in 1918, after World War I, was the independent Republic of Latvia proclaimed. World War II and occupation by the Nazis and then the Soviets interrupted the state's successful development. The latter lasted up to 1990 and left Latvia with enormous share of migrant Slavs from other republics of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)—almost one-third of the population (Demographic Yearbook of Latvia 2000).

The invasions left the population of Latvia mixed by ethnicity and religion. The local tribes were converted to Christianity in the thirteenth century, but the upheavals of history and the influx of migrants resulted in many different denominations. A great proportion of the population are nonbelievers, a number that drastically increased under Soviets, when religion was considered to be incompatible with Communist ideology. In contrast to the regime representatives of different ethnic groups, believers, and nonbelievers remained mutually tolerant.

The diversity of the country's population has lead to a variety of habits and attitudes on family and marital behavior.


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