Latvians in Sweden

Fleeing from the occupation by the Soviet army at the end of the Second World War, many Latvians were ferried across the sea to Sweden in small fishing boats. These dangerous and secret voyages ensured that more than 3,000 Latvians ended up in Sweden. The Latvians spent their first three to six months in Sweden in refugee camps, and subsequently had to look for work and somewhere to live outside the camps. Initially, the refugees weren’t allowed to live in Sweden’s three largest cities – Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo. Most worked in factories or in various unskilled jobs. After 1946, when the Swedish government forced the return of Latvian Legionnaires to the USSR, many Latvians left Sweden for the USA, Canada and other countries.

The Swedish Latvian community is known for the fact that the majority of them were from the ranks of the intelligentsia – well-known Latvian book publishers, writers, poets, diplomats and others lived there. The Latvian community’s political and cultural life in Sweden was led and continues to be guided by two main organizations – the Latvian Relief Committee and the Latvian Central Council in Sweden.

The Swedish community differs from other Latvian diaspora communities by its geographical proximity to Latvia.  Since Latvia regained its independence, Sweden’s Latvians have had the opportunity to actively participate in Latvian cultural and community life in both Latvia and Sweden.  Similarly, quite a lot of Latvians from Latvia have recently used the opportunity to work for short periods in Sweden as guest workers. From data collected by the Integration Ministry and the PBLA [World Federation of Free Latvians], about 4,000 people of Latvian descent were living in Sweden in 2006.