Latvians in Bashkiria


Starting from the late 19th century, hundreds of Latvian families voluntarily moved to the Russian provinces to get their own plot of land, which at that time in Latvia could only be bought or leased for a disproportionately high and unaffordable price for the majority of rural folk. One of the emigrants’ destinations was the Ufa Province about 2500 km away, where there was a lot of available land at the time. There, in the Ufa Province, in the current Russian Federation’s Bashkortostan Republic [Bashkiria], Latvian was spoken and sung on farms, there were Latvian schools and houses of worship, rye bread and houses surrounded with flowers. For many Latvians, the beginning of their new lives in Bashkiria was harsh. Initially they were clearers of land and only afterwards, skillful and exemplary farmers. The thrifty Latvians became prosperous, and were involved mainly with agriculture, animal husbandry, and beekeeping. In the early 20th century, the Latvians created profitable milk processing cooperatives, importing and using modern, factory-made agricultural machinery, and were involved in growing different varieties of clover seeds.

As revealed by historical sources, about 4,000 Latvians lived in the more than 20 large and small colonies in Ufa Province at the end of the 19th century.  During the First World War and the Russian civil war there were up to 18,000 Lativans, whereas in the 1920s to 1930s, there were about 10,000 Latvians.

After the Second World War (after the number of Latvians in in Bashkiria was reduced dramatically due to mobilization in the army and reprisals), Latvian schools were abolished and books burnt, and many Bashkirian Latvians made use of the opportunity to return to Latvia, where there was electricity, as well as education and employment opportunities. Many Bashkirian Latvians received passports – the first in their lives, so that they could move to the land of their ancestors. During the Soviet era, many Bashkirian Latvian families also returned to Latvia, so that like their predecessors, they could start life anew.

Some of the Latvian families remained in Bashkiria, while maintaining close ties with their relatives who had left. From National Census data, 1,508 Latvians lived in Bashkiria in 2002. Nowadays, most Latvians live in Maxim Gorky (formerly Arlatvieši) village.