The Latvian identity

Auksė Noreikaitė

The rural district (valsčius) of Biržai is close to the Latvian state border, thus conditioning close links of local people with Latvia. The peculiarties of life of Latvians in the Biržai Valsčius and relations of Litnuanians with Latvia have been discussed in the paper.

Quite a few Latvians used to live in Biržai area from olden times, they contributed to the wellfare of the land and were active participants in cultural life before the WWII, but they also tried for saving their Latvian identity. Now Latvian population in the area of Biržai is sparse–many of them were exiled to Siberia, emigrated to the West, moved to Latvia or spread to other Lituanian villages, townships and towns. Majority of Latvians or people of Latvian origin in Biržai area now believe being Lithuanians; and only Latvian surnames or names, family relics, honouring some Latvian traditions, belonging to Evangelic Lutheran Church community, or childhood reminiscenes remind about their Latvian identity. Only those Latvians who recently emigrated to Lithuania held stronger their Latvian consciousness.

On the other hand, the population of Biržai area was closely related to the neighbouring Latvia: quite a few locals used to work for Latvian farmers or Riga factories, to bring there goods and sell them; while young people used to go there for their studies. Nearly every man of the Brižai land is related to Latvia one way or another.

So, the Biržai valsčius is an original land, where Lithuania and Latvian features are intertwined to form specific world outlook of the population. Many outstanding people, culture activists, public men and priests grew up in the Biržai area with their works containing both Lithuanian and Latvian identity.