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Livonian People (Latvia)

Last modified: 2013-10-09 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: livonian people | latvia | baltics |
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image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 14 September 2010



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Overview

The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten carried an article on 23-JUN-1996 about the Livonians. This is a small people native to Latvia, living in on the northern tip of the 'peninsula' between the bay of Riga and the Baltic sea. They are only 250-300 people today in Latvia, and only 11 worldwide speak the language as their mother tongue. Livonian is a Finno-Ugric language that was codified into a written standard only in 1935.
The flag of the Livonians, as shown on a picture and drawing in Aftenposten, is striped green over white over blue (the colours were a bit pale). The middle white stripe seems to be narrower than the stripes above and below, as in the Latvian national flag. Nothing is said about the symbolism or when the flag dates from. However, Aftenposten describes the land of the Livonians as "a natural paradise of green forest, white beaches and blue sea", so that may be a clue. Judging from the newspaper photograph and illustration, the flag is 1:2 in proportions.
Jan Oskar Engene, 24 June 1996

The Livonian flag was approved at the first meeting of the Livonian Association on April 2, 1923. The flag's colours were chosen because of their close relationship with everyday life that most Livonians led. Blue symbolises the sea, white the sandy beaches characteristic of the area the Livonians inhabit, and green the forest. The size of the stripes is the same as on the Latvian flag, in a ratio of 2:1:2. The flag was blessed and raised for the first time on November 18, 1923, at the Livonian festival in Ire (or Mazirbe, in Latvian).
Uldis Balodis , from the Livonian home page

This flag is listed under number 82 at the chart "Flags of Aspirant Peoples" [asp] as : "Livians (Livonians) - West Latvia."
Ivan Sache, 18 September 1999

I thought that Livonian is (was?) a Baltic language, like Latvian and Lithuanian, not a Finno-Ugrian language like Estonian, but <www.pinette.net> shows it as Finno-Ugrian.  We may have been confused because it survives only as a second language of some dozens of Latvians, all of them getting on in years.
John Ayer, 7 October 2000

It is in fact a Finno-Ugric language which seems to be on the brink of extinction. However, it's been that way for more than 100 years!
I translated a quote from the book published in 1998 "Maailman kielet ja kielikunnat" (The World's Languages and Language Families), by Jaakko Anhava, a Finnish linguist: "The most southern Baltic-Finnic language, and the one that differs most from the others, is Livonian, which has, like Vote, almost vanished; there might remain under 20 speakers. Historical "Livonia" got its name from the Livonians - actually Livonia's East Livonian dialect had already died out in the last (i.e., 19th) century. The remaining West Livonian speakers live in Kurland (west of the Bay of Riga); their village society had splintered in the turmoil of the Second World War, and the collectivization of the Soviet Era attended to them. The Livonians have, over the centuries, assimilated primarily to the Latvians, but their traditional settlement area has been such, that the Livonian language has left a large sub-stratum influence in Latvian (which belongs to a quite different language family, Indoeuropean); many features of Latvian which differ from its near relative, Lithuanian, are a result of just this sub-stratum. On the other hand, the influence of Latvian has moved the phonetics, morphology and vocabulary of Livonian to a position in the Baltic-Finnic languages most remote from the others."
I actually own a recently published Latvian grammar/textbook in Finnish. In a chapter on Livonian, the book mentions that Livonians have the right to demand elementary school education in their own language!
Lewis A. Nowitz, 7 October 2000

The map at <www.ingyennet.hu/~latvija/liv.htm> shows all of the villages (12) of "The Livonian Coast" which was made by the Government of Latvia in 1991. On the picture there is The Livonian House.
On the house there is a inscription: This house was built by Livonian People with the help of their country - Latvia and their brother nations: Finns, Estonians and Hungarians.
István Molnár and Georges Kovari, 27 March 2001

The Livonian tricolor flag, green-white-blue, makes a clar reference to the national flag by means of its unique geometry of 2+1+2 (something impossible in, say, Germany or Italy).
António Martins-Tuválkin, 14 September 2010