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Suiti People (Latvia)

Last modified: 2023-06-03 by zachary harden
Keywords: suiti people | latvia |
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image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 11 September 2007

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Our colleague Ilmars Bite from Latvia, today on RussoVex mailing list reported the flag of the religious minority Suiti in Latvia. I searched around the link he provided and here is what I found at <>:
"Suiti region has 2800 inhabitants, occupying 402 square kilometers in the Western part of Latvia. Inhabitants of this area call themselves "Suiti" and they are proud of their distinct identity and character of their own.
History of Suiti goes back almost 400 years to a romantic story in 1623.  Reformation in Grand Douchy of Courland took place 1561, when duke Gothard Ketler abandoned Catholic religion to become Lutheran. So did also most of population in Courland.  But in 1623 the local land owner, count Johan Ulrih fon Schwerin in order to marry a Polish court lady Barbara Konarska agreed to become Catholic.  In that year he invited Jesuits to establish a mission in Alsunga to help him transfer his peasants back to Catholicism.  He donated land to the Catholic congregation and built a new church in Alsunga.
When trying to expand Catholic influence in the surrounding area he run into a violent oposition from neibouring Lutheran land owners which led to poisoning of Johan Ulrich fon Schwerin in 1636.  In the same year Lutheran priest was finally expelled from Alsunga and King of Poland Vladislav himself had to intervene in order to calm down this Catholic - Lutheran conflict.
Schwerin family sold their property in 1728, but by then it already was a strong Catholic island surrounded from three sides by traditionally Lutheran areas and from one side boardered by the Baltic Sea. Enven though ir is not an island, for several centuries it has practically functioned as a one. Marriages across religious boundaries were strongly discouraged.  The region lived to a certain degree in a religious, cultural and to some extent economic self-isolation.
This religious based self-isolation helped to preserve a very rich traditional culture and customs, which in such a compact area is unique for Latvia.  For Latvian culture this small Suiti region means its own national costume, its own dialect, over 52 thousand recorded folk songs, very detailed marriage and other customs, many of which are still today practiced in the daily lives of Suiti.
Today Suiti region with its three Catholic churches, beautiful sea coast, historic architecture, rural landscapes, rich forest and natural resources and stubborn and independent minded people has stood up against the wish of the central Government in Riga to divide it into two parts and join to larger local government entities of Kuldiga and Ventspils.  Two non-governmental organisations have been established in 2007 to support preservation of Suiti self-government.  We think that protecting of our identity, which our ancestors have brought through centuries, is at stake.  We cannot afford to lose it and we believe, that with the help of God we will prevail."
The flag is shown here. If I understand correctly, flag was aproved by Ministry Cabinet on September 4th 2007 (but I can't understand which Ministry).
Valentin Poposki, 7 September 2007

The flag is 3:5 horizontal bicolor dark red over white with overall a black-lined grey cross, with thin arms not reaching the edges, all the same length, and all but the bottom arm decorated with crosslet bottony and yokes (?), and a small filliform four-ray saltire splendor at the heart of the cross, with eight shorter secondary rays.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 11 September 2007

According to website, Suiti is now "novads" - a district. But, according to plans for new municipal structure of Latvia, Suiti will be divided. Ilmars also reported about the protest of local population against government decision, trying to preserve their own community. However, Latvia at the moment is such a mess (from the aspect of local government territorial division), so Suitu novads could be just a project. As far as I know the existing Kuldigas rajons should be divided in three novads - Kuldigas, Skrundas and Suitu.
Valentin Poposki, 12 September 2007

Suiti region is small catolic enclave in three rural parishes in Kuldiga and Ventspils districts - Alsunga, Gudenieki and partialy Jurkalne. In process of administrative reform they will to form separate unit, this was not allowed, because population is too small. Alsunga and Gudenieki are included in Kuldigas novads, Jurkalne - in Ventspils novads. Flag is created for people. Suiti don't accept the term "minority" - they are one of etnographicaly diverse group of latvians. There are many such groups - in Nica and Barta, Konini, Maliena, Ventava and of course Latgale. Suiti are one of most active and well known such groups and one of reasons is different confession. And they are only such group what demanded separate administration - others are with less power.
Gvido Pētersons, 12 September 2007

The origin of the name came from the Finno-Ugric livonian language suoisti which means people from the marsh.
Guy Babonneau, 19 September 2007