The Ethnic Press in the United States: A Historical Analysis and Handbook

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15
The Latvian and Lithuanian Press

EDGAR ANDERSON AND M. G. SLAVENAS

The Latvians and Lithuanians hail from the Baltic countries, which form a distinct geographic group on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea and comprise the modern republics of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. While, in some respects, they also have a common history, they are ethnically and linguistically diverse. The Lithuanian and Latvian languages belong to the ancient Baltic branch of the Indo- European linguistic family, forming a link between the Slavic and Teutonic branches. The Estonian language belongs to an equally ancient Finno-Ugric family of languages. Within this linguistic diversity, the Estonians and Latvians are united by a common Lutheran faith, similar history, and parallel cultural trends. The eastern Latvians, called Latgallians, serve as a link with the Lithuanians, sharing a common Roman Catholic Church, similar cultural developments, and centuries-old historical ties. During the second half of the sixteenth century all Lithuania and Latvia had been united politically, but the union did not last long enough to have a permanent influence.


LATVIAN ETHNIC PRESS

The first Latvians arrived in North America during the seventeenth century along with the Swedes; Latvians also came from their own West Indian settlements in Tobago. Sporadic Latvian emigration continued during the latter part of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century. The most distinguished immigrant from Latvia was Georg Heinrich Loskiel ( 1740-1814), bishop of the Moravian Church, famed Latvian poet, and successful missionary among the Indians. For some time the Latvians were too few in number to consider bringing out publications in their own language. The 1850 census, which grouped Latvians and Lithuanians together because they spoke related languages, counted 3,160 Latvians and Lithuanians in the United States; in 1870 the number had reached 4,644.

The situation changed radically, though, during the latter part of the nineteenth century when thousands of Latvians arrived in the United States to escape per

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